The Titanic on April 10, 1912, five days before its sinking. Public domain image.

A maritime tragedy

During the early hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic descended into the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean following a collision with an iceberg. This catastrophe occurred just four days into the ship’s inaugural journey from Southampton to New York City, and regrettably, more than 1,500 passengers and crew perished in this maritime tragedy. Among those absent from the ill-fated voyage, despite prior intentions to be onboard, was Vernonite Baroness Herry.

The Herry residence in the BX in 1913. GVMA #18242.

celestine herry

Celestine Herry was born on July 23, 1879 in Brussels, Belgium. At the age of 21, she married Baron Harold Herry and the couple went on to have five children. In 1910, Baron and Baroness Herry attended the World’s Fair in Brussels, where they encountered details about the Okanagan Valley.

Since 1907, a consortium of Belgian land developers had been parceling out land in the BX and surrounding areas with the intent of attracting new settlers. Upon encountering advertisements for this “land of milk and honey,” Baron and Baroness Herry were captivated and purchased land sight unseen. They made the decision to move their family to Canada and intended to arrive onboard the Titanic.

Baroness Herry and four of her five children in 1915. GVMA #18237.

New Horizons

However, the story goes that the Baroness had a foreboding feeling about the voyage and postponed their departure until later in April 1912. They ended up traveling onboard the SS Megantic which departed from Liverpool. When they did arrive, it must have been with a sense of relief to have their feet on firm ground.

The family settled into a large home in the BX which they called Sunshine Lodge. Baron Herry owned one of the first modern motor cards in the Valley, and the Baroness swiftly gained recognition for her artistic prowess. Baron Herry served overseas for four years during World War One, after which the family’s fortunes turned and they were required to move into a smaller house.

However, the couple remained active into their older years and passed away one year apart – the Baron in 1951 and the Baroness in 1952.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A light brown wood plaque reads "Hitchcock's Cafe" at the top. It has ornate carvings on the side and bottom, including a face peeping out from the bottom.

Bessie and Henry Hitchcock

Did you know that Vernon’s first confectionary shop would be 115 years old if it were still around today?

An article in the 19th report of the Okanagan Historical Society discusses the arrival of Bessie and Henry Ernest Hitchcock in the Okanagan in 1906. The couple emigrated from England and, in addition to boundless enthusiasm and an unfailing sense of humour, brought with them a recipe for a hard candy known as “bullseyes.” This peppermint-flavoured treat was well-loved in England, and the Hitchcocks found it also appealed to folks living in the Okanagan.

Bessie and Henry first opened a shop in Kelowna, specializing not just in bullseyes, but other delicacies such as Genoa cakes, Melton Mowbray pork pies, and pastries. No long after, in 1908, the couple moved to Vernon where they opened a shop in what is now the 3100 block of 30th Avenue. It was called the Hitchcock’s Café.

Vernon’s 1st Confectionary shop

The café quickly built up a steady clientele; according to the OHS report, “many a young man would walk or ride horseback for miles on Saturday nights just to eat a dish of the Hitchcock’s ice cream.” This celebrated ice cream was also enjoyed by crowds who would turn up on Vernon’s main street to hear performances by the city’s first (and then, only) band, aptly named the Vernon City Band.

It wasn’t just ice cream that drew people to the Hitchcock’s Café; another equally popular option was their afternoon tea, served “English-style” with “plenty of water for the pot.” Bessie and Henry also catered several events, including one with over 300 attendees. Even so, the couple actually ended up cooking too much food and the left-over stuffed and roasted chickens were then sold for fifty cents each.

The Hitchcocks turned their business over to Walter Rolston in 1916, when they instead decide to venture into farming. Despite this change in lifestyle, Vernonites were not going to let their culinary talents go to waste, and the couple continued to make their famous bullseyes for appreciative friends.

Menu Plaque

While the Museum & Archives of Vernon sadly does not have a photo of the Hitchcock Café in their collection, they do have the ornate wood menu plaque picture above. It was carved by Jas Cantelain of Bath, England; Mr. Cantelain went on to earn various carving assignments for cathedrals in England.

 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

 

The MAV is proud to present this special blog post written by collections intern Alexandra Fox, who is currently developing a display on the history of Vernon’s Jewish Community.

A young woman with dark hair is smiling at the camera and standing in front of a large, black-and-white cut-out image of a man.

“My name is Alexandra Fox. I am a 24 year old Jewish woman. I was born to a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, so technically I am not considered Jewish because Jewishness is considered matrilineal. However, it is the religious side that I connect to the most, maybe in part due to always being told that I look Jewish. When my father married my mother, a lot of his family was mad that he wasn’t marrying a Jewish woman.

Religion has always been a complicated thing for me. My father used to be very religious when growing up, and the rest of his family still is, but when he moved to Canada from South Africa he left that behind him. Therefore, I wasn’t raised very religious and never had my bat mitzvah. My sister has also struggled with this confusion of identity and is currently volunteering in Israel, in part to get to know that part of herself more. When I am around some of my family that is more religious, I sometimes feel awkward because religion has been such a huge part of their identity growing up and I never had that.

A young woman is leaning into a large wood display case to arrange Jewish objects.
Intern Alex hard at work on her exhibit about Vernon’s Jewish Community.

I never really went to a church or synagogue while growing up but I took part in holiday celebrations. I always took part in Christmas and at least one day of Hanukkah. Eight days is a lot and since you have to leave the candles burning until they die out, it wasn’t always practical to do all the days. It has always been interesting for me to see how the dates of Hanukkah change year to year, as they are based on the Jewish calendar, so they fall anywhere between the first week of December and the last week. In fact, Hanukkah in 2024 starts on December 25th and ends on January 2nd 2025!

When embarking on my exhibit, I wanted to do it on something I connected to and had meaning for me. It was a struggle to find objects for the exhibit, as the Vernon Museum & Archives doesn’t have a Jewish collection, so I went to the community to ask if they could loan objects. Before I got the objects, I honestly almost gave up on the topic and chose a new one. Therefore, I am very thankful to Laura McPheeters, who is the president of the Okanagan Jewish Community Association in Kelowna (although she is a Vernon resident).”

 

Grassroots of Vernon’s Jewish Community

For the next three months, The Museum & Archives of Vernon will present an exhibit on the Jewish community in Vernon. Did you know that, in terms of settlement, this community is relatively new to the area?

The first Jewish settlers came to B.C. from other places in Canada, the United States, and Western Europe after the 1850s, during the Gold Rush, and settled mostly in Vancouver. The end of the 19th century saw an influx of Jews from Eastern Europe instead of Western Europe, as before.

In terms of Vernon, it unfortunately appears that the first members of the Jewish community to arrive in the area found themselves stripped of their rights and freedoms, and interned in the Vernon Internment Camp. At least two Jewish German nationals who lived in the Lower Mainland were apprehended following the break-out of World War One and transported to Vernon. However, in this case, it was their German heritage and not their Jewish identity that

 An excerpt from the 2021 Vernon Census.

was the reported reason for their internment.

Time to settle

The first Jews to actually settle within Vernon did so in the 1970s; the 1971 census says there were around 20 Jews then. The population grew to 55 in 1981, dropped to 50 in 1991, and then rose again to 170 in 2001. The most recent census, that of 2021, was the first one to include Jewish as an ethnicity and as a religion, whereas it was just listed as a religion previously, and 185 people answered they were ethnically Jewish while 90 said they were religiously Jewish.

Aerial view of Camp Hatikvah on the shores of Kalamalka Lake near Oyama taken circa 1956.

 

Close Knit Community

Even now, the Jewish community in the Okanagan is relatively small and organizations like the Okanagan Chabad House and Camp Hatikvah serve to unite them. The latter opened in Oyama in 1956, and seeks “to produce proud, happy Jewish youth who were earnest and sincere in their beliefs.” Moreover, this summer camp is not exclusive to Jews, as other communities can rent it for their camps, and in the past it has been most notably used by the Boy Scouts. The MAV has previously hosted events for the Okanagan Jewish community, including Hanukkah, and this exhibit aims to increase awareness about this small but close-knit community among the wider population of Vernon.

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

 

 

 

 

A black-and-white view over a field with mountain in the background.
A view of the Coldstream Ranch in the 1930s.

The Holodomor

Since 2019, B.C. has officially recognized Ukrainian Holodomor Memorial Day on the fourth Saturday of each November. The Holodomor, also known as the Great Famine, occurred in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, and resulted in the death of millions of Ukrainians.

Meanwhile, during the same time period, thirty-five Ukrainian families in Coldstream were receiving government assistance as a result of the ongoing Great Depression, a situation which was made worse by a taxation dispute between the municipality and the Coldstream Ranch.

The Great Depression

Ukrainian immigrants first began arriving in Vernon in 1914. By the 1920s, 16 families who had journey from the Prairies had settled on land purchased from, and adjacent to, the Coldstream Ranch. This community continued to grow in the following years.

Coldstream’s Ukrainian population was particularly vulnerable during the Great Depression, and by 1932 their situation had become dire. Government relief had arrived in Vernon in 1931, but the available funds were so limited that sometimes families were only granted $5 for an entire month.

The situation was made worse by the fact that in 1930, responding to pressure from apple growers, the District of Coldstream had introduced a by-law to exempt fruit trees from taxation. As a result, the Coldstream Ranch had seen an increase in its agricultural land taxes, to which manager W. C. Ricardo was much opposed. In retaliation, the Ranch defaulted on its 1932 property tax bill.

A culture of resilience

The whole population of Coldstream experienced an increase in property taxes as a result of this dispute, and this was particularly felt by the already-impoverish Ukrainian community. By the winter of 1932, the small amount of relief money was barely enough to keep a family fed.

The dispute ultimately went to court, and in 1934 a decision came out in favour of the District of Coldstream. Thankfully, the District and the Ranch were able to reach a settlement in 1936, and the municipality managed to limp its way out of the recession by the end of the decade.

Despite the years of scarcity, Coldstream’s Ukrainian community continued to practice its languages, dances, and customs. Like the ongoing invasion of their country has demonstrated, Ukrainian people have an admirable capacity for resilience. 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

An undated photo of an orchard in bloom in Coldstream. Temporary foreign workers from Latin America (and other regions) have served in Vernon’s agricultural industry for decades.

Latin American Heritage Month

In 2018, October was declared Latin American Heritage Month in Canada. Latin America stretches from Mexico to Tierra Del Fuego, and B.C., as well as Vernon in particular, has a closer relationship with the region than one might think.

Temporary Foreign Workers in B.C. and Vernon

During the Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858, Mexican labourers arrived in the colony of British Columbia to serve as pack train operators who led long processions of horses, donkeys, or other pack animals loaded with freight. About 400 horses and mules from Mexico journeyed into the province alongside the pack train operators.

Between the years of 1892 and 1973, no individual from Latin America was naturalized at the Vernon Court House, but temporary foreign workers from the region did begin arriving around the turn of the 21st century. In 2005, that there were about 400 temporary foreign workers in the Valley, a number which increased to around 3,000 in 2009.

Challenges and vulnerabilities

The Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Service Society hosted pop-up clinics with Interior Health for temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic (photo courtesy of VDICSS, 2021).

The temporary foreign worker population continued to grow over the next few years (and this trend is set to continue) to meet the Okanagan’s economic development and labour market needs; however, these individuals often face health and safety concerns while at work. Since the 1980s, it has been difficult to locate temporary housing for foreign workers, and, in more recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic left them particular vulnerable.

In 2020, the Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society committed to identifying and responding to the needs of temporary foreign workers, as well as creating a database of information highlighting their economic impact on the region. In 2021, the group teamed up with Interior Health to host a number of pop-up vaccination clinics for temporary workers.

In terms of permanent Latin American immigrants in Vernon, the 2016 Census identified 35 originating from Mexico, 10 from Brazil, 20 from Colombia, 20 from El Salvador, and 20 from Guyana.  

 

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 a man wearing a white shirt and sitting among boxes of Okanagan Spring Lager and Pale Ale. He is smiling at the camera.
Jakob Tobler, president of the Okanagan Spring Brewery, in 1989. Tobler emigrated with his family from Germany in the 1980s, and is one of several Germany-Canadians who have contributed to Vernon’s cultural diversity.

German Heritage Month

October is German Heritage Month in Canada! With more than 3 million people, German Canadians represent one of the biggest cultural groups in the country, which has in turn adopted a wide range of German traditions, including the celebrated Oktoberfest.

German Immigration

Silky flag of Germany waving in the wind with highly detailed fabric texture

The first Germans in Western Canada arrived in 1817 as part of a military contingent hired by Lord Selkirk of the Red River Colony. Immigration to the Okanagan Valley, meanwhile, began around the turn of the 20th century.

In July of 1911, the Vernon News reported that a number of German residents living in the Canadian prairies were visiting the Valley in the hope of finding land on which to settle. The first German settler who was naturalized at the Vernon Courthouse was William Harroff, a carpenter, in 1923. By 1947, approximately another 450 German immigrants became Canadian Citizens at the Courthouse.

Discrimination and celebration

An angry crowd confronting German settlers on board the S. S. Sicamous circa 1919.

Although German culture is now rightly celebrated in Vernon and the Okanagan Valley, it goes without saying that this was not always the case, considering the complicated legacy of the two World Wars.

Within days of the outbreak of World War One, the Canadian government developed a comprehensive set of national security guidelines around German immigrants to Canada. Then, between 1914 and 1918, hundreds of German men, women, and children were incarcerated at the Vernon Internment Camp.

In 1919, after the war had ended, the S.S. Sicamous docked in Kelowna with a number of German settlers on board, and was met by an angry crowd. This sentiment towards German immigrants continued up to and beyond World War Two.

Thankfully, this time of distrust and discrimination is largely behind us, and as of 2016, Vernon was home to more than 10,000 people of German descent, including the celebrated Tobler Family of the Okanagan Spring Brewery.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

The Vernon Mosque shortly after its opening in 2012. Courtesy of Waymarking.com.

Canadian islamic History Month

October is a busy month! In addition to LGBTQ+ History Month, it is also Canadian Islamic History Month, German Heritage Month, Latin American Heritage Month, and Women’s History Month. All of these occasions will be featured in posts throughout October, beginning with Canadian Islamic History Month.

Muslim Immigration

Four years after Canadian Confederation, as noted in the 1871 Canadian Census, thirteen Muslim Europeans were living in Canada. By 1938, the population had increased to approximately 700, and the country’s first mosque was constructed in Edmonton. In 2007, Islamic History Month was established by the Federal Government.

Vernon has a relatively small Muslim population, with the first members arriving in the 1960s and ‘70s. In 1999, the Vernon Muslim Association was granted charity status.

Community Initiatives

Despite its small size, the community of around 40 local Muslim families brought about the construction of the Okanagan’s first mosque in 2012. That same year, the Vernon & District Immigrant & Community Services Society launched their Inter-Faith Bridging Project to bring together people of all faiths in overcoming stereotypes and uniting towards a common goal.

The project’s committee hosted several initiatives over the years, including a group payer session in 2015, in which Syilx Elders offered opening prayers before inviting spiritual leaders from a variety of faiths to offer prayers in their own fashion, and a “Breaking Bread” event in 2016, in which breads from all over the world were displayed and sampled,.

In April of 2017, following the Quebec City mosque shooting which resulted in 6 deaths and 5 non-fatal injuries, the Vernon Muslim Association hosted an information session to condemn the actions of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, as well as to bring awareness to the persecution of Muslims under a guilty-by-association mentality.

Now, in 2022, the local Muslim population continues to attend prayers at the Vernon Mosque & Islamic Center, with this year marking the building’s 10th anniversary.

 

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 a man lounging on the lawn with a dog. He has short, slicked-back hair, and is wearing a loose shirt, unbuttoned beneath the collar bone, and white pants. He has sandals on his feet. The dog has his mouth open with his tongue out and is looking away from the camera. The photo is framed in the background by overhanding bushes.
Leone Caetani sitting on the front lawn of his home in Vernon with a dog circa 1927.

“Enriched all aspects of our society”

In recognition of Italian Heritage Month, which is celebrated every June, Minister Hussen stated that “with more than 1.5 million people of Italian heritage, Canada is the proud home of one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world. From business to sports, cuisine, politics, and much more, the community has enriched all aspects of our society, and continues to do so.”

Italian immigrants in Canada and the Okanagan

A circular black and white photograph bordered by a white frame. A small child on the left is seated on a bench with a pillow. She is wearing a white dress, and her waved hair is pinned back at the ear with a white clip. She is not smiling, and looking away from the camera. She is hugging a woman in a white dress, who is leaning in to press her face against the child's. She is smiling slightly and looking at the camera. To her left is a man in a suit and tie, sitting upright and smiling slighty at the camera. One hand rests easily on his knee, and the other is behind the back of the woman.
Leone, Ofelia, and Sveve photographed in 1921, shortly before the family’s departure for Canada. Vernon Museum and Archives #12730.

The immigration of Italians to Canada is closely tied to political and social turmoil in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In particular, the rise of fascism under Mussolini changed the fortunes of many Italians, and some decided to immigrate to Canada to seek out new and safer opportunities. Many settled in communities in B.C., including Vancouver, Trail, Rossland, Revelstoke, Kelowna, Powell River, Duncan, and Vernon. The Okanagan’s first Italian immigrant was Giovanni Casorso, who arrived in Kelowna in March of 1883, followed by his wife and children in 1884.

A black and white photo of a man standing, with one knee up on chair. He is positioned near a window through which light is streaming. He has one hand on his hip, and is wearing a bowler hat.
This photo of Leone, taken in 1921, shows him leaning on a chair in Ofelia’s villa in Rome “on the eve of their departure for Canada.” Greater Vernon Museum & Archives #12142.

A duke immigrates to Vernon

Meanwhile, one of Vernon’s most well-known Italian immigrants was Leone Caetani, father of Sveva Caetani, a celebrated local artist. Leone was born on September 12, 1869, to one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Italy. In addition to serving as Duke of Sermoneta and Prince of Teano, Leone was a gifted scholar with a degree in Ancient and Oriental Language and History, and fluent in 11 different languages.

A woman with salt-and-pepper hair is seated in a wheelchair and looking up towards the camera. She is not smiling, and holding a beige blanket to show the camera. On the blanket is printed a black horse rearing up on its hind legs.
Sveva Caetani at a solo exhibition in 1988 at the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

Leone first visited Canada for a hunting trip in 1891, and was captivated by its natural beauty. This likely contributed to his decision to immigrate to the country in 1921 with Sveva and her mother Ofelia. As an avid socialist, Leone, like many Italians, was also no longer comfortable in post-war, fascist Italy. 

The Caetani Family, with Ofelia’s secretary and personal companion, Miss Jüül, and a small handful of staff, arrived in Vernon in the summer of 1921.

To learn more about the Caetani Family, click here

 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A pale blue diner on the side of a road with a cloudy sky in the background. A blue, yellow, and white banner above the building's front door reads "Rosalinda's All Day Breakfast." A beige truck is parked off to the right.
Rosalinda’s diner at 2810 33rd Street. Photo: Gwyn Evans, 2022.

The Filipino Community in Canada and Vernon

Celebrated every June, Filipino Heritage Month acknowledges one of the fastest growing multicultural communities in Canada.

Unfortunately, Filipino immigration to the Okanagan, and Vernon more specifically, is not as well documented as other cultural groups. However, as of 2016, Vernon had a Filipino population of 370 individuals.

Canada’s earliest documented Filipino immigrants were sailors living and working on the west coast; up until the 1930s, almost all immigrants were male. The population continued to increase steadily over the years, and by the 1970s, 16,913 Filipinos lived in Canada. By 2016, this number had increased to 837,130.

Vernon has an active Filipino community, with groups such the Filipino Association of Vernon (FAV) spearheading anti-racism initiatives, and relief fundraisers for family and friends suffering through natural disasters back in the Philippines.

Emergency Relief

In November of 2013, Super typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) made landfall in the Philippines, displacing 4.1 million people, killing more than 6,000 and leaving 1,800 missing. Vernon’s Filipino Community quickly mobilized, raising $26,000 of emergency relief through a number of community events. In 2020, another $1,315 was raised through a virtual Christmas concert for those affected by typhoons Rolly (Goni) and Ulysses (Vamco).

Stand up against racism

Meanwhile, in May of 2021, the FAV launched their inaugural Stand Up Against Racism initiative with a paddleboarding event at Kal Beach. Later that year, they also joined other local community groups in producing Allyship in Action, a short film sponsored by the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan to show the harmful impacts of racism and initiatives to counteract them.

ROSALINDA’S

In terms of a local success story, Rosalinda Smelser, a local business woman who was born in Mainit in the province of Surigao Del Norte, Phillipines, fits the bill. Rosalinda, who runs a diner of the same name, moved to Vernon in 1999, and opened her business in 2011. Rosalinda’s, located at 2810 33rd Street, serves both Canadian classics and Filipino favourites.

 

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