SOOKE HISTORY: Sooke’s ‘Busy Shopping Centre’

The corner of Church and Sooke roads has been home to many businesses over the years.

Elida Peers | Contributed

“VILLAGE OF SOOKE HAS BUSY SHOPPING CENTRE” reads the headline in this May 12, 1949 edition of a Victoria daily newspaper.

The photo, taken by Florence (Muir) Acreman, shows the intersection where Church Road meets Sooke Road. Today, this is truly a busy intersection with a traffic light that guides traffic from Church Road down the hill to Mariners Village, as it crosses Sooke Road (Highway 14).

The “village of Sooke” was described as 23 miles southwest of Victoria, with a population of 399 persons, located between the mouth of the Sooke River and Whiffin Spit.

The business at right in the photo would be a Texaco Station, serving gas in front of the Red & White Store. This enterprise was built by J.W. Wilham, and run by his son-in-law Roy Baker.


At the time of this photo, Roy Baker lost his life to an appendicitis, and the store’s owner was Harold Sharp, grandfather to Sooke’s well-known Brian Butler. In the 1940s, it was one of the few places to buy an ice-cream cone.

While this building still stands, minus the gas station part, it has served to house many different businesses over the years, from grocery outlets to salons, to sign painting, to bakery supply places to second hand books and, of course, the laundromat.

If the image had extended further to the east,one could see Sooke School. In the outline of hills on the distant skyline, one can just make out Mt. Manuel Quimper (previously named Mt. Shepherd).

In the foreground is Brownseys’ Pollyanna Store, where one of Sooke’s leading families, Fred and Betty Brownsey, held sway; while Fred was postmaster, it was his wife who ran the grocery and confectionery store.

Fred Brownsey had been postmaster since 1934, and also volunteered his services as secretary of Sooke Community Association, which organized All Sooke Day and built the Sooke Community Hall.

The couple’s son, Douglas cut his teeth in the business at this location, and in later years built his own emporium, Brownsey’s Store, and adjoining post office on the other side of the road – that building is now owned by businessman Jim Mitchell, and houses a variety of enterprises.

It’s interesting that currently a fine new structure is about to open a few hundred yards west of this scene, in what we might describe today as the centre of Sooke’s business district.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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