T.W. Paterson column: 1960s Victoria waterfront was a ship lover’s dream

Ship at Ogden Point with a load of lumber. (T.W. Paterson photo)Ship at Ogden Point with a load of lumber. (T.W. Paterson photo)
A commercial fishing boat at Ogden Point. (T.W. Paterson photo)A commercial fishing boat at Ogden Point. (T.W. Paterson photo)
Boxcars loaded with grain used to come to Ogden Point. (T.W. Paterson photo)Boxcars loaded with grain used to come to Ogden Point. (T.W. Paterson photo)
The grain elevator was demolished in recent years with great difficulty and at great expense. (T.W. Paterson photo)The grain elevator was demolished in recent years with great difficulty and at great expense. (T.W. Paterson photo)
Greek tramp freighters, many of them former Second World War liberty ships, were frequent visitors. (T.W. Paterson photo)Greek tramp freighters, many of them former Second World War liberty ships, were frequent visitors. (T.W. Paterson photo)
Greek tramp freighters, many of them former Second World War liberty ships, were frequent visitors. (T.W. Paterson photo)Greek tramp freighters, many of them former Second World War liberty ships, were frequent visitors. (T.W. Paterson photo)
Loading cargo at Ogden Point. (T.W. Paterson photo)Loading cargo at Ogden Point. (T.W. Paterson photo)
Moving lumber in the docks at Ogden Point. (T.W. Paterson photo)Moving lumber in the docks at Ogden Point. (T.W. Paterson photo)
Passenger ships like the M.V. Mariposa were smaller in the 1960s, nothing like the floating castles of today. (T.W. Paterson photo)Passenger ships like the M.V. Mariposa were smaller in the 1960s, nothing like the floating castles of today. (T.W. Paterson photo)
Some freighters, such as the M.V. Mermaid were attractive to the eye and photogenic. (T.W. Paterson photo)Some freighters, such as the M.V. Mermaid were attractive to the eye and photogenic. (T.W. Paterson photo)
The Ogden Point docks are where T.W. Paterson learned night photography. (T.W. Paterson photo)The Ogden Point docks are where T.W. Paterson learned night photography. (T.W. Paterson photo)
A Ross carrier with a load of lumber. (T.W. Paterson photo)A Ross carrier with a load of lumber. (T.W. Paterson photo)

To load the lumber and other cargoes were the Ross Carriers, operated the length of the dock at what struck me as breathtaking speed under the powerful overhead lights.

I know, I know, you’ve heard about them so many times before: the good old days.

All a crock, of course, just the rosy recollections of old fogies like me. Never happened, just a fable old folk like to lay on young folk, right?

Well, I have a flash for you young whippersnappers. There was a time when life (I’m referring to Victoria in the early 1960s) was everything it isn’t today: in particular, safe and fascinating.

I‘m prompted to take this ramble down memory line by a recent opinion piece in the Times-Colonist, entitled, “Victoria then and now.” E.C. Jewsbury, identified as a resident, wrote about when the provincial capital used to be, quote, a quiet and sleepy city.

How quiet and how sleepy? Would you believe that I often prowled the Outer Wharf docks at night and into the early morning hours, taking photos of the ships and the dockside industrial activity?

And that I not only felt perfectly safe, I was in reality safe, as the very fact that I’m here today, alive and intact, should confirm?

All these years later, with a soaring (comparatively speaking) crime rate, much of it the result of drugs and mental illness to an extent unheard-of in the ’60s), I wouldn’t even consider walking the waterfront alone and unarmed.

But, sadly, there’s another disincentive: there’s little to nothing to see and to experience anymore. The cruise ships that now regularly call at Victoria? Big deal. Humongous floating hotels that look more like high-rise buildings than they do ships — so unlike the smaller and much more attractive white coastal passenger liners of the era I’m speaking of. Ships with character, ships with charm.

There was so much more to see then, too, because the Ogden Point Outer Wharf was a workplace. There was the massive grain elevator of concrete with its rail yard often crowded with boxcars of wheat unloaded from the old rail car ferry, S.S. Canora. She was a sight to behold of her own, built at the end of the First World War and looking every bit like something out of the past, even though she functioned well right up until her retirement and scrapping.

Then there were the freighters, come to load grain and forest products, many of them Greek tramps and former Liberty and Victory ships from the Second World War. I can still see and hear in my mind the boatload of seamen returning from a fishing trip in one of the ship’s lifeboats. As fellow crewmen lined the aft rail, one of the fisherman yelled to them of the one that got away. Even though he was speaking Greek, I swear I heard him call, with a stretch of his arms, “It was this big!”

To load the lumber and other cargoes were the Ross Carriers, operated the length of the dock at what struck me as breathtaking speed under the powerful overhead lights. It was those lights and those of the docked ships, that so challenged me when I was learning black and white photography. (We’re talking pre-digital when you had to learn photography, not just point and click.) But I persevered until the lights in my photos reproduced as sparkling stars with rays rather than as blobs of white.

Finally, there were the commercial fish boats with aromatic cargoes to unload amidst a swirling squadron of ravenous seagulls. Almost unbelievably, not only have the Canora, the wheat elevator, the trains, the lumber carriers and the tramp steamers gone but so have most of the seagulls!

The accompanying photos are meant to convey something of the colour and fascination of the Outer Wharf docks back in — you know — the good old days. I rest my case.

Let present-day Victoria have its cruise ships. As for me, I’ll bask in my memories.

www.twpaterson.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Do you know someone who should not be driving?

We are currently living about 10 years longer than our ability to drive safely.

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: Time to slow down to speed up

In a society where we learn (are forced?) to multitask like crazy

A COVID-19 exposure has been reported at Shawnigan Lake School. (Citizen file photo)
UPDATED: Island Health reports COVID-19 exposure at Shawnigan Lake School

Shawnigan Lake School has been added to the list of schools in… Continue reading

Peas are great to grow in the garden, but a trellis for them in an A frame shape will offer more portability and wind resistance. (Citizen file)
Mary Lowther column: Making a foldable pea trellis on winter agenda

My previous methods required starting anew every spring

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Books open up a world of discovery

We try to eat dinner as a family every night. It happens… Continue reading

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Most Read