(Left) Mayor Frank Becker wearing the ceremonial outfit and Chain of Officer in 1959 while greeting Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip; (Right) Victor Cumming wearing the outfit in March of 2024. After this photo opportunity, the outfit was meticulously placed back into its acid-free storage box, while the Chain of Office was returned to the City of Vernon.

A Ceremonial attire

The Vernon Museum houses an ensemble steeped in ceremonial significance within its artifact collection. The outfit, consisting of a black grosgrain robe adorned with spacious open sleeves, complemented by a matching hat and lace jabot, was purchased from The Toggery Shop in Victoria, likely during the 1950s.

Over the years, it was worn by several mayors at important civic functions. Its earliest recorded appearance dates to 1959 when Mayor Frank Becker welcomed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during their first visit to Vernon. Over the years, successive mayors, including E. B. Cousins, Elwood Rice, and Lionel Mercier, also donned the regalia. Eventually, in 2011, the outfit was donated by the City to the Vernon Museum.

The mayoral Chain of Office.

Mayoral chain of office

In tandem with the first documented appearance of the mayoral robe, Frank Becker also introduced a Chain of Office in 1959. The name of each of Vernon’s mayors has been inscribed on its gold sections, dating back to W. F. Cameron in 1893 and up to Victor Cumming in 2018. The practice of mayor’s chains in the

Documents related to former mayor Elwood Rice donated to the Vernon Archives.

Thompson-Okanagan region traces its origins to the late 14th century, and the traditions of nobility during the Tudor era. While not mandated by legislation, various communities in the Thompson-Okanagan region uphold this tradition

Fast forward to 2024, the ceremonial robe resurfaced once more. With precision and patience, collections volunteer and textile expert Janet Armstrong draped it over a living mannequin in the form of Mayor Victor Cumming, who proudly showcased it alongside his Chain of Office (which continues to be used at investiture ceremonies by the City of Vernon).

Serendipitously, a set of records from former Mayor Elwood Rice had just been donated to the archives moments earlier, adding another layer to the historical tapestry of Vernon.

Thank you to Mayor Cumming for his graciousness and willingness to participate!  

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 man in a light-coloured shirt conducting a choir.
AURA Chamber Choir and conductor Imant Raminsh at All Saint’s Anglican Church in 1992.

A historic performance

On April 6 and 7, 2024, the AURA Chamber Choir will present Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passion According to St. John in Salmon Arm and Vernon, respectively. The occasion commemorates both the choir’s 45th Anniversary, and exactly 300 years since the Passion was first performed.

Between 1723 and 1724, German composed Bach, in his first year as director of church music in Leipzig, completed the piece. On April 7, 1724, it was performed for the first time at a Good Friday Vespers service at St. Nicholas Church. At the age of 39, Bach composed the four-part piece featuring soloists and an instrumental ensemble comprising strings, bass instruments, flutes, and oboes. Notably, he added color to the music by incorporating the lute, viola, and viol, instruments that were considered antiquated even in Bach’s time.

In the years following, Bach revised the piece multiple times, alongside creating new compositions, including the Passion According to St. Michael in 1929. Bach passed away in 1750 at the age of 65. Nevertheless, his reputation as one of the greatest composers remains well-founded, especially considering his works continues to be performed three centuries later.

45 years of aura

Composer J. S. Back in 1746. Public Domain image.

Established in 1979 by Imant Raminsh and Valerie Witham, with accompanist Marjorie Close, the AURA Chamber Choir brings together singers from the Okanagan and Shuswap regions. Their diverse repertoire spans from the Renaissance to contemporary compositions of the twenty-first century, encompassing motets, choral art songs, folk melodies, and spiritual pieces.

Additionally, the choir has showcased compositions by Raminsh, who held the position of the choir’s director for many years. Raminsh, of Latvian descent, is a globally acclaimed composer based in Vernon. In recognition of his significant contributions to the Canadian music scene, he was honored with the appointment to the Order of Canada in 2018.

Now in its 45th year, AURA is one of several choral ensembles in the Okanagan Valley, with other groups including the Okanagan Festival Singers, the Musaic Vocal Ensemble, and the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra Chorus. For further information about AURA, please click here

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A black and white image showing two men in hard hats next to a pile of bricks outside a concrete building. Beside them is a piece of heavy machinery.
A photo of the Vernon Archives Expansion Project between 1999 and 2000.
A white building with domed windows and a door under a sign that reads "museum." In front sits a watering through and a large bell.
Exterior view of the Vernon Museum at its second location on 3005 30 Street. GVMA #1272.

The MUseum & Archives is formed

How does the growth of an archival collection progress with time? While the specifics vary by institution, in the instance of the Vernon Archives, its collection has evolved organically since the organization’s inception in 1950.

That year marked the inception of the museum, initiated by the City of Vernon around a collection of mounted specimens bequeathed by W. C. Pound, a taxidermist. Spearheaded by former Mayor David Howrie and cabinetmaker Charles Haines, initial museum displays were housed in a back room of W. L. Seaton School.

In 1954, the City formed a board of directors to oversee the museum’s operations, with George H. Melvin as chairman and Guy P. Bagnall as secretary-treasurer. Concurrently, a committee was established to manage the archival aspect of the organization, and the first board meeting convened on January 12, 1955.

The Archival collection grows

The first photo donated to the Vernon Archives shows taxidermist W. C. Pound next to a mounted moose head. GVMA #1.

Later that year, the burgeoning archival collection received its first batch of records from the Vernon & District Women’s Institute, established in 1916 to support wartime endeavors. These records, comprising minutes, financial documents, and logbooks, were followed by contributions documenting the life of Alexander L. Fortune, an early pioneer who arrived in the region in 1862 with the Overlanders. This subsequent donation included correspondence and a manuscript containing Fortune’s personal reflections.

Between 1955 and 1987, 5000 photographs were donated to the archival collection, and another 5000 arrived between 1897 and 1991. One of the earliest ones that arrived into the collection shows taxidermist Pound next to the mounted head of a moose. In 2024, the photograph collection encompasses over 31,000 items.

A much-needed expansion

One of the first sets of records included these items documenting the life of Alexander L. Fortune. Images courtesy of Gwyneth Evans.

The collection’s growth necessitated relocation over the years, first to the former police station and magistrate’s court in 1956, and then to its present location in 1966. By 1992, space constraints became apparent as the archival collection outgrew its allocated 200 square feet, with stacks of boxes filling the area. Donations from local artist Sveva Caetani, the Vernon Daily News, and historian Margaret Ormsby exacerbated the issue.

But these important historical materials could not be turned away, and so, the Vernon Archives Expansion Project commenced in 1999, resulting in the addition of a dedicated archival office space and vault, and expanding the area by over 700 square feet. The vault now safeguards Vernon’s historical records in a fire-proof and climate-controlled environment.

The Vernon Archives remains committed to actively gathering the narratives of Vernon’s residents, with a particular focus on collecting the records of underrepresented communities. This dedication ensures that the archives will continue to expand and evolve over time.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A black and white image showing a large arched entry made out of wood. A banner along the top reads "Vernon Annual Okanagan Industrial Exposition." On the left of the banner is a drawing of a man from the torso up, holding apples. On the right of the banner is a welder. Above the banner is a diorama of a building with the word "progress" printed on it. Real people can be seen in the photo walking into the exposition underneath the arched entryway. Mountains can be seen in the background.
The Vernon-Okanagan Industrial Exposition entryway at the Vernon Military Camp in 1947.

A most important event

In the late 1940s, it was deemed the “most important Spring event in the Interior of British Columbia.” The Annual Vernon-Okanagan Industrial Exposition was considered a means to attract fresh capital to the Vernon region for industrial ventures, and was hosted for the first time in 1947.

Earlier that year, a group of citizens met to advance the idea, helped along by the securing of Premier John Hart’s consent to act as patron of the event. Major-General Edward Plow, commander of the artillery component of the Canadian army, permitted the exposition organization to rent buildings at the Vernon Military Camp for the event.

1947

On May 28, the first Industrial Exposition took off with an aerial flyover, followed by a Grand Opening Parade which wound its way from the city to the camp. Over the next four days, around 30,000 visitors flocked to the expo, exploring exhibits ranging from bulldozers to can openers. The Allis Chalmers Co. exhibited a diesel engine operating electronically, while General Electric Co. featured a prominent display of household appliances. This event also witnessed the first automobile show ever held in the Interior of B.C.

A non-commercial section of the expo featured a variety of entertaining activities, including a lawn bowling tournament, a dog show, orchestral performances, and an arts and crafts exhibition.

1948 and 1949

The event returned in May 1948, and despite heavy rains, drew nearly as many attendees. Commercial exhibitors upped the ante this year, as could be seen in a dazzling display by automobile dealers featuring all the latest makes and models. Improvements had also been made to the exhibition facilities, and the 1948 pamphlet boasted that excellent lighting would provide “a brilliant kaleidoscope of color.”

Even more work went into the hosting of the 1949 Exposition, which included the installation of a “Big Top” tent to host entertainers. Despite these efforts, the event drew only about half as many attendees as previous years. Meanwhile, more and more exhibitors were eager to participate, and so a bigger space was deemed necessary if the event should run in 1950. This, coupled with the Department of National Defence’s request of $400,000 worth of insurance to cover the use of camp facilities, saw the exposition team start considering alternate arrangements.

Unfortunately, new facilities were never secured and 1950 did not see the continuation of the expo.

Here’s a collection of images featuring exhibits from the Annual Vernon-Okanagan Industrial Exposition. These snapshots of local history are preserved thanks to the prolific photographer Doug Kermode. For additional photos, click here.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

An assortments of pins, around 1 inch each, in a variety of shapes including triangles, squares, rectangles, and round.

 

An assortments of pins, around 1 inch each, in a variety of shapes including triangles, squares, rectangles, and round.
One of the Vernon Museum’s set of Winter Carnival Pins, with examples from 1961 to 2022.

64 Years of Pins

The 2024 Vernon Winter Carnival has kicked off! While each year brings its own set of surprises and delights, this was particular true of the first Winter Carnival, held in 1961. This inaugural event brought about the first parade, a series of sports jamborees, and even a square dance melody composed by the renowned Canadian musician Don Messer as a tribute to Vernon (“Bow to your partner, corner too, circle to the left, that’s what you do, to Vernon, B.C., the sports paradise, their winter carnival’s a must in your life”). It also saw the introduction of the Vernon Winter Carnival Button Program.

Since then, a button with its own unique design connected to the Carnival’s theme has been released annually. Throughout the entirety of the Carnival’s history, individuals have sought to collect at least one button a year, with even some younger residents hunting through antique stores and at collectible shows to find them all.

Local varieties

In addition to the year-to-year buttons and pins, two distinct button varieties exist. In the inaugural year of 1961, a triangle-shaped button was initially produced with sharply pointed corners. Following an apparent sellout, a second run was executed, this time with rounded corners, creating the first variety. Similarly, in 1962, a second run was conducted with a different-sized round die, resulting in either a smaller or larger button than the first run. The quantities of these varieties remain unknown. In 1997, an all-metal button named the “Good Times Award” was introduced, with a blue ribbon permanently attached and stating “I was caught having a ball at the Vernon Winter Carnival.” While the volume of these is also unclear, they are seldom seen at the Carnival office.

Certain collectors aim to discover all the button varieties and designs crafted throughout the years. Some also seek out an additional set of metal pins that come in three “confirmed” varieties—one featuring Jopo and a snowflake, another depicting a hot air balloon, and the third showcasing a Carnival Cop. While some collectors discern between button colors, slight variations are expected due to the printing process, and these are not typically considered distinctive features.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A man wearing a red bomber jacket and white and blue top hat holding another red jacket and a blue and white jacket. All of the jackets and the hat are covered in pins and buttons.
Alvin Timm displaying his Vernon Winter Carnival memorabilia in 2009.

The Button Guy

The 2024 Vernon Winter Carnival launches in less than two weeks, and this will be one of the first years it proceeds without the iconic participation of “The Button Guy.”

Vernon’s Alvin Timm was born on October 1, 1939. A life-long resident of the area, he worked at the Lavington Glass Plant until his retirement.

Apart from his skills as a Pattern Dancer and bowler, Timm was a passionate advocate for the Vernon Winter Carnival. He actively participated in the inaugural events in 1961 and, from then on, made it a tradition to collect a button each year. These buttons adorned a number of bomber jackets and a matching hat, creating a distinctive ensemble that Timm proudly wore while marching in numerous carnival parades throughout the years.

Nuts about Vernon Winter Carnival

His remarkable assortment of pins encompassed not just those acquired at the Vernon Winter Carnival but also examples from various carnivals and fairs across Canada and the United States. One particularly whimsical piece consisted of an acorn with googly eyes and a matching red nose, dressed fetchingly in blue and white and holding a sign that read “I’m nuts about Vernon Winter Carnival.”

Timm’s historical knowledge about all things Carnival was also unparalleled. According to Kris Fuller, the executive director of the Vernon Winter Carnival, Timm had a remarkable ability to recognize faces in vintage photos and willingly shared a wealth of memories and anecdotes about past events.

A passion recognized

In 2018, Timm was awarded the Carnival’s Jesse Ferguson Memorial Trophy. This award, originally called the Chairman’s Trophy, was renamed in either 1977 or 1978 in honour of Jessie Ferguson, an active Vernon senior who was involved in a variety of volunteer organizations before her passing. This trophy is awarded each year to a person or group in the community who has shown years of dedication to the Vernon Winter Carnival, and Timm unquestionably met these criteria.

Alvin Timm passed away on January 13, 2023. One of his delightful jackets was bought to the Vernon Museum later that year, and although it has not yet been officially added into the artifact collection, it will be on display in the museum’s foyer for the duration of the 2024 Carnival.

 

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 building, showing two men in apron looking out from a doorway. On the left of the building are a series of stacked milk pails, and on the right, a sign that reads "Home of Armstrong Cheese."
The Armstrong Cheese Co-Operative plant in 1940.

The ultimate comfort food

Cold snowy weather calls for comfort food like pizza, and what would pizza be without its quintessential cheese topping?

Moving back in time to 1902, the residents of the Village of Armstrong joined forces to establish a creamery, financing the project through the sale of land shares. Despite initial resistance from the municipal council, this determined group overcame obstacles. By the year’s end, a creamery had been constructed, furnished, and a skilled butter maker hired.

As detailed in an article by Mary Blackburn in the 47th Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, the creamery was situated just north of Armstrong, near Fortune Creek. In 1916, it was reorganized as part of the North Okanagan Creamery Association (NOCA), collecting milk from dairy farms extending from Mara Lake southwards to Vernon. By 1923, the Armstrong Creamery was producing an impressive 12,000 pounds of butter per month.

The City of Vernon Muscles in

The creamery changed hands in 1925, when it was purchased by Pat Burns and Co., becoming part of the Okanagan Valley Co-Operative Creamery (although the NOCA brand name persisted). Two years later, a devastating fire wiped out the Armstrong creamery, prompting the Vernon City Council to offer incentives to Pat Burns and Co. to centralize the creamery industry in Vernon. The history of NOCA and the Okanagan Valley Co-Operative Creamery carries on from here, but back in Armstrong, the loss of the dairy industry was being keenly felt.

A silver lining emerged in 1938 with the opening of a new cheese factory under the guidance of Charles Busby. Once again, shares were gathered for construction, leading to the official incorporation of the Armstrong Cheese Co-Operative in 1939. Armstrong Cheese swiftly became a renowned business, with temperature-controlled cooling rooms facilitating longer aging and mass production resulting in sales of 820,000 pounds a year by 1943.

Goodbye Armstrong

Fast forward to 1997, and the company changed hands, sold to Dairyworld Foods, the production and marketing arm of Agrifoods International Cooperative Ltd. In 2003, Saputo Inc. acquired Dairyworld Foods, including the Armstrong Cheese brand, and in 2004, closed the Armstrong plant.

Fortunately, just a few years prior in 1998, the Village Cheese Company opened in Armstrong, keeping the tradition of quality cheese-making alive in the region. Although the Armstrong Cheese brand can still be purchased throughout the North Okanagan, it is no longer the result of North Okanagan milk, most of which is now produced in Abbotsford, B.C., before being shipped to Calgary, A.B., for packaging.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A painting of a bear standing in a creek in front of some trees. A fish swims near his feet.

From Sailor to Mine Manager

The enigmatic Captain Albert Vidler arrived in Vernon in the 1890s, following a tenure as a sailor on the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. Born in the U.K. and having family ties in the Vernon region, Vidler led a life that was both mysterious and marked by intriguing contradictions.

Captain Vidler initially arrived in Vernon at the turn-of-the-century on a whim, wanting to venture into trapping. Although the outcome of this endeavor remains uncertain, he later began managing a humble private mine, named “Vidler’s Mine,” on a mountain peak near Lumby. Gradually, this summit came to be known as Vidler’s Ridge.

Reclusive outdoorsman

The Captain was also an avid outdoorsman, and built a cabin on a pre-empted property near Cosens Bay. Using this retreat as a base, he would hike up to Harris Creek to hunt and explore. But despite this elusive lifestyle, Captain Vidler had a wife in Vernon, who lived in a house at the end of 30th Avenue. Interestingly, contrary to his modest lifestyle, Vidler hailed from a relatively affluent family, which likely helped him to maintain these multiple properties.

Vidler was a rough character, said to be gloweringly antisocial and wielding a bullwhip to deter conversation. But he also harbored a deep affection for butterflies, and even had one, the Vidler’s Alpine, named after him. Despite his gruff exterior, Vidler was well-educated, and enjoyed reciting poetry to his friends during their long hunting excursions. He was also an accomplished artist.

Family Connections and artistic adventures

Several pieces of Vidler’s artwork are included among the Vernon Museum’s collection. One such piece, depicting a bear at Harris Creek, was given to his niece upon her marriage. Violet Vidler of Victoria had moved to Vernon a few years earlier to live with the Captain and his wife (perhaps to keep the latter company during the former’s many trips into the bush). Unlike her reclusive uncle, Violet was said to be a charming young lady, attracting numerous suitors. In 1897, she married G. A. Henderson, the inaugural manager of Vernon’s Bank of Montreal.

Over the years, Vidler produced a variety of paintings, concentrating on landscapes, seascapes, and depictions of animals. Following his eventful and adventurous life, Captain Vidler passed away in Victoria on December 31, 1905.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

Boys’ Benevolent Society

They went by the moniker of Vernon’s “Rink Rats,” yet they would have preferred to be known as the “Boys’ Benevolent Society.” This group comprised agile youngsters aged 12 to 15 who would swiftly hit the ice between hockey periods and games to give it a thorough sweep. Although they received no payment for their efforts, they enjoyed complimentary admission to all the skating and hockey games they desired at the Vernon Civic Arena.

The term “Rink Rats” seems to have gained prominence in the 1940s. Before the onset of World War Two, the task of maintaining the ice was primarily carried out by young men in their early twenties. However, when these individuals departed to serve overseas, the Rink Rats stepped in to fill the void.

A wARTIME VOID

In the wartime era, the Rink Rats operated under the supervision of Hugo Schultz, the foreman of the Civic Arena. Hugo was reputed to be strict, often described as someone who would “stand around with a club, yelling and snorting for more action from the brooms and scrapers.” However, his demeanor underwent a noticeable shift when two young women, Della Badley and Sheila Hill, joined the team; Hugo displayed a much more patient attitude towards the ladies, much to the disgruntlement of the Rink Rats.

But, the diligent efforts of the boys did not escape recognition entirely. Annually, during Christmas time, they were honored with a banquet held in the arena’s canteen. In the memorable year of 1942, they indulged in a Christmas cake skillfully iced and adorned to resemble a miniature version of a hockey rink, complete with tiny goal nets.

tHE cIVIC aREnA

The Civic Arena, the famed dwelling of the Rink Rats, opened in Vernon in 1938. At the time of its inauguration, it proudly hosted the sole artificial ice surface between Vancouver and the Kootenays. The arena, a custodian of 80 years of sports history, was eventually demolished in 2018.

On the subject of the Civic Arena, check out this wonderful footage from the YouTube channel, Reel Life. It shows a Vernon Canadians vs. Nelson Maple Leafs Hockey at the Civic Arena some time during the 1958/59 season. 

The footage was discovered, digitized and edited by local historian Francois Arseneault.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A black and white photo of a man in a t-shirt smiling behind a microphone
Frank Martina in 1989.

A beloved Local Voice

He was the longest-running morning radio host in B.C., and a voice that virtually every Vernonite knew. Frank Martina, former CJIB radio host, passed away on October 3, 2023, at the age of 76.

Broadcasting was always an important aspect of Martina’s life. At 19, he landed his first job in the industry, working for CFSL in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. He later also worked in Regina and Moose Jaw. Martina moved to BC in 1970, and worked part time at CJOR.

Moving to Vernon

Not long after, he sent an audition tape to CJIB in Vernon and officially hit the local airwaves on November 15, 1971. Martina started off in news and the mid-morning show, but later shifted into the coveted morning show, a position he held until his retirement in 2007.

It didn’t take long for Martina to become one of Vernon’s favourite voices; according to his colleague Duane Grandbois, quoted in a Morning Star article in 2007, “listening to Frank is no different than having him right beside you. He’s one of your pals.” Even after he retired from full-time broadcasting, Martina continued to host a popular Saturday afternoon show, until it was cancelled in 2020.

History of CJIB 

Founded by Vernon’s Schroter Brothers, CJIB began broadcasting in 1947 on AM frequency 940 kHz. On March 15, 2001, it was converted to the FM band at 107.5 MHz, becoming Vernon’s first FM radio station and styling itself as KISS FM. In 2010, the station was sold to the Jim Pattison Group and, in 2017, rebranded once more as Beach Radio.

The Vernon Museum would like to send its condolences to the friends, family, and colleagues of Frank Martina. He will be missed.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives