There has been a lot of talk over the past weeks about Old Sooke and New Sooke and what this means. Interestingly, some of the commentators noted it as an election issue but you weren’t hearing about it from the candidates.
I have experienced our community from both perspectives; being the fifth in a seven-generation Sooke-area family and also arriving as a newcomer to a very different town after living away for 12 years and returning. If you are wondering what it means to be Old Sooke, here’s a primer.
What is Old Sooke?
It’s about a set of values that have stood the test of time to keep our community thriving and not about the number of years lived here.
It’s a community dinner where an 80-year-old woman serves your plate topped with an ice-cream scoop of mashed potatoes. When dinner is over you stack your chair and help put away tables.
It’s building the Sooke Community Hall more than 75 years ago and working many years to contribute time and money for ball fields where Sooke children have played for decades. It’s teachers working with students to create community art, donations for the EMCS theatre, and volunteers raising funds to house the community’s elders. It’s contributing time and dollars to build the beautiful Charters River Salmon Interpretative Centre.
It’s the volunteers who risked their lives during the massive wind storm in December 2006 to rescue people trapped in vehicles (while their own homes were at risk) and retired loggers with gassed-up chain saws who got to work to clear the fallen trees. It’s the neighbour with a bobcat who ploughs snow off your street before his own driveway.
It’s showing up to community events year after year. It’s the volunteers for faith groups, hospice and service clubs like Lions and Rotary who are always there to help. It’s about being behind the scenes to step in with search, rescue and emergency services. It’s supporting long-standing landmarks like the Sooke Region Museum, Jack Brooks Fish Hatchery and the Flats.
All of these assets and services we take for granted were built on a foundation of community spirit.
It’s shared experiences and memories. Long before we needed to build trails, kids walked everywhere cutting through yards. You knocked on the door and didn’t need a play date. People swam in the river and lakes before there was a pool and skated on Boneyard or Vogel’s Slough before there was an arena. As a grown up at the beach you still turn over rocks to look for crabs. You know all the back roads and best places for biggest fish.
It’s going to a boogie to relive old days with more than 400 people from across the country. After the bills are paid the organizers donate the couple thousand dollars left to the food bank with no fanfare.
It’s supporting local businesses for decades. In turn, businesses support the community with donations for auctions, discounts or little extras to show their appreciation.
It’s loving the community at every stage in its evolution. Even when you don’t like change we rarely see you waving signs in protest, making big demands or writing letters.
It’s welcoming newcomers who arrive and stay. T’Sou-ke people welcomed new settlers and those who are here continue to welcome visitors and residents. It’s about honouring and respecting the traditions, values, culture and history and embracing these values. It’s staying true to the community you grew up in or fell in love with.