When I was a little girl in grade one in 1938, this was a scene I saw on the two-mile walk to Sooke School from my home in Saseenos.
I don’t know who those riders were, but the white structure behind the horses on the causeway was the second store run by Edward Milne Jr, perched on the northwest corner of Sooke River Road and Sooke Road. The structure was directly across the gravelled Sooke River Road from the current retail store at Milnes Landing.
On the right side of this photo (in today’s Derbend Road) is an exciting development that has had a significant impact on the progress of this community as it has brought energy to Sooke.
When the hydroelectric station was established by VI Power Co to harness the waters of the Jordan River and began transporting electricity from the Jordan River to Victoria in 1911, the system did not allow power to be diverted to Sooke for local use; his object had been to serve Victoria, and going straight through Sooke, he did.
It was not until 1929 that the people of Sooke were able to access electricity through the hydroelectric transformer substation, which showed how access to electricity must have been a boon to the a few hundred people who lived along the main road through Sooke at that time.
Expansion continued on secondary roads into the 1930s, and with the onset of World War II, access to electricity became nearly universal in Sooke.
You might wonder how the impressive four-storey building, Sooke Harbor Hotel, which stood atop the hill on the west side of the mouth of the River Sooke, could function without electricity. The truth is that the hotel had its own power station to provide electricity for its use.
Electric power has been available to the people of Sooke for less than 100 years. In Sooke at this time, who would have guessed that the commercial and social life of the community would become so dependent on electricity and fiber optics – new age communications services that a severe outage today could potentially cripple the ‘place.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email [email protected]