Not many of us are privileged to reach our 100th birthday, but one of Sooke’s old time family members reached that milestone recently. Though Jim Arden is now alone, he had many relatives and friends join him for the anniversary.
Our photo shows Jim and his bride Elsie on their wedding day in 1941.
While the name Arden is remembered in Metchosin by Arden Road, it was the Sooke branch of the family that became so well known as the lightkeepers at Sheringham Point.
Eustace Arden became lighthouse keeper in 1912, when Sheringham Light was first installed, and was accessible at that time by ship only. Jim was fourth of the six children born to Eustace Arden and his wife Anne Sanderson.
Jim Arden grew up with brothers Philip, Sturdee and Richard, and sisters: eldest was Frances who married Tony Sullivan, youngest was Winnie, who married Mandus Michelsen. In the photo, Winnie is maid of honour to Elsie, while Richard is best man to brother Jim.
In time, Sheringham Point Road was put through and the Arden kids could walk two miles to Shirley School. Later they would board in town to get to the higher grades at Sooke School. Jim Arden graduated from high school at Victoria High and then went on to Victoria College which occupied Craigdarroch Castle at that time.
In December 1940, Jim joined the Royal Canadian Navy and served five years, where his focus was on coastal protection. Years later he recalled assignments such as the task early in the war of stringing submarine nets across the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
He took a break from the war, though, to marry Elsie Wilham, daughter of a Sooke businessman who built several enterprises. These included the stucco-faced building that housed the Red & White Store, with gas pumps in front, and which today is occupied by a bakery, a sign company, clothing store and more.
After the war, Jim, like many returning young men, decided to go into business. He, along with three partners, became MARM Logging: Michelsen, Arden, Radford and Michelsen.
In 1950, Jim made the move to Port Alberni, starting Arden Logging, a company he operated until 1970. Elsie was cook for Jim’s logging camp at Arden Creek in the Alberni Inlet for many years.
Jim’s next move was starting a log house business, selling his log houses across Canada and the U.S. Additionally, Jim had purchased property at Manning Park and built a log cabin there, so the couple spent their time between Port Alberni and Manning Park.
While the couple enjoyed their life full of outdoor adventures, they never lost their love for Sooke, and would come back to our town regularly to help out with history events. In 2014 Elsie died, and Jim has carried on to meet that century mark alone.
Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.