Would you have guessed when this photo of the Curtis Muir house was taken around 1920 in the center of Sooke that a century later, this very spot would be home to yet-unheard-of innovations, such as a distillery for “tastings of spirits” and a car wash? Early motor vehicles such as the Model T Ford were coming into use, and the idea of a tasting room for liquor would have been met with disbelief.
Curtis Muir was a son of Robert Muir and grandson of John Muir Sr., who emigrated to the new world from Scotland in 1849. The Curtis Muir house, built in 1912, was sold to Eustace Arden and then rented out for many different purposes over the following years. Besides family housing, it served as a barbershop and the first headquarters for the Sooke Legion.
During the Second World War, there were many changes, with an expanded population and a busier village with the addition of army training camps. The changes meant there were more children than could be accommodated at the three-room Sooke Superior School (same site as the current Sooke Elementary).
Local trustees searched for more classroom space and took over this house, turning it into an annex for Sooke Superior School. I happened to be one of the pupils so affected, and when in Grade 3 in 1940/41, the school day for myself and my Saseenos classmates was extended by walking an additional half-mile on our daily hike from home.
Our teacher for the shared Grade 3/4 classroom was first Mrs. Hodnett, then Miss Marion Williams. The house boasted a bathroom with a flush toilet – not a universal commodity at the time, and luckily, we girls got to use it while the boys had to make do with the outhouse in the backyard shed. While we were camped out in this annex, extra classrooms were built onto Sooke School, and by 1943 we were back.
In 1946 this house was purchased by Fred and Della Pickerl and remained in that family for decades before it became a commercial site. In 1994 Bob Sykes Automotive set up there, and his crew was busy with vehicle repairs for the next couple of decades. Heather Nuttall, who ran the office and dealt with car sales, remembers, “It was such a busy office, and we made many friends there.”
This house site certainly has seen a century of history.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email email@example.com.
Elida Peers, Historian
Sooke Region Museum