One of the best parts of working for the A City Goes to War project was learning about my city’s past. I’m a fourth generation Victorian and my great grandmother was born in this city in 1905. I know a bit about her story – she was part of the first couple married in the second version of Central Baptist Church (1926), she was a switchboard operator with the Hudson’s Bay Company until getting married (she was told she couldn’t work anymore after that), her brother was one of the last members of the Victoria Constabulary before it became a police department, Mt. Douglas Park used to be a Sunday picnic destination because it would take more than an hour to get there, and she remembered older schoolmates enlisting for the First World War – but it’s interesting to see the city’s history in buildings and signs I used to walk right past.
Victoria has plenty of heritage buildings, an overly large amount in some people’s opinion, for a city as young as it is, but there are also plenty of other things telling the city’s story. One of my personal favourites is Sam’s Deli, where our team ate before presenting to City Council, which has old photos covering the walls of their Government Street location. The photos are of all sorts, from sporting matches to storefronts and family picnics. Most of them come from the City of Victoria archives and are nice and large so you can see them from the long line for your sandwich.
It seems many stores on the strip are celebrating or approaching their 100th anniversaries and many have photos and historical writeups in their windows. It’s neat to see locals embracing their pasts. Other locations around town have electrical boxes with wrap-around photos of what the location looked like in the past. My great grandmother’s longtime house is featured in one at the Hillside/Douglas intersection.
Other things are street names, the Shelbourne Street trees, and those funny people dressed up as town criers. All of these reflect our history, and working on the CGTW project helped make me notice those more.