Members of a longtime island family are preparing to let go of an important piece of their Fulford village past, with a deal to transfer the old Patterson house to BC Ferries pending.
Bruce Patterson lived for 27 years of his adult life in the small house that grips the very edge of Fulford Harbour immediately beside the ferry terminal. While he feels the property’s sale will aid the community by allowing BC Ferries to eventually increase its terminal space and thereby get waiting cars off the road, he has mixed emotions about the home’s removal.
“Right now, the building being torn down is a necessity and something I anticipated was going to happen eventually. Personally, I’ve really struggled,” Patterson said. “I’m selling something I’m not using anymore, but the other side is emotional.”
Patterson moved into the house that had belonged to his grandparents around six months after his grandfather William Patterson left for extended hospital care in 1987. (He broke his hip at 99 but lived another five years, hanging on until just a few days short of his 105th birthday.)
As a resident, Bruce Patterson inherited the kinds of challenges that probably seemed normal when his grandparents bought the house in 1930: no insulation whatsoever, archaic wiring and a single electrical outlet upstairs. It cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars to heat the house in the winter using a variety of devices.
“The only reason I could live there was I understood the house. It was a very complex system,” Patterson said.
Nonetheless, for him it also carried the warmth of childhood memories.
Patterson’s grandparents started a Salt Spring business empire when they opened a general store at Beaver Point Wharf in 1915, adding a post office in 1918. They later added a feed shed on the Fulford dock to supply farmers and in 1930 bought the Fulford house built by Adolph Trage.
Patterson figures his grandfather’s competitive spirit was ignited when Fred Cudmore set up a shop where the Rock Salt Café is now located. He opened a satellite store in the front of the Fulford house that was open several days a week. This became the main store after the Beaver Point Wharf was decommissioned in 1951. Meanwhile, Bob and Nancy Patterson moved back to the island from Victoria after the Second World War. They took over the business when it moved across the road in 1966 (in the building now home to Salt Spring Mercantile).
Patterson said in its early days, the store provided residents mainly with nonperishables and dry goods. Most people had their gardens for produce and supplied meat through their own livestock, fishing and hunting. The store did stock large bulk items such as 50-pound wheels of cheese and huge bricks of dates.
“You would come into the store and essentially hand my grandfather a shopping list and he would fill your list,” Patterson said.
As a boy, Patterson helped with home deliveries to Isabella Point, Fulford and the Burgoyne Valley, opening and closing gates while his grandfather drove the truck.
Most days after school he stopped at his grandparents’ house to have tea before rushing off to get into trouble with his school friends, or to return home to light the wood stove and start dinner prep. His parents were busy working; his father Bob running the Pattersons’ store in Fulford village and his mother Nancy running Nan’s Coffee Bar or the concessions on board the Cy Peck and Motor Princess ferries.
“So that house for me was probably more a sense of home than the actual house I grew up in,” Patterson said. “It was a nurturing place.”
With the sale to BC Ferries set to clear later this month, Patterson has been distributing items from the house and garden that can still be used. He’s been encouraging neighbours to take the flowers and plants.
“This gives me the feeling my grandmother’s garden will perpetuate on, so I feel very good about that,” he said.
A garage sale of Patterson items is set for this Saturday, May 6, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.