Stories of Esquimalt’s history told in new book

One hundred years' worth of stories, and more, detailed in historian's latest offering

Sherri Robinson has worked on her latest literary work for so long, she has to pause a moment to calculate the years.

“It began … 2002,” the long-time Esquimalt resident says with a laugh. “What I started in 2002 was the researching.”

When Esquimalt turned 90 years old that year, Robinson knew she wanted to do something special to mark the township’s 100 years as an incorporated municipality.

After years of effort, she’ll publicly unveil Esquimalt Centennial, 1912 to 2012, during Buccaneer Days, happening on Saturday and Sunday (June 9 and 10).

Given the amount of research involved, the author and historian could easily have written more than 144 pages. The book covers the military, heritage buildings, public figures, sports, schools, churches, pubs, parks – even municipal bylaws.

Though the title of the hard-bound, sewn book suggests a 100-year history, Robinson says she couldn’t leave out the years leading up to 1912.

“I couldn’t do that, because you have to build your stories through the past, and that’s what I have done,” says Robinson, a volunteer at the Esquimalt archives and member of the Centennial Celebrations select committee. “It just overlaps and flows into everything.”

Though detailed, the book “is not the definitive history on Esquimalt. It is stories (drawn from) the history of Esquimalt,” she says.

Robinson, author of Streets and Roads, A History (1995), put some little-known aspects of Esquimalt’s past in the new book, including details about garden nurseries in the township.

“I think, on the scheme of things across the country, that our history is the most unique of any other place in Canada. I can’t think of any other place that was entirely expropriated by the government, and didn’t get absorbed into something else, or disappear completely.”

She’s referring to the expropriation of the village of Esquimalt in 1941, when families and businesses were forced to move from where HMC Dockyard is today.

It offers a lesson in resiliency.

“The families of some of those dockyard inhabitants are still here,” Robinson says.

She will be selling the book inside the Archie Browning Sports Centre during the community fair this weekend.

The book costs $30, and proceeds from sales will help fund centennial celebrations. The literary work can also be purchased at the municipal hall, 1229 Esquimalt Rd., and the archives, at 1149A Esquimalt Rd.

emccracken@vicnews.com