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1913 — Redrooffs Centennial — 2013

SECHELT, BC — JULY 23, 2009 — Local real estate agent Gary Little has written the following article relating to the upcoming centennial of the formation of the famous Redrooffs Resort in Halfmoon Bay.

[Learn about Gary's meeting with Patti Cooper Hilton here.]

The Crown grant plan for District Lot 1427 (1892).
The Redrooffs Resort was located at the north end.
The centennial of an important event in the history of the Sunshine Coast is fast approaching: the formation around 1913 of the Redrooffs Resort headquartered at the site of what is now Coopers Green Park in Halfmoon Bay. This summer vacation resort was one of the first of its kind on the Sunshine Coast and played an important early role in turning the coast into a popular tourist destination. The resort was the focal point of activity in the Halfmoon Bay area for so many years that the name Redrooffs was later used for the main road snaking 7 km through the community along the waterfront.

The Redrooffs Resort was located at the north end of District Lot 1427, land which was first settled by pioneer William Rawding around 1891. He later paid $181.50 for the 171 acres when he received his Crown grant on August 13, 1892. Interestingly, the actual lot size was probably closer to 200 acres.

The Rawding property went through a few hands before being acquired in 1913 by Hubert Kitchin, Estelle Florence Wolfe-Merton, and Helen Muriel Banks. The Kitchin and Wolfe-Merton families formed a partnership called the Redrooffs Trading Company around this time.

The partners chose the name Redrooffs for the resort because they decided to build all the guest cabins with red rooftops to attract the attention of passengers on the coastal steamships, an early example of corporate branding. The letter f in the name was doubled to help give the resort bucolic British charm, much like a store today might call itself a shoppe to evoke an impression of quaintness. The penalty for using the unusual name has been 100 years (and still counting) of spelling confusion!

The first printed map to show the Redrooffs Resort / Coopers Green area in recognizable detail was a 1912 Admiralty chart based on a meticulous survey of Welcome Pass and Halfmoon Bay conducted in October and November 1910. Shown here is detail from this map. Coopers Green, with the 10 ft. high rock island in front, is circled and the arrow points to a marker indicating the only residence in the vicinity, perhaps the very building where Kitchin and Wolfe-Merton hatched their business plan for the Redrooffs Resort. Four other buildings are noted further north near the head of Priestland Cove, including the conspicuous White Post Office run by pioneer Clara Priestland (later Clara Lyell) who was postmistress from 1904 to 1931.

The first map to show the Coopers Green area in detail. [1912 Admiralty chart of Welcome Pass]
The arrow points to a solitary house on the Green.
The date when the Redrooffs Resort first opened to the public is not known with certainty but it may have been as early as 1911 or 1912, before the land was formally acquired. It was certainly open in the summer of 1913 because a photocopy of the August 1913 first issue of the Redrooffs Rag, a newsletter for guests, is in the Ruth Forrester Collection of the Sechelt Community Archives.

In these earliest days of the resort there was a general store and only six log cabins (each of which cost $750 to build). Many more beaverboard cabins would be built over the ensuing years as the popularity of Redrooffs grew in the 1920s and 1930s. They were erected to the south of Coopers Green as well as along the lagoon across the road on the east side of the Green. Many of these old cabins can still be found on private properties to the south, barely recognizable because they have been extensively modified and renovated over the years.

The Redrooffs Resort store. [Circa 1914 postcard]
(Courtesy of the Sechelt Community Archives)

Redrooffs Resort cabins on the shore of the lagoon. [Circa 1930s postcard]
(Courtesy of the Sechelt Community Archives)

Canoeing in the Redrooffs lagoon. [Circa 1914 postcard]
(Courtesy of the Sechelt Community Archives)
There was also a wharf built in front of the store which led to the side of the rock island in front of the Green. Guests would arrive aboard a Union Steamship vessel from Vancouver or, until 1917, aboard the S.S. Selma of the rival All Red Line. They would disembark onto a log float in deeper water past the end of the wharf, then were brought ashore in rowboats by the Redrooffs Resort staff.

The wharf leading from the Redrooffs Resort store to the rock island off Coopers Green. [1924 postcard]
(From the Gary Little collection)

The All Red Line's S.S. Selma was one of the first ships to frequent the Redrooffs Resort. [Circa 1917 postcard]
Shown here in Trail Bay at Sechelt, she was acquired by Union Steamship in 1917 and renamed Chasina.
(From the Gary Little collection)

1914-18 Redrooffs Honour Roll
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 had an early impact on the operation of the Redrooffs Resort. Basil Wolfe-Merton (Estelle's husband), enlisted for active service and headed to Vancouver for deployment, leaving Hubert Kitchin behind to manage the resort with Estelle and Kitchin's wife Katherine. Several local residents and frequent guests of the resort also enlisted. The names of all those involved are on a special plaque of gratitude called the Redrooffs Honour Roll which for years was mounted on an outside wall of the Redrooffs store. Around 1972 it was carefully restored and given to the Welcome Beach Community Association. It is now displayed prominently inside the Community Hall at 8394 Redrooffs Road.

There is no record of Basil Wolfe-Merton returning to Redrooffs after the war although his wife continued to own an interest in the Redrooffs property. (In 1921 the 200-acre Redrooffs property was subdivided into two parts with Estelle receiving the southern half and Kitchin receiving the northern half including the Green, so perhaps her involvement in the resort ended then.) Wolfe-Merton was in active service for the entire war and in 1916 was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in action. Upon returning to Canada he lived in North Vancouver for a time and he died in 1945 in Ganges at the age of 77. He is buried in St. Mark's cemetery on Salt Spring Island next to his wife Estelle who died the following year. His son Adrian would later change the family name to Wolfe-Milner — apparently this was Basil's surname in England before emigrating to Canada.

Hubert Kitchin died in 1926 in Vancouver at the age of 57. His widow Katherine married William Ernest Milne in 1931 and together they operated the resort for the depression years and into the 1940s. Milne also succeeded Clara Lyell as the postmaster of Halfmoon Bay which meant that the post office was relocated to the busy Redrooffs store which by now was serving not only resort guests but also the growing local community.

The original Redrooffs Resort recreation hall. [Circa 1930s postcard]
(From the Gary Little collection)
The Milnes built the original recreation hall near the store, a popular venue for Saturday night dances as well as badminton matches. They lived in a house built on the point at the south end of the Green. This house has since been torn down; the present house on the point is now owned by Gordon Campbell, the Premier of British Columbia.

Milne House is located on the point at the south end of Coopers Green. [1948 postcard]
(From the Gary Little collection)

James Martin Cooper (1895-1977).
(Courtesy of Patricia Cooper Hilton)
In 1944 Carl Bell, an investor in Calgary and Vancouver, acquired the Redrooffs Resort and proceeded to subdivide the area south of the Green. He spaced out the resort cabins so that there was an empty lot between each of them, then sold packages consisting of a lot with a cabin and the adjacent vacant lot for about $1,500. Many were bought by former guests of the resort.

On November 1, 1945 the Redrooffs Resort — which, because of Bell's subdivision, now included just the Green, an adjacent lot to the north, and a block to the south — was acquired by James M. Cooper for the sum of $12,000.

Jim Cooper was born in Palmerston, Ontario and served as a bomber pilot for the Royal Air Force during World War I. After the war, he went to Alberta where he worked as a salesman for a speciality shirt company. It was here that he met his future wife, Khona Aberhart, daughter of William ("Bible Bill") Aberhart, the Premier of Alberta from 1935 to 1943 and founder of the Social Credit party. Jim & Khona were married in 1932 and later had two daughters, Patricia and Marilyn. (Patti Cooper Hilton is now retired and lives in Sechelt.) In the 1930s and 1940s, Cooper operated the Pacific Maid Dress Company, a garment manufacturing plant.

Cooper's initial partner in the business was William L. Frost. Larry Frost was originally from New Brunswick but he moved to B.C. in 1925. He was in the automotive business on the west coast, working for General Motors for 20 years before operating his own business, the Marine Garage. His involvement with Redrooffs would be brief as he was never able to make the expected financial commitment to the enterprise.

So it was Jim Cooper and his family who became the familiar faces behind the Redrooffs Resort for the next 40 years. The easygoing Cooper quickly became a popular citizen of the Halfmoon Bay community. He was kind, generous, and always willing to lend a hand. He allowed the public to use his resort for a variety of community events such as picnics, swimming parties, fairs, and bingos. He was also popular with the kids: he often gave them free treats at the store and they hitched rides with him as he drove his delivery truck up and down the single lane dirt road that is now Redrooffs Road.

Redrooffs Resort directional sign (1960s).

Redrooffs Resort letterhead (1950s).
By the late 1950s his little piece of paradise on the shore of Halfmoon Bay was affectionately called Coopers Green by the locals.

In the 1960s many of the original Redrooffs cabins were in bad shape and were torn down. In 1964 even the original store was gone, having lasted a shade over 50 years; a new store was set up inside the nearby recreation hall. The cabins were not replaced because, with better roads and easy access to the coast via car ferry, more and more vacationers began arriving in cars with travel trailers or tents. Cooper reacted to this new trend by setting up a large campground on the Green.

Khona Louise Cooper (1903-2000).
Jim Cooper died in 1977 at the age of 81 after a long illness which left him nearly blind. His widow Khona continued to run the resort with the assistance of daughter Patti. In 1983 the dilapidated recreation hall, built in the 1930s, was pushed over and the present hall was built for use as a games room and a snackbar. Bricks from the fireplace were saved and used to build the fireplace in the new hall.

By this time, however, Khona was 80 years old and no longer interested in managing the business. There was some talk of developing the land for condominiums but this triggered a public outcry. In the end, the Sunshine Coast Regional District was able to acquire the property in June 1985 for the bargain price of $260,000, in effect a magnificent gift to the community from the Cooper family. On the last weekend of camping at the Green, the guests were entertained by a rousing performance by the Sechelt Legion bagpipe marching band to mark the end of the Cooper era.

The original Coopers Green Park sign.
After the acquisition, the SCRD quickly transformed the area into a public space and formally named it Cooper's Green Regional Park, today called simply Coopers Green Park. It is a favourite spot on the Sunshine Coast for launching a boat, fishing, swimming, scuba diving, barbequing, playing volleyball, and hosting a variety of community events including the annual Halfmoon Bay Country Fair. In other words, people are still flocking to Coopers Green, née Redrooffs Resort, for outdoor fun, just as they first did 100 years ago.
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Gary Little is a realtor® and licensed real estate trading services representative in the offices of Royal LePage Sussex in Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada. He is a former senior software marketing manager, having previously worked in Silicon Valley for almost 20 years at the worldwide headquarters of Apple Inc. and Sun Microsystems, Inc. He is well known for his interactive real estate map of the Sunshine Coast (map.garylittle.ca).



Gary Little, realtor®
Royal LePage Sussex
5485 Wharf Ave., P.O. Box 65
Sechelt, BC V0N 3A0
Cell: 604-741-5347
Office: 604-885-0299
Fax: 604-885-0298

This news release is located online at: http://www.GaryLittle.ca/history/redrooffs.html