A black-and-white image of a fireplace next to a medium-sized tree decorated with tinsel. A few pieces of pottery line the top of the brick fireplace.
A Vernon home decorated for Christmas in the 1920s.

The Season of nostalgia

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! Christmas is the season of festively-decorated trees and gifts wrapped with care. It is also, arguably, the season of nostalgia, prompting us to ponder: how did Christmas in Vernon look 100 years ago, back in 1923?

As per the December 27, 1923 edition of the Vernon News, the essence of Christmas filled every corner and crevice of residences throughout the city. Various hotels offered grand, lavish dinners, while smaller gatherings of friends enjoyed intimate meals complete with all the festive trimmings in the comfort of their homes.

Charitable acts and Telephone staff

Baskets filled with essentials and delights were reportedly delivered to the homes of those who had faced difficulties throughout the year. Community groups such as the Salvation Army Child Welfare committee and the Elks diligently carried out acts of charity.

On Christmas Eve, the staff of the Vernon Office of the Okanagan Telephone congregated beneath a towering Christmas Tree, its uppermost branches rumored to brush against the ceiling. Adorned with presents for the operators, numerous gifts were also nestled beneath the tree.

Happiness at the Hospital

The atmosphere at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital was equally festive. Nurses and patients alike sang Christmas carols and admired decorations of greenery and red streamers. On Christmas morning, the role of Santa Claus was charmingly assumed by C. B. Lefroy, who swooped in for a visit, handing out presents and laughter. 

The weather that year was favorable, with a pristine layer of snow blanketing the valley. This delighted the little ones who eagerly ventured outside with their toboggans and skates.

According to the newspaper, Vernon had a very Merry Christmas all told and one hopes this trend continues in 2023. Despite the passage of a century, certain aspects remain unchanged. Friends and family still come together to celebrate, local hotels are still serving delicious festive meals, community organizations persist in aiding those in need, and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital is adorned with an illuminated tree in hues of green and red at its summit.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

a black-and-white image of five children. Three are standing and two are sitting around a carved pumpkin. Two are wearing eyepatches and one is dressed as a clown. The two seated are wearing part hats.
An example of some good, clean Halloween fun: a group of children dressed up for Halloween in 1958. Surely these sweet faces never got up to any mischief.

 

Trick (or treat)

Halloween is just around the corner, a season which Vernon has celebrated with tricks and treats for decades. In fact, especially between the 1920s and ‘40s, Vernon’s youth leaned more heavily towards the latter.

A Vernon News article from October of 1923 stated that “for the past two or three years, much wanton damage has been done throughout the city by mischievous lads on Halloween. Fences have been torn down, gardens looted and much needless work made for peace loving citizens … No one wishes to see the younger generation deprived of the fun that goes with Halloween but fun and deliberate damage are two different things. The first everyone enjoys but the second everyone denounces.”

It wasn’t just Vernon that was having trouble keeping the Halloween tricks at bay; another Vernon News article, this one from November of 1931, revealed that $500 worth of damage was done to a school in Oliver after a “gang of vandals” broke into the building and turned on the fire hoses. Arrests were expected to follow, as it was felt that this “willful damage … [was] beyond the pale of Halloween pranks.”

Strict Measures

In 1937, Vernon’s young revelers quickly experienced a change in atmosphere when, the morning after Halloween, a group of police officers showed up at their schools to interview individuals believed to have damaged properties the previous evening. Churches and other community groups began hosting a variety of events on the evening of Halloween, so that city’s youngsters could partake in some “good, clean fun,” and, in 1939, the newspaper warned those who engage in destructive behaviors to conduct themselves in a more appropriate manner so as to not have to learn this life lesson in “the police or juvenile courts.”

These strong measures seemed to have had an impact, because the Halloween of 1940 was considered a “quiet” season; that year the only incident of note was that reported by a number of downtown shopkeepers, who arrived at work the next morning to discover their windows covered in soap, which was difficult to remove but otherwise did not cause any lasting damage.   

a DOSE OF WartimE rEALITY

In 1942, Vernon law enforcement cracked down even more to keep the antics to a minimum. Bonfires after dark were prohibited to eliminate the “usual gatherings of children dressed in ghostly attire in the vacant lots throughout the city.” They also restricted the sale of fireworks, and so “very few rockets were discharged into the sky.”

Unfortunately, the restrictions may have dampened spirits a little too far, as only a few groups of children went door-to-door for candy that year. However, wartime rationing also meant that there were less treats to be had, which also likely contributed to the low numbers of trick-or-treaters. Perhaps it is also the case that as the world as a whole was covered by the darkness of wartime, the youthful tricks of previous years lots some of their appeal, because the rate of property damage continued to decrease over subsequent Halloweens.  

This is not to say that Vernon’s past celebrations of this holiday have been all tricks; there have also been dances, costume parties, showings of scary movies, and of course, lots of treats to go around.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

A black and white image of an old car with three occupants and some greenery attached to it on a snowy backroad. In the background is a mountain and trees.
A group out Christmas tree hunting near Vernon circa 1913.

An older woman seated in a chair with her hands folded over a blanket on her lap.Christmas Spirit

Wishing all who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas! While it goes without saying that some Christmas traditions have changed significantly since the early 20th century, the spirit of the season has largely withstood the test of time.

In an interview from 1988, Jean (Crockard) Knight shared her childhood memories of Vernon at Christmas time. Jean and her family came to the area from Scotland in 1906, and moved in with her grandparents who owned a large home on 35th Avenue. Jean was one of seven children, four of whom were born in Vernon.

Roast chicken and plum pudding

At first, Jean’s father William had some difficulty finding work in Vernon, which meant that the Christmas season was a time for ingenuity. The family made a lot of their own decorations, and Jean even recalled being taught how to do so in school. Eventually, William began working as a stonemason and was involved in the construction of the Vernon Courthouse.

The family later moved into their own cottage on 43rd Avenue, and on Christmas Day, they would bundle up warmly to make the kilometer or so trek to visit their grandparents. Jean’s grandmother had a chicken coop, so Christmas dinner usually consisted of roast chicken with all the trimmings, followed by a rich fruit pudding (similar to an English plum pudding) which they called a “dumpling.”

A close-up of a green Christmas Tree with lights. A small red wooden rocking horse decoration in hanging in the foreground.

Gifts, sleigh rides, and skating

Presents were not plentiful; Jean recalled that she and her siblings would only receive one or two each, for which they were always grateful. When she was about 15, Jean’s father purchased a gramophone for the family, a gift that was thoroughly enjoyed by all of them. It was around this time that Jean began working at Olson’s Bakery, and always put some of her wage aside to purchase small gifts for her parents, while the rest went towards the family’s household expenses.

As a teenager, Jean loved going for sleigh rides with her friends, and while William could not afford his own sleigh, one year he decided to fix up his own. He fastened a box on bobsled runners, covered it with a quilt, and drove the family into town for Christmas concerts and other seasonal activities (Jean’s personal favourite was skating). 

Jean married Harry Knight (the nephew of Vernon’s first butcher Henry Knight) in 1922, but always recalled her happy childhood traditions, some of which she passed down to her own children. “We always had good Christmases and plenty, too,” she said.

The Museum & Archives of Vernon would like to wish you a safe and happy holiday, and a wonderful 2023!

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

Crowds of people walking a long a board walk, some with parasols in a park. Some structures are visible in the background, and a few horses and buggies along the right side. A hillside with trees is visible in the background.
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 queenA black and white portrait photo of a Queen. She is wearing a small crown perched on the top of her head, and a lace veil down the back of her neck. She is not smiling but looking off to the left. She is wearing a diamond necklace with matching earrings. She also has a sash across her left shoulder and a decorative gown.

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

A black and white document. The top reads "The Vernon News." It discusses the death of Queen Victoria.

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 black and white photo of women and children in front of a wooden structure. A sign in between the people reads "Baby Clinic." A nurse is standing to the left with her hands on the shoulders of a little girl. Women in hands holding babies are to the right. Several people are looking out from two windows on the building in the background.
Mothers and babies at a clinic in Oyama in 1923.

The WORK OF THE MoTHER

A beige page with slight rust/water stains along the edges. The words "The Canadian Mother's Book" are listed in the middle.
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

 

 

 

 

Spring of 1925

Today is the first day of spring (finally, some might add). Spring has long been a time for new life and fresh starts.

In March of 1925, the coming of the new season was celebrated in Vernon with “Spring Sewing Week” at the Hudson’s Bay Company, in which “thousands of yards of spring fabrics” were put on sale. Notices also began to appear in the Vernon News reminding readers to put in their orders for baby chicks and hatching eggs.

The district’s horticulturalist, M. S. Middleton, provided the British Columbia Fruit Growers’ Association with tips on how to treat winter injury (a type of plant damage) at a public presentation. The city also began its summer tourism campaign, describing Vernon as “the center of the apple-growing industry where the finest, rosiest, and sweetest apples in the world grow.”

The fashionable style for women that spring included long tunics and blouses, chamoisette gloves, and kid-leather heels, while men were encouraged to buy knitted or crepe ties with matching shirts in Spring patterns. 

As the last of the snow melted from Vernon’s road, bikes went on sale at Okanagan Saddlery for $40, and the fishing season began (much to the delight of local anglers). MacDonald’s Pharmacy advertised “a splendid assortment of Easter greeting cards and chocolate novelties,” while several local drycleaners recommended giving one’s Easter wardrobe a refresh in the lead up to the holiday.

The city was caught up in the excitement of the new season, another winter behind them.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

killiney BeaCH

May the road rise up to meet you this St. Patrick’s Day! Vernon is home to a healthy Irish population, which is reflected in some of its place names. Killiney Beach, originally called Sproul’s Landing by the region’s settler population, is situated on Westside Road. Of course, long before the area bore either of these names, it was known to and used by the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation.

Killiney Beach in 1944.

Killiney Hill

The beach was named after Killiney Hill in Dublin, Ireland. Killiney Hill is a popular destination for hikers, drawn to its spectaculars views of Dublin, the Irish Sea, and the mountains of Wales. The hill is also topped by an obelisk built in 1742 in remembrance of the victims of the Irish Famine of 1740/’41.

Sproul’s Landing

Sproul’s Landing was a stop for the sternwheelers of Okanagan Lake. Some stops along the lake, including Sproul’s Landing, were unscheduled, and the ships would only halt at these smaller settlements on occasion. In order to request the S.S. Sicamous to make an unscheduled stop during its trips between Penticton and Vernon, residents would need to stand on the shore waving a white flag during the day, or light two bonfires at night.

Killiney Hill near Dublin, Ireland. Photo courtesy of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

Harry Percy Hodges

When Harry Percy Hodges decides to settle at Sproul’s Landing in 1903, he changed its name to reflect his Irish roots. In addition to running his own farm, Hodges also worked as a bookkeeper at the Coldstream Ranch. He later married Arabel M. Ricardo, sister to W.C. Ricardo, the ranch’s manager. The couple has at least one child, a son named John.

Hodges passed away in Victoria in 1922.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

An early photo of Vernon’s Chinatown, taken in the lunar year 4608 (1910).

Chinese New Year 2022

This Tuesday, February 1, marks Chinese New Year. 2022 is a Year of the Tiger, and those born under this zodiac are said to be ambitious, daring, enthusiastic, generous, and self-confident.

This festival is celebrated each year in China (as well as Vietnam, North and South Korea, and Tibet, under different names) and is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar (as opposed to the western solar calendar). Each month in the lunar calendar is 28 days long, so a year lasts between 353 and 355 days. Determining the date of the Chinese New Year requires some complicated calculations, but it typically occurs on the second new moon after the winter solstice, either in late January or early February. A variety of beliefs and traditions are attached to this special occasion.

A celebration 100 years ago

In 1922, a reporter from the Vernon News was granted the honour of attending a Chinese New Year celebration in Vernon’s Chinatown. That year, the festival fell on Saturday, January 28. He started off by saying that although the celebration was great fun, he hoped it would be the last for a while, since with Christmas, the Solar New Year, Robbie Burns’ Night, and the Lunar New Year all occurring in a little over a month, many of Vernon’s business men were struggling to get back on the “Water Wagon.”

Decorations of red and gold

To celebrate the occasion, Chinatown was wonderfully decorated with strings of fruits, vegetables, and gold-and-red emblems. (Tangerines, mandarins, and kumquats, in particular, are a popular decoration for Chinese New Year, as they are said to symbolize wealth and good luck. In a similar manner, the colours red and gold are symbolic of joy and prosperity, respectively). The reporter also noted that genuine “greenbacks,” dollar bills, had also been used to decorate.

Ringing in the New Year

A thrilling performance was held in the center of a square in Chinatown, including acrobatic and magical acts, and of course the celebrated Chinese Dragon Dance (distinguishable from the Lion Dance in that is requires a larger group to manipulate the creature).

The reporter remarked on the hospitality of the crowd, and a lucky number of Vernonites who were later invited to a somewhat-secretive New Year’s feast hosted by one of Chinatown’s leading business owners loudly praised the generosity of their host. The final moments of the lunar year 4619 exploded in firecrackers and fireworks, as a new Year of the Dog was ushered in.

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

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group photo of the members of a local hockey team posing on the ice on Kalamalka Lake in 1922. Back row, left to right: Jack Sadler, Graham Ferguson, Charles Sadler, and Lionel Locke. Front row, left to right: George Belsey and Albert Belsey.

Hello, 2022

Another year has begun under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Omicron variant causing an increase in case numbers and a return to heightened health-and-safety measures, it can feel like we are right back where we were almost two years ago, in March of 2020.

As difficult as it can be to consider the passing of time on a longer scale, especially when our everyday is plagued with uncertainty, it can provide a sense of perspective; no matter how bad things might seem now, they too shall pass.

100 years ago: A civic Election

100 years ago, in January of 1922, the City of Vernon was ringing in the New Year with a civic election. On January 5, the Vernon News sullenly reported that although the election of the City Council, School Trustees, and Police Commissioner was set for the following Thursday, the general populace seemed to be taking little interest in the whole event. What generated the most stir was that a woman, Elsie Richards, was nominated for a School Trustee position, a first for the city. Although Mrs. Richards was not successful in her bid, it was a positive step forward.

A daring robbery

That same month, a small group of robbers broke into Vernon’s Government Liquor Store through the building’s main entrance, made their way upstairs, smashed the locks on the storage room doors, and took two cases of Scotch and one of Rye Whiskey. The store manager George Brazier was not overly upset by the robbery, because the thieves’ poor taste meant that they had made off with the cheaper brands of Whiskey.

Princes, pirates, and princesses, oh my!

A children’s costume party was held by the Vernon chapter of the I.O.D.E. (the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire) at the local armoury. The children dressed as knights, pirates, and princesses were said to have acted the part admirably, as if they had “been lifted from the story book page, or brought to Vernon from some far away romantic land in a swift airplane just for the occasion.” The evening raised nearly two hundred dollars towards supporting the widows and families of those who served in World War One. 

Mild weather and winter sports

The first few days of January 1922 were relatively mild in temperature, with highs just below freezing and lows of -10°C. But a fine ice and snow season meant that local curlers, skaters, and skiers were able to enjoy their chosen winter sport. Meanwhile, the first hockey game of the season, held at a local rink between Vernon and Armstrong, saw the former achieve a quick and clean victory.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

A snapshot of the S.A. Shatford “Economy Sale” advertisement in the Vernon News on Boxing Day of 1913.
The remainder of the 1913 advertisement.

Why is the day after christmas called boxing day?

The exact origins of the term are unknown, but it first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1833. However, it may be traced back as early as the tenth century, to the story of Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, known for his acts of charity and immortalized in the carol “Good King Wenceslas.” Other theories suggest that the term comes from the British tradition of distributing boxes filled with small gifts and food, or the contents of church collection boxes, to those in need on the day after Christmas.

Whatever the true story may be, the more modern notion of Boxing Day as a shopping holiday seems to be in contradiction with its origins. It is perhaps for this reason that, unlike here in B.C., most retailers in Atlantic Canada and Northern Ontario are prohibited from opening that day. 

Clearing out Christmas Stock

That being said, Boxing Day sales have been a tradition for quite some time, as a way to clear out leftover Christmas stock. For instance, on December 26, 1913, the S.A. Shatford General Store in Vernon hosted an “Economy Sale;” an accompanying advertisement in the Vernon News stated that “profits, costs, values, all have been disregarded in this great merchandise event. We simply desire to reduce our stock all possible during the holiday season.”

Meanwhile, the term “Boxing Day” did not start being used in the Vernon News until the 1920s; in 1929, the newspaper advertised a Boxing Day Dance at the Eldorado Arms Hotel in Kelowna.

Shopping Holiday

Since then, Boxing Day’s shopping frenzy has only intensified, and in Canada it is one of the highest revenue-generating days for retailers (third only to Black Friday and the Friday before Christmas).

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator