A mother and six children posing for a photo.
An undated photo of the Postill children with their mother Eleanor. Happy Mother’s Day!

Social Justice Roots

The roots of Mother’s Day can be traced back to late-19th Century United States. After the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of Philadelphia initiated “Mother’s Friendship Day” to unite mothers from both Union and Confederate backgrounds. In subsequent years, Mother’s Day activities maintained a social justice focus, with activists like Julia Ward Howe and Juliet Calhoun Blakely organizing events promoting peace, abolitionism, and temperance.

Despite years of advocacy by Anna Jarvis, the daughter of Ann Jarvis, Mother’s Day did not gain national recognition in the U.S. until 1914. It was President Woodrow Wilson who ultimately designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, fulfilling Jarvis’s long-standing efforts to establish it as an official holiday.

Vernon Keeps pace

The relatively young City of Vernon kept pace with these social developments in the United States. During the 1910s, Mother’s Day services were held in several churches of varying religions. By 1921, the Vernon News claimed that “Mother’s Day is becoming more and more a recognized Sunday when everyone’s thoughts turn to mother, the best woman in all the world.” The newspaper also made note that the day could be observed by wearing a white carnation, emblematic of the purity, beauty, fidelity, and peace of motherhood.

During the 1930s, various local businesses started to view Mother’s Day not just as a chance to honor maternal figures but also as a commercial opportunity to promote and sell their products. In May 1938, Nolan’s Drug Store promoted their chocolates, perfume, greeting cards, and photo frames, urging readers not to overlook their mothers on Mother’s Day.

By the 1940s, Mother’s Day had gained recognition in numerous countries worldwide. The Vernon News described how the occasion was marked in Canada and elsewhere, emphasizing the importance of gestures like acts of kindness, visits, letters, gifts, or tributes to honor mothers. The newspaper then tenderly suggested that perhaps every day of the year should be treated like Mother’s Day, recognizing the profound debt of gratitude owed to those who fulfill nurturing roles in our lives.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

Members of the 11th Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) regiment lined up at the Vernon CPR train station circa 1915. Behind them are crowds of well-wishers lining the station platform.

S & O Spur Line

The former CPR station in Vernon, located on 29th Street, is a testament to an era when trains ruled the transportation landscape.

Between 1890 and 1892, a spur line off the main C.P.R railway was built between Sicamous and Okanagan Landing. During construction, a station emerged in Vernon, sparking rapid urban expansion and solidifying the City’s role as a commercial hub of the Okanagan Valley. The station welcomed its inaugural passenger train in October 1891, with Lord and Lady Aberdeen on board.

A new Station is built

In 1911, the original station, then two decades old, was replaced by a new brick building with a fieldstone foundation and granite embellishments, a strategic move by the C.P.R to counter the burgeoning competition from other railways like Canadian Northern. Designed to be cutting-edge, the new station boasted separate offices, a central waiting area, an upstairs telegraph room, and a baggage room.

With its distinctive towers and dormers, the station exuded a landmark presence. Its architectural style, often described as “alpine” or “Swiss,” aimed to evoke a sense of the picturesque and inspire wanderlust. Operating as both a passenger and freight terminal, the station also served as the departure point for troops during both World Wars. However, by the 1960s, passenger services ceased, and the station transitioned into a freight office. By 1973, it was leased to commercial ventures following a fire in 1981 that inflicted damage to its roof and interior.

Commercial interests

After 1981, when the building was damaged by a fire, the CPR sold it to a private investor who undertook its restoration, returning it to its former grandeur. Designated as a heritage site since 2000, the building presently accommodates several private businesses, including the Station BBQ Smokehouse, Impressions Salon, and Ratio Coffee & Restaurant.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

Long shot of a field with drying tobacco leaves
Tobacco drying in a field in Vernon in the 1920s.

A promising industry

Between the 1890s and 1930s, Kelowna had a flourishing tobacco industry, evidenced in the numerous tobacco barns still present on the city’s outskirts. What is less well-known, however, is that Vernon also once had its own, much-smaller tobacco industry.

The beginning of the commercial tobacco industry in the Okanagan Valley is often attributed to Louis Holman, who arrived in 1893 and later managed the Kelowna Tobacco Co. However, Holman’s understanding of tobacco cultivation stemmed from observing the techniques of the Syilx People of the Okanagan.

Wild tobacco and syilx culture

Smańxʷ, or wild tobacco, is a culturally-important plant for the Syilx People, who cultivated it for generations prior to the arrival of settlers. The plants were grown along creeks and in other moist locations, and the leaves were harvested in the fall and left in the sun to dry for smoking and ceremonial purposes.

While the commercial tobacco industry in Kelowna had started flourishing as early as 1905, the serious cultivation of the plant by non-Indigenous individuals in Vernon didn’t begin until the 1920s. On August 16, 1927, Vernon residents were intrigued to witness trucks loaded with harvested tobacco passing through the city streets. A tobacco field in the BX area was undergoing harvesting, and the crops were being transported to a warehouse on 30th Avenue for drying. Around 30 acres of tobacco had been planted on properties surrounding Vernon.

The dream dwindles

In September of that same year, tobacco sourced from Vernon made its way to the Provincial Exhibition in New Westminster, where it was said to have garnered significant interest. Following this, the plants were exhibited in various stores in Vancouver and New Westminster. At this juncture, the future of Vernon’s tobacco industry seemed promising.

However, in 1928, growers in Vernon started to voice concerns over the lack of demand for their produce. Whereas the previous year saw the purchase of the Vernon crop by B.C. Tobacco Products Co. Ltd., situated in Vancouver, the current year witnessed a decline in demand. This issue of supply and demand was pervasive across Canada.

This, combined with the onset of the Great Depression and research findings out of Summerland that suggested that the Valley might not actually be well-suited for the cultivation of the plant, contributed to the decline of the tobacco industry in Vernon. Shortly thereafter, Kelowna’s tobacco industry also faltered.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

A baby bird in a nest.
An undated photo of a baby loon next to an egg; loons are among the migratory bird species for which ornithologist James Munro advocated. Photograph taken by James Munro’s nephew, Maurice Munro.
A person wearing glasses and a suit.
An undated photograph of James Munro (public domain image).

Nature’s champion

On April 22, Earth Day will be commemorated in 192 countries around the world. Since its inception in 1970, the event has sought to raise awareness of the need to protect Earth’s natural resources and foster a global environmental movement. Over the years, Vernon has been home to many environmental champions, one of whom was considered a leading authority on waterfowl in western North America.

James A. Munro was born in Kildonan, Manitoba, on November 8, 1884. He grew up in Toronto, where he was introduced to naturalists including Dr. William Brodie, Sam Wood, and John Edmonds. Munro moved to Okanagan Landing in 1910 with his wife Isabella, who was recovering from tuberculosis.

Here, Munro crossed paths with fellow ornithologist Major Allan Brooks. While they reportedly went on numerous field expeditions together and held each other’s abilities in high esteem, their strong-willed and opinionated natures often led to disagreements.

Chief federal migratory bird officer

Here, Munro crossed paths with fellow ornithologist Major Allan Brooks. While they reportedly went on numerous field expeditions together and held each other’s abilities in high esteem, their strong-willed and opinionated natures often led to disagreements.

In 1913, Munro became a member of the American Ornithological Union, and by 1920, assumed the role of Chief Federal Migratory Bird Officer for the four western Canadian provinces. He held this position until his retirement in 1949, during which period he authored more than 175 publications on the birds of British Columbia.

a LEGACY RECOGNIZED

Over the years, Munro’s concern about the human-induced degradation of waterfowl nesting habitats across the province grew steadily. He was deeply trouble by the observed pollution of lakes and streams and was one of the first to draw attention to this issue. His advocacy spurred further field studies investigating the effects of economic expansion and population growth on migratory birds, fish populations, and mammals.

Munro passed away in 1958, and a decade later, the Canadian Government erected a monument commemorating his achievements at Summit Creek, near Creston. This marked the federal government’s first acknowledgment of the accomplishments of one of its dedicated conservationists. On the occasion, Ian McTaggart, Dean of Graduate Studies at UBC, remarked that Munro “had been the chief spokesman in western Canada for the cause of migratory birds for 38 years.”

If you are interested in reading more about James A. Munro, click here for a comprehensive obituary by James L. Baillie. 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

The Titanic on April 10, 1912, five days before its sinking. Public domain image.

A maritime tragedy

During the early hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic descended into the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean following a collision with an iceberg. This catastrophe occurred just four days into the ship’s inaugural journey from Southampton to New York City, and regrettably, more than 1,500 passengers and crew perished in this maritime tragedy. Among those absent from the ill-fated voyage, despite prior intentions to be onboard, was Vernonite Baroness Herry.

The Herry residence in the BX in 1913. GVMA #18242.

celestine herry

Celestine Herry was born on July 23, 1879 in Brussels, Belgium. At the age of 21, she married Baron Harold Herry and the couple went on to have five children. In 1910, Baron and Baroness Herry attended the World’s Fair in Brussels, where they encountered details about the Okanagan Valley.

Since 1907, a consortium of Belgian land developers had been parceling out land in the BX and surrounding areas with the intent of attracting new settlers. Upon encountering advertisements for this “land of milk and honey,” Baron and Baroness Herry were captivated and purchased land sight unseen. They made the decision to move their family to Canada and intended to arrive onboard the Titanic.

Baroness Herry and four of her five children in 1915. GVMA #18237.

New Horizons

However, the story goes that the Baroness had a foreboding feeling about the voyage and postponed their departure until later in April 1912. They ended up traveling onboard the SS Megantic which departed from Liverpool. When they did arrive, it must have been with a sense of relief to have their feet on firm ground.

The family settled into a large home in the BX which they called Sunshine Lodge. Baron Herry owned one of the first modern motor cards in the Valley, and the Baroness swiftly gained recognition for her artistic prowess. Baron Herry served overseas for four years during World War One, after which the family’s fortunes turned and they were required to move into a smaller house.

However, the couple remained active into their older years and passed away one year apart – the Baron in 1951 and the Baroness in 1952.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

This article is part of the Vernon Archives’ “Roots of Green: Unearthing Horticultural History” series. Thank you to Wray McDonnell for his help.

A black and white image showing several sets of televisions on display in a shop.
A display of television at Vernon’s Hudson Bay Co. store circa 1960. This new technology was used by District Horticulturalist to connect with the Okanagan Valley’s growers.

A new technology debuts

Television made its debut in the Okanagan Valley in September 1957 with the launch of CHBC in Kelowna. At the onset, only 500 households owned television sets, but this figure surged to 10,000 by 1958. Among those quick to embrace this innovation were the Valley’s District Horticulturalists.

In April of 1958, Roy Chapman, general manager of CHBC, offered the horticultural branch 15 minutes of free airtime each week. Mike Oswell, who was serving as the District Horticulturalist for Vernon at the time, was assigned the responsibility of supervising the program. Initially, he hesitated to take on this task, since all television broadcasts were distributed live at the time, leaving little margin for error.

Okanagan farm and garden

Nevertheless, within a mere two weeks, Oswell has devised a program to occupy the 6:00 PM weekly slot, titled “Okanagan Farm and Garden.” The show aimed to share vital information on insect and disease control via a series of guest speakers. In its first episode, the discussion focused on fire blight, a destructive disease capable of decimating blossoms and shoots, leading to branch dieback in apple and pear trees.

Following the first three episodes, CHBC asked Oswell to expand the program to 30 minutes, which he willingly accepted. The ensuing discussions covered a wide array of topics including home vegetable gardening, lawn maintenance, sheep farming, the 4H program, and weed eradication. Some episodes even featured live animals. The studio atmosphere was described as relaxed and amiable, with surprisingly few technical difficulties. Oswell hosted the program for a year before passing the baton to Bob Wilson, District Horticulturalist for Kelowna.

chautauquas

In 1963, the channel introduced another horticultural-themed show called Chesterfield Chautauqua (named after the Chautauqua meetings utilized by the horticultural branch as a vital extension activity), allowing growers to phone in queries and receive live responses. By 1964, the program had been renamed Sunrise Chautauqua. CHBC continued airing horticultural programs until the 1970s, when airtime was no longer freely available. Consequently, the branch could not sustain this initiative financially, but fortunately, other extension projects ensured that District Horticulturalists remained available to assist both new and seasoned growers.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

(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 of male and female students.
The Clarence Fulton Secondary School’s 1964/64 Yearbook team, several of whom were seniors. Scanned from the 1964/65 yearbook.

Through the Pages of time

What was the experience like for a senior at Clarence Fulton Secondary School in 1965? A glimpse into the school’s annual from that year provides heartwarming insight.

The 1964/65 academic year began with some confusion for Principal D. L. Mans due to the introduction of a new student timetable. However, by the end of September, most of the issues with the new system had been resolved.

Various events dotted the school calendar, offering students opportunities for socializing and competition. A Sadie Hawkins’ dance kicked off in November, followed by a festive Christmas party in December. In February, students engaged in a spirited volleyball match against the teachers, while April saw them diligently preparing for Easter Exams. The yearbook captures these moments, showcasing students practicing on typewriters, commemorating birthdays, and sharing friendly moments in the hallways.

Athletic triumps and academic achievements 

The school’s Athletic Council, led by Executive President and Grade 12 student Robbie Dunn, orchestrated a dynamic year of athletic endeavors. From football and basketball games to track meets and excursions out of town, the council ensured a lively sports calendar. Notably, the football team enjoyed considerable success, with only one loss in eight league games.

The graduating class of 1965 marked a milestone as the largest in the school’s history thus far. Principal Mann expressed satisfaction with the number of high-achieving “A” students among the graduates. Noteworthy alumni from that year include Queen Silver Star VI Pat Chemko (later Wallace), lauded in the yearbook as “charming in her manner, winning in her way.”

Legacy and change

Local businesses also left their mark in the yearbook, extending congratulations to the graduates while promoting their products and services. Advertisements featured customized graduate jewelry, with WM. Arnott Jewellers offering girls’ rings at $2.50 and boys’ rings at $3.95. Notably, wedding bands also made an appearance in the advertisements.

Originally known as Vernon High School (VHS), the institution was established in 1937 on city land in Polson Park. In 1964, it was renamed Clarence Fulton Secondary School in honor of its first principal. The school later relocated to its current site on Fulton Road in 1993, with the original Polson Park building being demolished in 1998.

As the pages of the annual turn, capturing the essence of a bygone era, one cannot help but smile at the timeless memories and enduring camaraderie shared by the students of Clarence Fulton Secondary School in 1965.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives