SOOKE HISTORY: A time when automobiles were few and far between

This young fellow, Harry Helgesen, looks very formal for a four-year-old in his driving coat in this 1917 photo. (Contributed - Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

Probably there were a few more private automobiles around by 1920 than we’ve heard of at the Sooke Region Museum, but four come to mind. This young fellow, Harry Helgesen, looks very formal for a four-year-old in his driving coat in this 1917 photo.

Helgesen Road, connecting Church and Otter Point roads, was named for the Scandinavian family in 1912.

Harry’s dad, Christian (Sandy) Helgesen, was a son of Hans Helgesen who settled in Metchosin in the 1860s. Sandy Helgesen farmed in the DeMamiel Valley and became a district road foreman. His income provided the family with an automobile, and after the birth of three daughters, he was incredibly proud to have a vehicle to drive around in with his son Harry. Harry became a champion at All Sooke Day events and established Sooke Sawmills and then Coopers Cove Oyster farm.

Another early automobile owner was Horace Goodrich, onetime manager of the fishtraps operation established by J.H. Todd and Sons in 1904, which became Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company. In 1918, the company purchased the house at the western corner of Sooke and Caldwell roads as a home for their managers, becoming home to Horace Goodrich. As a successful businessman, he was one of the supporters of All Sooke Day when it began in 1934.

While the Ella cottage is no longer, it once stood where John Muir School is today. Harry Ella was a Victoria accountant who used the cottage as a summer and weekend retreat until the mid-1930s when his property went to Eustace Arden; an automobile was necessary for Ella’s schedule. His Victoria home was the fine house on Fort Street where Martha Cheney, Harry Ella’s mother, lived. This Victoria house has recently been restored to its early glory by its current owners.

It’s not strange that Bill Cains was the owner of an automobile as well, as it was he, along with his brother Ken Cains, who established the first motor service station in Sooke in the mid-1920s. His wife Irene told us how the two used to tool around in the convertible in the early 1920s. The original Bill Cains home on the corner of Sooke and Charters Roads no longer stands, but the original Cains Bros. service garage has become a busy vehicle repair shop in today’s world.

While these automobiles were privately owned, there were commercial vehicles by 1920, as the automobile stage of George Throup.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email

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