History

Frank Hobbs photo¬†Frank V. Hobbs – “The Grand Old Man of Saanich”

Frank V. Hobbs was born in Bruton, Somerset, England, in 1862. He came to Canada in 1889 and lived in the Lower Island area for the next 70 years. In these 70 years, he played a fundamental role in the shaping of our community of today. To tell of a man’s life in a few hundred words is usually a difficult task, and even more particularly so, in the case of Frank Hobbs, because of the large number of his accomplishments and the variety of his interests.

There were few settlers in the Cadboro Bay area when Frank and his brother, Edwin, arrived here in 1889. Edwin bought land for dairying in Cadboro Bay, (our present Hobbs Road bisects that land). Frank went further up-island for his land, at the same time operating a furniture store in Victoria. After he sold his furniture business and up-island land, he went on a tour of Europe for a year. While he was overseas, the market for timber impressed him and on returning to Vancouver Island, he acquired 4,000 acres of the Renfrew “tall timber” land. Later he moved to Cadboro Bay on hearing that his brother, Edwin, had been killed in an unfortunate farm accident.

On ten acres of land in Cadboro Bay, he settled into a life of retirement on the proceeds of his timber ventures. In his own words, Frank “began to get fat and lazy” during the next few years. But things were soon to change. Frank was not one to remain inactive for long. His daughter, Frances, finished school and told her father that she would like to operate a small store and post-office in the district. Frank bought it, and it was the only little store in the whole Bay district. New stocks were laid in and they arrived just in time, for a heavy blizzard broke in 1916 which dumped five feet of snow in the area and kept the people virtually housebound in the area. The snows lasted for about a month, during which time no one could make it to town to get extra stores. Food supplies fell so low at this time that Frank had to ration out supplies to the residents, hoping the food would last. In the ensuing years, Frank Hobbs entered politics at the municipal level, serving two years on Saanich Council.

However, his greatest contribution was to be made while serving as trustee on the old Saanich School Board for 14 years – serving as chairman for eight of them and President of the B.C. Trustees for one. At that time, (1920s), any students wanting high school education had not only to travel to Victoria, but pay $120 a year as well. He fought an up-hill battle trying to convince the school board, council and the rate-payers that a high school for Saanich was necessary. Twice by-laws for extraordinary expenditures to erect a high school were defeated at the polls. In desperation Frank went to see the Minister of Education to try to arrive at some sort of answer to the problem of increasing education opportunities for the area. In their discussions of the situation a solution was found. Instead of having just one high school for the whole area, it was proposed that three be built in strategic locations in order to give persons living in distant areas a good chance of sending their children to the school and benefiting from the institutions. The whole problem seemed to be that the residents in far out areas could see little advantage to themselves in supporting one school to which they might never be able to send their children. Frank Hobbs took the new plan back to the school board, got its backing and had a new by-law placed before the people. This time the referendum was approved and Mt. Douglas, Mt. View and Mt. Newton came into being. Only after he accomplished these plans did he retire.

Frank Hobbs served as postmaster for 31 years and was also a Justice of the Peace. A long overdue tribute came to Frank in November of 1951, when he officially opened the school which bears his name. He was then 88 years old. During the ceremony Mr. Hobbs said; “This is an honor unsought and in many ways undeserved – however, I do feel honored.” In April 1959, at the age of 96, “The Grand Old Man of Saanich” passed away. Mr. Hobbs had lived to see many of his school policies adopted, he had seen the day when an automobile could go from the back of Shawnigan Lake to Port Renfrew – one of his fondest dreams – and he had lived to see a living memorial in the form of a school built and named after him.