SOOKE HISTORY: Chasing celebrities with a touch of over-optimism

Sooke honoured by many celebrities in the past

The first Sooke Fine Arts Show logo. (Sooke Region Museum)

The first Sooke Fine Arts Show logo. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

Looking back on the many years I spent trying to promote the history and culture of Sooke, I confess I probably suffer from over-optimism, as I didn’t always succeed in a reach for the top.

Early in 1986, when we were getting ready for the opening of our first show, Fine Arts ’86, my friend Sally Bullen (then-president of the Sooke Region Historical Society) and I were invited to an event at the Royal B.C. Museum, where we had the pleasure of chatting with Lt.-Gov. Frank Ross and his wife.

We were brave enough to invite the couple to open the first Sooke’ Fine Arts Show and were delighted they graciously accepted.

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We were fortunate again the next year, as Victoria Mayor Gretchen Brewin accepted the responsibility of opening the second show, and then the following year, it was the turn of UVic president Howard Petch to do the honours.

I was fortunate to be friends with Canada’s top portrait artist, Myfanwy Spencer Pavelic, who also generously supported us, and this led me to be bold enough to write to movie star Katherine Hepburn, who I knew was a friend of Myfanwy’s. I was hoping she would consent to honour our art show – no luck this time, but she did send us a hand-written note, which I still have.

Nothing fazed, I found the phone number for author Pierre Berton, a national celebrity at the time whose home was at Kleinberg, Ont.

When he answered the phone, I was pleasantly surprised and went on to explain about Sooke, the art show and Sooke Harbour House, where I said Frederique Philip had offered to put him up if he would be able to do the honours for us.

He proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that he knew Sooke and Sooke Harbour House very well, but unless we could provide a substantial fee, he would not be available – so I struck out again.

Next I naively wrote to Princess Alexandra, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, who had her lady-in-waiting write to graciously explain the princess would not be available. I’ve kept that note as well.

Well, I didn’t give up – Pierre Eliot Trudeau was the biggest name in Canada for some time, so after he had left politics I tried to reach him at the Montreal law firm he was connected to, Heenan Blaikie, but this time I really struck out – he did not answer us at all.

So, folks, the museum was honoured by many fine celebrities who supported us over the last 25 years, but I look back with humour and remember, you can’t win them all!


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.