Stacked planed lumber and the water tower at Sooke Forest Products. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Stacked planed lumber and the water tower at Sooke Forest Products. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: Goodridge Penisula: What’s next?

Elida Peers

Contributed

Goodridge Peninsula – what a checkered history this peninsula has had.

No doubt at one time a spot treasured by the First Nations who made their camps within the harbour and basin, in 1920/21 it became a part of the Saseenos Subdivision, created by the Franco Canadian Company based in Vancouver.

The peninsula, beautifully treed with arbutus and evergreens, was earmarked as parkland and bought in 1944 by Helen Palmer for $7,000.

A sandspit extending from the eastern side in the quiet waters created the opportunity for a vessel to beach at high tide, so that at low tide they could work on the hull (this was before a marine ways was constructed in Sooke).

After the Second World War, as veterans returned to Sooke and looked for a way to make a living, Harry Helgesen, scion of the pioneer Helgesen family of Sooke and Metchosin, purchased the old Fisher farm on Church Road and started Sooke Sawmills. Soon they were cramped for space and Harry’s dad, Christian Helgesen, purchased Goodridge Peninsula from Mrs. Palmer.

The mill had begun hauling lumber to Victoria; their truck driver was Bill Grunow and by 1948/49 Helgesen and Grunow had partnered to re-establish the mill on the peninsula, with a new name, Goodridge Sawmills.

At first the mill had no planer and its cut of rough lumber and railway ties was shipped mainly to Australian and European markets. In 1951 the partnership changed, with Helgesen selling his share to Victoria’s Hershell Smith, while he went into the oyster business.

Renamed Sooke Forest Products, the mill expanded and operated successfully for many years. Considered during the 1970s to be one of the most efficient sawmills in Canada, the mill ran three shifts around the clock, with some 400 employees, producing 450 fbm a day.

This image, showing stacked planed lumber and the water tower labeled SFP, came to us from Elden Smith, whose dad Dennis and his uncle Alan (Bud) Smith were prominent in mill management.

A later manager was Robert Anderson. In time, changes in world markets and in log supply, created re-structuring and the mill became Lamford Forest Products, eventually closing down in 1989.

Whatever one may think about the alteration to the beautiful park-like Goodridge Peninsula, it is a fact that hundreds of men were able to feed their families because of their employment in the industry.

A handful of women, as well, such as former Sooke mayor Janet Evans, gained administrative experience working there.

We wonder what is ahead?

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.