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SOOKE HISTORY: In the 1920s, Sooke’s women’s basketball team forged connections in the community

Elida Peers | Contributed
The Sooke women’s 1920s basketball team. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

What a bevy of beauties, how daring they were, back in the 1920s, to show their bare knees so boldly!

Sooke folks have always been big sports supporters, so this team photo is no surprise. Their label was Sooke Ladies A Team though we don’t know if there was actually a B team as well.

The player seated at the left is Winnifred McGibbon, who taught at Sooke School from 1922 to 1929 when she gave up her teaching job to marry the coach, Tommy Wright. Their daughter Winnifred provided us with this image.


Seated in the centre is Sarah Michelsen, daughter of pioneer seaman Capt. Mandus Michelsen and Sarah Poirier. Sarah went on to marry Bill Vowles, and together they raised a large family of youngsters who became very well known in this community – but mostly, they were known for fishing, not for sports. Among the Vowles children who all worked with their parents in the seafood industry were Billy (Tuck), Viola, Laura, Rudy, Stephen, Joe, Wally, Marilyn, Beverley, Jean and Linda.

At the right front is Nellie Charters, who married Stanley Carlow; this couple also raised a large family right on the brow of Charters Hill, where three condos stand alongside Charters Road today. This is the area where Sooke became famous for its tent lots due to the gold rush.

The most well-known of Nellie’s youngsters was probably Jessie, who made her home in Cowichan and became a leader in the Women’s Institutes of Vancouver Island. Recently Nellie’s youngest son Harold Carlow brought his family to town to visit the Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre.

Hilda George, top left, was a daughter of Chief Louis and Agnes George; she lived in Victoria after her marriage to Ford McBratney. Tommy Wright, the coach, had been a star in sports, playing soccer in Metchosin in 1915 and continuing with basketball in Sooke.

Shoulder to shoulder with him stood Violet and Irene Helgesen, daughters of Christian and Haldis Helgesen, who settled in 1912 on what became known as Helgesen Road. Irene and Violet’s elder sister Lillian taught at Sooke, and the school connection was maintained when Irene’s son-in-law Terry Sankey became principal at Edward Milne during the 1970s. Joan Locke, at the right, grew up to marry locally and remained in Sooke.

We’re sure that these fine young women would be thrilled to see so much support for sports in the Sooke we know today.


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

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