Black and white image of a roofless car in front of a building covered in foliage. A man is standing next to it, with one leg resting on the bumber.
Dr. Williams circa 1920; the Vernon Archives does not have a photograph of Miss Gallaher in their collection.

“Resignation of the Hospital Staff”

“Matron and Nurses Relinquish Their Positions on April 2,” read a shocking headline in the Vernon News of March 28, 1912. This dramatic act of protest was initiated by the Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s Lady Superintendent, Minnie Katherine Gallaher, in response to what she deemed a “long series of indignities suffered by her and her staff at the hands of Dr. Williams.”

Miss Gallaher was born in Kingston, Ontario, in 1880, and came to VJH in 1909, after seven years as Assistant Superintendent at the Carlton County Hospital in Ottawa. On March 22, 1912, she sent a long letter to the hospital’s directors (which was also published in the Vernon News) describing Dr. Williams behavior.

“Charges against a doctor”

One particular situation saw a confusion over who should be administering a sedative to a patient, resulting in Dr. Williams screaming that “too long had nurses been dictating and he wouldn’t allow it.” He proceeded to “dance with rage and more profanity was used,” after which he subjected Miss Gallaher to a five or ten minute diatribe, “continually interspersing his remarks with profanity.”

Dr. Williams was given a chance to defend himself against the accusations, and although the hospital board concluded by sustaining the nurses’ charges and warning the doctor to not behave in such a manner again, he was allowed to continue working at the hospital. This decision is what caused all of the nurses to resign in a considerable show of solidarity.

“Respectfully Yours, M. Katherine Gallaher”

Dr. Gerald Williams arrived in Vernon in 1894, after training at the St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, England. He was known as the bitter enemy of not only Miss Gallaher, but another local doctor as well, Osborne Morris. It is perhaps telling, therefore, that Dr. Morris was described as a “genial and cordial gentleman” and had a particular kindliness when working with children.

By April of 1912, the nurses had been replaced by 8 others, which was just as well, as there were 40 patients in the hospital that month. Miss Gallaher continued to have a successful healthcare career, serving as Assistant Superintendent at the Vancouver General Hospital and later Superintendent at the Moose Jaw General Hospital. Dr. Williams carried on practicing in Vernon for many years and is believed to have died around 1935.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives





For the months of June and July, we are thrilled to present a series of blog posts by Collections Intern Rebeka Beganova. Rebeka (she/her) is a post-secondary student with a passion for research, literature, and history. Having completed an Associate of Arts Degree at Okanagan College, she is glad to be joining the MAV team during her last summer in Vernon before heading off to UBC Vancouver. There is no better way to say goodbye to her hometown than to explore its local history!

Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff photographed in 1915. Dr. Duncan sits on the far right of the middle row. Beside him is Dr. Arbuckle, who often filled his shoes when Dr. Duncan was out of town.

George Edward Duncan

Dr. George Edward Duncan (1870-1947) was one of Vernon’s earliest City Medical Health officers. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, he practiced medicine all throughout BC. He also served overseas in WWI, as part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. Looking down the archive’s long list of ‘Early Doctors, Vernon & Area,’ Dr. Duncan’s profile does not jump out as particularly monumental. However, if you chanced upon the collection of newspaper articles mentioning his name, you might be struck by the curious assortment of local events that Dr. Duncan had his sterilized hands in. In fact, his portfolio reads bizarrely like a series of superhero comics, where the titular character – complete with a pleasingly alliterate moniker – emerges inexplicably onto scenes of local trouble. We give you, Dr. Duncan of Vernon.

The Tragic Death of sir Edmund Lacon

This legitimate title from a 1911 newspaper could grace the front cover of Dr. Duncan’s first mystery novel. Sir Lacon met his end in the first fatal automobile accident ever reported in the Okanagan. On September 28, 1911, on Mission Road, an overturned car was discovered with seemingly no body nearby. The article detailing the resulting series of events is written like a proper detective story, littered with phrases such as “last seen here about 6:30” and “thought he heard something like a groan.”

Dr. Duncan appeared in both the action-packed inciting incident and the ensuing inquest. At the initial discovery of the toppled automobile, he was fetched from the drug store and materialized with (of all the quintessential ghost story props) a lantern to light the way. It was he who found the injured Sir Lacon by the roadside and witnessed the man’s death as he carried him to the car. During the inquest, Dr. Duncan’s hard-hitting evidence was reportedly the touchstone of truth that overrode other accounts. Fittingly enough, the conclusion to the article photocopy is obscured by a mystifying dark stain.


The CASE of the miserable milk

Dr. Duncan next crops up in a gripping local storyline centering on milk: specifically, its insufficient quality and abundance. In November of 1911, the Marvelous MD published a report analyzing the ingredients in milk from various suppliers. By revealing less-than-ideal percentages of butter fat and water, he proved instrumental in the creation of a by-law ensuring quality milk for every Vernon household. Some subpar suppliers were consequently cut off, but even after complaints were voiced about declining delivery rates, one Board of Health representative said he would rather never taste another drop “than drink the stuff they had before the by-law was passed.” Dr. Duncan’s analytical mind seemed just as valiant to citizens as his court room wits.

Vernon held a certain appreciation for its understated hero. The sentiment is evident through other subplots, such as public debates for his pay rise and motions to send him to the prodigious Canadian Public Health Congress. Even when Dr. Duncan relocated to Vancouver, the papers sent him off with enough good cheer to constitute a happy ending.


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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern




A black and white photo of three individuals on bikes passing through a parking lot. A boy wearing a t-shirt and long light-coloured pants is walking in the middle. In the background one can see cars and individuals walking behind the cyclists.
Cyclists rallying before a memorial service for the late Jack Schratter in 1994. It was partially Jack’s tragic cycling-related accident that inspired his son Michael Schratter to embark on the first ever Ride Don’t Hide campaign in 2010.

A Canadian-Wide Event with Local Roots

This June, thousands of cyclists across Canada will come together to raise awareness and funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

This event, which is in its 13th year, has local roots. In 2010, Michael Schratter, born and raised in Vernon, embarked on a worldwide bicycle trip that saw him cover 40,000 km and raise $100,000 for the CMHA. He called his campaign “Ride Don’t Hide,” in an effort to stimulate conversation and overcome some of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

Michael Schratter

Michael has openly shared his experiences with hypomania, a mild form of bipolar, and ADHD. In a 2011 interview with Vancouver Magazine, Michael stated that, in terms of personal courage, his around-the-world trip was nothing in comparison to engaging in conversations with friends and colleagues about mental health. “Yet one in five people will be treated for some form of mental illness in their lifetimes, and virtually everyone is affected by it,” he said.

Michael was also inspired to begin this campaign to honour his late father, Jack Schratter. Jack was a popular professor of physics and mathematics at Okanagan College who was known to “arrive early, stay late, and always be available to students.” In 1993, Jack sadly passed away in a cycling-related incident.

Jack Schratter

In a Vernon News article published shortly after his passing, one of Jack’s former students, Lyn Hartley, suggested that “there is hope coming out of such a tragic loss. The hope lies in knowing students of Jack are strung out across the province, country and world. Each of us taking a little bit of Jack’s inspiration and passing it on to others.”

Following in their father’s footsteps, both Michael and his brother Ed have also inspired Canadians across the Country, but this time with their commitment to destigmatizing mental health. Since its origins in 2010, the Ride Don’t Hide campaign has morphed into a nation-wide movement.

a blue and green graphic with the words "Ride Don't Hide. Ride for your mental health, raise funds for your community."


The CMHA is the most extensive community mental health organization in Canada, providing “programs, advocacy and resources that help prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.” The Vernon branch of the CMHA will be hosting this year’s local Ride Don’t Hide at Polson Park on September 16, 2023. Click here to learn more.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives






A black-and-white photo of a group of clowns with balloons and props posing for the camer.
Members of the Kalamalka Caring Klowns in 2003. Photo by Brenda Hala, as appeared in the Vernon Morning Star of September 3, 2003.

World Kindness Day

November 13 is World Kindness Day and one local organization committed to spreading kindness and laughter is the Kalamalka Caring Klowns.

In May of 1999, Carole Fawcett founded the Caring Klowns to provide therapeutic care at hospitals, care facilities, and health-related community events. The group began with about 20 volunteers who were trained in the art of clowning.

Anyone can be a clown

Since the group’s conception, they have hosted an annual fundraiser to train new volunteers. Each session covers clown history, etiquette, costumes, props, and pantomime. In 2003, Fawcett encouraged people of all personality types to join the group; in her words, “it does take a special person, someone who is compassionate and a good listener, but clowns can be very quiet people.”

In 2013, members of the Kalamalka Caring Klowns visited Agnes Van Steenburgh, a resident of Abbeyfield House, on her 102nd Birthday. They also honoured World Laughter Day with a Laughter Circle. In December of 2019, nine clowns made the rounds at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, singing carols for patients and staff.

The Power of Empathy

Over the years they have made appearances at a number of community activities, including the Winter Carnival and I.P.E. Parades, and fundraising events such as those hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stoke Foundation.

As the COVID-19 Pandemic began to ease, the Caring Klowns could once again host their annual workshop in August of this year, under the direction of Bubbles (Doris) and Gizmo (Donna), long-time members of the organization. 

Those involved with the Kalamalka Caring Klowns embody the message of World Kindness Day, and beneath their colourful costumes, props, and personas is a profound demonstration of the power of empathy.     


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 a 1910s house in Vernon. A tree partially covers a veranda over the front door and a white fence circles a small yard. A truck with a canopy is parked in front of the house.

The Atkinson Family

An unassuming house at 1900 33rd Street was once the site of a maternity home.

The house, located a few blocks away from the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, was built on what was formerly known as Sully Street in 1906. Carpenter/contractor Joseph A. Atkinson built the two-story building for his wife and five children, who had journeyed west from Ontario. In 1914, Joseph’s wife Angeline, a trained midwife, had it converted into a maternity home.

A Family Home Transformed

An obituary for Angeline Atkinson that appeared in the Vernon News a year after her passing, in 1938.

The building needed some remodeling to accommodate this change; the dining room was re-designed to serve as a nursery, and a small room off of the dining room as the birthing area. Meanwhile, the bedrooms upstairs were used as the maternity wards. The mothers were made very comfortable, as were their babies, nestled in bassinets made from old laundry hampers.

Babies R Us

Angeline worked closely with several local doctors, who often recommended her maternity home to their patients. When other business prevented them from attending their labouring patients, it was often Angeline herself who delivered the babies.

Angeline and Joseph Atkinson are buried in Vernon’s Pleasant Valley Cemetery.

During its 19 years of operation, hundreds of babies were born in the Atkinson Maternity Home. It closed in 1933, and Angeline passed away four years later, in 1937.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator


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