The Sooke Community Hall under construction in 1937. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: Building the Sooke Community Hall

Over the years, the hall has hosted many events

Elida Peers | Contributed

It was a simpler world back in the early 1930s when caring and hard-working folk got together to organize The Progress of Sooke, which soon became All Sooke Day.

Within a few years, Sooke residents put aside a bit of cash and were able to pay for materials to begin construction of a Sooke hall.

This photo, taken early in 1937, shows the hall with the framing and sheathing in place.

Back in those days, while dances at the hall sometimes attracted as many as 700 revelers, parking was not the troublesome issue it is today. There was lots of space around so that vehicles could readily be parked.

Many folks who did not own vehicles, walked home in groups, swinging a lantern to light the way.

Parking close by was much desired, of course, as those who wished needed to access their vehicles for a little imbibing. Drinking was not allowed in the hall.

The source of this photo was Doug Brownsey, who operated a grocery in what is now a business block run by Jim Mitchell.

Doug’s dad, Fred Brownsey, was a longtime postmaster, and secretary of the Sooke Community Association, the group that got together to organize good things for the community.

People worked together to build the structure to accommodate community events; back in the days before schools had auditoriums, popular events like Christmas concerts were held here.

Another reason the hall was constructed to such vast dimensions was for basketball. Sooke has always supported its youth in sports; basketball was the most popular sport of the day in the 1930s and 1940s, and Sooke looked after its youth.

Some of the photos in the museum collection show men equipped with shovels, saws, and hammers taking a breather from their labours, just in time for the hall-opening dance April 9 and the Legion Coronation Dance May 12, 1937. Among the dozens of volunteers were Christian and Harry Helgesen, Rupert Soule, Will Sheilds, the Pontious brothers, Jim Forrest and Charlie Stolth.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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