A black and white image of a two-story white building. The top floor has two windows in the centre. The bottom floor has four windows and two doors. On the right, one man is standing in front of one set of the windows and another is leaning in an open doorway. On the right, three men in white suits and boy ties are standing in front of a door. A sign attached to this side of the building reads "barber shop."
A Vernon barber shop on the left with three barbers out front circa 1900.


As No-Shave November draws to a close, it’s an ideal moment to recount a humorous story from Charles Holliday’s “The Valley of Youth.” In this book, the author, a celebrated local photographer, reflects on life in the Okanagan during the 1890s, offering a glimpse into his nostalgic and occasionally controversial memories.

This particularly tale features G. G. McKay, a real estate agent hailing from Vancouver, assigned the role of promoting the Okanagan Valley to prospective residents. He quickly became known as “Gee-Gee” among Vernonites, and was noted as having a rather snooty attitude about their “primitive” ways.

gee-gee and the dubious barber

The folks living in Vernon were not willing to put up with this, and during one of his visits they sought a bit of retribution. Having neglected to bring his shaving kit with him, Gee-Gee asked around for a decent barber. Holliday and a few other locals directed Gee-Gee toward one associated with the Vernon Hotel, who had a little bit of a dubious reputation.

This barber was known to be not overly fastidious when it came to cleanliness. On occasion, he would also welcome clients after partaking in a strong drink or two, leading to animated storytelling sessions where he enthusiastically waved around his razor.

Unfortunately, it was during one of the barber’s unsober periods that the unsuspecting Gee-Gee visited him. He was said to have left a short while later, running at full speed away from the shop, his face pale beneath the coat of shaving cream still on it.

But Gee-Gee was not fazed for long, with Holliday begrudgingly acknowledging his resourceful and genial manner. Some sources have cited Gee-Gee as having been as influential as Lord Aberdeen in the non-Indigenous settlement of the Okanagan Valley. He also worked with Forbes Vernon to lay out the townsite of Vernon, and in the construction of the Coldstream and Kalamalka Hotels.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives