All Sooke Day was once unquestionably the highlight of this community. It is notable that it was an offshoot of the big day that brought in revenue to help support Sooke’s functions during the 1960s through the 1990s.
Ingenuity has traditionally come to the fore as the people of this independent-minded community worked to maintain and provide assets. Management of the Sooke Community Association, long our leading organization, was in the hands of its elected board, and in 1960 that group saw the addition of Jack Keating.
Jack and Doreen Keating had come to Sooke from Victoria where he had been manager of the Princess Mary Restaurant. The Keatings had bought Sooke Lockers from George Duncan and Albert Wilson, and besides running their business, embarked on two decades of community service. Eric Butler was president of the organization and he joined with the Keatings sitting around their kitchen table planning a new endeavour for Sooke.
The first booking of an entertainment event for a group holding their convention in Victoria was at the Flats, a logging sports show and seafood dinner. It was an enthusiastic success leading to the design of a program so the group could watch the salmon barbecuing in pits alongside the hall, and move inside to be entertained with a logging sports show and feast on barbecued salmon and clam chowder.
Word of the event spread far and wide, and it became a part of Sooke’s culture, as a stream of buses wended their way out to Sooke Community Hall many times throughout the season. It became a routine, for the loggers to set up the equipment and run the show, while women would make the salads in the hall kitchen and lug them up the stairs for serving. Everyone was a volunteer, and a team camaraderie developed where you knew your part of the job, got it done, and enjoyed working with your friends.
While Doreen Keating ran the kitchen for two decades, other dedicated women followed, including Elsie Shaw, Mae Linell, Dorene Jones. The burly loggers, too many to name, kept the show going.
Karl Linell, who barbecued salmon for years, recalls hearing from a manager of the Empress Hotel, that large corporations might hold their conventions in Victoria once every four years and one evening was always reserved to tell their guests “Put on your plaid shirts and your jeans, we’re going to Sooke for an incredible evening.”
By the 1990s it was the events co-ordinator at UVIC, Fiona Hyslop (a Gillespie granddaughter), who continued to steer the groups to Sooke. The money continued to flow in, meeting the hall’s expenses, confirming that Sooke was indeed the volunteer capital of Canada.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.