A man is seated at the front of a small, open glider. He is smiling at the camera.

Fred Little on the open pilot’s seat at the front of the glider he built with Frank Oliver in 1932. Photo courtesy of Warren Little.

A race to the skies

Eldon Seymour and Jim Duddle were not Vernon’s only dynamic duo of intrepid aviators; around the same time the two young teenagers were building their open cockpit airplane in the loft of the Kalamalka Lake Store, Fred Little and Frank Oliver were gliding through the sky in their own creation. Thank you to Fred’s son Warren for supplying the information and photos for this story.

A large frame of a glider under construction in an empty room. A space heater is nearby.
The glider under construction circa 1932. Photo courtesy of Warren Little.

The Work Begins

When Fred and Frank were in their early twenties, they began building a glider in the kitchen of Fred’s family home. At the time, Fred was a professional mechanic, and was employed by Watkin Motors in Vernon (he later went on to serve the City as Fire Chief and was named the 1969 Good Citizen of the Year). Frank, meanwhile, was a businessman, the owner of Specialty Cleaners.

Once complete, the glider was flown from Vernon’s first airfield, located in the Mission Hill area. This take-off location was ideal, because updraft winds from Kalamalka Lake allowed for long flights in the glider.

 

Successful first flight

Local flying instructor Lowell Dunsmore piloted the first flight of the 32-foot Northrop Standard on June 12, 1932. On the second of three attempts, the Ford Model A towing car reached about 65 km/h. The glider soared into the air and hovered a steady ten feet above the airstrip before Dunsmore released the tow cord and brought it to a gentle landing. The following Tuesday, Fred and Frank performed another five successful flights in their aircraft.

Not to be outdone, Eldon Seymour and Jim Duddle also saw their own homemade glider successfully piloted by Lowell Dunsmore a few weeks later, and launched the City of Vernon airplane the following year. While the latter may have been the first home-built aircraft in Vernon with an engine, Fred and Frank owned and constructed the first glider in the B.C. Interior.   

The glider went on to have many successful flights but was unfortunately later wrecked by a winter snow storm that collapsed its top.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two teenagers set their sights high

In 1933, a couple of Vernon teenagers began construction on an open cockpit airplane (CF-AOM). Two years later, the plane, named the City of Vernon, took its first flight.

Jim Duddle and Eldon Seymour were 18 and 17, respectively, when they started their project in the loft of the Kalamalka Lake Store (now the Rail Trail Café & Market). The boys purchased the plans from a magazine, and sourced materials from an American supplier since they could not locate a Canadian one. 

With financial assistance from flight enthusiast Jack Taylor, and welding expertise from former airframe mechanic Ernie Buffum, the plane was constructed for a grand total of $1463.00. It took the boys 10 months, since they could only work on it during evenings and weekends.

The City of Vernon Takes off

The City of Vernon took off for the first time in June of 1935. The brave man who agreed to test it was a local flying instructor, Lowell Dunsmore, whose successful career had produced a number of pilots, including Charles Grey, the first for the RCMP. After one quick inspection, he hopped in and took it for a spin, finding that it handled beautifully.

After Dunsmore gave the plane his stamp of approval, Jim and Eldon passed a happy three years of unlicensed flying all over the province and across the Rocky Mountains. The plane was also used for search and rescue missions, photo reconnaissance, and timber cruising. It was Vernon’s first home-built aircraft.

Joyride through the skies

In 1941, the Canadian government suspended private flights, which put an end to James and Eldon’s joyride through the skies. But both boys maintained their love of flying, with Eldon going on to receive his pilot’s license and Jim joining the air force.

In later years, the City of Vernon was partially dismantled and sold to a collector in Spokane for $50.00.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

The MAV is proud to present this special blog post written by collections intern Alexandra Fox, who is currently developing a display on the history of Vernon’s Jewish Community.

A young woman with dark hair is smiling at the camera and standing in front of a large, black-and-white cut-out image of a man.

“My name is Alexandra Fox. I am a 24 year old Jewish woman. I was born to a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, so technically I am not considered Jewish because Jewishness is considered matrilineal. However, it is the religious side that I connect to the most, maybe in part due to always being told that I look Jewish. When my father married my mother, a lot of his family was mad that he wasn’t marrying a Jewish woman.

Religion has always been a complicated thing for me. My father used to be very religious when growing up, and the rest of his family still is, but when he moved to Canada from South Africa he left that behind him. Therefore, I wasn’t raised very religious and never had my bat mitzvah. My sister has also struggled with this confusion of identity and is currently volunteering in Israel, in part to get to know that part of herself more. When I am around some of my family that is more religious, I sometimes feel awkward because religion has been such a huge part of their identity growing up and I never had that.

A young woman is leaning into a large wood display case to arrange Jewish objects.
Intern Alex hard at work on her exhibit about Vernon’s Jewish Community.

I never really went to a church or synagogue while growing up but I took part in holiday celebrations. I always took part in Christmas and at least one day of Hanukkah. Eight days is a lot and since you have to leave the candles burning until they die out, it wasn’t always practical to do all the days. It has always been interesting for me to see how the dates of Hanukkah change year to year, as they are based on the Jewish calendar, so they fall anywhere between the first week of December and the last week. In fact, Hanukkah in 2024 starts on December 25th and ends on January 2nd 2025!

When embarking on my exhibit, I wanted to do it on something I connected to and had meaning for me. It was a struggle to find objects for the exhibit, as the Vernon Museum & Archives doesn’t have a Jewish collection, so I went to the community to ask if they could loan objects. Before I got the objects, I honestly almost gave up on the topic and chose a new one. Therefore, I am very thankful to Laura McPheeters, who is the president of the Okanagan Jewish Community Association in Kelowna (although she is a Vernon resident).”

 

Grassroots of Vernon’s Jewish Community

For the next three months, The Museum & Archives of Vernon will present an exhibit on the Jewish community in Vernon. Did you know that, in terms of settlement, this community is relatively new to the area?

The first Jewish settlers came to B.C. from other places in Canada, the United States, and Western Europe after the 1850s, during the Gold Rush, and settled mostly in Vancouver. The end of the 19th century saw an influx of Jews from Eastern Europe instead of Western Europe, as before.

In terms of Vernon, it unfortunately appears that the first members of the Jewish community to arrive in the area found themselves stripped of their rights and freedoms, and interned in the Vernon Internment Camp. At least two Jewish German nationals who lived in the Lower Mainland were apprehended following the break-out of World War One and transported to Vernon. However, in this case, it was their German heritage and not their Jewish identity that

 An excerpt from the 2021 Vernon Census.

was the reported reason for their internment.

Time to settle

The first Jews to actually settle within Vernon did so in the 1970s; the 1971 census says there were around 20 Jews then. The population grew to 55 in 1981, dropped to 50 in 1991, and then rose again to 170 in 2001. The most recent census, that of 2021, was the first one to include Jewish as an ethnicity and as a religion, whereas it was just listed as a religion previously, and 185 people answered they were ethnically Jewish while 90 said they were religiously Jewish.

Aerial view of Camp Hatikvah on the shores of Kalamalka Lake near Oyama taken circa 1956.

 

Close Knit Community

Even now, the Jewish community in the Okanagan is relatively small and organizations like the Okanagan Chabad House and Camp Hatikvah serve to unite them. The latter opened in Oyama in 1956, and seeks “to produce proud, happy Jewish youth who were earnest and sincere in their beliefs.” Moreover, this summer camp is not exclusive to Jews, as other communities can rent it for their camps, and in the past it has been most notably used by the Boy Scouts. The MAV has previously hosted events for the Okanagan Jewish community, including Hanukkah, and this exhibit aims to increase awareness about this small but close-knit community among the wider population of Vernon.

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

 

 

 

 

 

A woman with grey hair wearing a jean shirt over a blue patterned dress has a pink birthday badge pinned to her dress. She is outdoors, and leading a horse by a rope.
The above photo shows Miss Jayne at one of her birthday parties, the year she decided to invite a horse as a guest just so that she could take it for a walk. She had always loved horses. This photo was used as the cover of her funeral program, a copy of which is held at the Vernon Archives.

George VI’s Body Double

Did you know that the Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s first physiotherapist, Miriam Jayne, also had connections to King George VI?

Miriam Jayne was born in 1923 in Bristol, England, to Lt. Col. and Mrs. Wallace Jayne. When she was a child, Miriam’s father Wallace worked as a body double for King George VI, a role which was shrouded in mystery. While the responsibilities of royal body doubles is kept quiet for safety’s sake, Queen Elizabeth’s body double was known to attend practice runs of important state events in order to afford the Queen more time in her packed schedule, so it is suspected Wallace Jayne filled a similar role for her father.

Journey to Canada

Meanwhile, Miss Jayne went on to have her own military career, and joined the Women’s Land Army during World War Two. She later trained as a chartered physiotherapist and orthopedic nurse, practicing in England, Wales, and Scotland. Miss Jayne moved to Canada in 1950, and Vernon in 1952, where she began working at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital. She remained in this position until 1988.

An Okanagan Landing resident

Miss Jayne was also an active community member; a resident of Okanagan Landing, she was approached in 1998 by the Landing Association to produce a history of the organization since their beginnings in 1949. This publication was unveiled in 2002, and included sections on the history of the SS Naramata, the Okanagan Landing Regatta, the North Okanagan Sailing Association and the Okanagan Landing Fire Department.

Miriam Jayne passed away in 2014.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A black and white image of an old car with three occupants and some greenery attached to it on a snowy backroad. In the background is a mountain and trees.
A group out Christmas tree hunting near Vernon circa 1913.

An older woman seated in a chair with her hands folded over a blanket on her lap.Christmas Spirit

Wishing all who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas! While it goes without saying that some Christmas traditions have changed significantly since the early 20th century, the spirit of the season has largely withstood the test of time.

In an interview from 1988, Jean (Crockard) Knight shared her childhood memories of Vernon at Christmas time. Jean and her family came to the area from Scotland in 1906, and moved in with her grandparents who owned a large home on 35th Avenue. Jean was one of seven children, four of whom were born in Vernon.

Roast chicken and plum pudding

At first, Jean’s father William had some difficulty finding work in Vernon, which meant that the Christmas season was a time for ingenuity. The family made a lot of their own decorations, and Jean even recalled being taught how to do so in school. Eventually, William began working as a stonemason and was involved in the construction of the Vernon Courthouse.

The family later moved into their own cottage on 43rd Avenue, and on Christmas Day, they would bundle up warmly to make the kilometer or so trek to visit their grandparents. Jean’s grandmother had a chicken coop, so Christmas dinner usually consisted of roast chicken with all the trimmings, followed by a rich fruit pudding (similar to an English plum pudding) which they called a “dumpling.”

A close-up of a green Christmas Tree with lights. A small red wooden rocking horse decoration in hanging in the foreground.

Gifts, sleigh rides, and skating

Presents were not plentiful; Jean recalled that she and her siblings would only receive one or two each, for which they were always grateful. When she was about 15, Jean’s father purchased a gramophone for the family, a gift that was thoroughly enjoyed by all of them. It was around this time that Jean began working at Olson’s Bakery, and always put some of her wage aside to purchase small gifts for her parents, while the rest went towards the family’s household expenses.

As a teenager, Jean loved going for sleigh rides with her friends, and while William could not afford his own sleigh, one year he decided to fix up his own. He fastened a box on bobsled runners, covered it with a quilt, and drove the family into town for Christmas concerts and other seasonal activities (Jean’s personal favourite was skating). 

Jean married Harry Knight (the nephew of Vernon’s first butcher Henry Knight) in 1922, but always recalled her happy childhood traditions, some of which she passed down to her own children. “We always had good Christmases and plenty, too,” she said.

The Museum & Archives of Vernon would like to wish you a safe and happy holiday, and a wonderful 2023!

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A man is standing in a long room and leaning on a glass display case. All along the walls are tall wooden cabinets filled with silverware and porcelain.
Interior view of Jacques Jewellers, with proprietor F.B. Jacques at the counter, in 1907.
the front of a large brick building with a small balcony
Jacques Jewellers first store in Vernon circa 1890. GVMA #22704.

Pioneer Jeweller

“The Pioneer Jeweller of the Okanagan” is how F. B. Jacques is described in the Vernon News of 1912, which is hardly an overstatement considering that when it closed, Jacques Jewellers was the oldest store of its kind in the interior of B.C. 

Frederick Bainton Jacques, the first jeweler and watchmaker in the Okanagan, was born in Ontario in 1865 and arrived in Vernon in 1891. After renting a storefront on Vernon’s main drag for a few years, his new location opened at 3122 30th Avenue in 1894. Although he sold jewellery and giftware, most of Fred’s profit was actually made through watch repairs.

A crowd of people inside a shop.
Opening day crowds after the refurbishing of Jacques Jewellers in 1953. GVMA #22684.

Jacques & Son

Fred Jacques died in 1938 at the age of 73, and left the business to his son George. In 1953, George unveiled an “ultra-modern” remodeling of the store.

The second floor of the building was now used to display china, crystal and silver pieces. The mezzanine was renamed the Wedgwood room, and bore chesterfields, comfortable chairs, and desks for shoppers to rest between floors (the stairs, by the way, where decorated with a “luxurious mushroom pink carpet”). The diamond room on the main floor, meanwhile, was reserved for the jewellery and watches for which the Jacques family were best known.

The renovations were a great success, and led to the business being recognized as one of the finest jewellery and gift establishments in Western Canada. George ran the business until his own death in 1963, at which point it passed to Don Harwood.

A man wearing a white shirt and a stripped tie smiling at the camera.
Don Harwood in 1958. GVMA #22927.

The Business changes Hands

By this time, Don had worked at the business for 30 years, ever since he had graduated from high school. He purchased Jacques Jewellers with Charles Troyer, and the two were determined to avoid stocking it with mass-produced products. They instead filled their shelves with a variety of gift items from companies such as Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Spode, and Royal Crown Derby.

Ownership later passed to Don’s daughter Kath Harwood and George’s nephew Michael Gorman, who ran the store as partners for five years. In 2002, Kath purchased Jacques outright. She ran the business until 2007, when this landmark downtown business closed its doors after more than a century of business.

The building now houses Victoria Lane Brides.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Two photos. On the left is a black and white image of a woman who is a member of the Kalamalka Weavers and Spinners working on a loom. The right photo is a closeup of blue and yellow textiles.
(Left) Sandra Jung, a member of the Kalamalka Weavers and Spinners Guild, in 1991; (Right) Examples of the guild’s textile creations for sale at Artsolutely. Courtesy Facebook.

An Ancient Craft

One local organization that is keeping an ancient tradition alive is the Kalamalka Weavers and Spinners.

The guild was formed in Vernon in 1972 with the goal of promoting weaving and spinning, crafts which are acknowledged as among the oldest in the world. They can be traced back to the Neolithic Period, when plant fibers where twisted together to create string. This progressed to the use of stones and sticks to wind the twine, and then to the first spindles roughly 7000 years ago.  

Branching off

While the Kalamalka Weavers and Spinners mainly focus on fiber creations, including those produced through knitting, crocheting, dying, and felting, in the 1970s some members were also avid basket weavers.

The baskets were made from locally-harvested ponderosa pine needles that were bunched together and held together with raffia from Madagascar. One former president of the guild, Bea Sworder, described basketry as “one of nature’s gifts to mankind.”

The members of the guild who took up this craft were modeling their creations off of the traditions of Indigenous communities in B.C., who created—and continue to create—baskets using a variety of natural materials, including pine needles, birch bark, and cedar roots.

In fact, it was a Secwepemc Elder, Dr. Mary Thomas, who first taught the group how to basket weave in the mid-1970s. Thomas was a celebrated ethnobotanist, and an advocate for the protection and promotion of Indigenous language, culture, and traditions. She hosted several workshops for the guild, and was selfless in her willingness to share the teachings of her own Elders.

Passion, success, and Artsolutely

The more recent history of the Kalamalka Weavers and Spinners is one of ongoing passion and success. In September of this year, a team from the guild placed second at the Sheep to Shawl competition of the Salmon Arm Fall Fair, and they are aiming for first place in next year’s event. You can find some of their beautiful creations, alongside those of other talented local artisans, at the Vernon Community Art Centre’s Artsolutely. You can also keep up with the activities of the group on Facebook

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A beige certificate with a red stamp. The title reads "The Silver Star Mining Company."
A stock certificate from 1897 preserved in the Vernon Archives that shows A. G. Fuller purchasing 100 shares in the Silver Star Mining Company.

International Mountain Day

Today is International Mountain Day! Did you know that Vernon’s own mountain, SilverStar, was once the site of a promising but ultimately unsuccessful mining operation?

However, long before this, the mountain was used for generations by the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation, with foot trails providing access to the mountain’s rich hunting and foraging grounds. Once settlers arrived in the region, the peak became known as Aberdeen Mountain after Lord Aberdeen, Canada’s governor general from 1893 to 1898.

Silver Star Mining Company

The mountain’s earliest claim was staked in 1896 by the Silver Star Mining Company, of which rancher Cornelius O’Keefe was the president. Shafts were dug near the mountain’s submit by pick and shovel, while black powder was used to break up larger pieces. The raw ore was loaded into buckets, and then transported down the mountain on pack horses.

Trace amounts of silver, lead, zinc, molybdenum and copper were quickly found in the ore, which lead miners to believe they had found their own Montezuma’s treasure. Mining fever was spreading all across the province at this time, and reports by the Vernon News of the “magnificent specimens” coming down from the mine only served to generate more excitement. Several well-known Vernonites invested dozens of shares in the company, which were sold at a cost of $1.00 each.

Moving forward

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the enthusiasm to fade, as prospectors quickly realized that the ores were too low a grade to be worked at a profit. The mountain’s mining era quietly ended in disappointment around 1926. But a handful of intrepid skiers were waiting in the wings for their turn to explore the mountain…

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A black-and-white view over a field with mountain in the background.
A view of the Coldstream Ranch in the 1930s.

The Holodomor

Since 2019, B.C. has officially recognized Ukrainian Holodomor Memorial Day on the fourth Saturday of each November. The Holodomor, also known as the Great Famine, occurred in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, and resulted in the death of millions of Ukrainians.

Meanwhile, during the same time period, thirty-five Ukrainian families in Coldstream were receiving government assistance as a result of the ongoing Great Depression, a situation which was made worse by a taxation dispute between the municipality and the Coldstream Ranch.

The Great Depression

Ukrainian immigrants first began arriving in Vernon in 1914. By the 1920s, 16 families who had journey from the Prairies had settled on land purchased from, and adjacent to, the Coldstream Ranch. This community continued to grow in the following years.

Coldstream’s Ukrainian population was particularly vulnerable during the Great Depression, and by 1932 their situation had become dire. Government relief had arrived in Vernon in 1931, but the available funds were so limited that sometimes families were only granted $5 for an entire month.

The situation was made worse by the fact that in 1930, responding to pressure from apple growers, the District of Coldstream had introduced a by-law to exempt fruit trees from taxation. As a result, the Coldstream Ranch had seen an increase in its agricultural land taxes, to which manager W. C. Ricardo was much opposed. In retaliation, the Ranch defaulted on its 1932 property tax bill.

A culture of resilience

The whole population of Coldstream experienced an increase in property taxes as a result of this dispute, and this was particularly felt by the already-impoverish Ukrainian community. By the winter of 1932, the small amount of relief money was barely enough to keep a family fed.

The dispute ultimately went to court, and in 1934 a decision came out in favour of the District of Coldstream. Thankfully, the District and the Ranch were able to reach a settlement in 1936, and the municipality managed to limp its way out of the recession by the end of the decade.

Despite the years of scarcity, Coldstream’s Ukrainian community continued to practice its languages, dances, and customs. Like the ongoing invasion of their country has demonstrated, Ukrainian people have an admirable capacity for resilience. 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Two women seated smiling at the camera. The woman on the white is wearing a white shirt and a pink coverall dress. Next to here is a woman in a white dress with blue and green flowers on it.
Joan Heriot (right) with friend Sveva Caetani circa 1990.

Canada History Week

Nov. 20 to 26 is Canada History Week, and this year’s theme is Arts, Culture, and Creators.

Although the name of her close friend, Sveva Caetani, might be more well-known, Joan Heriot was also a talented artist whose gift to Vernon was a series of beautiful creations.

Joan Heriot was born in Vernon on January 7, 1911, and lived with her parents Allan and Jessie in Coldstream. Allan worked as an entomologist, but both he and Jessie were also amateur artists. Joan was fascinated with her father’s work, and decided to pursue her own career as an entomologist when she was only six-years-old.

Entomologist by trade, artist by passion

Joan went on to complete a science degree at UBC, but was told she would never find employment as a female entomologist in Canada, and so departed for England. She completed a Master’s degree at the University of Liverpool, and then taught as a lecturer at the Brighton Technical College for around 30 years.

After her retirement in 1966, Joan returned to Coldstream. With a renewed reminder of the beauty of the Okanagan’s scenery, Joan decided she wanted to start painting again, a hobby she had not indulged since her childhood. She tracked down her former art teacher, Miss Topham Brown, who was then in her nineties, and took a series of art classes with her, but it was in working with pastels that Joan found her calling.

She went on to create a series of beautiful pastel landscapes, and was particularly fascinated with trying to capture light and form. Her artwork was in high-demand, and although she did not paint on commission, she did have a waiting list of people to whom she would offer her new creations.

A Lasting Legacy

 

Joan Heriot’s circa 1930 watercolour depiction of Miss Topham Brown’s drawing camp near Killiney Beach on Okanagan Lake.

Joan was also an active community member and supporter of several local organizations, including the

Allan Brooks Nature Centre

and the North Okanagan Naturalists Club. She maintained an interest in biology, geology and archeology throughout her life, and was always ready for an adventure; when she was in her 70s, Joan went white-water rafting for the first time. 

Joan passed away on July 29, 2012, but her legacy lives on. The Joan Heriot Studio at the Caetani Centre and the Joan Heriot Centre for Environmental Studies at the Mackie Lake House serve as reminders of her dedication to both organizations. The Vernon Public Art Gallery has exhibited her artwork on several occasions, and a series of her personal records are held at the Vernon Archives. A tree was also planted in her memory at the Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator