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 colour image of a lake with trees and mountains in the background. In the foreground is a pier jutting out into the water.
The Rotary Pier at Kal Beach in the 1990s.

Rotary Club of Vernon

With the warmer weather we have been experiencing of late, Vernonites are beginning to flock to the city’s beaches and parks, perhaps none more so than Kal Beach.

The landmark pier at Kal Beach was built by the Rotary Club in 1934 and donated to the City of Vernon for use by the general public. The club was chartered in 1925, and since then has sponsored a number of community projects in addition to the pier.

A black and white image of a pier with a diving tower at its end. In the background in a mountain with a highway running along tis base.
The pier in 1960. GVMA #19977.

The pier’s Evolutions

Although the pier has largely withstood the test of time, it has gone through a variety of iterations over the years. Up until about the 1950s, the pier was one straight line pointing south into the lake. In the 1960s and ‘70s, sides were added to the pier to form the shape pictured above. In 2008, the pier underwent major repairs and around that time evolved into the T-shape which is familiar today.

The water level at Kal Beach has changed significantly since the pier was first installed, since for many years it also boasted an impressive diving tower at its deepest end. Nowadays, the pier’s users are reminded not to dive from anywhere off the pier, since the water is too shallow.

A tenous Future

A colour image of a the pilling of a pier, with the board removed.
The pier under construction in 2008. GVMA #24286.

This public amenity, which now belongs to the Regional District of the North Okanagan and is under administration of the District of Coldstream, experienced a significant amount of vandalism and damage from exposure over the years, including in 2017, when its future became tenuous after a bad flooding season.

At this time, the Rotary Club urged Coldstream’s Mayor and Council to repair and preserve the pier for future users, a sentiment which was echoed in an outpouring of public letters on the topic. The district was receptive, and this year discussions are underway about how the pier can be updated, since many of the piles are beginning to rot. In February, three of the electoral areas of the RDNO approved $70,000 for the pier to be rebuilt, which suggests its future is likely secured until its 100th year.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

A black and white image if a building on the corner of the street. A door with a sign reading "Elks" above it is located on one side, and on the other a mural showing people and vehicles.
The Elks Hall in 2005, featuring a mural of Frank S. Reynolds’ warehouse painted by Michelle Loughery and her team.

70 Years

The Vernon Elks Hall is celebrating its 70th Anniversary this year. While the building located on the corner of 30th Street and 32nd Avenue opened in 1953, the Elks Lodge #45 is even older, dating back to 1920.

The Elks of Canada, founded in 1912, is a fraternal order whose members dedicate themselves to serving their communities. A. E. Kellington, then the provincial organizer of the Elks, traveled to Vernon in March of 1920, where he stayed at the Kalamalka Hotel. His purpose was to establish an Elks Lodge in Vernon, and he found there to be a significant amount of interest in the City.

104 Members

The Lodge officially started on March 30 of that year with 116 members, although only 104 were able to attend the first meeting, held at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows’ Hall on 30th Avenue. In the coming months and years, the Lodge would direct a number of fundraising events and activities, including hosting dances at the local armoury, putting together Christmas baskets for those in need, and (in more recent years) distributing gaming funds to other local organizations.

In the 1920s, they led a number of Flag Day Parades, and in 1945, donated over $5,000 to the City of Vernon for the construction of a wading pool in Polson Park. The pool, which was dedicated to the city’s youngsters, opened in 1947 and later became a splash area circa 1993.

Acquiring the Elks Hall

Prior to being acquired by the Lodge in 1953, the building that now houses the Elks Hall was used by the Scottish Daughter’s League and was known as the Burns Hall. The structure itself was built in 1907.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives