By Anthony Dransfeld
This year is the 50th anniversary of rugby in the East Kootenay. The first game was an all-Kimberley match played in 1965. When Cranbrook players came on board a few years later, the Barbarians were born. Today, a half century on, the Rocky Mountain Rogues carry on the rugby tradition in Kimberley and Cranbrook, playing East and West Kootenay teams in the Kootenay Rugby Union, and competing for the provincial Saratoga Cup.
In an issue of the Bulletin next week, two of those 1965 players, Peter Moody and Brian McKenzie, write about the genesis of rugby in the East Kootenay. Today I want to focus on Peter’s own story as a life-long athlete. Peter and wife Susan Bond’s skirmish with a momma grizzly bear has been well documented, but who is the man behind the bravery award?
I first met Peter Moody at the Kimberley Post Office in the fall of 1964. He was in the company of Struan Robertson, then recreation director at McDougall Hall, a long-gone Townsite landmark once the heart of much of Kimberley’s leisure life. These two were among the best-conditioned athletes in Kimberley at the time.
A quick anecdote about Mr. Struan Robertson, who retired to Kimberley after a long career around the province with BC Parks. As I recall, Struan was demonstrating how he wanted us boys to climb a rope attached to the cavernous ceiling at McDougall Hall. The rope hung about 25 feet down to the gym floor. Struan climbed it, up and down, three times in 22 seconds and had not a bead of sweat on him, nor was he even breathing hard. That is being fit.
Pete Moody, phys ed teacher at McKim school at the time, was in similar shape.
Born in London’s teeming East End seven years before the outbreak of World War II, young Peter Moody and his two brothers were evacuated to the countryside, along with many thousands of other English children, to escape the German bombing runs that targeted London during the war. The family was reunited at war’s end in 1945 and in the peace that followed, Pete’s sporting life truly began. He played soccer at school and basketball at the local YMCA, then was introduced to rugby at the age of 18 when he joined Britain’s Royal Air Force.
After two years with the RAF in England, Egypt and Cyprus, Pete found work as assistant camp leader at a YMCA boys’ camp in the English Lake District. It was his first experience of mountains and the pleasures of hiking them.
He began his career in education at the University of London’s Westminster Teacher Training College, where he captained the soccer team, helped establish the college’s first basketball team, played water polo and took up boxing, winning the university’s middleweight championship. This was followed by a year at Leeds University’s Carnegie College of Physical Education, where he took up rugby once again.
Now a fully fledged teacher, Pete got his first job teaching phys ed at a boys’ school in east London. He was playing basketball again and rallied his teammates to form a competitive club playing in England’s national league. As player-coach, he led the team to the All-England final in 1958.
Arrival in Kimberley
When I was on the phone with Pete the other day, I asked him how he happened to come to Kimberley. It is an interesting story that bears repeating.
After four years of teaching in the UK, he attended a “job fair” of sorts at Canada House in London. Canada was recruiting teachers and Mr. Moody (sorry, old habits die hard) landed a job at Aberdeen Junior Secondary in Winnipeg. Coached by Pete, the school’s gymnastics team won the city-wide championship that year.
In 1961, after a year on the Prairies, Pete, his first wife Wendy and their young family arrived in Kimberley where he had been hired to teach boys’ Phys Ed at McKim Junior High School. And that was the historic year that rugby came to the East Kootenay. But more on that next week.
In 1967 Pete headed back to school as a student himself, acquiring a masters degree in physical education at Washington State University and eventually a doctorate from the University of Alberta. He taught for a year at Eastern Oregon College then joined the School of PE at UBC’s Faculty of Education. After 20 years based in Vancouver, he came “home” to Kimberley, teaching at the College of the Rockies and in UVic’s long-distance teacher education program before finally retiring at the age of 74.
A Family Tradition
Through the decades Pete’s passion for sports and physical activity of all sorts has never waned. Today, at the age of 82, he cross country skis in winter, rides his mountain bike as soon as the snow’s gone, hunts in the fall and hikes in the summer. And he’s passed those genes on to his three children and seven grandchildren who are into just about everything from martial arts to swimming to soccer and rugby.
His 15-year-old granddaughter Kiana, for instance, just got her level one ski instructor’s certification and has been teaching tiny tots this winter at Mont Cascades outside Ottawa. Granddaughter Jessie, 14, is a competitive gymnast at the national level, training at the Phoenix club in Vancouver. Daughter Jane, 50, was still playing competitive soccer until a knee injury sidelined her last year.
Pete also has two great-grandchildren but they’re still toddlers and aren’t quite ready yet to follow in their great-grandad’s footsteps.
I never had Peter Moody as a Phys Ed teacher – I missed out by one year – but I know Mr. Moody is a fellow who always sees the very best in everyone, an inspiration to many of us.