Jean Lewis with her baby Lenore. Lenore was the winner of the All Sooke Day baby show in 1949, and went on to becpme a local restaurateur. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: Lenore Lewis and the restaurant business

For more than 60 years, proud mamas had a chance to show off their babies at the All Sooke Day baby show.

In 1949 it was Jean Lewis, who lived right across Phillips Road from the Sooke Community Association Park on Sooke River, who had the honour to have her baby Lenore selected as Best Baby Under Six Months.

Born in Quebec City, of parents just emigrated from Scotland, Jean Hutchison was working at an estate in Quebec when she chanced to look out the window and saw this agile fellow high up in an evergreen tree on the estate. It turned out he was a tree surgeon, his name was Howard Lewis and he came from New Brunswick.

Sure enough, the two met, marriage followed and before long Jean Lewis found herself mother to Barbara, born in 1938, and to Hilliard, who we know as Hilly.

In 1946 the family moved to the west coast and settled in Sooke, where Howard Lewis built several houses about town. When Lenore, our ASD poster baby, was born a decade after her siblings, it was no wonder she might have been a bit indulged.

As a teenager, knowing what a great cook her mum was, she told her dad she wanted him to build a cafe so she would have a place to waitress during high school. You guessed it – how the blue painted building at the corner of Sheilds Road and Eustace came to be built in 1963.

Initially, the cafe was called Joker’s Grill, with Jean Lewis doing the cooking and Lenore the waitress. Why was the café first called Joker’s Grill? Because Lenore’s horse was named Joker!

Another young girl who also worked at the cafe with Lenore was Rose Wagner (now Byrne). Before long, the restaurant had been sold to Carl Gage, who gave it the now-famous name of Mom’s Cafe.

Lenore married a Sooke boy, truck driver Eric Blight, and for some years her entrepreneurial spirit was running food businesses, a take-out in Langford and a restaurant in Canoe Cove.

The corner restaurant, of course, has had a variety of owners since, and probably the current owners, Tom and Elaine Dee, would have no idea that the gathering spot where so many Sookites get together to visit, got its start because a Sooke dad wanted to please his All Sooke Day baby daughter.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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