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BC Provincial Police: Bob Owens

Salmon were so plentiful in Sooke waters at one time that even the cats fed on them. - SRHS
Salmon were so plentiful in Sooke waters at one time that even the cats fed on them.
— image credit: SRHS

Well-liked though he was throughout the sparsely populated area west of Victoria in the early years of the 1900s, BC Provincial Police Inspector Bob Owens was not spared from threats to his life as he carried out the force of the law.

A bullet hole in a wall of the 17Mile House stood witness to an altercation that took place during Ma Jackson’s proprietorship, when the railway crews were working on the nearby CNR line, according to memories of Duncan Lorimer, who grew up across the road.  John Wilson recalls that when he was helping his dad Pete Wilson do renovations to the walls in the 1940s, he was told the shot had been fired at Inspector Owens.

This 1930 photo shows Bob Owens enjoying one of the benefits of visits to Sooke in those days, when fish were so abundant that no one went without.

Sooke’s Tommy Dixon spoke of that era as, “Even the cat had sockeye salmon.” When Sooke Harbour Fishing & Packing Company’s packers went out twice a week to “lift” from the traps, it was a special thrill when guests were invited along, and burly Bob Owens was always pleased at the chance.

A gravel road connected Sooke to Victoria, and the brown police cruiser would wend its way westward when a message was received in the BCPP Victoria headquarters, called in via one of the few telephones in the district at the time.

It made a change from neighbourhood disputes, varied shootings and searching out bootlegged caches of liquor around the harbour and Whiffin Spit.  It’s funny though, decades ago, whenever I would ask about bootlegging, I would be met by a smile, knowing looks and silence by those who appeared to have knowledge of such activities during B.C.s prohibition years, 1917 to 1921.

Inspector Bob Owens was a familiar figure in Sooke and Victoria until the early 1940s when Constable Allan Quinn became Sooke’s first resident BC Police officer.  The exhibit opening next week at the Sooke Region Museum, resulting from the efforts of the Sooke Lions Club and Lorne Christensen, touches on the local police history and transition from BCPP to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1950.

 

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

 

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