Where is Brownsey Boulevard, we hear people ask? So folks, it’s a “street in progress.” We understand that it will run from Sooke Road towards the water, south of the new roundabout being created in Sooke’s downtown core.
Not long ago, the previous District of Sooke council looked at a list of names of relevant pioneer families that had a historical connection to the downtown waterfront area. One of the family names on the list was Brownsey.
A councillor sitting at that time remarked: “Well, I remember how Doug Brownsey always used to give us kids green ice-cream cones, so let’s choose Brownsey” and that is how the vote at the table went.
The Brownsey impact on the region has been three-generational. This photo shows the business complex built by the second-generation son Doug, in 1958. The building still stands. The first Sooke business owned by the Brownsey family, however, had been on the north side of the road, just about where Anna Marie meets Sooke Road today.
Fred Brownsey was an entrepreneurial Brit who emigrated to Canada with his bride Betty in the early 1920s. In 1928 Fred became Sooke’s postmaster, taking over from Caroline Throup. The Brownseys established a cottage store enterprise which also housed the post office, running it as a couple and calling it the Pollyanna Store.
Fred Brownsey was a born organizer who took a leading role in community affairs. He was one of those responsible for establishing the famous tradition of All Sooke Day in 1934, and served the positions of secretary and then president of Sooke Community Association for many years. He was one of the organizers of Sooke Fire District, and of the Sooke/Jordan River Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife retired from their duties in 1964.
The couple had one son, Douglas, who followed in the family footsteps, eventually taking over and expanding the business (shown) with his parents next door in the post office. Doug was a fixture in his grocery store, where he worked behind the counter from morning till night. He and his wife Winnie Stange raised two sons, Keith and Paul, who attended Sooke schools. When Doug passed on prematurely through illness, he was remembered by many families as the kind-hearted grocer who never saw anyone go hungry.
It is our understanding that Doug’s son Paul Brownsey’s career has been in the construction industry on Vancouver Island, while elder son Keith became a professor in political science at Mount Royal University in Calgary and is a recognized political commentator.
Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.