ROBERTS, Harry




Author Tags: Maritime

Harry Roberts, after whom Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast is named, built the 37 ft. sailboat named Chack Chack in the early 1920's and published a book about his maritime adventures called The Trail of Chack Chack. This boat was first called Odamit. His second boat was call LHF with those initials signifying his name Louis Harry Roberts. A third boat he built, Chack Chack III, was not launched. He homesteaded on Nelson Island and his grandmother is credited with coining the phrase 'Sunshine Belt' that evolved into the term 'Sunshine Coast'. (The Elphinstone Museum has provided excellent website histories for the Sunshine Coast area at www.bigpacific.com based on books such as The Sunshine Coast by Howard White. See brief sample below.) The claim that Roberts was responsible for the term Sunshine Coast arose because he painted the words Sunshine Belt in big letters on his store. In his book Whistle Up the Inlet, Gerald Rushton claims the term Sunshine Coast arose from a 1925 marketing brochure from the Union Steamships Company. People who live in Roberts Creek sometimes refer to themselves as Creekers. The area is noteworthy as the long-time home of author Hubert Evans, who lived on the waterfront for more than 50 years.

BOOKS:

The Trail of Chack Chack: Book 1. (New York: Carlton, 1968).

[BCBW 2004] "Maritime"

Harry Roberts biography
Elphinstone Museum info



According to the Elphinstone Musuem, "Harry Roberts, unlike many hard-edged pioneers, had been an art student in England and later became a painter, author and philosopher. His visionary spirit, combined with an entrepreneurial sense of business, thrived on the Sunshine Coast. Starting with a 40-acre parcel of land east of the creek that he purchased from his father in 1904 (when he was 20 years old), Harry became one of the most influential of the early Creek settlers. Travellers from nearby Vancouver had discovered a number of waterfront properties in Roberts Creek that were uninhabited by the owners. They came by the boat-load during the summer months to enjoy inexpensive camping holidays. Harry seized this opportunity and built a store and later a post office at the mouth of the creek (near the current site of the Roberts Creek General Store) that catered to these transients as well as to local families. He was also well-known for his unique house and boat designs and his skill in their construction. He built a sawmill which produced lumber for most of the new houses in the area. Timbers from the mill were used to build a government wharf, the 13 bridges necessary to construct Lower Road, and a four-mile stretch of flume to carry timber from McNair's logging operations to Georgia Strait for transport. Lumber from Harry's mill was also barged to customers as far away as Pender Harbour. Harry used his own wood to build a landmark home, The Castle, constructed in 1917 for his bride Effie "Birdie" Sissons, and for a 36-foot yawl, the Chack Chack, and a work and pleasure boat, the LHR (for Louis Harry Roberts). He also built and furnished small cottages to rent to vacationers and eventually subdivided and developed his own property as the demand for land grew. The community of Roberts Creek was highly dependent on water transport for supplies, but developing a ship landing was made difficult by the harsh winter storms. Two floats constructed by the government were washed away. Harry used his small launch, the Midget, to push a scow loaded with as many as 75 passengers as well as freight out to larger vessels or passing steamships. In 1914 a government wharf was finally completed, although Harry was forced to move his store to make room for road access to it. He organized Creek residents to pay for, build and maintain the wharf when a disagreement between federal and provincial governments threatened to delay its construction indefinitely. There was no proper breakwater to protect the wharf from the elements, and eventually it disintegrated. A new wharf was built farther along the shore, leaving Harry's store isolated from the potential market. Harry simply built another store closer to the wharf with a ramp leading directly to his store's front door and an inviting covered deck for waiting passengers. Nearby he built a freight shed on which he wrote the words Sunshine Belt in large letters visible from off-shore. This evolved to the name Sunshine Coast. In 1923, Harry leased out his mill and store and moved with his family to Merry Island, where he had a small home called Bugaboo that he used as a base for cruising the Gulf Islands. In 1929, he built a fanciful retirement home on Nelson Island for his second wife Cherry and their three children. The house, called Sunray, or The House of 10,000 Faces was a charming cottage with south-facing walls made from some 300 panes of glass. He also built a 32-foot, three-masted schooner, the Chack Chack III, that was never launched. The house still stands in its idyllic cove at Cape Cockburn."