Nimble-footed birlers Jimmy Duncan and Jube Wickheim demonstrate their sport to New Yorkers in 1967. (Sooke Region Museum)

SOOKE HISTORY: Log birling in New York City

Elida Peers | Contributed

Log birling seems more at home at All Sooke Day than in New York City, and perhaps this was the one time such a scene took place in Central Park, New York.

The year was 1967, and the nimble-footed birlers kicking their spikes into the spinning log, are Jimmy Duncan and Jube Wickheim.

The Wickheim brothers, Jube and Ardy, had been booked to provide a logging sports show to headline at Expo ‘67 in Montreal. The six-month stint in Canada’s largest city drew a large contingent of Sooke and Vancouver Island folk, loggers with their wives and families, who brought a bit of west coast flavor to the metropolis.

The reason for this New York photo was this: apparently the Canadian government wanted to use a log birling demonstration to promote Expo ‘67 to New Yorkers, so they arranged for Jube to get his birling log to the big city, and a partner to birl with him.

Back in those days, before he got into land development, Sooke’s Jimmy Duncan, son of Jim and Nan (Seymour) Duncan, was a log birler for a few years. Oldtimers will remember that he was a grandson of George Duncan, Sr., whose Sooke Road home later was to become the dental office for Dr. Chris Bryant.

Today, of course, the three-storey condominium complex on Country Road, the Sandpiper, built by Jimmy Duncan, stands at the rear of that Duncan property, across the playing fields from Sooke Elementary.

The two brothers, along with their elder brother Maywell, were sons of Michael and Karen Wickheim who settled on a small acreage in Saseenos after arriving from Norway in 1922. The young fellows initially got into the sport through their early work booming logs in local waters. They were often seen practising at Coopers Cove.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, log birling was one of the feature attractions at All Sooke Day, and the competition was first held in the river before the birling pond was built. Brothers Jube and Ardy Wickheim held the World Championship between them for 14 years. Jube went on to create Wickheim Timber Shows and presented logging sports demonstration shows throughout the world up into the 1980s.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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