Beta Boys, School Spirit in Spades
King Lee, VHS 1959 & Linda Baker, VHS 1969
Barrie Moen, VHS 1968 & Tore Valdal, VHS 1970
Peter George, VHS 1969 remembers Gamma Hi-Y
BETA: a development stage of near completion, but not yet ready for release.
BETA: the second letter of the Greek alphabet, (not the first)
Some of those 1960s Vic High Beta Boys might agree they weren’t ready for release into the world quite yet, but we’re sure they saw themselves as second to none. Raising school spirit, serving the community, and generally having themselves a heck of a good time, all seemed to be hallmarks of Beta Boys’ days at Vic High in the 1960s and ’70s. Camosuns from 1967 to 1972 reveal various service clubs each year, some separate for boys or girls, and one in 1974 for boys and girls. The first Vic High service club was founded in 1877 to focus on raising school spirit and developing debating skills. In 1911 it became the Beta/Delta Club. We’re not sure when the club disappeared, but 1966-67 it was resurrected as the Beta Club. No formal debating was on the agenda, although it’s safe to assume lively discussions likely ensued over what activities to pursue, (and perhaps who would do the jar store run? LOL)
We spoke to a few of the Beta members from the 1960s for this article, and memories on a few details were a bit hazy. It has been over 50 years, after all. Some weren’t sure how they’d gotten started each year, how they were initiated as members, or even where they met. But they definitely remember the friendships, the laughs, and the lessons they learned from their community service.
Left to right: Doug Puritch, 1969, Jan Bentley, 1969, Ken Gower, 1968, Bob Hissink, 1968, Tony Cable, 1968
Doug Puritch, VHS 1969, described the Beta Boys that year as ‘unorthodox’. Yes, they wore old cheerleader skirts to cheer on the rugby and basketball teams, but they were really a service club. “You had to be invited to join,” says Doug, and once a member, were seen by some as the “cool guys” of the day. Whether that was true or not, Doug has great memories of his years at Vic High. “I was really proud of Vic High,” Doug said, and he continues to stay connected with his buddies, specially those crazy 1969 BC Basketball Championship Totems. Of course, there was the time the Beta Boys outdid themselves at the 1968/69 Vic High Circus. Does anyone remember the standing-ovation performance by the Beta Belly Dancers? Just sayin’…
Jan Bentley from the Class of ’69 remembered their role as a cheerleading squad for Vic High teams. He wouldn’t call Beta Boys a fraternity but did recall they “tissue-papered” Oak Bay High. “We were all really good friends”, says Jan.
Ken Gower, VHS 1968, former Victoria High School Alumni Association chair, thought the Beta Boys were more of a social club, modelled after university fraternities, although they were involved in service to and raising money for the Greater Victoria community. He and Tony Cable, VHS 1968, remembered both raising funds through “penny drives” (when pennies had some value) and competing with another boys club, Gamma, and the girls’ Y-Teens. Ken and Tony both remembered weekly lunch-hour trips to nearby Victor School, which enrolled disabled students, and bouncing balls, playing catch and pushing wheelchairs on school grounds there. Tony described Beta Boys as friends of like minds learning how to be part of a group, and developing leadership qualities. He said many members went on to become future leaders in their communities, including Bob Hissink, VHS 1968, who became a vice-president of the mammoth McDonald’s fast-food restaurant chain.
Barrie Moen, VHS 1969, Remembers Beta Boys
The Beta Boys was a group created to foster good will at the school and in the neighbourhood. One particular activity I remember well was our volunteer time at Victor Street School in the Fernwood area. At the time, 1966-67, the school was for children and young adults who had severe learning and behaviour issues. We would walk down to the school once a week to help with the school’s lunch time activities. Certainly an eye-opening and thought-provoking experience for teen-aged boys.
Personally, the experience led to more volunteer time at the old Glendale Hospital once located where Camosun’s Interurban Campus is now, and at the Victoria Boys’ Club as it was known then. Victor Street School morphed into an alternative school and the need for the Beta Boys volunteer time faded away. But we stayed active helping organize pep rallies, ad-hoc bottle drives, and a few other money raising comedies.
Of course there was always the odd game of nickel-and-dime-poker played behind open text books propped up on the tables of the venerable old cafeteria. Watch man always present. Those teacher monitors could be sneaky.
Yes, it’s true and for some reason, not questioned in today’s culture, we occasionally wore skirts and led the cheers at soccer matches. (Mercifully, I was playing in those matches.) Those brave Beta Boys were definitely a special sports moment in the 1967-68 year at Vic High.
Tore Valdal, VHS 1970
Thanks, Tore, for giving us names of some of the boys in this crazy photo.
There were a few Totems in this picture. Far left is Jan Bentley. Maybe Dave Mulcahy and Mike Chornoby. Yes, it was James Scott in the skirt. There is another picture of the guys in the ’69 Camosun. From the grad photos info other members are Dan Wallis, Barrie Moen, Ian MacLean Doug Puritch, Ron Dworski, Steve Carroll, Ken Lomas, Terry Jordan, Gerry Vanderjagt, Brian Henry. (grade 11 members: Mel Sangha, Bob Hope, Don Wilson).
The ’70 Camosun grads info include Mel Sangha, Bruce Gower, Dave Osborne, Rod Quin, Keith James, Mike Waberski, George Biggs, Brian Dunn, Wayne O’Malley, Mike Turner, John Hamilton, Doug Cunliffe, Roger La Salle, Hans De Goede, Greg Hall and Paul Scott.
Gamma Hi-Y – Some Serious Fundraising
While the Beta boys seem quite connected to sports at Vic High, Gamma Hi-Y – at least in 1968-69 – took a different approach. “Membership in Beta was limited to boys,” says Peter George, VHS 1969, “so some of us joined Gamma Hi-Y. ” Despite the yearbook photo showing only boys, Peter was adamant the previously girls-only club included girls too. “We put on this incredible art auction at the Empress Hotel,” Peter says, “with works from artists like Fenwick Lansdowne and Tony Hunt. We raised a lot of money for World Service.”