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

deep roots in orchard country

January 17, 2020

The reorganization of the Collections Room at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, has produced an exciting find for archivist Barbara Bell. While digging through paper artifacts, she pulled out an unassuming Nabob catalogue (yes, the coffee maker—at the time though, Nabob was a grocery generalist specializing in an assortment of teas, spices, desserts, peanut butters and jams) with a bright cover wishing readers a “Merry Christmas.”

This edition of the catalogue was published in December of 1944, and most of the articles that pop up between advertisements for green beans, matches, and of course, coffee, have a military vein.

 

 

Maple Leaf Grocery, Vernon, BC

However, it was a story in the middle of the catalogue that caught Barb’s eye. This Vancouver-based publication dedicated five pages to one of Vernon’s very own former businesses: the Maple Leaf Grocery.

“In the pleasant Okanagan City of Vernon which is really the capital of the apple orchard country there abouts” reads the article, “there are many fine businesses that have set their roots deeply, like the sturdy old trees themselves, to become inseparable factors in the continuous progress of all that rolling sun-drenched land.”

The Maple Leaf Grocery was one such business. The owner S.P. Christensen had been in business since 1924, when he opened his first grocery on Tronson Street, before moving to a location on 30th Avenue a few years later.

The Nabob reporter states that the day he visited the business was a typical work day “in this decidedly well-arranged store.” Staff members carefully weighed fruit, while shoppers happily turned in sugar coupons. Mr. Christensen took orders from his desk, as receptionist Doreen Johnson answered the phone.

The store was tidy and well-organized, the staff efficient and welcoming, and the customers content. The reporter finished by saying his only disappointment was that he was not able to find any canned pineapple, “but who has seen that delectable and much-desired item in recent days?” The grocery closed in February of 1970, after serving the community for forty-five years. 

This photo of the Maple Leaf Grocery was taken the year the article was written, in 1944. As the Nabob article rightly suggests, “no picture can portray friendship, the spirit of service, a close and intimate knowledge of business, and an agreeable measure of energy well applied” for which this little local grocery was known.

Gwyn Evans