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Books for those dog days of summer

Books to read, all with a connection to the west coast
To the Lighthouse is just one of the books reviewed in the Sooke News Mirror.

Bringing Water to Victoria

An Illustrated History, 1843-1915

Author:  Charles W. Tolman

220 pages, softcover

Published by Sooke Region Museum


There are not many books on things like the history of water pipeline that can grab a reader’s attention for any length of time. Bringing Water to Victoria is an exception.

Author Charles W. Tolman opened the taps on a marvel of engineering - both the dam at the end of Sooke Lake and the flow line which extended 27.5 miles from Sooke Lake to Victoria. Tolman engaged in extensive research for this book. He details, in a time line, the issuing of contracts and the personnel who made the flow line happen.

The book is richly enhanced with black and white photographs which came from the Royal BC Museum, private citizens and the Sooke Region Museum.

An interesting tidbit about the photographs is that many of them came to the Sooke Region Museum when Nellie McClung’s grandson found a collection of photographs in a box set out for the garbage collector in Oak Bay in the early 1980s.

Charles Tomna is a retired UVic professor and had an incredible collection of photographs handed down from his mother’s cousin, Harry Houston Crawford, one of the engineers on the project.

The flow line and accompanying dam was completed in 1915. Victoria and the surrounding municipalities have an almost inexhaustible supply of water, thanks to the forward thinking of the men and  machines who made the water flow.

To the Lighthouse

An Explorer’s Guide to the Island Lighthouses of Southwestern BC

Authors: Peter Johnson and John Wall

Heritage House Publishing

219 pages, softcover


Did you know that there was a bomb shelter built at Sheringham Lighthouse in the 1960s? The concrete bunker was to be used by the lighthouse keeper and his assistant and did not include any family members. It was to be bolted from the inside. After the threat of a nuclear war, lighthouse keeper James Bruton tried using it to grow mushrooms, but it was a classic fail.

To the Lighthouse recalls many stories of the lighthouses, their keepers and the families who lived in those far flung isolated places along the coast.

The Race Rocks Lighthouse was rumored to have  been built out of ballast from sailing ships, probably more myth than truth.

Twenty five lighthouses are featured in To the Lighthouse and it is an enjoyable read for anyone who has a romantic notion of lighthouses and the people who manned them. To the Lighthouse traces our history along the coast and provides interesting facts on what life was like for those who chose a profession which paid little and offered a life apart. The authors credit Elanie Bruton for her remembrances of living at lighthouses at Discovery, Lennard, Sheringham and Chrome Island lighthouses.

The authors all live along the coast and share a passion for preserving our lighthouses which includes both the history and the physical.

Co-author John Walls said they wrote the book for two reasons, one of them being that there are no current books on lighthouses in print, and second because he is helping raise money for the upkeep and maintenance of the Sheringham Lighthouse.

“It took us less than a year towrite,” said Walls. “It’s been an incredible run although it’s been on the go for five years.”

An enjoyable read, To the Lighthouse, is an informative and significant book offering maps and beautiful colour photographs - it’s a keeper.



Raincoast Chronicles 23

Edited by Peter A. Robson

191 pages, softcover

Harbour Publishing


For 40 years, history buffs have been able to read the stories and history of the British Columbia Coast. The Raincoast Chronicles are a compilation of memories, adventures, historical facts and articles all with the same theme - the West Coast.

Whether it is a story about Emily Carr or a woodcutter in Metchosin, each is a snippet of a life remembered.

In this latest edition, there are 30 stories from a legion of writers. Stories of Japanese Fishers and World War Two; Back to the Land: When Hippies came to Sointula, Paddlewheels on the Pacific and everything in-between. Many of the authors are well known for their humour and special take on life on the wild West Coast. Some are excerpts from larger works, like On Meeting Emily Carr, Mike McCardell’s contribution taken from Haunting Vancouver (2013).

These stories fuse the present and the past, creating a seamless chronicle of life as lived and experienced by the authors. History is a fascinating way to get a sense of what a community is, or who a person is. The stories are our cultural life.

Raincoast Chronicles 23 continues on in the spirit of the first issue printed back in 1974. It is a compilation of some of the most memorable passages from Harbour Publishings 40 years of books.


That Went By Fast, My First Hundred Years

Author: Frank White

317 pages, hardcover

Harbour Publishing


Frank White, at 100 years of age, still has the wit and down-to-earth sensibility that launched him into his  first book, Milk Spills and One-Log Loads: Memories of a Pioneer Truck Driver published in 2013.

His easy going story style makes you think he is a simple man unsophisticated in the ways of the broader world, but you would be wrong. White is a working man with years of experience on the trucking routes, coastal logging camps and boatyards. He sees life as it really is, there are no pie-in-the-sky dreams or unrealistic fantasies in this man’s repertoire. It’s all about hard work and adventures and humour. He is self-deprecating and funny, sees life like it is, not how he wishes it was.

His sequel That Went By Fast continues in the same bent as Milk Spill and One-Log Loads, more stories drawn from the memory bank. It seems he hasn’t finished telling his stories yet and That Went By Fast has later stories of new love, travel, friends and adventures of the elderly.

Born in 1914, Frank White saw the dawn of our modern age. He was never famous or rich but he was and still is remembered by those industrious men and women who domesticated British Columbia.

His take on living to 100: “People ask me what I owe my long life to and I say, ‘Medicare.” It’s sure not clean living, I smoked and drank, never met a sausage I didn’t like, breathed noxious fumes without a respirator and took on so much stress I went forty years without getting a good night’s sleep.”

That’s Frank White, telling it like it is.


Poachers, Polluters & Politics, a Fishery Officer’s Career

Author: Randy Nelson

287 pages, Soft cover

Harbour Publishing


Randy Nelson is obsessive. He spent 25 years catching law-breaking fishermen, poachers and polluters. Nelson found himself compelled to write about his experiences as a fishery officer. So he just started writing and a book appeared.

Like fishers telling the tales of the ones that got away, Nelson tells the tales of the fishers who didn’t get away.

The stories are interesting as are the characters and situations in the book

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