SOOKE HISTORY: 1926 basketball team’s roster had community all-stars

Helgesen, Charters just a few of the names who went on to prominent roles in town

Sports has always been an integral part of life in Sooke: the 1926 boys basketball team. (Contributed - Sooke Region Library)

Elida Peers | Contributed

In 1926 Sooke was establishing itself as a community, and it seems there’s never been anything more important to Sooke parents than sports for their children. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was basketball, and you can see from this photo that these pioneer parents had even gone so far as shirts with an S for Sooke.

One of the earliest names in our immigrant history is Welsh, and sure enough, first in the lineup here is Harold Welsh, second son of William Welsh, who had grown up with the John Muir family at Woodside Farm. Harold Welsh went on to serve in the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War and, on his return, raised a family in the Campbell River area.

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Earl Gray, next, was the son of Frank and Marie Gray, whose home stands close to Ed Macgregor Park. The Grays came here from Port Townsend, and Earl’s dad, Frank Gray, was a leader in the operation of the fishtraps, Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company, and the Sooke Community Association.

In the centre is Byron Charters, grandson of William Bell Charters, who settled along the Sooke River in 1868. The Charters mill was situated along Sooke harbour, on the waterfront called Belvista today, and milled lumber from trees harvested in the DeMamiel Valley. The Charters name has been well recognized by Sooke’s Charters Road and by the Charters River.

One of the heroes of early All Sooke Days, particularly in peavey log rolling, was Harry Helgesen. He served in the war, where he met a servicewoman called Lila, bringing her home to help him operate Sooke Sawmills and later Coopers Cove Oyster Farm. The Helgesen family, four generations in Sooke, is recognized by Helgesen Road.

The final young fellow in the lineup is Ralph Pontious, one of the seven sons in the Ernest and Hazel Pontious family. While they established a small farm near Caldwell Road, the Pontious sons went to work in the fishtraps or in the woods, where they became well known. I don’t notice any Pontious folk in town nowadays, but Ralph’s daughter Judy Jay keeps the spirit alive at the cash desk in the local hardware store.

While these young men did not pursue careers in sports, they made themselves and their families proud back when they were growing up.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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