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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Grappling with disaster

“No more appalling disaster has ever been recorded in the annals of this province than the catastrophe of Tuesday morning [August 10, 1909], when the Okanagan Hotel was destroyed by fire and eleven helpless victims perished in the flames. A sickening pall of gloom rests over the city.”

Thus read the front page of the Vernon News on August 12, 1909, a few days after the Okanagan Hotel fire that resulted in the death of 11 individuals and left the City of Vernon shocked. 

The Okanagan Hotel

The Okanagan Hotel opened in June of 1891 on the corner of 30th Avenue and 33rd Street. It was built of brick veneer and, when it was destroyed, represented one of Vernon’s oldest buildings. 

A Fire Breaks Out and a hero emerges

Early on the morning of August 10, a fire started in the hotel. 60 people were inside at the time. 

Fire fighters rushed to the scene but little could be done. Efforts instead turned to rescuing those inside and stopping the blaze from spreading. 

It was then that a Vernon man named Archie Hickling sprang into action. He ran into the building to rescue two children who were safely evacuated. Hickling then heard a trapped waitress calling for help.

“I’ll get her or I’ll die,” said Hickling, according to the Vernon News. “Darting into the hellish cauldron of flame, smoke and noxious gases, he reached the girl and got her out through the window, whence she was speedily rescued; but heroic Hickling sank back into the pit of death and was seen no more alive.”

We Will Remember them

Hickling was one of 11 men who perished in the Okanagan Hotel Fire. 

An investigation lasted nearly a month after the fire before it was determined that “the fire was of incendiary origin by a party or parties unknown, and we consider from the evidence produced that the night watchman on the night preceding the Okanagan fire, did not perform his required duties.” The perpetrator of this crime has never been discovered. 

A monument in Hickling’s memory was erected in December of 1909. In 1999, the other 10 victims (save one) were identified, and their names listed on a bronze plaque that was added to the Hickling Monument. The memorial currently stands in Vernon’s Polson Park.

  • Wilbur Smith, carpenter
  • J.J. Funston, labourer
  • Jas. Anderson, baker’s assistant
  • Julius Fuerst, bartender
  • M. Chabtree, labourer
  • George Gannett, cement worker
  • George McKay, cement worker
  • George Seltgast, painter
  • Archibald Hickling, labourer
  • Wm. Cook, prospector
  • An unknown man

Additional Resources

Hero of Okanagan hotel fire remembered 110 years later,” article by Roger Knox. 

When Duty Calls – The Story of The Okanagan Hotel Fire of 1909,” documentary by Bruce Mol.

A headline from the Vernon News of August 12, 1909.

 

 

The Okanagan Hotel, undated. GVMA #17562.

 

 

The ruins of the Okanagan Hotel Fire on August 11, 1909. GVMA #004.

 

 

(Left) Archie Hickling circa 1908. (Right) The Archie Hickling Memorial in Polson Park, “In Memory of a Hero.” GVMA #19341 and GVMA #24630.

 

Gwyn Evans

 

We love winkie bread

April 30, 2021

It was once the largest independent bakery in the B.C. Interior. During its operation in Vernon, King’s Bakery produced well in excess of 1 million loaves of bread.

King’s Bakery, located at 4401 31st Avenue, was a popular destination for the 1950s “housewife,” drawn in by the business’ commitment to serving only the freshest of bread.

However, it was a different clientele that King’s Bakery directed most of their advertising ventures towards attracting—children.

From Hockey Rink to Bakery 

King’s Bakery was a relatively small operation until it was taken over by Frank King and his business partner Willie Schmidt (both Vernon Canadians hockey players) in 1957. 

 

King’s Bakery at 4401 31st Avenue in the 1950s

 

The business grew from four to seventeen employees, and employed state-of-the-art, locally-sourced equipment to produce a daily 3,300 loaves, assorted pastries, doughnuts, cakes, and cookies. In fact, the bakery’s automatic doughnut machine could churn out 200 dozen doughnuts in just one hour.

Just 14 months after taking over the business, Frank King produced his millionth loaf, which was presented alongside a $50 certificate to one lucky customer.

Vanguard Marketing Strategy

The business’ success was perhaps thanks in part to what was then a unique marketing strategy. Every month, the bakery sponsored a Saturday matinee at the Capitol Theatre. Children were able to get in for free if they brought with them a red-and-blue dotted bread wrapper from the bakery. Similarly, a bread wrapper would allow youngsters to get into local hockey games for just 10 cents.

Even the business’ cheerful trademark “Winkie Bread,” accompanied by a smiling, winking mascot, was designed to appeal to children, who in turn encouraged their parents to frequent the local business. King’s Bakery has discovered for themselves a successful and community-minded marketing technique, even before large corporations like MacDonald’s adopted this approach to more nefarious ends.

Entrepreneur Frank King passed away in September of 2004.

Gwyn Evans

from bunchgrass to grazeland

April 9, 2021

 

With Earth Day fast approaching, the Vernon Museum has taken the opportunity to research how local human activity has effected, and continues to effect, ecosystems and wildlife in the North Okanagan.

Until the end of April, the museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the results of this investigation.

The importance of the introduction of cattle to the Valley cannot be overstated.

ranches as hubs of development

Early cattle drives passed through the Valley in the late 1850s, where the animals would feast on the Okanagan’s abundant bunchgrass, before continuing on their way to the gold fields of the Fraser Canyon. 

By the end of the next decade, upwards of 22,000 head of cattle had crossed the border at the south end of the Okanagan Valley.

Cattle round-up of Chief Clerke’s cattle at Wye Lake (Goose Lake area).
Date unknown.

 

 

Early cattle drives, and, later, the establishment of ranches, allowed the Okanagan to become a hub of economic activity. Despite this benefit, the arrival of large droves of cattle inevitably shaped the natural landscape in lasting ways.

Later, pioneers like Thomas Wood, Thomas Greenhow, and Cornelius O’Keefe arrived to pre-empt land and start permanent ranches. Their small herds grew rapidly in number.

From A Sea of Waving Grasses

The Okanagan of 1850s and ‘60s would have been almost unrecognizable to us today. The Valley bottom was covered not with areas of human development, but with fields of tall grass that, as they swayed in the breeze, resembled a vast, moving sea.

These grasses were especially adapted to our warm, dry climate. In particular, bunchgrass, of which there are several different species in the Okanagan, has a deep root system as well as a specific morphology which allows it to survive long periods of drought.

This bunchgrass was also perfect animal fodder and after a decade or so of constant feeding, the bunchgrass population began to suffer. By the 1890s, much of the bunchgrass had been stripped from the Valley. 

TO A Few Sparse Patches

Since then, the science of range management has progressed greatly, and it’s not the ranches that prove the greatest threat to native bunchgrass, but human encroachment. Areas of bunchgrass can still be found (at Kalamalka Lake Park, for example) but what was once a sea of grass is now only a few sparse patches. Today, only 9% of native bunchgrass is left in the Okanagan.

There are many approaches that we can take to curb the destruction of native bunchgrass populations, including supporting ecological restoration and habitat renewal initiatives, remaining on trails and marked areas when hiking and biking, learning about the growth cycle of plants and making informed decisions when allowing animals to graze, and taking an active role in preventing the spread of invasive weeds.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, an excellent read is “Bunchgrass and Beef: Bunchgrass Ecosystems and the Early Cattle Industry in the Thompson-Okanagan,” by local historian Ken Mather, available online at https://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/exhibits/living-landscapes/thomp-ok/article-LL/contents-beef.html.

Gwyn Evans

happy easter!

 

April 1, 2021

For kids everywhere, the highlight of this holiday weekend is, of course, the Easter Egg Hunt.

Each family seems to have their own iteration of this well-loved tradition: some parents hide fully-stocked baskets outside, rain or shine, for their children to find, while others create a series of riddles that will lead to chocolates hidden cleverly around the house.

Other kids must hunt around the yard to find the foil-wrapped treats, one or two of which inevitably go missing and end up being discovered as a melted mess sometime during the summer.   

Local easter fun – & competition

Over the years, the City of Vernon has also staged a variety of Easter competitions to excite children and adults alike.

As is the case around the world, many of Vernon’s Easter traditions have featured the humble chicken egg, seen here hatching in 1958-or, at least, its chocolate replica.

 

 

In April of 1901, each customer who purchased one dozen fresh eggs (at only $0.20 each) was entered into a draw by local shopkeeper W.R. Megaw. The Saturday prior to Easter, a blindfolded child was asked to draw a name from the box, and the winner was awarded a “magnificent” hanging library lamp.

In 1925, the Vernon News published an Easter Word Hunt for its readership. A series of ads for local businesses was arranged on a full-page of newsprint. Each ad contained a purposely misplaced word, and readers were asked to create a list of the errors and send it in to “Easter Hunt Editor” at the Vernon News office. Five correct submissions were then randomly drawn, and the winners received a box of chocolates and tickets to the best moving picture show of the month, “The Golden Bed.”

all manner of egg hunts

In 1981, Easter Egg Hunts were held at the Polson Place Mall on the Friday and Saturday prior to Easter Sunday. Pre-registered children had a chance to search in a haystack for ping-pong balls bearing the names of local businesses. When brought to the corresponding merchants, the children were then awarded their chocolate prizes.

In 2012, excited toddlers from the Funfer All Daycare, bundled warmly in bright rain jackets, bounced around Mission Hill Park on the search for Easter treats. They smiled exuberantly and posed for photographs as they pulled eggs out of trees knolls and from beneath benches.

And this year, the Downtown Vernon Association has introduced a window Easter egg scavenger hunt, a family-friendly activity that complies with Covid-19 safety regulations. The people of Vernon are truly resilient and creative, and despite the challenges and changes that each new year presents, we continue to find ways to celebrate the joy of spring’s arrival. 

Gwyn Evans

drive-in delights

 

March 29, 2021

The North Okanagan’s recent mild weather has been accompanied by a secondary treat: it has allowed the Starlight Drive-In near Enderby to open early, with the first showing on March 19.

The Starlight Drive-In is the sole surviving permanent open-air theatre in the Okanagan. But before there was The Starlight, there was The Skyway.

the skyway

The Skyway Drive-In, located at 2204 48 Avenue in Vernon, was operated by Odeon Theatres of Canada (now known as Cineplex Inc.) and opened on May 1, 1950.

The first showing was a grand affair, advertised in The Vernon News with a full two-page spread. The feature presentation was the 1950 comedy A Woman of Distinction, which premiered at 8 pm.

The cost for an adult ticket was 55 cents and a well-stocked concession stand served french fries, soft drinks, hot dogs, and of course, popcorn.

cinema stowaways

It was an instant success and many Vernonites have fond memories of this former landmark.

On the Facebook Page “Vintage Vernon,” a photo shared by the museum of the theatre provoked an outpouring of reminiscences. 

Some commenters remember hiding themselves in the trunks of vehicles to sneak in for free (although at least one of the theatre’s managers, Bob Scott, was quite aware of this little trick and apparently didn’t mind—the stowaways spent good money at the concession).

Aerial view of the Skyway drive-in theatre just outside Vernon, circa 1975

 

 

Photo courtesy of Rhiannan Johnson via Vintage Vernon Facebook  page

 

 

A Simpler Time

Many recalled the movies they watched on the big screen: E.T., Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Back to the Future and the Odessa File were some of the ones shown. For others, the photo provoked a yearning for childhood and a “simpler” time.

The theatre grounds boasted swing sets and other playground equipment, which kept children occupied during pre-shows and intermissions. Teenagers found the drive-in to be a good hangout (and romance) spot. Some older folks who lived nearby could watch the showings from the comfort of their own homes, while parents enjoyed a night-out as their pajama-clad children slept through the second feature in the back seat.

end of an era

The theatre grounds boasted swing sets and other playground equipment, which kept children occupied during pre-shows and intermissions. Teenagers found the drive-in to be a good hangout (and romance) spot. Some older folks who lived nearby could watch the showings from the comfort of their own homes, while parents enjoyed a night-out as their pajama-clad children slept through the second feature in the back seat.

Sadly, these summer night traditions came to an end in 1991, when the theatre was demolished and replaced with the Skyway Village housing development. Now, the Chartwell Carrington Place Retirement Residence stands where the Skyway Drive-In once did. Although the demolition of the Skyway Drive-In was a loss for the City of Vernon, the tradition of open-air movie-watching lives on with the Skylight.

Gwyn Evans

historic campbell house

 

March 12, 2021

With its cheery yellow siding, tall central tower, and large bay windows, the Campbell House perched overlooking downtown Vernon at 2203 30th Avenue is certainly a local landmark.

This Queen Anne Revival House, built in 1898, is among the oldest sites on Vernon’s Heritage Register, and has even garnered attention on a national scale, with the property being listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

eyes on Morning Glory

In an ostentatious display of his wealth, rancher and prospector A.E. Morden built the house in order to be able to stand on his balcony and use his spy glass to monitor the goings-on at his operation, the Morning Glory Mine, located on the east side of Okanagan Lake.

Morden’s story didn’t exactly end in glory, and the house became more closely associated with its third owner, J.C. Campbell, who, alongside his brother Angus, operated a popular furniture store in Vernon. J.C. moved his wife Margaret and four children into the castle-like structure prior to 1913. 

heritage designation

One can only imagine the family joys and dramas that took place within the walls of the Campbell House. The building stayed in the family for many years, and was passed down to J.C.’s wife Margaret after his death, and to daughter Lorna after Margaret’s own passing.

Over the years, the Campbell House has changed relatively little, thanks largely to its designation as a heritage property in 1988.

In addition to the normal deterioration one would expect of a more-than century old structure, a lighting-induced fire tore through the building’s attic in 2010.

Two horse drawn carriages sitting in front of the Campbell house circa 1910 (GVMA)

 

Postcard of Vernon from 1912.
The Campbell House is visible on the top left of the card

 

Campbell House 2010 (City of Vernon)

revitalization

Thankfully, the house underwent some much-needed restoration in 2011/2012. Contractor Gavin Parsons and his crew stripped layers of flooring to expose the original fir planks, reinstalled the porches, and added a few modern touches like plumbing and electricity.

Through the efforts of individuals like Parsons and organizations like the Heritage Advisory Committee, the now 123-year-old Campbell House looks much like it did when it was first built, and continues to serve as a monument to our city’s early development.

 

Gwyn Evans