International Cherry Pit Spitting Day

Since 1974, the first Saturday of each July has been celebrated as International Cherry Pit Spitting Day, after a pit spitting tournament was held as a joke at a picnic in Eau Claire, Michigan. Now, pit spitting events are held annually around the world, with the Canadian National Pit Spitting Championship being a feature of the Cherryfest in Blenheim, Ontario. The current world record for the greatest distance to spit a cherry stone is a whopping 93’6.5”, set by Brian “Young Gun” Krause in 2004.

Fruit in the Okanagan

Fruit has grown in the Okanagan since time immemorial, with Saskatoon berries, blueberries, strawberries, huckleberries, gooseberries, black berries, black currants, and raspberries making up part of the traditional syilx diet. Chokecherries also grow in abundance, a fact evidenced in the names Cherryville and Cherry Creek. But cherries as we now think of them—the dark, round juicy nuggets that grace the Valley during the summer months—are a cultivated species that was introduced by European settlers.

The first non-native fruit trees were planted by Catholic missionaries of the Oblate Order at their Mission of the Immaculate Conception on Okanagan Lake in 1862. The first seedlings were apples, and one of these trees actually continued to fruit until it was killed by cold weather in 1955. Cherries did not arrive until 1892, when 500 trees were planted by Lord and Lady Aberdeen at Vernon’s Coldstream Ranch.

Little Cherry Disease

The construction of the Grey Canal allowed water-loving plants like cherry trees to thrive in the sunny Okanagan Valley. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing after the canal’s completion in 1914; in the 1930s, Little Cherry Disease struck cherry trees across BC, first in Nelson and then later spreading to devastate orchards across the Kootenays.

A helicopter flying low over an Oyama orchard to gently blow the water off of ripening cherries in 2012.

Quarantine measures were put in place in the hopes that the disease, which causes small, bitter, insipid fruit, would not make it to the Okanagan. Unfortunately, in 1969, an orchard in Penticton was found to be infected, and by 1977, 1,400 cherry trees throughout the Okanagan had to be removed. Little Cherry Disease continues to be monitored and managed by the provincial government.   

Due in part to a 2014 trade agreement which allowed BC cherries to be exported to China, the fruit has become a boom crop, with new orchards popping up all the time to satisfy an insatiable local and international demand.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Leone Caetani sitting on the front lawn of his home in Vernon with a dog circa 1927.

“Enriched all aspects of our society”

In recognition of Italian Heritage Month, which is celebrated every June, Minister Hussen stated that “with more than 1.5 million people of Italian heritage, Canada is the proud home of one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world. From business to sports, cuisine, politics, and much more, the community has enriched all aspects of our society, and continues to do so.”

Italian immigrants in Canada and the Okanagan

Leone, Ofelia, and Sveve photographed in 1921, shortly before the family’s departure for Canada. Vernon Museum and Archives #12730.

The immigration of Italians to Canada is closely tied to political and social turmoil in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In particular, the rise of fascism under Mussolini changed the fortunes of many Italians, and some decided to immigrate to Canada to seek out new and safer opportunities. Many settled in communities in B.C., including Vancouver, Trail, Rossland, Revelstoke, Kelowna, Powell River, Duncan, and Vernon. The Okanagan’s first Italian immigrant was Giovanni Casorso, who arrived in Kelowna in March of 1883, followed by his wife and children in 1884.

This photo of Leone, taken in 1921, shows him leaning on a chair in Ofelia’s villa in Rome “on the eve of their departure for Canada.” Greater Vernon Museum & Archives #12142.

A duke immigrates to Vernon

Meanwhile, one of Vernon’s most well-known Italian immigrants was Leone Caetani, father of Sveva Caetani, a celebrated local artist. Leone was born on September 12, 1869, to one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Italy. In addition to serving as Duke of Sermoneta and Prince of Teano, Leone was a gifted scholar with a degree in Ancient and Oriental Language and History, and fluent in 11 different languages.

Sveva Caetani at a solo exhibition in 1988 at the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

Leone first visited Canada for a hunting trip in 1891, and was captivated by its natural beauty. This likely contributed to his decision to immigrate to the country in 1921 with Sveva and her mother Ofelia. As an avid socialist, Leone, like many Italians, was also no longer comfortable in post-war, fascist Italy. 

The Caetani Family, with Ofelia’s secretary and personal companion, Miss Jüül, and a small handful of staff, arrived in Vernon in the summer of 1921.

To learn more about the Caetani Family, click here

 

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Happy Father’s day!

Frank Marchand. Photo by Athena Bonneau, courtesy of https://thediscourse.ca/okanagan/frank-marchand-okanagan-changemaker.

Traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture emphasizes the importance of learning from one’s elders and passing along knowledge to younger generations. Frank Marchand, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band, epitomizes this cultural value in both the relationship he shared with his father and Elders, and in the role he has played as an educator to dozens of local students.

From Father to son

Frank Marchand’s late father, Gordon Marchand, was a Master Carver, a practice and designation he passed along to his son. Now, Frank has followed in Gordon’s footsteps in emphasizing the importance of dugout canoes and traditional waterways to the syilx and secwepemc people through public education.

A photo of the in-progress canoe constructed by Frank and students from SD22 in 2022. 

CANOE CULTURE REVITALIZED

In 2020, Frank and his apprentice William Poitras spent the summer working with youth from the Westbank First Nation. Together, the group took 21-days to construct a dugout canoe, which was inaugurated at a blessing ceremony at kłlilx’w (Spotted Lake), located near Osoyoos. Frank also worked with students in Kamloops’ School District 73 to create three other canoes.

That same year, Frank was nominated as a community changemaker, one of several individuals identified by IndigiNews as having a positive impact on his or her community.

Now, in 2022, Frank has spent several months working with students from Vernon’s Alternate Learning Program, Open Door Education Center, and Kal Secondary School to create another dugout canoe which will be unveiled at a ceremony at Canoe Beach. The canoe will then be on display at the Vernon Museum for summer 2022. 

In addition to revitalizing canoe culture across the Valley, Frank is also a member of the Okanagan Nation Response Team, a group of community members with extensive training in suicide education, community mobilization, and critical incident response.

FOOTAGE OF FRANK AND STUDENTS WORKING ON A CANOE IN 2018

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Happy Pride!

One area of historical underrepresentation within the Vernon Archives is that of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community; few, if any, records relating to their lived experiences can be found among the archives’ many stacks of papers and shelves of books. For several months, museum staff have wondered how to correct this representational gap so that Vernon’s historical record may more fully represent the city’s diverse population.

It was within this context that the museum came to make contact with Donna Langille, the Community Engagement Librarian at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, who hosts a podcast that seeks to address this very lack of LGBTQ2SIA+ records and resources within cultural heritage institutions in the Okanagan.

A Podcast with a mission

The Okanagan QueerStory podcast began as a response to many of the same limitations the museum is facing today; when Langille and her research partner, Taysha Jarett, were awarded funding through the 2020 Public Humanities Hub Okanagan Impact Awards, they originally intended to create an exhibit of local LGBTQ2SIA+ artifacts and collectibles to highlight the Queer history of the Okanagan. However, they quickly faced a lack of representational records, and even after items were secured through a call-out to the public, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the exhibit from opening.

Langille and Jarett decided to turn to podcasting to continue with their project in a pandemic-safe format. Three episodes have been published so far, with each providing an open and honest discussion around topics such as homophobia, isolation, self-worth, acceptance, and unity.

Stories Neglected

Langille believes that it is important to share and preserve the histories of the Queer community in the Okanagan because these stories have historically been, and in many cases continue to be, silenced, censored, ignored, or neglected. Communities benefit when they can see themselves and their identities reflected in public spaces, including cultural heritage institutions like museums and archives.

The Okanagan QueerStory podcast, a community-led project, is one approach to amplifying Queer stories and voices, in the hope of being able to contribute to a shared sense of history among the Queer community in the Okanagan. It is the work of individuals like Langille and Jarett that will allow the Vernon Archives and other cultural institutions to become more reflective of the entire communities they serve.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Rosalinda’s diner at 2810 33rd Street. Photo: Gwyn Evans, 2022.

The Filipino Community in Canada and Vernon

Celebrated every June, Filipino Heritage Month acknowledges one of the fastest growing multicultural communities in Canada.

Unfortunately, Filipino immigration to the Okanagan, and Vernon more specifically, is not as well documented as other cultural groups. However, as of 2016, Vernon had a Filipino population of 370 individuals.

Canada’s earliest documented Filipino immigrants were sailors living and working on the west coast; up until the 1930s, almost all immigrants were male. The population continued to increase steadily over the years, and by the 1970s, 16,913 Filipinos lived in Canada. By 2016, this number had increased to 837,130.

Vernon has an active Filipino community, with groups such the Filipino Association of Vernon (FAV) spearheading anti-racism initiatives, and relief fundraisers for family and friends suffering through natural disasters back in the Philippines.

Emergency Relief

In November of 2013, Super typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) made landfall in the Philippines, displacing 4.1 million people, killing more than 6,000 and leaving 1,800 missing. Vernon’s Filipino Community quickly mobilized, raising $26,000 of emergency relief through a number of community events. In 2020, another $1,315 was raised through a virtual Christmas concert for those affected by typhoons Rolly (Goni) and Ulysses (Vamco).

Stand up against racism

Meanwhile, in May of 2021, the FAV launched their inaugural Stand Up Against Racism initiative with a paddleboarding event at Kal Beach. Later that year, they also joined other local community groups in producing Allyship in Action, a short film sponsored by the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan to show the harmful impacts of racism and initiatives to counteract them.

ROSALINDA’S

In terms of a local success story, Rosalinda Smelser, a local business woman who was born in Mainit in the province of Surigao Del Norte, Phillipines, fits the bill. Rosalinda, who runs a diner of the same name, moved to Vernon in 1999, and opened her business in 2011. Rosalinda’s, located at 2810 33rd Street, serves both Canadian classics and Filipino favourites.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator