Part of Our Past - Clayoquot Days

In May of 1896 Stubb's Island's first of what would be many May long weekend celebrations took place. Queen Victoria’s birthday was celebrated with a sports day on Stubbs Island, organized by Filip Jacobsen who was store manager and postmaster at the village of Clayoquot (an Anglicization of the word Tla-o-qui-aht) at the time.

"Clayoquot Store." 1905. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

This was the first of what would be many “Clayoquot Days”, a tradition that carries on to this day, thanks to the current owners of Clayoquot Island who open access to the gardens and beaches every year and to local boat operators who shuttle people to and from the island.

"Sports Day". Ca. Early 1930s. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

Some of the activities were canoe racing, sack races, three-legged races, high jump, pole vaulting, relay races, tug-of-war, skiff races, picnics, and other sports. Tennis became one of the sports when George Nicholson convinced Walter Dawley to set up tennis courts and rent tennis equipment.

Clayoquot Days was one of the events when folks who didn’t usually socialize with each other came together for a few days of fun and friendly competition. Clayoquot Days was initially a May 24th event, but later Dominion Day or Canada Day was also celebrated at Clayoquot. People would come from “the reduction plants, sawmills, the hatcheries, from Hot Springs Cove, Ahousaht, Nootka,” (Ian MacLeod, Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History). Students from the Christie and Ahousaht Residential schools visited and the Christie School band often played.

"Pole Vaulting". Ca. 1930s. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. Vaulter is thought to be Chris Charlie. 

In the 1920s, Dawley attempted to maintain the cohesion of the sand by planting a dune grass that was not native to the area. The grass spread and diminished the amount of sand on the beach and by the 1940s the general store on the spit was dangerously close to the waters edge.

"Dawley's Place". Ca. 1900-1925. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection.

Over the decades other major events would be celebrated with sports days or picnics at beaches on Vargas or Mackenzie Beach.

"Vargas Island Picnic". MacLeod. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

Betty Farmer and Ruth and Bill White operated the Clayoquot Hotel, store, and post office from until the mid-1900s. Ruth was post-mistress from 1947-1964. Her sister Jo Brydges came to live with her in 1949 and they both applied their love of gardening to the landscape there. She is behind the wide variety of rhododendrons. In the 1960s, Ken Gibson followed suit and planted rhodos as well and every spring Wickaninnish Community School students and staff can be seen assembled in front of the blossoms for the school photo. 

 

Sources

 Horsfield, Margaret and Ian Kennedy. Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2014.

Mason, Adrienne, ill. Marion Syme, ed. Ros Penty. Historic Walking Tour. Tofino, BC: Postelsia Press, 2011.