Updated: Jul 7
Somewhere in a small wood on Vancouver Island...
"1932::The Recruit to the Nudist Colony Brings a Hot Water Bottle"
Illustration Clip: The Bystander (1932)
Artist: Leslie Butler - a play on the fact that the British Isles were considered simply too cold to host nudist colonies... nonetheless, nudist colonies were alive and well in Britain in 1932.
Some believe the Garden of Eden was the world's first nudist colony. That may be so. But Canada's first nudist colony was just as mysterious. It was not in some big city, nor was it in a little town named Fallis, Alberta. Surprisingly, Canada's first official publicly-known nudist colony appeared in the backwoods of Vancouver Island.
"1934::Canada's First Nudist Colony Established in Sooke, British Columbia"
Clip: The Province (1934)
Vancouver, British Columbia
The year was 1934. It was a year of awakening for many West Coasters as the veil of prohibition was finally lifted, giving rise to a new sense of freedom. California had joined the nudist movement that was already well underway in Europe and announced its own culture of nudism while claiming to be the first colony on the Pacific coast. Oregon soon followed, and before protestors had a voice, the club had already implemented its own rules. It was only a matter of time before the first nudist colony arrived in Canada... and arrive it did.
News that a nudist colony had developed in Sooke, British Columbia, was generally accepted by public opinion. It was a private club situated on private property a few miles behind the 17-Mile Post (known today as the 17-Mile Pub). Its exclusive membership by invitation was managed by high-profile office workers in Victoria who believed sun therapy was the answer to their physical and mental well-being. When they posted their rules in the local newspaper, the country took hold of their story in the headlines.
"1934::A Little Colony Humour"
Clip: The Windsor Star (1934)
For a moment, the title of Canada's first colony seemed to belong to Fallis, Alberta. But the townspeople denied any such settlement had taken root and explained that someone had announced its existence as a joke. Their story was a nice smokescreen for the Sooke colonists, who had been guarding their privacy and handling the media well enough to quiet their story in the news. Within months, Sooke's nudist story had been overshadowed by the success of its first All-Sooke Days event, and Canada's first nudist colony all but disappeared.
Whatever the fate of the Sooke nudists, colonies continued to spring up along the West Coast. Soon one-man nudist colonies became a problem, and the government had no choice but to step in and add its own rules. In some cases, married men were forced to have written consent from their wives if they wished to participate, and colonies were forced to build 20-foot cement walls around their property. But new rules created new problems and, oddly enough, a new angle in tourism.
Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1931)
Victoria, British Columbia
As the nudist craze continued on the West Coast, tourists chartered private planes to take them on nudist colony fly-bys. It was a lucrative business. Buses loaded with camera-toting tourists drove as close to a colony as possible, giving paying customers something to write home about. The chaos often caused traffic congestion and safety issues resulting in rules being written and rewritten over the coming decades. Colonies soon sank further into the backwoods but continued to develop on Vancouver Island in places like Spectacle Lake and Cobble Hill.
Clip: Vancouver Sun (1934)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Whatever happened to the one-man nudist colonies? They were never caught … with or without their pants down.