This 1939 photo of the old Charters Hall, fronting on Sooke Road, gives an idea of what it was like to get around, mostly on foot, in winter.
For this camera shot, the photographer would have been almost at the spot where the Cains Garage building stands, on the south side of the main road. The face of Mt. Brule is seen beyond the hydro pole.
To orient to the location, think of the newly refurbished façade of the Cains Garage, where Rasmus Rabien had his welding business, and where a new entrepreneur, Stephen Christensen, is wielding the monkey wrenches nowadays. While Charters Road did not exist, it runs today approximately where the lone automobile is parked. Kind of hard to believe (especially in rush hour) that today’s busy traffic scene looked like this in 1939.
I barely remember this building – it seemed to me a dark old hall built of rough lumber. I was seven in 1939, in Grade 2, when I was invited to enter its portals. It was Mrs. Irene Cains, wife of Bill Cains, one of the garage proprietors, who met with a few of us schoolgirls to make costumes for us for the upcoming Christmas concert. If I remember right, they were fairy costumes and made of paper, and what excitement for us youngsters who were in farm families in limited circumstances in those Depression years.
Built by the Charters family in the late 1880s, this hall served for many concerts, meetings and basketball games until other halls were built on Sheilds Road.
Both the Sheilds family and the Cains family are members of the William Bell Charters family who in 1865 took up the section of land running from the mouth of the Sooke River to where Sooke School sits today.
The hall was lit by coal oil lanterns, hung on the rafters in protective cages to ward off being struck by basketballs. Sooke had a reputation for basketball, and we often heard of the prowess of Mandus Michelsen; fellows would speak of his “big old hook shot” that racked up the scores. We’re told that many a romance began as the girls would gather on the benches to watch their favourites demonstrate their muscles.
Sometimes Sooke refers to the “30-foot tent lots” laid out by the Charters family when the 1864 gold rush seemed to be heading for an inrush of population. As history showed, of course, it would be almost a century and a half before that original Charters subdivision developed the density we see today.
Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.