A colour photographs taken from a hill and looking west over the head of a lake bordered by houses.
A view of the Okanagan Landing in the 1990s.

Once a Hub of Activity

This spring marks 30 years since the Okanagan Landing was annexed into the City of Vernon. Before April of 1993, the Okanagan Landing composed Area A of the Regional District of the North Okanagan.

Back in the early 1890s, when Vernon was only a sleepy Cowtown, the Okanagan Landing was a hub of activity; it served as both the terminus of the Shuswap and Okanagan spur line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the most northerly steamship port on Okanagan Lake. Although the last steamship on the Lake, the SS Sicamous, was retired in 1936, ship repairs continue at the Landing until the 1960s. Once the land was decommissioned, it was purchased by the Okanagan Landing and District Community Association.

Electoral Area A

Discussions as to the future of Electoral Area A began as early as the 1970s and ‘80s. The question was whether it was best for the area’s residents to maintain the status quo, join the City of Vernon, or incorporate as a new municipality. A referendum on the question of incorporation was held in 1986, but residents did not vote in favour of this decision.

The discussion of annexation came to head again in the early ‘90s. With permission from the Regional District, the City of Vernon offered the Landing a series of incentives for annexation, including a moratorium on significant tax increases for a decade, and the installation of multi-million dollar sewer and water services infrastructure. The issue was extremely divisive among Landing residents, all of whom were ultimately concerned with the future of their community. 

58% in favour

On April 3, 1993, a referendum was held at the Okanagan Landing Elementary School. A few days later, the results were declared; 58 percent of residents who turned up to vote were in favor of annexation. In June of 1993, the City of Vernon officially applied to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to annex the Okanagan Landing and thus the largest municipal restructuring in B.C. in more than 20 years was complete.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

killiney BeaCH

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

Killiney Beach in 1944.

Killiney Hill

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

Sproul’s Landing

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

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

Harry Percy Hodges

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

Hodges passed away in Victoria in 1922.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Rock Lake Fire

Okanagan Lake has been the subject of much media attention over the last few weeks, since the most eastern flank of the White Rock Lake Fire has reached its shores. However, given the lake’s long history (it is, in fact, pre-historic), this is not the first time it has made the news.

A series of Anomolies

In February of 2021, some North Okanagan residents were shocked to see what appeared to be a tornado emerging over the lake near Fintry. This was later identified to be a steam devil, which forms over large bodies of water during cold air outbreaks. Steam devils are common occurrences on Canada’s Great Lakes, but it was only due to the North Okanagan’s unusual cold snap this past winter that one was able to form over Okanagan Lake.   

In 1979, the lake was recognized as an excellent location for underwater treasure hunters. Hundreds of pieces of glass and earthenware were found to be lying on the lake bottom, thrown overboard over the years by passengers on sternwheelers and other water crafts. In 1978, two divers discovered, at the bottom of the lake, an old steamer trunk full of collectible bottles, much to their delight.

On November 4, 1913, a tugboat called the Skookum collided with a CPR tug, the SS Castlegar, and sank almost immediately. The crew survived, with some minor injuries, but the vessel was never recovered. It is believed that the tug remains, to this day, in the silent depths of the lake. 

Sometime in the mid-1880s, the infamous Captain Shorts and a companion were wandering the shores of Okanagan Lake when they made a startling discovery; partly submerged in a few feet of water was the vertebrae of some enormous sea creature. The two men brought the bone to Leonard Norris, a government agent in Vernon, who, many years later, had it sent it to the University of British Columbia for identification. It was determined to be a whale bone, brought into the valley by human means, but how it came to be lying abandoned in a rugged and unfrequented section of Okanagan Lake remains unknown.  

And long before the concept of “news” was even invented, the lake and its environs represented part of the territory of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation, and stood as a silent witness to all the little anomalies of human life. 

 

Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

 

The Okanagan Landing Stationhouse Museum

One of Vernon’s hidden gems is the Okanagan Landing Stationhouse Museum, located in Paddlewheel Park.

In addition to a variety of other artifacts, the museum boasts an incredible scale model that depicts life in the Okanagan Landing in 1914.

The Era of Sternwheelers

Life was different in Vernon when sternwheelers still plied the waters of Okanagan Lake.

The Landing was a hub of activity, since it was the terminus of the Shuswap and Okanagan spur line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the most northerly steamboat port on the lake. It wasn’t unusual for the arrival or departure of ships to draw large crowds to the Landing, and perhaps none more so than for the launch of the S.S. Okanagan in 1907. 

A New Ship

On April 16 of that year, the town was all but deserted, for the majority of its population had descended on the Okanagan Landing. Mayor W.R. Megaw had declared a half-holiday, and school, stores, and offices were closed.

The Landing, meanwhile, was festively decorated, with bunting, flags, and streamers waving cheerfully from every building.

But it was the S.S. Okanagan that was drawing the most attention from onlookers, with her gleaming white and gold trim.

Construction had begun on the CPR vessel a year earlier, in 1906. She was built to replace the aging S.S. Aberdeen in transporting passengers and freight between Vernon and Penticton. After a year of construction, she was finally ready to be put to work. 

The Christening

As the crowd waited impatiently, the ship’s gang plank was removed and she started to slowly slide along the greased stringers towards the water.

Meanwhile, a ceremony was taking place on the ship’s main deck; the wife of Captain Gore had been given the honour of naming the ship, and was presented with a flower bouquet and a silver water service. 

As the Okanagan slipped into the lake for the first time, Mrs. Gore showered a bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow. The guests on board toasted to the new vessel’s success, before they were transferred to the S.S. Aberdeen and brought back to shore.

Celebrations continued into the evening, with performances by the Vernon Fire Brigade Band and a dance hosted by Captain and Mrs. Gore at the Landing’s Strand Hotel.

 

YEARS OF SERVICE

The S.S. Okanagan was in service for 27 years before being retired in 1934. While most of her pieces were dismantled and sold as scraps, the Ladies Saloon from the boat’s stern was rescued by the S.S. Sicamous Restoration Society and moved to the heritage park in Penticton.

 

The Okanagan Landing Stationhouse museum is housed in in the original 1892 railroad station house. 

 

The S.S. Okanagan on her day of launch in 1907.

 

Okanagan Landing, showing the Strand Hotel, railroad, and SS Okanagan, sternwheeler circa 1910. GVMA #11232.

 

Gwyn Evans

 

 

major allan Brooks

June 28, 2021

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

from India to okanagan landing

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre, perched on a grassy knoll overlooking Vernon, memorializes a conservationist and artist who once called the city home.

For more than 40 years, Major Allan Brooks lived at his Okanagan Landing home, despite the fact that he was born thousands of miles away—in Etawah, India.

A Born Naturalist

Allan Brooks was born on February 15, 1869, to William and Mary Brooks. William Brooks was a bird enthusiast and collected specimens extensively throughout India.

William had three sons, but it was the youngest, Allan, who showed the most interest in his father’s occupation. According to his future wife Marjorie, when Allan was only a baby, he was allowed to handle skins from his father’s collection, which he did with the care of a born naturalist. 

 

(Left) Allan Brooks at the age of two in India, and (right) Allan Brooks, aged eight, in England.

 

The Power of Mentorship

At four years old, Allan was sent to Northumberland, England, where he lived for the next eight years. As a boy, he was mentored by John Hancock, considered the father of modern taxidermy, who taught him skills like egg-blowing, butterfly collecting, and botany. Unlike his fellow school-aged children, Allan did not have much use for games, and instead used his free time to explore the moorland around Northumberland.

In 1881, William Brooks, now a widower, moved his three boys to Milton, Ontario. It is there that the teenaged Allan began to fully explore ornithology. When he was 16, he visited Thomas McIlwraith, a founding member of the American Ornithologist’s Union, in Hamilton, Ontario. The following year, Allan Brooks made the first of several important discoveries in the form of a passenger pigeon colony nesting only a few miles from his home.

Celebrated Artist and Naturalist

When Allan Brooks was 18, the family moved to a farm in Chilliwack, British Columbia, a location rich in bird and mammal life. Allan took the opportunity to expand his skills in sketching and painting, hinting at the artistic career to come. Despite his many youthful adventures, Allan’s happiest memories were of the trips he took with his father to Burlington Bay on Lake Ontario, home to many rare bird species. 

Although Allan Brooks experienced several life-changing events after reaching adulthood—from working as a trapper in B.C.’s interior, to representing Canada at the 1914 National Rifle Matches in England, to serving overseas during World War One—he may be most remembered as the celebrated artist and naturalist who lived out his last years in Vernon.

Gwyn Evans

 

 

the more things change…

 

January 11, 2021

Time passed strangely in 2020.

It felt like both the slowest and fastest year, with long periods of time spent following the same routine, in the same environment, day-after-day, while a decade’s worth of monumental historical events were occurring concurrently around the world.

Working in a museum in some ways can cause one to lose a sense of linear time.

Sometimes, after working in the archives all day, for example, one might almost expect to see horses and buggies, instead of car, trundling up and down the streets.

 

Looking East over Vernon in 2921 

With this skewed sense of reality, 100 years ago might not seem like such a long time, but a lot has changed in Vernon since then. Our city in 1921 would be almost unrecognizable today.

In 1921, B.C.’s population has just reached over half a million. Meanwhile, Vernon was home to a mere 3649 people. Washing machines cost between $20 and $30, and Fruitatives-which contained a small amount of strychnine-and Minard’s Liniment were touted as cure-alls.

Bags of oats cost $0.35 and tins of salmon could be purchased for 10 cents. The year’s model of Hupmobile was sold at the Vernon Garage, while the Megaw-Smithers Motor Company competed with Chevrolet’s FB-50.

“The Molly Coddle,” “Lessons in Love,” and “Made in Heaven” played at the Empress Theatre, while hosted speakers presented on important topics such as the League of Nations, Bolshevism, and using alfalfa as a cover crop.

As sternwheelers plied the waters of Okanagan Lake, a nearby neighborhood was finally granted a name. Following a public competition, Mr. W.L. Forrester was awarded $25.00 for proposing the name “Bella Vista” for the new development overlooking the lake. 

In 1921, Vernon hosted its first May Day fete and ball. Organized by the women’s institute, the program at Polson Park was complete with maypole dances, children’s sports, refreshments, balloons, a hayseed band, a parade, and the crowning of May Queen Helen Cochrane.

In October, a new flour mill was opened by the Okanagan Farmer’s Milling Company on 32nd Street, and, in November, poppies were sold and worn for the first time.

Although a lot might have changed in 100 years, some things have remained the same. Vernonites grumbled about a lack of parking and the high-cost of rent, advertisers made outlandish claims, classes were overcrowded, coddling moths plagued farmers, and poppies were pinned on jackets and sweaters in remembrance.

In a year that has been often termed “unprecedented” , it may (or may not) be reassuring to keep in mind that old adage:  “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Gwyn Evans

luxury lake travel- vintage okanagan style

 

November 13. 2020

What would it have been like to take a trip from Penticton to the Okanagan Landing aboard a sternwheeler? Unfortunately, most of will never know, since the Okanagan’s last paddle wheeler, the S.S. Sicamous, was retired nearly 85 years ago. Luckily, records in the Vernon Archives allow us to recreate these epic journeys—on paper, at least.

The S.S. Sicamous, launched in May of 1914, was the third in a line of stately sternwheelers to ply the waters of Okanagan Lake. She had a reinforced steel hull, and four decks. With 37 staterooms, one smoking room, four saloons, and a dining room, the ship could accommodate more than 300 passengers at one time. 

 

 

S.S. Sicamous, 1921

The Sicamous was a craft of grace and beauty, and she rightly earned the name of “The Queen of Okanagan Lake.” She transported passengers and freight up and down the lake, making stops along the way at Ewing’s Landing, Fintry, Carr’s Landing, Okanagan Centre, Gellatly, and Naramata, until 1936.

It’s a crisp spring morning in 1921. You rub sleep from your eyes, before pulling your wool clothing tight against the cold air drifting off the calm waters of Okanagan Lake. You are standing at the Penticton Wharf, the imposing shadow of the luxurious Incola Hotel, where you passed a pleasant night, to your back. It is 5:15 am, and the sky is still dark. You listen to the gentle chatter of early morning birds, and the slow murmur of waves against the shore. The town of Penticton is still asleep.

Just when you are beginning to lose feeling in the tips of your toes, the S.S. Sicamous pulls up to the wharf, breaking the sleepy silence with a cheerful blast of its whistle. As you wait in line for your chance to board, you watch the ship’s Union Jack drifting lazily in the breeze.

You’re making the trip to Vernon. It’s only 65 miles down the lake, but with the crisscrossing path needed to call in at the 15 landings along the way, you will have traveled more than 90 miles by journey’s end. You expect to be in Vernon by about 9:30 am, just in time for a bite of breakfast.

Finally, you are on board. The richness of the ship’s wood fittings—made from British Columbian cedar, Australian mahogany, and Burmese teak—contrast with the pale morning light. You watch as women in wool travel suits pull half-asleep children towards one end of the ship, while the men, chatting and smoking, move to the other.

You, however, decide to take a seat at a comfortable writing desk, and reach over to switch on a nearby reading lamp. The ship is delightfully warm, thanks to the miracle of steam heating. As you flip slowly through that morning’s copy of the Vernon News, you periodically glance up to admire the Sicamous’s beautiful stained-glass skylights.

After a little over 3-and-a-half hours later—most of which you spent in the observation lounge, watching the small, white-capped waves churned up by the ship’s wheel—you arrive at the Okanagan Landing. As you disembark, waving at a group of excited children on the shore, you think to yourself that you have never experienced a more marvelous journey. 

Gwyn Evans

Legendary Lake creature from the depths

 

October 23. 2020

With Halloween just around the corner, it is officially the season of the unsettling, the surreal, the supernatural.

From the Scottish Highlands, to the northern forests of Nova Scotia, to the Slavic countryside, nearly every country has its own mythical monster whose tales frighten children and whose existence causes debate among even the most skeptical of adults.

The Okanagan’s resident “monster” is now most widely known as the Ogopogo, and year after year a new story of this slippery serpent emerges.

Legends of a lake creature named N’ha-a-itk had existed for generations among the Okanagan Syilx People. It was settlers who gave it a new name – and its infamy.

In August of 1926, while at a Rotary lunch held on the shores of Okanagan Lake, W. H. Brimblecombe broke out in song with a popular British Music Hall hit. He sang, “I’m looking for the Ogopogo, the bunny-hugging Ogopogo. His mother was an earwig, his father was a whale. I’m going to put a little bit of salt on his tail. I’m looking for the Ogopogo.”

By the time of this club luncheon, stories of a mysterious creature living in the depths of Okanagan Lake were already popular amongst settlers. But after this delightful lunchtime performance in 1926, the Okanagan’s resident monster would come to be known as the Ogopogo.

Along with a new name, settlers also gave the sea creature a new “image”, ranging from cute and comical, to monstrous and terrifying.

The first “modern” sighting of the Ogopogo occurred in 1873, when a woman named Susan Allison reported seeing a snake-like creature moving through the water near her home in West Kelowna. 

 

From a 1946 Christmas card (how festive!)

 

In 1926 Joseph Egbert Montague started his shipping company in Vernon, BC, under the name J.E. Montague Ltd. The company expanded in 1928 and became known as British Columbia Fruit Shippers. By that time, the moniker “Ogopogo” would have been in use.

 

A few years later, during the 1880s, the infamous Captain Shorts discovered a large vertebrae bone in the shallows of Okanagan Lake, which would be determined to be from a whale. How a whale bone came to lie in Okanagan Lake remains a mystery. Could it perhaps be a bone belonging to Ogopogo’s whale father?

While fishing one morning in August of 1925, a man named J. Mitchell Boyd allegedly saw a strange creature with the head of a sheep moving languidly through the water (this is apparently quite the trustworthy account; as reported in the Vernon News a few days after the sighting, “Mr. Boyd stated, for the benefit of those who may have doubted his statement, that he had not partaken of cheese the night before, nor anything else which might have caused an optical delusion”). Nearly thirty years later, in 1959, the Miller and Marten Families also described a close encounter with a large, snake-like creature while out for a day of boating.

In 1978, while driving across the Okanagan Lake Floating Bridge, Bill Steciuk and twenty other onlookers witnessed a dark head and three black humps protruding out of the water. The year 2000 would bring about another sighting, when marathon swimmer Daryl Ellis was accompanied by two large creatures during his swim passed Rattlesnake Point (perhaps Nessie was down for a visit?)

In 2004, John Casorso recorded the first alleged video of Ogopogo; from a vantage point on his family’s house point, Casorso was able to capture grainy footage of a dark creature, about 15 metres long, emerging from the still waters of Okanagan Lake. And less than two weeks ago, a Calgary resident celebrating Thanksgiving in the Okanagan recorded a video of a strange formation of waves that some viewers thought could have been another sighting of the Okanagan’s most elusive resident.

Whether you believe in the sea serpent or not, one thing is for certain; the Ogopogo is a lot of fun to talk about.

Gwyn Evans

nice ride!

 

September 11, 2020

What would it have been like to ride a school bus in 1924? Well, it certainly would not have involved the bright yellow paint and cracking vinyl seats we’re used to today. In fact, Vernon’s first bus was mostly made out of wood.

As more families began to settle in the Okanagan Landing and Greater Vernon areas, a form of transportation was needed to bring children to school. Fred Downer stepped up to the plate, and built the first school bus on a Ford Model T chassis in 1924, perhaps inspired by the design of the Armstrong school bus which had been built by Joe Glaicar a few years earlier (reported to be the first in Canada!).

 

 

The children who rode Vernon’s first school bus circa 1924. The bus’ builder, Fred Downer, is standing on the far right.

 

Like the one in Armstrong, Downer’s bus had wooden walls, but included screen windows, while Glaicar’s had canvas curtains that could be let down or rolled up as needed. Exhaust pipes ran down the centre of the floor to keep the bus warm during the winter. Apparently, the smell of schorched rubber was common in these early school buses, as the students would put their feet on the pipes to warm up, and melt their school shoes in the process, undoutedbly to the great chagrin of their mothers.

The wooden walls and lack of insulation earned these early buses the nick name of “chicken coops.”

Regardless, Vernon’s first bus was well-used from the get go. More than 40 students were driven to school on Downer’s bus by driver Ed Cooke during the 1924/1925 school year. The bus ride offered a chance to visit with friends and sing a song or two.

Gwyn Evans