A local Boy Scout troop has been part of life in the community since the 1930s. This group was part of the first camp held in Sooke. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Sooke History: The first Sooke Boy Scout troop

While Sooke has always been big on youth sports, there has also been an active scouting community.

The first Scout leader for Sooke was John Ede Martin, who was born in Vancouver, and was a Scout as a youth.

After serving in the First World War I, he returned to Vancouver, married, and brought his bride, Sheila to Sooke, where he planned to farm.

In 1935 the Sooke and North Sooke Women’s Institute decided to sponsor Boy Scouts in Sooke. That was the year that founder Lord Baden-Powell came to Victoria, and Scoutmaster John Martin took his new troop to meet him at the Willows.

If you are driving on Sooke River Road, you’ll notice at the opposite side from where Meota Drive begins, a beautifully-kept farm site with a stately historic residence in the distance. Though the land is now owned by others, this is where John Martin brought his Boy Scouts in 1936 and 1937, giving them an opportunity to camp at the river, alongside Pemberton Pool.

The names of many early Sooke families are recognized here, at this first camp.

In the photo, Harold Peterson stands next to the Scoutmaster at left, then Wilfred Strong. Wilfred’s father Ralph Strong farmed the land on Church Road, growing oats where at this time, a new Jehovah’s Witness Hall stands. Pat Welsh is next, youngest son of William Welsh, who was born in 1871 in historic Moss Cottage. Pat is followed by Jim Peterson.

Dick Cains stands second from the right; Dick was a grandson of the pioneering seafaring man Richard Cains, and a son of the family that owned Cains Garage right in the middle of Sooke. He is also recognized for developing Mount Matheson in East Sooke. Charlie Syrett, far right, was a son of Ted and Alice Syrett whose little cottage on Sooke River Road still stands; he became a carpenter.

In front is Jack Peterson, followed by Stan and Len Jones. It would be hard to find twin brothers anywhere who contributed more to their community than Stan and Len Jones; strong, dedicated workers for Sooke Community Association, for sports fields, for the school district; they also built Sooke’s first mall, Cedar Grove Shopping Centre. Stan Cains, next, was cousin to Dick Cains of the garage family. Ed Pontious grew up the youngest of seven brothers on the Pontious farm on Caldwell Road. You might see his niece Judy Jay at the till in the hardware store.

The last of these fine young fellows, part of Sooke’s growing-up years, was John Syrett, youngest brother of Charlie Syrett. John became a professor at the University of British Columbia.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

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