SOOKE: HISTORY: Sooke’s youth – 90 years ago

The group is significant to the community’s history

Sooke Superior School’s senior class of 1929. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

It was called Sooke Superior School, which meant the school carried grades beyond elementary but did not teach grades 11 and 12, so students could not graduate here.

Shown in the accompanying picture is the senior class at Sooke in 1929, comprising of grades 8, 9 and 10.

The names are significant to Sooke’s history. Back row, left: Will Sheilds, son of Sooke’s beloved blacksmith Lyall Sheilds, and grandson of sealing captain Ed Sheilds (think Sheilds Road and Sheilds Lake). Will married Florence Gray and worked for Island Tug and Barge. Earl Gray is next, son of Frank Gray, longtime superintendent of Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company. Earl made his career in the U.S. He is followed by Pat Schreiber, who grew up in Saseenos, and went on to a career in forestry.

Harry Helgesen became an icon in the village. Son of Christian Helgesen (think Helgesen Road), he became a longstanding champion in peavey log rolling at the annual All Sooke Day logger sports celebrations and was responsible for the oyster farm establishment that you see on Sooke’s harbourfront. (Imagine a high school youngster having to answer to his older sister, but it was true – Harry is standing next to his sister Lillian Helgesen, the teacher).

Evelyn Clark heads the next row; she became Mrs. Victor Eve, then after being widowed, Mrs. Elmer Stolth. Beatrice Hawkins is next, followed by May Wilham. May was eldest daughter to Percy Wilham, a business entrepreneur in Sooke in the 1920s and 1930s. He built the Red & White Store, a stuccoed structure that still stands at the northeast corner of Church and Sooke Roads. The store was run by May’s husband Roy Baker, until, back in the days before antibiotics. Roy succumbed to appendicitis.

Nancy Raine, another Saseenos girl was next, then Dorothy Cogswell, whose parents ran a berry farm alongside Saseenos Creek. Molly Richardson is at the end of the row, a daughter to Vernon and Emma (Queenie) Richardson, sister to Frank Richardson and niece of Charlie Richardson, both well-known in the building supply business.

In front are Byron Charters, grandson of the river frontage pioneer William Bell Charters (think Charters Street), Tommy Halkett and then Joe Phillipson; sorry we’re not sure of the name of the final student.

Joe Phillipson was raised by the Icelandic Johnson family whose home was far up on the westside of Sooke River, with no road access at that time. The Johnsons reached their pioneer home by a suspension bridge crossing the river, from Sooke River Road. Joe Phillipson rose to the position of B.C.’s deputy minister of Education in the 1970s.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

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