A colour photographs taken from a hill and looking west over the head of a lake bordered by houses.
A view of the Okanagan Landing in the 1990s.

Once a Hub of Activity

This spring marks 30 years since the Okanagan Landing was annexed into the City of Vernon. Before April of 1993, the Okanagan Landing composed Area A of the Regional District of the North Okanagan.

Back in the early 1890s, when Vernon was only a sleepy Cowtown, the Okanagan Landing was a hub of activity; it served as both the terminus of the Shuswap and Okanagan spur line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the most northerly steamship port on Okanagan Lake. Although the last steamship on the Lake, the SS Sicamous, was retired in 1936, ship repairs continue at the Landing until the 1960s. Once the land was decommissioned, it was purchased by the Okanagan Landing and District Community Association.

Electoral Area A

Discussions as to the future of Electoral Area A began as early as the 1970s and ‘80s. The question was whether it was best for the area’s residents to maintain the status quo, join the City of Vernon, or incorporate as a new municipality. A referendum on the question of incorporation was held in 1986, but residents did not vote in favour of this decision.

The discussion of annexation came to head again in the early ‘90s. With permission from the Regional District, the City of Vernon offered the Landing a series of incentives for annexation, including a moratorium on significant tax increases for a decade, and the installation of multi-million dollar sewer and water services infrastructure. The issue was extremely divisive among Landing residents, all of whom were ultimately concerned with the future of their community. 

58% in favour

On April 3, 1993, a referendum was held at the Okanagan Landing Elementary School. A few days later, the results were declared; 58 percent of residents who turned up to vote were in favor of annexation. In June of 1993, the City of Vernon officially applied to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to annex the Okanagan Landing and thus the largest municipal restructuring in B.C. in more than 20 years was complete.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives






Left, the “Night Rescue” painting by Australian artist Howard Totenhofer, 1960. Right, the original photo which appeared in the Vernon News off which the painting was based.

A storied History

Based on a historical fire, “The Night Rescue” painting comes to the MAV with a storied history. This special blog post is courtesy of Programming and Marketing Coordinator, Jenna Kiesman.

“Anyone left in the building would have perished” said Fire Chief Fred Little speaking to the Vernon News reporter on the scene; “we had to take chances, something we only do when life is involved.”

The date was April 22nd, 1960. The fire began late on a Friday evening, around 11:00 pm, when the flames were first spotted inside the Bagnall Building. Black smoke swept through the offices of Interior Appliances, located on 32nd Avenue in downtown Vernon, and then rose to the suites above.

The Vernon Fire Department arrived on the scene shortly after 11:00 pm and a dramatic night operation ensued with two women, Ada Hitchcock and Winnifred Neff, being rescued from the upstairs suites with an aerial ladder.

Both women were later admitted to Vernon Jubilee Hospital for smoke inhalation and, thankfully, the only other casualties were minor injuries to two fire fighters.


On the following Monday morning, the Vernon News newspaper featured a black & white photograph taken at the scene of the fire on the Friday night. Under the title “Rescue Two Elderly People, Appliance Store Gutted,” the photograph captures the look of relief and confusion on Winnifred Neff’s face as she is lifted down while wrapped in a blanket.

From recent research, we know the names of most of the others in the photograph, such as Fire Chief Fred Little (with glasses, holding Mrs. Neff) and Firefighters Jack Vecqueray (also helping Mrs. Neff) and Bill Georgeson (behind Vecqueray). Also pictured are Irish Connelly (above the Fire Chief) and in RCMP uniform is Officer Ken Coburn.

The news article recounted a harrowing fire and timely rescue of the two women who were trapped upstairs by the smoke.

“The smoke was so thick, that anyone trying to get upstairs could just go so far and then they’d have to come back. Every available smoke mask was in use, he said. The boys were facing two problems, rescue and fire fighting. We knew the construction of the building so knew how important it was to get the fire out,” recounted Little. 

This letter is included on the reverse of the “Night Rescue” painting.

Guy Bagnall and Howard Totenhofer

The next part of the story takes place in October of the same year. Guy Bagnall, who was a longtime Vernon resident and the original owner of the Bagnall Building where the fire occurred, commissioned a painting to memorialize the lifesaving efforts of the Vernon Fire Department.

 “The Night Rescue,” was painted by Australian artist Howard Totenhofer, who was working in the Okanagan Valley at the time. Totenhofer used the photograph from the front page of the Vernon News as his inspiration for the painting. Totenhofer’s choice of pastel pink for Mrs. Neff’s clothing and encircling blanket serves to highlight her stunned expression in the centre of the composition.

“The Night Rescue” painting was officially presented to Fire Chief Fred Little and the Officers and Men of the fire department on October 14th, 1960. The painting originally hung in Vernon Fire Department location and then was later moved to storage.

On Saturday, May 20th, 2023, members of Fred Little’s extended family will reunite with “The Night Rescue” painting at the Vernon Fire Hall in a small private event. In a demonstration, the Little Family will receive the painting from David Lind, current Fire Chief of the Vernon Fire Department, and then hand it over to Collections Registrar Carolyn Ben of the Museum & Archives of Vernon (MAV). The MAV has accepted “The Night Rescue” painting into our permanent collection and it will be on display as of May 24th, 2023.

Author’s note: In February this year, I was lucky to be introduced to Alan & Warren Little, both sons of Fire Chief Fred Little, when the painting was being evaluated as a possible acquisition to the Museum’s collection. I have utilized the Little Family’s research in this report and I sincerely appreciate their generous spirit and diligent research related to “The Night Rescue” story and the dramatic historical event.   

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

Jenna Kiesman, Programming and Marketing Coordinator 






A black-and-white photos of a group of men leaning against, or standing between, two ladders.
Japanese orchard labourers circa 1943 in Vernon. Makoto Kawamoto, standing in the between the two ladders, willingly took up work in a Vernon Orchard after being forcibly removed from the “protected zone” to Lillooet, B.C. He and his family later moved to Vernon and became champions of Japanese culture and tradition.

Asian History Month

May is Asian History Month in Canada, and this year’s theme is “Stories of Determination,” in acknowledgement of the challenges overcome by Asian communities in Canada over the last two centuries. One local community who exemplifies this story of triumph-over-adversity is Vernon’s Japanese-Canadian population.

An online exhibit from the University of Victoria’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, titled “Landscapes of Injustice,” starkly reveals the role Vernon played during the dispossession of Japanese Canadians as part of their forced displacement and internment in the 1940s.

World War Two

In 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, the Federal Government called for the removal of Japanese Canadian men between the ages of 18 to 45 from a “protected zone” along the B.C. coast. A few months later, this order was expanded to include all Japanese men, women, and children living within this zone, despite the fact that over 75% of them were Canadian-born or naturalized citizens.

After first being sent to makeshift holding centres in Vancouver’s Hastings Park (where the celebrated PNE is now held), most were sent to internment camps in B.C.’s Interior. The men were often separated from their wives and children in these camps, and forced to complete roadwork and other physical labour.

Forced relocation

Vernon was not the site of an internment camp during the Second World War, unlike the First World War, which saw 1100 individuals of mostly Austro-Hungarian and German descent interned on the site of what is now MacDonald Park. However, hundreds of Japanese Canadians were forcibly uprooted to Vernon during this time, in part due to the fact that the Okanagan Security Committee was pushing for the use of interned Japanese as involuntary orchard labourers.

Edith Nishikawa came to Canada as a young child with her parents Usaburo and Tora, and later became a naturalized citizen. At the age of 17, while attending high school in Vancouver, she was forcibly uprooted, along with Usaboro and Tora, and sent to Vernon.

Born in Canada in 1921, 21-year-old Suyeo Kawamoto was sent to Vernon in 1943; his removal occurred despite evidence that he was not living within the “protected zone,” since he was working as a farmer in Maple Ridge.

Japanese national Chikao Yamamoto, born in 1888, was working for the B.C. Fir and Cedar Company in Vancouver when he, his wife Etsu, and children Masao (11), Kazuko (9) and Tsugiwo (7), were sent to Vernon in 1942; in 1946, a year after the war ended, they were exiled to Japan.

Stories of Determination 

Unfortunately, these are just a few stories among many. But despite this opposition, many Japanese Canadians, both those who were forcibly removed to Vernon and those who moved here willingly over the years, were determined to carve a space for themselves, and contributed to the forming of a rich local Japanese community.

To celebrate Asian History Month, the Vernon Museum is hosting a special exhibit. Learn about the richness and diversity of Asian Canadian heritage in the Okanagan. Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and South Asian cultures will be represented in this exhibition. Interpretative panels and tri-folds explore each community as unique and integral parts of Okanagan culture. Traditional clothing and cultural objects, both part of Vernon Museum’s collection, and on loan from Okanagan residents, will be on display as well. 


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives





A black and white image of a float moving through Vernon's main street. The float is decorated with union jacks and chinese regalia and several women and girls in traditional dress are seated on the back.
The Chinese community’s float during the 1937 Coronation Parade in Vernon.

King Charles’ Grandfather

Before yesterday, the last time a king was crowned was May 12, 1937, when George VI and his wife Elizabeth ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth. In Vernon, as was the case across the Commonwealth, the day was met with much pomp and circumstance, with festivities taking place from noon until the wee hours of the following morning.

An estimated 3,000 people thronged downtown for the occasion. Businesses were decorated with flags, bunting, and other special coronation decorations, set off nicely by large displays of spring flowers. The chief feature of the day was a parade through Vernon’s main streets, which was under the supervision and direction of celebrated teacher H. K. Beairsto.


The parade formed up on 27th Street, and then was lead by Chief of Police R. N. Clerke, mounted and in uniform, down 30th Avenue. The contingent eventually made their way to Polson Park, where a program began with the unfurling of the Union Jack by a group of boy scouts. The crowd was then welcomed by Mayor E. W. Prowse, saying “I have no doubt that when you saw the glorious sunshine early this morning your hearts swelled in thankfulness.”

In between recitations of the National Anthem, hymns, and prayers, the Japanese community set off a series of daylight fireworks, the first of which was a large Union Jack. A gun salute was also performed by the B.C. Dragoons under the watchful eye of Captain J. Stamer.


A new May Queen was crowned (Marion Baverstock) and a number of young ladies entertained the crown with maypole dances. Members of the Ukrainian community also performed a series of dances. The program ended with sporting events, including races for children of various ages. These children had travelled from several neighbouring communities and after this busy and exciting day, were served dinner by the Vernon Women’s Institute and the Scottish’ Daughters League.

One other cultural group who made a strong appearance during the Coronation Day festivities was the local Chinese community. While it is unknown whether or not this community felt a particular connection to the new monarchs, they were certainly proud to represent their culture with perhaps the most ornate float of the day, upon which sat a number of young girls and women dressed in traditional regalia. 

May is Asian History Month, and to celebrate the occasion, the Vernon Museum is hosting a special exhibit. Learn about the richness and diversity of Asian Canadian heritage in the Okanagan. Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and South Asian cultures will be represented in this exhibition. Interpretative panels and tri-folds explore each community as unique and integral parts of Okanagan culture. Traditional clothing and cultural objects, both part of Vernon Museum’s collection, and on loan from Okanagan residents, will be on display as well.

Amazingly, we actually have footage from the 1937 coronation day festivities! This footage was digitized by one of our wonderful volunteers, Francois Arseneault. Content warning: At timestamp 1:53, this footage shows a group of Indigenous children in the parade, likely residential school students. The school is not identified. Some may find this triggering. 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives