The ladies nail driving contest held during an community event in 1953. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: Community events brought neighbours together

Elida Peers | Contributed

All Sooke Day wasn’t only a championship loggers’ sports event, it started out as a community picnic.

You’ll notice in this 1953 view, that the events took place closer to the river, rather than in the sports arena that was developed later closer to Phillips Road. Two rows of Douglas-fir planks created the platform for the hammer–wielding women. You might notice that, contrary to today’s styles, the women wore dresses as they hammered at the hefty four-inch nails.

When the first annual Progress of Sooke event took place in 1934, the Great Depression was at its depth and community leaders took the helm in drawing people together to work towards a more positive future.

Because the Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company was a thriving industry at the time – actually, it was the mainstay of the Sooke working population, it was easy for the company to contribute the Spring salmon that would provide the succulent feast for the thousands who came to share.

The sack race, the potato and spoon race, the wheelbarrow race, three-legged race, the pie-eating contest, there was lots to lure adventurous youngsters to participate in the activity-laden day. Back in those days, soft drinks were just hitting the market, as well, so you’d sometimes find that inexperienced young tummies would go home at the end of the day with tummie aches as well.

Besides the fun of visiting with friends as everyone gathered at the River Flats each summer, All Sooke Day provided the evening’s entertainment as well. Initially there were two simultaneous dances, an old time dance at the old pioneer-built Charters Hall and then a modern dance at the Sooke Community Hall which was built in 1937.

Streetlights did not exist of course, and few owned automobiles. Groups of neighbours would gather at the close of the festivities, carrying coal-oil lanterns to light their path as they felt their way along the narrow graveled roads to reach their homes. Speaking with these couples years ago, we recall hearing the joy in their voices as they remembered the friendships and camaraderie of a simpler time.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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