Driving through downtown Sooke today, you encounter protective fencing and apparent excavated pits right at the intersection which has historically been at the centre of Sooke’s commercial district. It appears as though this site is undergoing an upgrading.
Given that the first gas station on this site was established in 1928 by Louis Gettle, it’s kind of neat to think that gas has been pumped here for almost 100 years.
This structure was perched directly on the corner of Sooke Road and Otter Point Road, and stood until 1945 when it was gutted by fire. It seems a gentleman named McLennan was using a shop in the rear when it caught fire and he lost his life. The pumps remained standing.
It was only a year later that Eric Phillips, Sr. arrived in Sooke and developed the extensive service station outlet that we have all gotten used to seeing at that corner. Eric’s eldest son, whom we’ve known as Sonny Phillips, became the manager, and he and his brothers Richard and Clifford operated the station for many years. They have leased it out to PetroCan since 1990.
We’ve speculated on the vehicle which is parked at the two Union pumps, wondered if it would have been a Model T Ford; perhaps someone with knowledge of vintage vehicles could advise us? Darryl Sheilds, son of a longtime Sooke family, tells us that his mother Florence Gray, got a job there pumping gas as a young girl.
It’s probably not visible in the published image, but the power lines can be seen in the original, running along Sooke Road in the right background. Another thing that you might not see in the image, is “GETTLE’S SERVICE STATION” in fashioned lettering along the roofline. When Louis Gettle’s dad arrived in East Sooke in the late 1890s, the family was known as Godtel, but as public sentiments changed at the time of the Great War, members of the family preferred the alteration of the name to Gettle. Louis Gettle’s children attended Sooke School at the same time as my elder siblings.
Almost a century of service, but what a difference a hundred years makes!
Elida Peers is the historian with Sooke Region Museum.