Mothers and babies at a clinic in Oyama in 1923.

The WORK OF THE MoTHER

The Vernon Museum’s copy of The Canadian Mother’s Book.

Mother’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to pull out the Vernon Museum’s copy of The Canadian Mother’s Book, a 1936 publication from the Department of Pensions and National Health, to see how parenting has changed over the years.

The unassuming little book begins with a dedication from the Government of Canada to mothers of all forms, saying that “no national service is greater or better than the work of the mother.” This is followed by several pages on what to expect during pregnancy and childbirth.

hAPPY, hEALTHY cHILDREN

Once the baby has arrived, the Canadian Mother’s Book provides guidance on raising happy and healthy children. For example, it recommends several “indoor airing” sessions before taking babies outside in the sun for the first time, and then for only a few minutes at a time.

It also recommends giving children a few drops of cod liver oil each day starting when they are a week old, and a little orange juice or strained raw tomato juice at four weeks. For older babies, the book suggests feeding them barley, rice, or oat jelly throughout the day. It also states that “it is no kindness” to give children cake or candy instead of attuning their senses to healthier foods.  

eCONOMIZE AND CARE FOR YOURSELF

The book provides many ways to save money on children’s items (it was published during the Great Depression, after all). For example, it suggests that a good cot can be made from an orange box or banana crate, and a small mattress stuffed with chaff or bran, for a total cost of only a few cents. It also provides several patterns for making clothing and diapers by hand.

Finally, it also emphasizes the importance of mothers caring for themselves and meeting their own needs at all stages of their children’s lives. Throughout the book, adorable photos of babies dot the pages, including a set of twins waving goodbye at the end.

While some of the ideas in the Canadian Mother’s Book are obviously outdated, it authentically acknowledges the labor of love that is motherhood.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Lonnie Mohr (second from right) standing between her mother and one of brothers, with a family friend on the far left, in 1892.

One of Vernon’s most well-known ghost stories is that of little Lonnie Mohr.

Lonnie was born on August 26, 1886, in Torbolton Township, Ontario, to Charles and Elizabeth Mohr. She was the second youngest of five children.

The Mohr family arrived in Vernon from Ontario in 1893. Prior to their arrival, Charles, a labourer by trade, had a beautiful one-and-one-half-story home built for the family on the corner of Pleasant Valley Road and 32nd Avenue.

Unfortunately, the family’s arrival in Vernon was quickly marred with tragedy. In early 1894, Lonnie started suffering from a toothache, which led to the tooth being extracted. Shortly after the operation, she developed septicemia and passed away on March 31. She was only seven years old.

Lonnie was buried in the old Pioneer Park Cemetery, but her remains where exhumed after the opening of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery so that they could be buried at the new site. At this time, Lonnie’s little body was examined and it was found that her jaw had been badly fractured by the dentist who had extracted her tooth. The fracture led to the blood poisoning that ended up taking the young girl’s life.

Local legend suggests that Lonnie’s ghost continues to inhabit the Mohr home. The residence was eventually occupied by a business—a dental office, in fact. Staff at the Pleasant Valley Dental (now in a new location on 27th Street) reported dental chairs swiveling on their own and other unexplained occurrences.

Regardless of whether or not you believe that she continues to occupy her family home, I think we can all agree that the story of little Lonnie Mohr is both tragic and compelling.

 

Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

The Okanagan School of Ballet. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The Okanagan School of Ballet has been a fixture on Vernon’s 27th Street since it opened in 1980. The school’s director and one of its founders, Deborah Banks, is a former member of the Alberta Ballet Company and a born-and-raised Vernonite.

Prior to housing the ballet school, the building, which was built circa 1938, was used as a private residence and later by the local Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In addition to ballet training, the school also offers classes in tap, jazz, modern, and hip hop, and prepares students to take exams with the Royal Academy of Dance. Several of Bank’s graduates have gone on to have successful careers in performing arts.

In addition to regular classes, students at the Okanagan School of Ballet participate in festivals and recitals. In 1990, to celebrate their 10th anniversary, students performed “A Celebration of Dance.” In 1993, the Okanagan School of Ballet and the Young Scott Singers entertained audiences with a production of The Nutcracker, with Katherine Wilson playing Clara. In 2013, the school presented The Wizard of Oz for its annual recital, which saw Andie Wemyss fill the role of Dorothy.

Banks, who holds an advanced executant certificate from the Royal Academy of Dance, has being teaching dance to students of all ages and skill-levels for more than 40 years. That is a lot of pointed toes! 

 

Right: A photo from the May 1, 1990, edition of the Vernon News. Young dancers prepare for their Royal Academy of Dance exams at the Okanagan School of Ballet. 

Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Toward Truth & Reconciliation

 

at the Vernon Museum & Archives

 

Thursday, SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

 

Please join us in honouring Canada’s first annual National Day for Truth & Reconciliation.

We will be offering exhibits and programs throughout the day. 

We will have self-led activities, such as scavenger hunts and colouring and activity pages, to engage younger children.

SCHEDULE

 

1 PM – EXHIBIT OPENING

The Community Hall will have displays on Truth & Reconciliation, Residential Schools in Canada, and Residential Schools in BC. 

Suitable for all ages.

 

2 PM – PRESENTATION: HOW DO WE RECONCILE?

Presentation on Truth & Reconciliation in Canada

Suitable for all ages.

 

3 PM – DOCUMENTARY VIEWING

Viewing of a residential school survivor’s personal account

Suitable for 12+ years.

 

4 PM – PRESENTATION: HOW DO WE RECONCILE?

Presentation on Truth & Reconciliation in Canada. (Repeat of 2 PM)

Suitable for all ages.

 

 

 

 

 

6 PM – DOCUMENTARY VIEWING

6 PM – Viewing of a residential school survivor’s personal account

Suitable for 12+ years.

 

7 PM – DISCUSSION CIRCLE: HOW TO BE AN ALLY

Reading of the letter to Sir Wilfred Laurier from the Chiefs of the Syilx, Secwepmec, and Nlaka’pamux Nations (1910) followed by a facilitated Community Discussion Circle on how to be an ally.

Suitable for 12+ years.

Due to public health precautions, we will have a limited occupancy for this Discussion Circle. If you would like to reserve your spot, please register in advance below!

 

PLEASE NOTE

The Vernon Museum will be following all provincial public health mandates and recommendations. Masks will be required inside the museum, and physical distancing between parties. Vaccine passports may be required to be shown to enter the museum for those over 12 years. Thank you for your understanding.

 

How to Be An Ally Discussion Circle - Registration

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Vernon Preparatory School

July 12, 2021

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

The Mackie Family

In 1940, Hugh and Grace Mackie purchased a house at 7804 Kidston Road and turned it into a beautiful and serene home for themselves and their five boys.

Hugh and Grace had been in the Vernon area since 1913, when they arrived with Hugh’s brother Augustine, an Anglican cleric, to establish a boarding school for boys.

This institution, the purpose of which was to mold young boys into model English gentlemen, was called the Vernon Preparatory School.

schooled In British Culture

Such a school was in high demand at the time it was established. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Vernon area was home to a significant number of settlers from the United Kingdom.

 

Group photo of the student body of the Vernon Preparatory School in front of the school building circa 1931. Headmasters Augustine and Hugh Mackie are located in the centre of the third row from the front, with Grace Mackie between them.

 

Although they had traveled great distances to live in Canada, many of them still wished to see their children educated in British custom and culture. The school officially opened in January of 1914 for male boarders and day pupils between the ages of 7 and 14. 

The school had a few different locations over the years. As the class sizes expanded, the Mackie Brothers ended up leasing the Hensman Ranch so that their facilities could accommodate up to 50 pupils. Here Reverend Mackie built the St. Nichola’s Chapel, which the students attended regularly as part of their curriculum.

Discipline and Reputation

Discipline was strict at the Vernon Prep School, and the boys started each day at 6 am with a cold bath in an unheated washroom. But they were also allowed to engage in a variety of sports, from cricket, to soccer, to badminton, to swimming, to hiking, and the food was said to be exceptional.

All of this helped to develop the credibility and reputation of the school. Gerry McGeer, Vancouver’s mayor from 1935 to 1945, even sent his son the Vernon Prep School. McGeer was known for his efforts to stamp out the booze trade in Vancouver’s underworld, and his son became the subject of retaliatory threats during his time at the school. Luckily, the threats never amounted to anything beyond words and the boy was kept safe under the watchful eye of the Mackie brothers.

Mackie Lake House

When the Mackies purchased what would become known as the Mackie Lake House, they retired from the teaching profession. The school remained in operation until 1972. In 1997, the property was purchased and transformed into what is now the Coldstream Meadows Retirement Home.

 

Gwyn Evans

 

 

Grand Chief N’Kwala

June 20, 2021

Hwistesmexe’qen, known more commonly as N’Kwala or Nicola, was a 19th-century Indigenous leader who exemplified fatherhood.

Family & Kinship

Chief N’Kwla had 50 of so children of his own, and he was also responsible for the wellbeing of many others through his roles as Grand Chief of the Okanagan Peoples and Chief of the Nicola Valley Peoples.

N’Kwala was born circa 1785 at either the head of Okanagan Lake or near Nicola Lake to Okanagan Chief Pelkamu’lox and an unknown Stuwi’x woman.

Leadership

N’Kwala became Grand Chief of the Okanagan Peoples after his father was killed in 1822. He was later granted the title of Chief of the Nicola Peoples following the death of his uncle Kwali’la.

Over the course of his life, it is believed that N’Kwala had up to 15 wives who came from different tribes across the Interior.

 

Chief N’Kwala was never photographed but his legacy is still felt today. Vernon’s N’Kwala Park at 5440 MacDonald Road was named after him.

 

A Renowned Peacemaker

Among both his People, and the fur traders and gold miners who entered the Valley, N’Kwala developed a reputation for “sagacity, honesty, prudence and fair dealing, and was rather a peacemaker than a fighting man.” Of all of the era’s Southern Interior Chiefs, N’Kwala was said to have the most power and influence.

N’Kwala passed away in the fall of 1859. He was succeeded by his nephew Tsilaxitsa. N’Kwala had raised his nephew since infancy, following the death of his mother during childbirth, and Tsilaxitsa followed many of his uncle’s philosophies during his own chieftaincy. Today, N’Kwala’s legacy lives on: hundreds of his descendants continue to live in B.C.’s Southern Interior and adjoining regions of the United States.

 

Gwyn Evans

strength & resilience through syilx culture

June 11, 2021

Content warning: The following story contains difficult subject matter, including a residential school experience. Please take care.

The first residential school in Canada, the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ontario, opened in January of 1831.

After 165 years of operation, the Canadian Residential School System officially ended with the 1996 closure of the last federally-operated facility, located in Punnichy, Saskatchewan.

The effects of this system continue to be felt by its survivors and their descendants to this day.

lasting impacts

Like Indigenous Communities around the country, the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation experienced the devastating impacts of the Residential School System.

Many Syilx Children attended either the Kamloops Residential School or the St. Eugene’s Residential School in Cranbrook.

 

A traditional Syilx stick game at Head of the Lake / Nk’maplqs in 1972

 

Some Syilx Nation children attended day schools in their home communities. These day schools also had the explicit mandate, as was once said by Sir John A. MacDonald, was to “take the Indian out of the child”.

Day schools also left painful and oppressive impacts on Okanagan Nation communities, as well.

“You don’t know how it feels”

Rosie Jack, born at Head of the Lake in 1932, was interviewed by UBC’s LaVonne Kober in 2012. During the interview, Rosie recalled her experiences at the Kamloops Residential School, were she was sent with her siblings as a child of seven: “to be taken away from your family, your mom and papa… sent away in a big, big stock truck. You don’t know how it feels. You are just completely lost and then you got punished because you cried for your mom. It’s hard.”

When the children arrived at the Kamloops Residential School, their hair was cut short and they were assigned uniforms. Rosie painfully recalled the moment she had to give up the beautiful new dress and shoes her mother had bought her for the journey. Rosie was separated from her brothers, and forbidden to speak her native nsyilxcən. The children attended classes in the morning, and worked in the afternoon. Rosie spent one month carrying sad irons between the kitchen and the laundry room. 

resiliency through traditional culture

Rosie later returned to the school as an adult: “When I went in that school when I was a girl it was huge, it was so big. When I went back there a few years ago, it looked so small.” Despite the pain of losing her siblings and watching her mother succumb to grief, Rosie was resilient, and able to rediscover her culture through the raising of her nephew, Terry. She discussed traveling to powwows across Canada and the United States so that Terry could compete in sticking tournaments: “he has always done so well. He’s a real good sticking player.”

“We are still here. In fact, we are thriving”

Former Grand Chief and Chair of the Okanagan Nation Alliance Stewart Philip states that “we can celebrate the fact that the Indian residential school was a complete and dismal failure. We are still here. In fact, we are thriving. Our languages are coming back through our children. Our songs and customs are coming back through our youth. Our traditions are being openly shared by our Elders. Our women are providing the leadership to ensure everything is done in a good way.” Philip adds that if people, like Rosie, did not have the “courage and resilience to resist, we would not be here today.” 

Gwyn Evans

drink up to the end of polio

June 7, 2021

Vernon’s COVID-19 vaccination program is well-underway, with more than half of North Okanagan adults having received their first dose.

Fifty-eight years ago, in 1963, the arrival of the Sabin oral polio vaccine in Vernon caused similar amounts of excitement among the city’s population.

A Vaccine you could drink

A polio vaccine was invented and tested in the 1950s and ‘60s by Albert Sabin, a Polish-American medical researcher. His vaccine replaced one invented by Jonas Salk that was approved for use in 1955. Salk’s vaccine was administered via an injection, while Sabin’s was taken orally.

 

From left to right, Dr. Duncan Black, Vera McCulloch and Bruce Cousins receive the Sabin oral polio vaccine from senior public health Nurse Evalyn Allingham.

 

The Toll of Polio

In the decades prior to the invention of a polio vaccine, thousands of people died around the world from the disease. Vernon experienced polio epidemics in 1927, 1934, and 1937. Although the disease mostly affected children, adults were also vulnerable to infection.

In 1953, Donald Joseph Tompson, a 29-year-old World War Two Veteran and Okanagan Telephone Co. employee, contracted polio and passed away five years later in Vernon. He left behind a wife and two young children.

Health Care Professionals Leading the Way

When Sabin’s oral polio vaccine arrived in Vernon in 1963, citizens of all ages were encouraged to take it. “Drink Up To The End of Polio” read signs plastered around the city.

Doctor Duncan Black, businesswoman Vera McCulloch and Mayor Bruce Cousins led by example, and were among the first to receive the vaccine. Evalyn Allingham, senior public health nurse for the North Okanagan, guided her staff through the process of immunizing Vernon’s population with both the Salk and Sabin vaccines.  

After years of the disease devastating populations around the world, polio vaccines helped to gradually reduce occurrences of the infection by 99%.

Gwyn Evans

Honorary “Granny” to many

May 10, 2021

She was a mother to seven of her own children, and honorary “Granny” to dozens of others.

Darn Good Citizen

In 1960, Mary Neilson was presented Vernon’s Good Citizen award for her years of mending sweaters and darning socks for young hockey players.

A Love of Music

Mary Neilson was born in Kirkmichel, a village in Southern Scotland. From a young age, she had a love for music, winning first place at a music festival when she was nine years old for her rendition of a Scottish ballad titled “Caller ‘Ou.” 

 

Portrait of Mary Neilson, seated, with her husband Andrew and seven children in 1955

 

She continued this trend as a young woman, singing in church choirs and entertaining veterans, as well as performing Scottish songs on her own radio show on CKY-FM Winnipeg between 1924 and 1928. Her show, “Burns Nicht,” was on the air during radio’s infancy, making Mrs. Neilson a pioneer in this form of entertainment. 

A Love of Children

In 1939, Mary, her husband Andrew, and their seven children moved to Vernon. While here, Mrs. Neilson truly began to cultivate another of her life’s passions: the nurturing of children, regardless of if they were her own or not.

Mary had a close relationship with her six daughters and one son; in a 1956 Vernon News article, she described her children as marvelous people. But she also cared deeply for the well-being of other children. When asked about her commitment to creating and repairing clothing for Vernon’s young hockey players, she simply said “I like darning.”

A “Granny” to Many

Despite her evident modesty, Mary’s efforts did not go unnoticed by the city’s youngsters, who gave her the affectionate nickname of “Granny.” She was also asked, on two occasions, to pitch the opening ball at the start of the local lacrosse season. The young players autographed one of the balls and presented it to Mary, who displayed it proudly on her mantelpiece.

Mary’s Scottish roots had a profound effect on her approach to life. She was very kindhearted, but also had a no-nonsense demeanor. “I had a strict upbringing,” she said. “I gave my own children a strict upbringing. My grandchildren are getting a strict upbringing. We’re all in good health. You can’t get away from the good old Scotch way.”

Mary Neilson passed away on February 4, 1966. During her funeral service, Reverend Pritchard said “we can grieve only at our loss. She blessed the world with her presence and it is a better place for her being here.”

Gwyn Evans

happy easter!

 

April 1, 2021

For kids everywhere, the highlight of this holiday weekend is, of course, the Easter Egg Hunt.

Each family seems to have their own iteration of this well-loved tradition: some parents hide fully-stocked baskets outside, rain or shine, for their children to find, while others create a series of riddles that will lead to chocolates hidden cleverly around the house.

Other kids must hunt around the yard to find the foil-wrapped treats, one or two of which inevitably go missing and end up being discovered as a melted mess sometime during the summer.   

Local easter fun – & competition

Over the years, the City of Vernon has also staged a variety of Easter competitions to excite children and adults alike.

As is the case around the world, many of Vernon’s Easter traditions have featured the humble chicken egg, seen here hatching in 1958-or, at least, its chocolate replica.

 

 

In April of 1901, each customer who purchased one dozen fresh eggs (at only $0.20 each) was entered into a draw by local shopkeeper W.R. Megaw. The Saturday prior to Easter, a blindfolded child was asked to draw a name from the box, and the winner was awarded a “magnificent” hanging library lamp.

In 1925, the Vernon News published an Easter Word Hunt for its readership. A series of ads for local businesses was arranged on a full-page of newsprint. Each ad contained a purposely misplaced word, and readers were asked to create a list of the errors and send it in to “Easter Hunt Editor” at the Vernon News office. Five correct submissions were then randomly drawn, and the winners received a box of chocolates and tickets to the best moving picture show of the month, “The Golden Bed.”

all manner of egg hunts

In 1981, Easter Egg Hunts were held at the Polson Place Mall on the Friday and Saturday prior to Easter Sunday. Pre-registered children had a chance to search in a haystack for ping-pong balls bearing the names of local businesses. When brought to the corresponding merchants, the children were then awarded their chocolate prizes.

In 2012, excited toddlers from the Funfer All Daycare, bundled warmly in bright rain jackets, bounced around Mission Hill Park on the search for Easter treats. They smiled exuberantly and posed for photographs as they pulled eggs out of trees knolls and from beneath benches.

And this year, the Downtown Vernon Association has introduced a window Easter egg scavenger hunt, a family-friendly activity that complies with Covid-19 safety regulations. The people of Vernon are truly resilient and creative, and despite the challenges and changes that each new year presents, we continue to find ways to celebrate the joy of spring’s arrival. 

Gwyn Evans