A man is seated at the front of a small, open glider. He is smiling at the camera.

Fred Little on the open pilot’s seat at the front of the glider he built with Frank Oliver in 1932. Photo courtesy of Warren Little.

A race to the skies

Eldon Seymour and Jim Duddle were not Vernon’s only dynamic duo of intrepid aviators; around the same time the two young teenagers were building their open cockpit airplane in the loft of the Kalamalka Lake Store, Fred Little and Frank Oliver were gliding through the sky in their own creation. Thank you to Fred’s son Warren for supplying the information and photos for this story.

A large frame of a glider under construction in an empty room. A space heater is nearby.
The glider under construction circa 1932. Photo courtesy of Warren Little.

The Work Begins

When Fred and Frank were in their early twenties, they began building a glider in the kitchen of Fred’s family home. At the time, Fred was a professional mechanic, and was employed by Watkin Motors in Vernon (he later went on to serve the City as Fire Chief and was named the 1969 Good Citizen of the Year). Frank, meanwhile, was a businessman, the owner of Specialty Cleaners.

Once complete, the glider was flown from Vernon’s first airfield, located in the Mission Hill area. This take-off location was ideal, because updraft winds from Kalamalka Lake allowed for long flights in the glider.

 

Successful first flight

Local flying instructor Lowell Dunsmore piloted the first flight of the 32-foot Northrop Standard on June 12, 1932. On the second of three attempts, the Ford Model A towing car reached about 65 km/h. The glider soared into the air and hovered a steady ten feet above the airstrip before Dunsmore released the tow cord and brought it to a gentle landing. The following Tuesday, Fred and Frank performed another five successful flights in their aircraft.

Not to be outdone, Eldon Seymour and Jim Duddle also saw their own homemade glider successfully piloted by Lowell Dunsmore a few weeks later, and launched the City of Vernon airplane the following year. While the latter may have been the first home-built aircraft in Vernon with an engine, Fred and Frank owned and constructed the first glider in the B.C. Interior.   

The glider went on to have many successful flights but was unfortunately later wrecked by a winter snow storm that collapsed its top.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two teenagers set their sights high

In 1933, a couple of Vernon teenagers began construction on an open cockpit airplane (CF-AOM). Two years later, the plane, named the City of Vernon, took its first flight.

Jim Duddle and Eldon Seymour were 18 and 17, respectively, when they started their project in the loft of the Kalamalka Lake Store (now the Rail Trail Café & Market). The boys purchased the plans from a magazine, and sourced materials from an American supplier since they could not locate a Canadian one. 

With financial assistance from flight enthusiast Jack Taylor, and welding expertise from former airframe mechanic Ernie Buffum, the plane was constructed for a grand total of $1463.00. It took the boys 10 months, since they could only work on it during evenings and weekends.

The City of Vernon Takes off

The City of Vernon took off for the first time in June of 1935. The brave man who agreed to test it was a local flying instructor, Lowell Dunsmore, whose successful career had produced a number of pilots, including Charles Grey, the first for the RCMP. After one quick inspection, he hopped in and took it for a spin, finding that it handled beautifully.

After Dunsmore gave the plane his stamp of approval, Jim and Eldon passed a happy three years of unlicensed flying all over the province and across the Rocky Mountains. The plane was also used for search and rescue missions, photo reconnaissance, and timber cruising. It was Vernon’s first home-built aircraft.

Joyride through the skies

In 1941, the Canadian government suspended private flights, which put an end to James and Eldon’s joyride through the skies. But both boys maintained their love of flying, with Eldon going on to receive his pilot’s license and Jim joining the air force.

In later years, the City of Vernon was partially dismantled and sold to a collector in Spokane for $50.00.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

A woman with grey hair wearing a jean shirt over a blue patterned dress has a pink birthday badge pinned to her dress. She is outdoors, and leading a horse by a rope.
The above photo shows Miss Jayne at one of her birthday parties, the year she decided to invite a horse as a guest just so that she could take it for a walk. She had always loved horses. This photo was used as the cover of her funeral program, a copy of which is held at the Vernon Archives.

George VI’s Body Double

Did you know that the Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s first physiotherapist, Miriam Jayne, also had connections to King George VI?

Miriam Jayne was born in 1923 in Bristol, England, to Lt. Col. and Mrs. Wallace Jayne. When she was a child, Miriam’s father Wallace worked as a body double for King George VI, a role which was shrouded in mystery. While the responsibilities of royal body doubles is kept quiet for safety’s sake, Queen Elizabeth’s body double was known to attend practice runs of important state events in order to afford the Queen more time in her packed schedule, so it is suspected Wallace Jayne filled a similar role for her father.

Journey to Canada

Meanwhile, Miss Jayne went on to have her own military career, and joined the Women’s Land Army during World War Two. She later trained as a chartered physiotherapist and orthopedic nurse, practicing in England, Wales, and Scotland. Miss Jayne moved to Canada in 1950, and Vernon in 1952, where she began working at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital. She remained in this position until 1988.

An Okanagan Landing resident

Miss Jayne was also an active community member; a resident of Okanagan Landing, she was approached in 1998 by the Landing Association to produce a history of the organization since their beginnings in 1949. This publication was unveiled in 2002, and included sections on the history of the SS Naramata, the Okanagan Landing Regatta, the North Okanagan Sailing Association and the Okanagan Landing Fire Department.

Miriam Jayne passed away in 2014.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Two women seated smiling at the camera. The woman on the white is wearing a white shirt and a pink coverall dress. Next to here is a woman in a white dress with blue and green flowers on it.
Joan Heriot (right) with friend Sveva Caetani circa 1990.

Canada History Week

Nov. 20 to 26 is Canada History Week, and this year’s theme is Arts, Culture, and Creators.

Although the name of her close friend, Sveva Caetani, might be more well-known, Joan Heriot was also a talented artist whose gift to Vernon was a series of beautiful creations.

Joan Heriot was born in Vernon on January 7, 1911, and lived with her parents Allan and Jessie in Coldstream. Allan worked as an entomologist, but both he and Jessie were also amateur artists. Joan was fascinated with her father’s work, and decided to pursue her own career as an entomologist when she was only six-years-old.

Entomologist by trade, artist by passion

Joan went on to complete a science degree at UBC, but was told she would never find employment as a female entomologist in Canada, and so departed for England. She completed a Master’s degree at the University of Liverpool, and then taught as a lecturer at the Brighton Technical College for around 30 years.

After her retirement in 1966, Joan returned to Coldstream. With a renewed reminder of the beauty of the Okanagan’s scenery, Joan decided she wanted to start painting again, a hobby she had not indulged since her childhood. She tracked down her former art teacher, Miss Topham Brown, who was then in her nineties, and took a series of art classes with her, but it was in working with pastels that Joan found her calling.

She went on to create a series of beautiful pastel landscapes, and was particularly fascinated with trying to capture light and form. Her artwork was in high-demand, and although she did not paint on commission, she did have a waiting list of people to whom she would offer her new creations.

A Lasting Legacy

 

Joan Heriot’s circa 1930 watercolour depiction of Miss Topham Brown’s drawing camp near Killiney Beach on Okanagan Lake.

Joan was also an active community member and supporter of several local organizations, including the

Allan Brooks Nature Centre

and the North Okanagan Naturalists Club. She maintained an interest in biology, geology and archeology throughout her life, and was always ready for an adventure; when she was in her 70s, Joan went white-water rafting for the first time. 

Joan passed away on July 29, 2012, but her legacy lives on. The Joan Heriot Studio at the Caetani Centre and the Joan Heriot Centre for Environmental Studies at the Mackie Lake House serve as reminders of her dedication to both organizations. The Vernon Public Art Gallery has exhibited her artwork on several occasions, and a series of her personal records are held at the Vernon Archives. A tree was also planted in her memory at the Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

A man wearing a military uniform is holding a sword with a woman in a suit jacket with a neck scarf and a poppy broach. A number of people are standing in the background.
David Kinloch at Camp Vernon the year he earned the position of Honourary Colonel of the B.C. Dragoons, 1973. With him is Constance Pearkes, wife of former Lieutenant Governor George Pearkes.

A lOcal Hero

He is remembered as Greater Vernon’s top military leader.

Colonel David Kinloch was born in Scotland in 1914, but moved to Coldstream at the age of five. In 1934, he joined the Canadian Officer Training Corps, the country’s university officer training program. He was transferred to the B.C. Dragoons as a lieutenant in 1939, and, during World War Two, served with the 9th Armoured Regiment in Canada, Italy, and Britain.

Lieutenant – Major – Colonel

Over the years, Kinloch reached a number of different ranks. During the war, he was promoted to the position of major. In 1963, he earned the rank of Colonel, and in 1973, that of Honourary Colonel of the B.C. Dragoons.

In 1991, Kinloch visited the Montecchio War Cemetery in northeastern Italy, where many of his fellow soldiers of the B.C. Dragoons lost their lives during the Battle of the Gothic Line in August of 1944. Kinloch was instrumental in ensuring that this history was preserved, and saw a number of important Dragoon records donated to the Vernon Archives.

Civic Spirit

In addition to his active military career, Kinloch was very civic-minded. He served as the first full-time commander of the Vernon Army Cadet Camp from 1951 to 1952. He was a Coldstream municipal clerk from 1945 to 1952, and worked at the Hiram Walker Distillery until retiring in 1977. He was also a member of the Vernon Rotary Club, the Royal Canada Legion, and the Miriam Lodge.

In 2002, the City of Vernon presented Kinloch with its highest honour—the Freedom of the City. Colonel David Kinloch passed away in 2003.

We will remember them.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

Two black and white photos of the same woman. The left photo shows a younger woman gazing away from the camera. She has curly dark hair pulled back into a low bun, and is wearing a white dress with a lace collar and floral ornament at the front of her shirt. The right photo is of an older woman, also gazing away from the camera. She is also wearing a white dress or shirt, which is fastened around the neck with a broach.
(Left) Sophie Johnson circa 1884 and (right) circa 1900.

A remarkable women in Vernon’s History

Since 1992, October has served as Women’s History Month in Canada, which includes International Day of the Girl on October 11 and Persons Day on October 18.

Much is known about her husband Price Ellison, one of Vernon’s founding fathers and a Member of the Legislative Assembly, but Sophia Christine Ellison (often called Sophie) is just as remarkable for her contributions to this City.

a yOUNG wOMAN ARRIVES IN vERNON

Sophie Johnson was born in 1857 to Lutheran missionaries from Sweden who settled in the eastern United States. When she was 27, Sophie travelled with her cousin Emma Lind to Vernon to visit her uncle Peter Anderson. Vernon at the time was mostly occupied by single men, so the arrival of the ladies caused quite a bit of excitement. It wasn’t long before the beautiful Sophie caught the eye of blacksmith and rancher Price Ellison, whom she later married.

Vernon’s First School Teacher

In October of 1884, a one-room school house was opened in Vernon, on what is now 25th Avenue, to serve the children of five local families. Sophie was asked to teach the children, since although she had no formal training, she had an extensive knowledge of art, literature, and music. She agreed, and became Vernon’s first teacher.

Unfortunately, the schoolhouse was burnt down in March of 1885; a blaze began while Sophie and the children were inside completing their lessons, as recounted by student Marie Houghton (later Brent). They managed to carry everything movable outside, but their beloved schoolhouse was lost. 

A new one was built, but Sophie stepped down from teaching when she became pregnant with her first child. Sophie and Price Ellison went on to have 8 children. The family first lived in a log cabin near Price’s forge, but once they outgrew that, moved to a three-story home on Pleasant Valley Road.

An activte mother and community member

In addition to caring for her large family, Sophie was an active community member. She served on the Vernon Branch of the Council of Women and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Board, and was the first president of the Vernon & District Women’s Institute. She played the pipe organ at two local churches, and was an avid supporter of the Girl Guides of Canada.

When Sophie celebrated her 90th birthday in 1947, the Vernon News described her life as “bound up intimately with the development and growth of her beloved city.” Sophie Ellison passed away on July 4, 1954.

 

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 11 women, some seated on chairs, some in front on the floor, with one standing in the back. They are in a room lined with bookshelves that has brick walls and several large houseplants/.
Members of the National Council of Women in Ottawa in 1898. Lady Aberdeen is in the centre, holding a book. Image courtesy: Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-028035

Gender Equality Week

September 18 to 24 is Gender Equality Week in Canada, and this year’s theme was “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities.” In an official statement, the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, described the week as a time to “recognize the important progress we’ve made towards gender equality while also recognizing the important work that lies ahead of us.”

a local connection

One organization with local roots that was dedicated to the advancement of women was the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC). Founded it 1893, it is one of Canada’s oldest advocacy groups, and is still operating from its headquarters in Ottawa. The NCWC, a member of the International Council of Women (ICW), was created by its first president—and former Vernonite—Lady Ishabel Aberdeen.

Lady Aberdeen was the wife of Lord Aberdeen, Canada’s Governor General from 1893 until 1898. When she established the National Council of Women, she was also the president of the ICW. In 1895, Lady Aberdeen established a Vernon Branch of the NCWC, with Addie Cochrane serving as president.

Women’s Suffrage

The NCWC began fighting for women’s suffrage in 1910; however, the NCWC was considered to be an elitist organization by several well-known suffragists, including Nellie McClung, due to its middle-class composition and lack of French Canadians and women of colour.

The case was similar here in Vernon, in that the local branch was mostly made up of women from Vernon’s more wealthy families. However, both the local and national chapters of the Council of Women made important contributions towards gender equality in Canada.

ORGANIZATIONAL ACHEIVEMENTS

One of the most prominent accomplishments of the Vernon branch was the petition for a hospital, which led to the opening of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital in 1909. Meanwhile, the NCWC established the Victorian Order of Nurses to provide at-home nursing care, and supported the rights and opportunities of women in the workforce.

Mysteriously, the local branch of the NCWC virtually disappeared in 1920, and the reason for this is unknown. In 1959, it was resurrected as the Vernon & District Council of Women which operated until 1974 before folding due to low membership numbers. However, since then, other local organizations have continued to protect and promote the rights of women and gender equality for all.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

In the middle of the photo is a woman in a white dress with vertical pink red and blue stripes. She has short curly light brown hair, and is looking at a balding man in a beige trench coat. To her left, is a lady with dark grey short hair with glasses, a black shirt and blue blazer.
Elizabeth Nel (center) with Patrick Mackie and Edna Oram during her visit to Vernon in 1989.

HRM QUEEN ELIZABETH II

With the passing of HRM Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, the Vernon Museum has turned to the memories of a Vernonite who was not only received by the Queen during a visit to Buckingham Palace, but also served as Winston Churchill’s personal secretary.

Elizabeth Nel, then Layton, with her class from St. Michael’s School for Girls in 1926. GVMA #13678.

A Vernon girl makes it big

Elizabeth Nel, born Layton, arrived in Vernon with her family in 1924; they had emigrated from Suffolk, England, on the advice of a physician who thought the climate might ease Elizabeth’s father’s tuberculosis. In Vernon, Elizabeth went to the St. Michael’s School for Girls and later attended secretarial school in London.

At the outbreak of World War Two, Elizabeth served with the Red Cross, but in 1941 was sent to work at Downing Street, where she met Churchill for the first time. Initially, she would only sit silently behind a typewriter while he dictated his speeches to her, but she quickly earned his respect; while attending the 1945 Yalta Conference in Crimea, Churchill proposed a toast “to Miss Layton” during a banquet in which she was the only woman present.

NEL AND CHURCHILL

It is said that Churchill and Elizabeth wept together after his defeat in the 1945 election, and that they remained in contact even after she immigrated to South Africa with her husband Frans Nel, a South African soldier who had served with the British Eight Army.

Elizabeth was invited to Buckingham Palace in 1990 for the 50th Anniversary of Churchill becoming Prime Minister. In an oral history of her meeting with Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Nel described sharing fond memories of Churchill with the Queen between appropriately-timed curtsies. She also related her embarrassment during this visit while speaking to Lord Louis Mountbatten, who told her a bawdy joke with left him in chuckles, and her exchanging uncomfortable glances with the Queen. 

Elizabeth Nel passed away in 2007.

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 image of a 1910s house in Vernon. A tree partially covers a veranda over the front door and a white fence circles a small yard. A truck with a canopy is parked in front of the house.

The Atkinson Family

An unassuming house at 1900 33rd Street was once the site of a maternity home.

The house, located a few blocks away from the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, was built on what was formerly known as Sully Street in 1906. Carpenter/contractor Joseph A. Atkinson built the two-story building for his wife and five children, who had journeyed west from Ontario. In 1914, Joseph’s wife Angeline, a trained midwife, had it converted into a maternity home.

A Family Home Transformed

An obituary for Angeline Atkinson that appeared in the Vernon News a year after her passing, in 1938.

The building needed some remodeling to accommodate this change; the dining room was re-designed to serve as a nursery, and a small room off of the dining room as the birthing area. Meanwhile, the bedrooms upstairs were used as the maternity wards. The mothers were made very comfortable, as were their babies, nestled in bassinets made from old laundry hampers.

Babies R Us

Angeline worked closely with several local doctors, who often recommended her maternity home to their patients. When other business prevented them from attending their labouring patients, it was often Angeline herself who delivered the babies.

Angeline and Joseph Atkinson are buried in Vernon’s Pleasant Valley Cemetery.

During its 19 years of operation, hundreds of babies were born in the Atkinson Maternity Home. It closed in 1933, and Angeline passed away four years later, in 1937.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator