SOOKE HISTORY: The Entrepreneurial Gibson brothers

This street corner block, pictured in 1954, where Otter Point Road meets Highway 14, continues to be the busiest in town, with the first traffic light installed there in 1983. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Two Gibson brothers, Robert and Milton, had a significant commercial impact on the history and development of Sooke.

This 1954 photo shows the 2000 block of Otter Point Road, and just to the left in the photo you can see a very historic building, the old Throup Store.

It was the old building on the left that was bought by Bob Gibson and his wife Julia when they arrived in Sooke in 1946. The first store in downtown Sooke, it was built by Eustace Arden in 1909.

After the close of the Second World War, lots of changes happened, as returning servicemen frequently chose to go into business on their own.

Bob Gibson and his brother Milt grew up in Saskatchewan and both graduated from the University of Alberta with bachelor of commerce degrees in 1937.

Returning from the war, Bob decided “go west, young man” was for him, so he and Julia invested in a commercial future in Sooke. Their enterprise, which he began enlarging almost immediately, was called “Gibson’s Cottage Store.” He and Julia also bought the Margison House, a home for their daughter Anne.

Back in 1950, when our population was about 2,500, Bob Gibson saw the need for more retail facilities in Sooke, and began developing the substantial expansion seen in this photo, with brother Milt arriving from Saskatchewan to manage the hardware store.

The new retail block was headlined READY TO WEAR, DRYGOODS, HARDWARE, APPLIANCES, CHINA and the sign now read “Gibson’s Shopping Centre Ltd.” In 1956, the Gibsons added a supermarket, Sooke’s first. Milt Gibson and his wife Fae built a waterfront home on West Coast Road just west of where Macgregor Park is today, where they raised their youngsters, Wendy and Bob. Meanwhile, Porter Gibson, father to the two brothers, moved out west as well, and bought the block of land that would, much later, become Evergreen Shopping Centre.

This street corner block is reorganized today into different individual retail outlets. What I find most remarkable, is that the restaurant facility on the street corner that has served patrons for the past decade is actually the same building built by Eustace Arden 109 years ago. I also found it remarkable that the Sooke News Mirror’s newest reporter, Dawn Gibson, arriving last year from Saskatchewan, found that these Gibson brothers are cousins of her dad back home.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

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