Front exterior view of the Okanagan Spring Brewery beer store and main office as it appeared in 1990.

This past Friday, August 5, was International Beer Day! While our city’s first brewery, the Vernon Spring Brewery, is now long gone, Vernon’s experience with brewing continues under the direction of the Okanagan Spring Brewery.

The brewery opened in 1985 in a former B.C. Packers warehouse in downtown Vernon. Most of the equipment and materials needed to supply the $1-million-dollar facility were made in the Okanagan, with some supplies brought over from Europe. Fermenting and aging tanks were installed in the warehouse’s basement, since the thick walls of the building provided the beer with protection from temperature changes. This was all overseen by the company’s co-founder, Jakob Tobler, whose son Stefan continues as brewmaster today. 

When the brewery first opened, however, the brewmaster was Raimund Kalinoswki, trained in Germany. Kalinoswki was tasked with producing a premium lager similar to that of the Granville Island Brewing Company, using only Canadian ingredients. Thus, the celebrated 1516 lager was born.

This particular brew was (and is) made with only four ingredients, a fact reflected in its name; “1516” is the year that the Bavarian Purity Law, which limited the ingredients of beer to barley, hops, yeast and water, was adopted.

The output of the brewery in the first few years was 5,000 hectolitres—approximately 300 bottles. It was sold directly from the brewery, and at hotels, restaurants, and liquor stores around the Okanagan. To promote their product, the brewery took on the phone number 542-2337, with the last four digits corresponding with the dial letters B, E, E, and R.

The Okanagan Spring Brewery is now in its 37th year of successful operation.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Do you have memories of winter carnivals past?

Vernon Winter Carnival will be creating a series of videos – engaging local residents to tell their stories of past Vernon Winter Carnivals – allowing us to share knowledge and past experiences to future generations, thereby engaging seniors in the community through the mentoring of others. The videos will be edited and shared with the community through social media and possibly featured in schools and at an event during Vernon Winter Carnival 2023. This project is funded through the Government of Canada – New Horizons Seniors Program.

The video interviews will be conducted in mid-late August with a focus on three main questions:
  1. Tell us your memories of Vernon Winter Carnival…
  2. How has VWC impacted our community
  3. What would you like to share to our future generations about the importance of community events like Vernon Winter Carnival?
Residents wishing to be interviewed should meet the following requirements:
  • Over the age of 60
  • Lived in Vernon for at least 10 years
  • Must sign a media release allowing VWC to use their interview and image for promotional purposes
  • Must be available in August to be interviewed
  • Must have a strong, positive, connection to Vernon Winter Carnival and the Vernon Community
If you or someone you know might be interested in participating contact the Winter Carnival Society today by emailing INFO@VERNONWINTERCARNIVAL.COM or calling 250-545-2236.​

In the meantime, take a trip back in past to the 1964 Vernon Winter Carnival. 

First Stop: Winter Carnival Parade

We’re not sure what those Vikings from the Revelstoke float are doing would go over very well today, that spider float is a bit horrifying, and at least one small child is not impressed! Nonetheless, it’s a charming and entertaining journey back to a parade of the past.

Next Stop: Silver Star Mountain

This appears to be a slalom competition. We’re fairly certain those were the alpine downhill skis of the day, but it looks like people are competing downhill on Nordic cross-country skis — and admirably so! 

 

 

Tommy Gregoire is immortalized on the left side of Vernon’s Okanagan Indian Band mural, which was completed by Michelle Loughery and her team in 2001. If you are interested in learning more of the stories behind the murals, take a tour

This weekend marks the 2022 Historic O’Keefe Ranch’s Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival.

Considering that the first non-Indigenous settlements to emerge in the Okanagan Valley were cowtowns—communities that appeared at the junction of railroads and livestock trails—Vernon has long boasted a healthy population of cowboys.

Men like Cornelius O’Keefe are often remembered for participating in the Okanagan Valley cattle drives of the 1860s, but even during their time, it was known that the best ropers and riders belonged to the Okanagan Nation. For instance, the Gregoire Family alone included several generations of talented equestrians.     

As told in the book Q’Sapi: A History of Okanagan People as told by Okanagan Families, Francois Gregoire (1865-1944) was a successful rancher who owned a large herd of horses, some of which were used for racing and others for farming. By 1915, he owned a threshing wheat separator which he rented out to other ranchers.

Francois’ son Tommy (1901-2000) also went on to become a well-known rodeo rider. A celebrated Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Tommy was an adamant advocate for Indigenous rights and freedoms, who, along with his wife Mary, ensured that his children learned nsyilxcən.

Tommy’s son Leonard (1929-2013) was a self-proclaimed cowboy from the start who began exercising his grandfather Francois’ horses at only eight years old. He later worked as a rodeo contractor with his father, and learned to ride broncos and bulls. He even went on to earn six track records in Canada and the U.S. racing quarter horses and thoroughbreds.

Like his father and grandfather, Tommy was proud to be fluent in nsyilxcən, and passed along his teaching to his own grandchildren and other little ones at the Okanagan Language Nest.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Cheryl Craig and Jennifer Rhodes of the UBCO Biology Department displaying samples from Jim Grant’s botany collection in 2022.

A collection of 400 laminated botanical samples collected around B.C. by local naturalist Jim Grant has been transferred from the Vernon Museum to UBCO’s Biology Department.

Portrait of James Grant. Courtesy of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.

James Grant, often known as Jim, was born in Trinity Valley near Lumby in 1920. Even as a child, Jim showed a keen interest in nature and art. At the age of 15, his lifelike sketches of birds had become so impressive that he won a bird-drawing competition conducted by the English magazine “The Bird Lover’s League.”

Jim later worked as a farmer and a logger before enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1941. He served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals until 1946, when he returned to Vernon and was employed by the Federal Forest Entomology Lab.

His work took him throughout the province, and he quickly became a skilled ornithologist, entomologist, and botanist. He also spent a few years doing similar field work in Alberta. In 1970, he was appointed Field Studies Coordinator for School District 22, a position which saw him organizing and conducting student field trips to grassland, forest and pond sites, where he remained until his retirement in 1978.   

North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club logo featuring a bog orchid.

Jim was a founding member of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club; in fact, during an excursion to the Mara Meadows Ecological Reserve in 1965, he spotted a small, white bog orchid which later became the club’s emblem. He also operated a hospital for injured hawks and owls from his home in Lavington.

After Jim’s passing in 1986, his botany collection was donated to the Vernon Museum. However, earlier this year, the museum’s collection committee decided that it would be of more value to the Biology Department at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, and it was transferred accordingly, to the great excitement of the university staff.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Looking south from Middleton Mountain over what used to be Long Lake Reserve #5 circa 1950.

Ancestral Territory

It comes as a surprise to many that one of Vernon’s most popular summer destinations, Kal Beach, is located on what used to be reserve land.

Kal Beach as it now appears. Photo courtesy of Michael Russell Photography.

Needless to say, the ancestral territory of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation comprised much of Kalamalka Lake; the lake, which bore the name Long Lake up until 1953, is named after Chief Kalamalka after all. Moreover, members of the OKIB still reside on land around the lake where historical villages once stood.

An image from the Final Report of the Royal Commission’s decision in regards to reserves in the Okanagan region. The full report can be viewed online.

However, little evidence remains to mark the bounds of Long Lake Reserve #5, which once stretched from approximately Kal Beach to what is now the Kalavista subdivision. The reserve was allotted in 1877 by the Joint Indian Reserve Commission, established two years earlier by the Federal and Provincial Governments to set the boundaries of reserve land in B.C.

In 1909, Hlakay (also known as Pierre Nequalla), Chief of the Nk’maplqs (Head of the Lake) Band, opposed a sale of the land, suggesting that grave irregularities had occurred in obtaining proper surrender permissions; this was later confirmed by the Federal Government and the sale was set aside. However, in 1913, the land was “cut-off” under the McKenna McBride Royal Commission.

Mckenna mcbride royal commission

The stated goal of this commission (named after the two men who signed it into effect, federal commissioner Joseph McKenna and BC Premier Richard McBride) was to adjust the acreage of reserves in B.C., based on gathered evidence from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as to their adequacy. As a result of the commission, an additional 87,000 acres of reserve land were added to most bands, while 47,000 acres of far more valuable land was removed from 54 bands. This included the 128 acres of Long Lake Reserve #5.

This “cut-off” land was later sold to a Mr. John Kennedy, who then released portions of it to the City of Vernon for beachfront access, and to the Canadian National Railway Company.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Axel Ebring with some of his creations in 1953.
Axel Ebring’s article in the Vancouver Sun of April 3, 1943.

The Historical Record works in mysterious ways.

Around 1975, a newspaper dating back to April 3, 1943, was discovered beneath the floorboards of a North Vancouver home. 47 years later, in 2022, the newspaper has made its way to the Museum & Archives of Vernon

The North Van house was 80 years old in the 1970s when it was purchased by Jim Huffman, who now lives in Vernon. While renovating one of the bedrooms, Jim discovered two or three complete Vancouver Sun Newspapers dating back to the 1940s tucked beneath the old linoleum flooring. Being somewhat of a self-proclaimed history nut and hoarder, he tucked them away in safe place before passing them along to a museum staff member earlier this year.

What is interesting about one of these aged Vancouver newspapers (other than the fantastic Prince Valiant cartoons) is that it includes an article about one of Vernon’s very own—Axel Ebring. Long before the age of the internet, this celebrated local potter had managed to make a name for himself across the province.

The Potter of Vernon

Axel Ebring was born in Kalmar, Sweden, in 1874. At the age of only 12, he immigrated to Canada. He worked as a general labourer for many years, before adopting his father’s profession and building his first production kiln at Notch Hill, near Salmon Arm, in the 1920s. He discovered another clay deposit about ten years later in Vernon, and moved his operation here.

Axel Ebring’s photo in the Vancouver Sun of April 3, 1943

A Massive kiln and an even bigger legacy

As the Vancouver Sun article relates, Axel Ebring’s kiln was about 20-feet square and 8-feet high, with walls that were two-feet thick. After forming his creations, Axel would decorate them with naturally-produced dyes made from roots and berries. The article also includes an interesting discussion of the process Axel would take to break down chunks of scavenged quartz to form a glaze. Once decorated and glazed, the pieces were placed in large, heat-resistant crocks called “seggars,” which were then stacked on top of each other in the kiln. The pieces were fired twice for sixty hours, with a cooling period in between, and then were ready for sale.

Axel remained in Vernon until 1954, when he passed away. His legacy was marked in the naming of Pottery Road, near where his kiln and shop were located. Many of creations are preserved in both the Vernon Museum and the R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum, as well as in private collections. 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

The Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company’s Indigenous summer encampment re-creation at Head of the Lake circa 1997.

Indigenous Theatre in Canada

June is National Indigenous History Month, and an opportunity to highlight the history of the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company and their contributions towards the advancement of Indigenous theatre in Canada.

When the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company was founded in Vernon in 1988, they were one of only a handful across the entirety of Canada. The company was based on ancestral storytelling practices, and provided an outlet for the expression of Indigenous cultural values and social concerns.

SEN’KLIP = COYOTE

The company’s founder, Lynn Phelan, had previously worked with an Indigenous theatre company in Vancouver before returning to her hometown of Vernon. In 1987, she started the Native Youth Summer Theatre with Ruby Alexis, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band.

The company later changed its name to the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company, after the nsyilxcen word for “Coyote.” To both the Syilx and Secwepemc People, Coyote is considered a trickster, creator, teacher, and entertainer.

In 1989, the company produced its first professional play, “Shadow Warrior,” which toured B.C. Around that time, the company also began developing its “Coyote Tales” series, based on the legends of Sen’Klip. This series was on-going throughout the years, and explored themes of respect for the Earth and its creatures.

The Power of performing arts

The next few years witnessed the continued growth of the company, in both size and popularity. 1992 was a particularly successful year, and saw the company embark on a valley-wide elementary school tour, develop an experimental traditional summer camp (later featured at the PNE), and attend an Ecotourism conference in Whistler.

The Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company ran for a decade, and during that time, they continuously demonstrated the power of performing arts to serve as a major method of cross-cultural communication.

Celebrating SEN’KLIP at the MAV

There will be a display of costumes from the Sen’Klip production of “How Turtle Set the Animals Free,” based on the Syilx captikʷł, at the Vernon Museum in June. Costumes and masks were created by Sen’klip founding director, and renowned Syilx artist, Barbara Marchand.

Music in the Museum performer and local singer-songwriter, Duane Marchand, is also an alumni of the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator