A black and white image showing a large arched entry made out of wood. A banner along the top reads "Vernon Annual Okanagan Industrial Exposition." On the left of the banner is a drawing of a man from the torso up, holding apples. On the right of the banner is a welder. Above the banner is a diorama of a building with the word "progress" printed on it. Real people can be seen in the photo walking into the exposition underneath the arched entryway. Mountains can be seen in the background.
The Vernon-Okanagan Industrial Exposition entryway at the Vernon Military Camp in 1947.

A most important event

In the late 1940s, it was deemed the “most important Spring event in the Interior of British Columbia.” The Annual Vernon-Okanagan Industrial Exposition was considered a means to attract fresh capital to the Vernon region for industrial ventures, and was hosted for the first time in 1947.

Earlier that year, a group of citizens met to advance the idea, helped along by the securing of Premier John Hart’s consent to act as patron of the event. Major-General Edward Plow, commander of the artillery component of the Canadian army, permitted the exposition organization to rent buildings at the Vernon Military Camp for the event.

1947

On May 28, the first Industrial Exposition took off with an aerial flyover, followed by a Grand Opening Parade which wound its way from the city to the camp. Over the next four days, around 30,000 visitors flocked to the expo, exploring exhibits ranging from bulldozers to can openers. The Allis Chalmers Co. exhibited a diesel engine operating electronically, while General Electric Co. featured a prominent display of household appliances. This event also witnessed the first automobile show ever held in the Interior of B.C.

A non-commercial section of the expo featured a variety of entertaining activities, including a lawn bowling tournament, a dog show, orchestral performances, and an arts and crafts exhibition.

1948 and 1949

The event returned in May 1948, and despite heavy rains, drew nearly as many attendees. Commercial exhibitors upped the ante this year, as could be seen in a dazzling display by automobile dealers featuring all the latest makes and models. Improvements had also been made to the exhibition facilities, and the 1948 pamphlet boasted that excellent lighting would provide “a brilliant kaleidoscope of color.”

Even more work went into the hosting of the 1949 Exposition, which included the installation of a “Big Top” tent to host entertainers. Despite these efforts, the event drew only about half as many attendees as previous years. Meanwhile, more and more exhibitors were eager to participate, and so a bigger space was deemed necessary if the event should run in 1950. This, coupled with the Department of National Defence’s request of $400,000 worth of insurance to cover the use of camp facilities, saw the exposition team start considering alternate arrangements.

Unfortunately, new facilities were never secured and 1950 did not see the continuation of the expo.

Here’s a collection of images featuring exhibits from the Annual Vernon-Okanagan Industrial Exposition. These snapshots of local history are preserved thanks to the prolific photographer Doug Kermode. For additional photos, click here.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A black and white image of a building, showing two men in apron looking out from a doorway. On the left of the building are a series of stacked milk pails, and on the right, a sign that reads "Home of Armstrong Cheese."
The Armstrong Cheese Co-Operative plant in 1940.

The ultimate comfort food

Cold snowy weather calls for comfort food like pizza, and what would pizza be without its quintessential cheese topping?

Moving back in time to 1902, the residents of the Village of Armstrong joined forces to establish a creamery, financing the project through the sale of land shares. Despite initial resistance from the municipal council, this determined group overcame obstacles. By the year’s end, a creamery had been constructed, furnished, and a skilled butter maker hired.

As detailed in an article by Mary Blackburn in the 47th Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, the creamery was situated just north of Armstrong, near Fortune Creek. In 1916, it was reorganized as part of the North Okanagan Creamery Association (NOCA), collecting milk from dairy farms extending from Mara Lake southwards to Vernon. By 1923, the Armstrong Creamery was producing an impressive 12,000 pounds of butter per month.

The City of Vernon Muscles in

The creamery changed hands in 1925, when it was purchased by Pat Burns and Co., becoming part of the Okanagan Valley Co-Operative Creamery (although the NOCA brand name persisted). Two years later, a devastating fire wiped out the Armstrong creamery, prompting the Vernon City Council to offer incentives to Pat Burns and Co. to centralize the creamery industry in Vernon. The history of NOCA and the Okanagan Valley Co-Operative Creamery carries on from here, but back in Armstrong, the loss of the dairy industry was being keenly felt.

A silver lining emerged in 1938 with the opening of a new cheese factory under the guidance of Charles Busby. Once again, shares were gathered for construction, leading to the official incorporation of the Armstrong Cheese Co-Operative in 1939. Armstrong Cheese swiftly became a renowned business, with temperature-controlled cooling rooms facilitating longer aging and mass production resulting in sales of 820,000 pounds a year by 1943.

Goodbye Armstrong

Fast forward to 1997, and the company changed hands, sold to Dairyworld Foods, the production and marketing arm of Agrifoods International Cooperative Ltd. In 2003, Saputo Inc. acquired Dairyworld Foods, including the Armstrong Cheese brand, and in 2004, closed the Armstrong plant.

Fortunately, just a few years prior in 1998, the Village Cheese Company opened in Armstrong, keeping the tradition of quality cheese-making alive in the region. Although the Armstrong Cheese brand can still be purchased throughout the North Okanagan, it is no longer the result of North Okanagan milk, most of which is now produced in Abbotsford, B.C., before being shipped to Calgary, A.B., for packaging.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Content warning: This blog post includes a general discussion of the abuse of women and children. Please proceed at your discretion. 

A black-and-white image of a house, nearly complete, with three women standing at the top of a set of stairs.
The new Transition House in 1994, with Catherine Lord, Joan Jacobi, and Edna Austin on the steps. Because this facility still provides shelter to women and children fleeing abuse, the location remains private.

Archway Society for Domestic Peace

A plaque, located outside of the Vernon RCMP building, bears the names of those individuals and organizations involved in the 1993/1994 fundraiser that brought about the construction of the new facility. GVMA #17353.

In April of 1994, a new Transition House opened in Vernon; over several months, the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society (VWTHS) and the Greater Vernon community had managed to raise $750,000 to build an improved facility that would provide a safe shelter for women and children fleeing abuse.

The VWTHS, now known as the Archway Society for Domestic Peace, began in 1975 (International Women’s Year) when a group of impassioned women recognized a need in the community for women-centered support services. The first Transition House opened in 1976 in the United Church Manse on 27th Street.

Increased Capacity

In the first year, 276 women and children sought refuge at the Transition House, although only 6 beds were available. In 1980, the Transition House moved to a new building, and while this particularly structure was already over 50 years old, it provided an increased capacity of 15 beds.

By the late 1980s, the age of the structure had begun to show, and in 1992 plans were in the wordks to demolish the old building and construct a new one on the same site. When it was unveiled, the new structure was able to house 25 women and children and continues to operate to this day. Meanwhile, the administration offices have been located elsewhere since the 2000s.      

Against all odds

Nowadays, the Archway Society for Domestic Peace offers many vital counselling and justice-related services. Yet, when it first began operating in the 1970s, the community considered it with some skepticism, since Vernon was seen as a quiet community and the abuse of women and children, as is often the case, occurred behind closed doors. But thanks to a group of outspoken women, Vernonites began to realize, as Executive Director Joan Jacobi was quoted as saying in 1991, that “violence is happening, and it could be next door,” and rallied to see a new facility built.

Thank you to the Archway Society for Domestic Peace and Megan Hamilton for providing information on the historical background of the Transition House.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

Clockwise from top left, the W.R. Megaw Motor Co. garage and machine shop circa 1914, the Community Bingo Hall circa 1988, the Valley First Credit Union in 2006, and the Dollarama in 2023.

GARAGES AND AUCTIONEERS

How many different businesses can occupy a building over the years? If 3322 31st Avenue is any example, the answer is “many.”

Thanks to city assessment records and directories held in the Vernon Archives, we can trace this address and its corresponding businesses back as far as 1906. At that time, the property was owned by shopkeeper W. R. Megaw. A few years later, in 1910, he built a garage on the property and named it the W.R. Megaw Motor Co. garage and machine shop. This was the first of its kind in Vernon.

By 1931, the business was known under the name Okanagan Motors Ltd. In 1936, the property was sold to Frank Boyne, who used the building as a salesroom for his auctioneering business. In the 1940s and 50s, Kineshanko Motors operated on the spot.

A shopping centre, a bingo Hall, A thrift store, and More!

In 1964 and 1965, the building belonged to the City of Vernon, and from the late 1960s to early 1980s housed the MacLeods Family Shopping Centre. In the mid-1980s, the building started to be used as a Community Bingo Centre.

In 1999, the business of the day was the Valley First Credit Union. The Kindale Thrift Store later occupied the building, and most recently it has opened as a Dollarama. Such variety!

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

 

A black and white image of two buildings on the side a dirt road. The structure in the foreground, the Vernon Hotel, is shorter while the Hotel Vernon next to it is three-stories tall.
The original Vernon Hotel next to its Hotel Vernon addition in 1910 (featuring an ad for Fairy Soap on a nearby hitching post).

Vernon’s First Hotel

Don’t worry, you’re not seeing double. There was a point in Vernon’s history when the Vernon Hotel and the Hotel Vernon stood side-by-side on 30th Avenue. The taller Hotel Vernon was an extension of the original Vernon Hotel, which was built way back in 1885.

A black and white image of a large bar room. A dark bar is set against the far wall, and three men in white uniforms are standing behind it. A number of men are standing in front of the bar.
The Vernon Hotel bar room circa 1895. The hotel was known as a “working man’s hotel.”

GVMA #184.

The Vernon Hotel was the first hotel in the city, but even as early as 1889, it had earned somewhat of an infamous reputation; in his book “The Valley of Youth,” Charles Holliday describes it as “a pretty tough sort of place” after witnessing a crowd of men fighting in the hotel’s front yard. It was said, however, to boast the finest watermelon vines in town, so that is something!

A black and white image of the Hotel Vernon, from which large clouds of smoke are billowing out of.
Views of the Hotel Vernon fire in 1950. GVMA #9492 and #5134. 

The Hotel is expanded

In 1908, a large addition to the Vernon Hotel was completed just next door, and the name Hotel Vernon was attached to it. The hotel’s owner at the time was Doctor Hugh Cox. The expansion consisted of a three-story building, and added an additional 44 bedrooms, as well as sitting rooms, a barber shop, a pool room with pool and billiard tables, a bar, and three separate cellars. The old building, meanwhile, included 14 bedrooms, a dining room, and a kitchen. But even with this growth, the hotel was often at capacity, and sometimes in the summer months, staff would have to put out cots on the verandah for surplus guests.

The Vernon Hotel Company and The fire of 1950

In 1913, the Vernon Hotel Company was formed with the object of purchasing the Hotel Vernon. They had plans to remove the old structure, build another addition and increase the hotel’s rate from $1.00 to $2.00 per day. While the old Vernon Hotel structure was demolished in 1927 so that the lumber could be reused, the Vernon Hotel Company did not actually come in to possession of the Hotel Vernon (are you confused yet?) until 1943, when it was sold by the wife of the hotel’s late owner, George H. Dobie.

Unfortunately, the company’s time with the hotel was short-lived, as it was destroyed in a fire in January of 1950 that forced the hotel’s manager, William Petruk, to evacuate his wife and two small children from the second-story balcony. While all the hotel’s guests were able to escape safely with only a few minor injuries, all that remained of the building after the flames were extinguished was a single wall.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

 

A black-and-white image of a muddy streetscape, with buildings lining the side. Along the top of the image is printed the text "2309 Main Street, Vernon, B.C."
Vernon’s Barnard Avenue, now known as 30th, looking east, taking around the time the following observations were recorded in the Vernon News of December 1894.

Take a stroll back in time

If you were to take a walk down Vernon’s 30th Avenue today in 2023, which shops would you see? You might notice the grandiose columns of the Nixon Wenger building, the bright red sign of the Curry Pot, or the many shiny windows of the CIBC Banking Centre. You might even observe some remnants of bygone eras, such as pale orange letters above the Bean Scene Coffee House that read “Land and Agricultural Company of Canada.”

Nearly 130 years ago, one local editor did just this (although, during his time, 30th Avenue was known as Barnard Avenue), and relayed his observations in the Vernon News of December 20, 1894. His account is as follows:

Cameron and Hudson’s Bay Co. Stores

“Starting at the west end of Barnard Avenue, the first store is that of W. F. Cameron, one of the pioneer merchants of the Okanagan … The handsome wooden building is … packed from cellar to roof with one of the largest and most varied stocks of general merchandise to be found in the interior.”

“The next business establishment is the Hudson Bay store, a handsome brick structure, with an entrance on two streets. Hats, caps, and fur goods fill one of the large show windows, while the other contains a tempting display of dried fruits and groceries.”

Megaw and Armstrong shops

“Situated in a splendid business position at the corner of Mission [now 34th] Street and Barnard Avenue is the large brick block of W. R. Megaw, whose stock of general goods embraces almost everything … a show case near the front entrance, filled with a rich selection of silk handkerchiefs and ladies’ ties, is sure to attract attention, and on the opposite side an almost endless variety of shirts and underwear invite the male visitor to loosen up the strings of his pocket-book.”

“One block above, on the corner of Coldstream Avenue and Vance [now 33rd] Street, Mr. W. J. Armstrong hangs out his sign as ‘The Hardware, Tin, and Stove Man’ … Scattered through the building may be found cook-stoves, ranges, and parlor stoves in all designs, shapes, and sizes; granite-ware, chocolate-ware, shelf and heavy hardware, and tin goods, cover the counters, fill the shelves to overflowing, or hang suspended from the ceiling.”

Epicurean delights and more

“On the north side of Barnard Avenue at the corner of Vance Street, Mr. A. C. Fuller conducts business in the grocery and liquor lines … There is no old or shelf-worn stock in his store, and the groceries present a fresh and inviting appearance.” Meanwhile, an “abundant supply of poultry of all kinds may be found at the establishment of Knight & Co., purveyors of meats … and the array of beef, pork, sausages, head cheese, etc., which are to be here found are displayed in a manner to delight epicurean eyes.”

The article traces its way down the remainder of 30th Avenue, describing the many confectionary, stationery, drug, and jewelry stores along the way. While we unfortunately cannot travel back in time, it is almost possible to imagine yourself in 1894, walking down Vernon’s unpaved main street, with such descriptive writing.    

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

A man is standing in a long room and leaning on a glass display case. All along the walls are tall wooden cabinets filled with silverware and porcelain.
Interior view of Jacques Jewellers, with proprietor F.B. Jacques at the counter, in 1907.
the front of a large brick building with a small balcony
Jacques Jewellers first store in Vernon circa 1890. GVMA #22704.

Pioneer Jeweller

“The Pioneer Jeweller of the Okanagan” is how F. B. Jacques is described in the Vernon News of 1912, which is hardly an overstatement considering that when it closed, Jacques Jewellers was the oldest store of its kind in the interior of B.C. 

Frederick Bainton Jacques, the first jeweler and watchmaker in the Okanagan, was born in Ontario in 1865 and arrived in Vernon in 1891. After renting a storefront on Vernon’s main drag for a few years, his new location opened at 3122 30th Avenue in 1894. Although he sold jewellery and giftware, most of Fred’s profit was actually made through watch repairs.

A crowd of people inside a shop.
Opening day crowds after the refurbishing of Jacques Jewellers in 1953. GVMA #22684.

Jacques & Son

Fred Jacques died in 1938 at the age of 73, and left the business to his son George. In 1953, George unveiled an “ultra-modern” remodeling of the store.

The second floor of the building was now used to display china, crystal and silver pieces. The mezzanine was renamed the Wedgwood room, and bore chesterfields, comfortable chairs, and desks for shoppers to rest between floors (the stairs, by the way, where decorated with a “luxurious mushroom pink carpet”). The diamond room on the main floor, meanwhile, was reserved for the jewellery and watches for which the Jacques family were best known.

The renovations were a great success, and led to the business being recognized as one of the finest jewellery and gift establishments in Western Canada. George ran the business until his own death in 1963, at which point it passed to Don Harwood.

A man wearing a white shirt and a stripped tie smiling at the camera.
Don Harwood in 1958. GVMA #22927.

The Business changes Hands

By this time, Don had worked at the business for 30 years, ever since he had graduated from high school. He purchased Jacques Jewellers with Charles Troyer, and the two were determined to avoid stocking it with mass-produced products. They instead filled their shelves with a variety of gift items from companies such as Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Spode, and Royal Crown Derby.

Ownership later passed to Don’s daughter Kath Harwood and George’s nephew Michael Gorman, who ran the store as partners for five years. In 2002, Kath purchased Jacques outright. She ran the business until 2007, when this landmark downtown business closed its doors after more than a century of business.

The building now houses Victoria Lane Brides.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

Undated view of the Campbell and Winter Funeral Home at 3007 28th St.; this facility was one of the first in the area to have a chapel attached.
a paved pathway leads to an entry way of a blue house with white trim under an arched verandah. To the left, a large, free-standing sign, painted yellow, reads "Sultenfuss Parlor."
𝘔𝘺 𝘎𝘪𝘳𝘭’𝘴 Sultenfuss Funeral Parlor.

Funeral Homes on the Big Screen

Much of the film My Girl, which will be the feature piece at a movie night in Polson Park on September 2, hosted by the Vernon Museum and the Polson Artisan Night Market, is set in a Pennsylvania funeral home; 11-year-old protagonist Vada is the daughter of a funeral director. 

William George Winter

William George Winter, a funeral director born in Birmingham, England, came to Vernon in 1936, when he was 63-years-old. He had previously operated a funeral parlor in Drumheller, but responded to a callout from Vernon City Council for someone to direct ambulance services in the area.

As well as taking on this task, William opened a funeral home on 31st Street, just across from the Campbell Brothers’ joint mercantile and undertaking business. By then, the Campbell Brothers had been attending to the community’s funeral needs for almost 40 years, but William was not daunted by this competition.

Winter and Winter  Winter and Campbell

William ran the Winter and Winter funeral parlor with his daughter Ivy until 1943, when he decided to join forces with Douglas Campbell to form Campbell and Winter Ltd. Together, the new merger was able to design and build a brand new facility on 28th Street, where the Vernon Funeral Home is located today.A large, free-standing black sign with white lettering reads "Vernon Funeral Home - Funerals - Cremations - Monuments." It is standing next to a beige building, and the sky is a pale blue in the background.

William Winter used to say that embalming was a lost art with ancient roots. He practiced his art until 1953, when he passed away at the age 79.

If you are interested in learning more about the Winter Family, we invite you to listen to this oral history interview with Arlene (Kermode) Smith, William Winter’s granddaughter, which is part of our archival collection. 

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 the Okanagan Spring Brewery. Okanagan Spring Brewery is written along the top of a warehouse in the background of the image. Closer to the front is the word office, over top of a series of stacked beer kegs. Closest to the viewer is written the words beer store, over top of a door and staircase to access the shop.
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