By Greg Evans, Municipal archivist
Picnics have acquired a special place as a social event in many people’s lives.
From the outset, the concept of a picnic was that each person, especially adults, would bring food to be shared with the group. The notion of mutual sharing is still at the heart of these social gatherings.
Esquimalt offered several locations that became favourite spots for family, community and religious organizations’ picnics.
People from throughout the region would gather at Macaulay Point, Gorge Park or Saxe Point, each location having its own distinct qualities.
Macaulay Point offered gentle sea breezes, ships sailing to or from Victoria harbour and, on a clear day, the vista of the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Saxe Point offered a somewhat unique experience as picnickers for a time shared the space with campers.
Before officially becoming a park in 1934, Saxe Point was a campground. After obtaining permission from the chief of police and town council, families could set up a tent for the summer.
Some people only moved a few blocks from their actual homes; but still it was the adventure of living outdoors. History shows that campers and picnickers returned year after year hoping to secure their favourite spot.
Gorge Park offered many diversions for the public. In addition to hectacres of beautiful grounds in which to picnic, the public could play games of chance, ride the carousel, test their marksmanship in the shooting gallery, have tea in the Japanese Tea House, roller skate in the skating rink, watch a regatta or take a cruise up and down the Gorge in a paddle-wheeler.
To top things off, in the summer, a nightly outdoor stage show and fireworks rounded off the day.
And as for the word picnic, it is believed to have its origins in the French word “picque – nique” and first appeared towards the end of the 17th century to describe the type of event that we know now.
Today, you’ll still find picnickers gathering in the same spots popular with those of 100 years ago.