Front exterior view of the Okanagan Spring Brewery beer store and main office as it appeared in 1990.

This past Friday, August 5, was International Beer Day! While our city’s first brewery, the Vernon Spring Brewery, is now long gone, Vernon’s experience with brewing continues under the direction of the Okanagan Spring Brewery.

The brewery opened in 1985 in a former B.C. Packers warehouse in downtown Vernon. Most of the equipment and materials needed to supply the $1-million-dollar facility were made in the Okanagan, with some supplies brought over from Europe. Fermenting and aging tanks were installed in the warehouse’s basement, since the thick walls of the building provided the beer with protection from temperature changes. This was all overseen by the company’s co-founder, Jakob Tobler, whose son Stefan continues as brewmaster today. 

When the brewery first opened, however, the brewmaster was Raimund Kalinoswki, trained in Germany. Kalinoswki was tasked with producing a premium lager similar to that of the Granville Island Brewing Company, using only Canadian ingredients. Thus, the celebrated 1516 lager was born.

This particular brew was (and is) made with only four ingredients, a fact reflected in its name; “1516” is the year that the Bavarian Purity Law, which limited the ingredients of beer to barley, hops, yeast and water, was adopted.

The output of the brewery in the first few years was 5,000 hectolitres—approximately 300 bottles. It was sold directly from the brewery, and at hotels, restaurants, and liquor stores around the Okanagan. To promote their product, the brewery took on the phone number 542-2337, with the last four digits corresponding with the dial letters B, E, E, and R.

The Okanagan Spring Brewery is now in its 37th year of successful operation.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Do you have memories of winter carnivals past?

Vernon Winter Carnival will be creating a series of videos – engaging local residents to tell their stories of past Vernon Winter Carnivals – allowing us to share knowledge and past experiences to future generations, thereby engaging seniors in the community through the mentoring of others. The videos will be edited and shared with the community through social media and possibly featured in schools and at an event during Vernon Winter Carnival 2023. This project is funded through the Government of Canada – New Horizons Seniors Program.

The video interviews will be conducted in mid-late August with a focus on three main questions:
  1. Tell us your memories of Vernon Winter Carnival…
  2. How has VWC impacted our community
  3. What would you like to share to our future generations about the importance of community events like Vernon Winter Carnival?
Residents wishing to be interviewed should meet the following requirements:
  • Over the age of 60
  • Lived in Vernon for at least 10 years
  • Must sign a media release allowing VWC to use their interview and image for promotional purposes
  • Must be available in August to be interviewed
  • Must have a strong, positive, connection to Vernon Winter Carnival and the Vernon Community
If you or someone you know might be interested in participating contact the Winter Carnival Society today by emailing INFO@VERNONWINTERCARNIVAL.COM or calling 250-545-2236.​

In the meantime, take a trip back in past to the 1964 Vernon Winter Carnival. 

First Stop: Winter Carnival Parade

We’re not sure what those Vikings from the Revelstoke float are doing would go over very well today, that spider float is a bit horrifying, and at least one small child is not impressed! Nonetheless, it’s a charming and entertaining journey back to a parade of the past.

Next Stop: Silver Star Mountain

This appears to be a slalom competition. We’re fairly certain those were the alpine downhill skis of the day, but it looks like people are competing downhill on Nordic cross-country skis — and admirably so! 

 

 

Looking south from Middleton Mountain over what used to be Long Lake Reserve #5 circa 1950.

Ancestral Territory

It comes as a surprise to many that one of Vernon’s most popular summer destinations, Kal Beach, is located on what used to be reserve land.

Kal Beach as it now appears. Photo courtesy of Michael Russell Photography.

Needless to say, the ancestral territory of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation comprised much of Kalamalka Lake; the lake, which bore the name Long Lake up until 1953, is named after Chief Kalamalka after all. Moreover, members of the OKIB still reside on land around the lake where historical villages once stood.

An image from the Final Report of the Royal Commission’s decision in regards to reserves in the Okanagan region. The full report can be viewed online.

However, little evidence remains to mark the bounds of Long Lake Reserve #5, which once stretched from approximately Kal Beach to what is now the Kalavista subdivision. The reserve was allotted in 1877 by the Joint Indian Reserve Commission, established two years earlier by the Federal and Provincial Governments to set the boundaries of reserve land in B.C.

In 1909, Hlakay (also known as Pierre Nequalla), Chief of the Nk’maplqs (Head of the Lake) Band, opposed a sale of the land, suggesting that grave irregularities had occurred in obtaining proper surrender permissions; this was later confirmed by the Federal Government and the sale was set aside. However, in 1913, the land was “cut-off” under the McKenna McBride Royal Commission.

Mckenna mcbride royal commission

The stated goal of this commission (named after the two men who signed it into effect, federal commissioner Joseph McKenna and BC Premier Richard McBride) was to adjust the acreage of reserves in B.C., based on gathered evidence from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as to their adequacy. As a result of the commission, an additional 87,000 acres of reserve land were added to most bands, while 47,000 acres of far more valuable land was removed from 54 bands. This included the 128 acres of Long Lake Reserve #5.

This “cut-off” land was later sold to a Mr. John Kennedy, who then released portions of it to the City of Vernon for beachfront access, and to the Canadian National Railway Company.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

International Cherry Pit Spitting Day

Since 1974, the first Saturday of each July has been celebrated as International Cherry Pit Spitting Day, after a pit spitting tournament was held as a joke at a picnic in Eau Claire, Michigan. Now, pit spitting events are held annually around the world, with the Canadian National Pit Spitting Championship being a feature of the Cherryfest in Blenheim, Ontario. The current world record for the greatest distance to spit a cherry stone is a whopping 93’6.5”, set by Brian “Young Gun” Krause in 2004.

Fruit in the Okanagan

Fruit has grown in the Okanagan since time immemorial, with Saskatoon berries, blueberries, strawberries, huckleberries, gooseberries, black berries, black currants, and raspberries making up part of the traditional syilx diet. Chokecherries also grow in abundance, a fact evidenced in the names Cherryville and Cherry Creek. But cherries as we now think of them—the dark, round juicy nuggets that grace the Valley during the summer months—are a cultivated species that was introduced by European settlers.

The first non-native fruit trees were planted by Catholic missionaries of the Oblate Order at their Mission of the Immaculate Conception on Okanagan Lake in 1862. The first seedlings were apples, and one of these trees actually continued to fruit until it was killed by cold weather in 1955. Cherries did not arrive until 1892, when 500 trees were planted by Lord and Lady Aberdeen at Vernon’s Coldstream Ranch.

Little Cherry Disease

The construction of the Grey Canal allowed water-loving plants like cherry trees to thrive in the sunny Okanagan Valley. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing after the canal’s completion in 1914; in the 1930s, Little Cherry Disease struck cherry trees across BC, first in Nelson and then later spreading to devastate orchards across the Kootenays.

A helicopter flying low over an Oyama orchard to gently blow the water off of ripening cherries in 2012.

Quarantine measures were put in place in the hopes that the disease, which causes small, bitter, insipid fruit, would not make it to the Okanagan. Unfortunately, in 1969, an orchard in Penticton was found to be infected, and by 1977, 1,400 cherry trees throughout the Okanagan had to be removed. Little Cherry Disease continues to be monitored and managed by the provincial government.   

Due in part to a 2014 trade agreement which allowed BC cherries to be exported to China, the fruit has become a boom crop, with new orchards popping up all the time to satisfy an insatiable local and international demand.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Happy Pride!

One area of historical underrepresentation within the Vernon Archives is that of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community; few, if any, records relating to their lived experiences can be found among the archives’ many stacks of papers and shelves of books. For several months, museum staff have wondered how to correct this representational gap so that Vernon’s historical record may more fully represent the city’s diverse population.

It was within this context that the museum came to make contact with Donna Langille, the Community Engagement Librarian at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, who hosts a podcast that seeks to address this very lack of LGBTQ2SIA+ records and resources within cultural heritage institutions in the Okanagan.

A Podcast with a mission

The Okanagan QueerStory podcast began as a response to many of the same limitations the museum is facing today; when Langille and her research partner, Taysha Jarett, were awarded funding through the 2020 Public Humanities Hub Okanagan Impact Awards, they originally intended to create an exhibit of local LGBTQ2SIA+ artifacts and collectibles to highlight the Queer history of the Okanagan. However, they quickly faced a lack of representational records, and even after items were secured through a call-out to the public, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the exhibit from opening.

Langille and Jarett decided to turn to podcasting to continue with their project in a pandemic-safe format. Three episodes have been published so far, with each providing an open and honest discussion around topics such as homophobia, isolation, self-worth, acceptance, and unity.

Stories Neglected

Langille believes that it is important to share and preserve the histories of the Queer community in the Okanagan because these stories have historically been, and in many cases continue to be, silenced, censored, ignored, or neglected. Communities benefit when they can see themselves and their identities reflected in public spaces, including cultural heritage institutions like museums and archives.

The Okanagan QueerStory podcast, a community-led project, is one approach to amplifying Queer stories and voices, in the hope of being able to contribute to a shared sense of history among the Queer community in the Okanagan. It is the work of individuals like Langille and Jarett that will allow the Vernon Archives and other cultural institutions to become more reflective of the entire communities they serve.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Crowds enjoying the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Vernon in June of 1897.

MAY LONG

Although many of us now think of the May Long Weekend as the beginning of camping season in B.C., the history of Victoria Day is a bit more complicated.

In 1845, the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada decided to officially recognize the birthday of Queen Victoria on May 24 with public celebrations. But it wasn’t until 1901, following the Queen’s death, that May 24 became officially known as “Victoria Day” in her memory.

celebrations fit for a queen

At the turn of the 20th century, the settler population in Vernon eagerly celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday, as well as her reign in general.

On June 22, 1897, Vernon celebrated the Diamond Jubilee with a series of sporting events, including baseball, lacrosse, trap shootings, and tug-of-war. Other outlying communities, including Enderby, came to compete in the day’s activities, and it is noted that Vernon won all events except tug-of-war.

May Long Weekends in Vernon were also marked with sporting events and special activities in celebration of the Queen’s birthday. On May 24, 1895, a cricket match was held between Kelowna and Vernon, with the SS Fairview offering special trips between the two cities for individuals who wished to attend.

In 1900, Enderby hosted Vernon and other nearby communities for a series of foot, horse, and canoe races. A football match was also held between the community of Lumby and employees of the Coldstream Ranch, followed by a grand ball in Morand’s Hall.

A most respected sovereign

Queen Victoria’s passing in 1901 was announced in large font on the front page of the January 24th edition of the Vernon News, as the City mourned the loss of its “Most Respected Sovereign.” Later that year, Vernon officially celebrated “Victoria Day” for the first time, with—you guessed it—sporting events, including three-legged and ladies races.

“Queen Victoria is Dead: Her Most Gracious Majesty Succumbs to the Grim Reaper. The Nation Overwhelmed with Grief. The World Sorrows over the Decease of Its Most Respected Sovereign-The End Came on Monday, at 6:55 London Time-The Prince of Wales Now King Edwards VII.”

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A photo of Pauline Johnson, taken shortly before her death in 1913, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Talented Wordsmiths

Vernon has long been home to a plethora of talented wordsmiths, which a humble binder in the Vernon Archives titled “Writers” reveals. The binder is full of information about several of Vernon’s many authors and poets, arranged alphabetically from Thomas Andrews (author of Type: Writer) to Mark Zuehlke (author of Scoundrels, Dreamers, & Second Sons). The Vernon Museum is even lucky enough to have its own award-winning author and poet on staff, Laisha Rosnau.

In addition to these gifted locals, Vernon has also played host to several traveling writers over the years. One that caused a particular stir during her turn-of-the-century visit to the city was Tekahionwake (Pauline Johnson).

Tekahionwake (Pauline Johnson)

Tekahionwake, born in 1861, was a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and daughter of Chief Onwanonsyshon (G. H. M. Johnson) and Emily Howells. Tekahionwake began writing poetry in her mid-teens, after a childhood of poor health largely confined her to indoor pursuits like reading.

Sometime after 1884, following the death of her father, Tekahionwake began a career as a public orator and embarked on a series of speaking tours in Canada, the United States, and England. Her poems were largely patriotic in nature, but she also incorporated elements of Mohawk culture into her performances.

A visit to Vernon

Tekahionwake visited Vernon in 1907, where she offered a poetry recitation in the second-floor hall of the W. F. Cameron general store. By then, she had published two volumes of poems, “The White Wampum” (1894) and “Canadian Born” (1903), and the crowd was large and appreciative.

When she passed away in 1913, the Vernon News dedicated several pages to describing Tekahionwake’s life and many cultural contributions. Despite what her critics might have said during her lifetime and beyond it, this remarkable woman paved the way for other Indigenous female voices to be heard. 

The documentary Why We Write: Poets of Vernon, by Hannah Calder and Curtis Emde, delves into the world of poets and bookmakers living in and around Vernon, British Columbia. It will premiere at the Vernon Museum on April 29 and 30. Click here to learn more.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Marie and William Brent circa 1910.

Okanagan Women’s Voices

A recent publication, edited by Jeannette Armstrong, Lally Grauer, and Janet MacArthur, explores the lives of, and relationship between, seven Syilx and settler women.

Okanagan Women’s Voices: Syilx and Settler Writing and Relations 1870s-1960 was the result of hours spent digging through archives across the Okanagan (including the Vernon Archives) to highlight the voices of Susan Moir Allison (1845-1937), Josephine Shuttleworth (1865-1950), Eliza Jane Swalwell (1868-1944), Marie Houghton Brent (1870-1968), Hester Emily White (1877-1963), Mourning Dove (1886-1936) and Isabel Christie MacNaughton (1915-2003).

Marie Houghton Brent Fonds

One collection in the Vernon archives that proved to be particularly useful to Armstrong, Grauer, and MacArthur was the Marie Houghton Brent fonds (for those unfamiliar with the term, in archival science a fonds refers to a records group). This fonds, which was donated to the Vernon Archives by the Ferry County Historical Society in 2000, contains a wealth of Brent’s correspondences, personal writings, and certificates.

Her Story

Marie Brent was the daughter of Charles Frederick Houghton and Sophie N’Kwala. Houghton, who was originally from Ireland, established the Coldstream Ranch in 1863, which he later sold to Charles and Forbes Vernon. Sophie N’Kwala was a granddaughter of the Grand Chief Hwistesmexe’qen, known commonly as N’Kwala or Nicola.  

Sadly, Sophie passed away when Marie was young, and she was raised by her great-aunt Thérèse (Teresa) N’Kwala Laurence, who raised her to be the family’s historian and taught her the stories and traditions of the Okanagan Nation. As a young women, Marie lived for a time with her father, Charles, in Montreal. She later returned to the Okanagan, where she married William Brent in 1908. Throughout her life, Marie continued in the mission ordained by her great-aunt to preserve and share her ancestral teachings, and between 1935 and 1966 wrote a series of articles which were published in the Okanagan Historical Society (OHS) reports. As Robert Hayes of the Kelowna Branch of the OHS aptly stated, “Thérèse N’Kwala Laurence chose well. We owe her and Marie Houghton Brent a debt of gratitude.”

To learn more about Marie Houghton Brent, and the other six women featured in Okanagan Women’s Voices, grab a copy of the book or join the Vernon Museum for Learn + Connect: Reading for Reconciliation, a virtual book club from April to June 2022 featuring this incredible new publication.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Aerial view of Camp Vernon, where Sikh soldiers Gill and Sangha trained during World War Two.

Sikh Heritage Month

Since 2019, April has been recognized as Sikh Heritage Month in Canada. The Sikh population in this country numbers more than 500,000 people, one of the largest in the world outside of India. Sikh Canadians have greatly contributed to the country’s social, economic, and political history, and to its cultural fabric.

World War One

One aspect of history in which the contributions of Sikh Canadians is often overlooked is their service during the World Wars. Despite being denied the rights of citizenship, ten Sikh men did serve during World War One—and, tragically, most of them did not survive (to learn more, check out the documentary Canadian Soldier Sikhs under the “Resources” section below).

World War Two

Meanwhile, during World War Two, Sikh men were conscripted; however, Vancouver’s Khalsa Diwan Society, which represented the Sikh population in British Columbia, intervened on their behalf, and called on community members to refuse service until they were granted full franchise rights.

However, some Sikh Canadians did decide to enlist, and were trained at Camp Vernon. The book Becoming Canadians: Pioneer Sikhs in Their Own Words, by Sarjeet Singh Jagpal, describes the experience of Phangan Gill, who was trained in Vernon before heading to Halifax for advanced instruction. Due to a finger injury, he did not go overseas, but was stationed at Exhibition Park in Vancouver, where he witnessed the internment of Japanese Canadians.

Darshan Sangha was also trained at Camp Vernon, and was the only Sikh in his troop. Sangha was later released from the army, and returned to working in a mill. Like many Sikh men, he felt that the war was not his to fight.

Eventually, the Canadian Government relented on compulsory service for Sikh men, and in 1947, Chinese and South Asian Canadians were given the right to vote.

Resources

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

The post office clock on Barnard (30th) Avenue circa 1935.

A Post office clock

In 1912, Vernon opened a beautiful new post office complete with a British-made clock tower on 30th Avenue. The building and its clock graced the city for decades until the structure was partially torn down in 1959.

Luckily, the clock itself was rescued by the owners of the former Allison Hotel in Vernon, who recognized its historic value and stored it in their basement until 1971.

The Clock is restored

That year, the clock was acquired by the Vernon Centennial Committee with intentions to restore it to its former grandeur. While its inner workings were stored at the Historic O’Keefe Ranch, the clock faces were installed in a new centennial tower located outside the Vernon Museum.

The Vernon Museum’s role

Forty years later, in 2011, the clock faces were removed from the centennial tower, and alongside the inner mechanisms, were installed in the Vernon Museum.

Thanks largely to the efforts of local inventor Garry Garbutt, and dozens of generous supporters, the clock was restored to working condition. This former post office clock uses a pendulum to keep time, and has to be wound every few days (although the museum staff usually keep it unwound unless they wish to be startled by an impressively-loud chime once an hour).

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator