a black-and-white image of five children. Three are standing and two are sitting around a carved pumpkin. Two are wearing eyepatches and one is dressed as a clown. The two seated are wearing part hats.
An example of some good, clean Halloween fun: a group of children dressed up for Halloween in 1958. Surely these sweet faces never got up to any mischief.

 

Trick (or treat)

Halloween is just around the corner, a season which Vernon has celebrated with tricks and treats for decades. In fact, especially between the 1920s and ‘40s, Vernon’s youth leaned more heavily towards the latter.

A Vernon News article from October of 1923 stated that “for the past two or three years, much wanton damage has been done throughout the city by mischievous lads on Halloween. Fences have been torn down, gardens looted and much needless work made for peace loving citizens … No one wishes to see the younger generation deprived of the fun that goes with Halloween but fun and deliberate damage are two different things. The first everyone enjoys but the second everyone denounces.”

It wasn’t just Vernon that was having trouble keeping the Halloween tricks at bay; another Vernon News article, this one from November of 1931, revealed that $500 worth of damage was done to a school in Oliver after a “gang of vandals” broke into the building and turned on the fire hoses. Arrests were expected to follow, as it was felt that this “willful damage … [was] beyond the pale of Halloween pranks.”

Strict Measures

In 1937, Vernon’s young revelers quickly experienced a change in atmosphere when, the morning after Halloween, a group of police officers showed up at their schools to interview individuals believed to have damaged properties the previous evening. Churches and other community groups began hosting a variety of events on the evening of Halloween, so that city’s youngsters could partake in some “good, clean fun,” and, in 1939, the newspaper warned those who engage in destructive behaviors to conduct themselves in a more appropriate manner so as to not have to learn this life lesson in “the police or juvenile courts.”

These strong measures seemed to have had an impact, because the Halloween of 1940 was considered a “quiet” season; that year the only incident of note was that reported by a number of downtown shopkeepers, who arrived at work the next morning to discover their windows covered in soap, which was difficult to remove but otherwise did not cause any lasting damage.   

a DOSE OF WartimE rEALITY

In 1942, Vernon law enforcement cracked down even more to keep the antics to a minimum. Bonfires after dark were prohibited to eliminate the “usual gatherings of children dressed in ghostly attire in the vacant lots throughout the city.” They also restricted the sale of fireworks, and so “very few rockets were discharged into the sky.”

Unfortunately, the restrictions may have dampened spirits a little too far, as only a few groups of children went door-to-door for candy that year. However, wartime rationing also meant that there were less treats to be had, which also likely contributed to the low numbers of trick-or-treaters. Perhaps it is also the case that as the world as a whole was covered by the darkness of wartime, the youthful tricks of previous years lots some of their appeal, because the rate of property damage continued to decrease over subsequent Halloweens.  

This is not to say that Vernon’s past celebrations of this holiday have been all tricks; there have also been dances, costume parties, showings of scary movies, and of course, lots of treats to go around.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

For the summer months, we are thrilled to present a series of blog posts by Collections Intern Rebeka Beganova. Rebeka (she/her) is a post-secondary student with a passion for research, literature, and history. Having completed an Associate of Arts Degree at Okanagan College, she is glad to be joining the MAV team during her last summer in Vernon before heading off to UBC Vancouver. There is no better way to say goodbye to her hometown than to explore its local history!

A sepia snapshot of a butter rationing form from WWII. The title of the form reads "butter declaration for the month of"
Butter declaration form used in WWII, exact year unknown. Like the canning sugar forms, they resemble our current-day tax returns.

Every so often, Vernonites may get the feeling that their city is somewhat sheltered from the goings-on of the wider world. Living in the shadow of Canada’s largest metropolises – especially Vancouver – seems to soften the blow of international events. However, some events are so large-scale that they inevitably seep into even the most secluded kitchens of our city. World War II was one such event.

The Mechanics of Rationing

On November 4, 1942, the President of the Vernon Board of Trade announced the formation of a local ration board. It was high time for this development: 32 of the 33 BC municipalities had already formed theirs. Ration laws themselves were not established immediately, and meat rationing actually began half a year later, in May of 1943. News articles throughout April mused about what the future policies would look like; each person (and baby) was estimated to receive two pounds of meat per week, and rationed meat was to include beef, pork, and “the lowly but popular sausage, in all its forms.” The BC Loggers Association was already up in arms, advocating for a greater allowance for labourers. Café proprietors rightly predicted ‘meatless days’ for their businesses.

The eventual rationing regulations were perhaps stricter than some were imagining. Ration books and coupons basically became the new currency: as such, they were treated like true treasure. It was illegal to possess a ration book belonging to someone outside your household, and retail food operators were required to open Ration Bank Accounts. Those tempted to dodge around these laws were threatened with up to two years’ imprisonment, as well as up to $5000 in fines.

A spoonful of sugar, an ounce of beef

Sugar and meat quickly became two of the most precious resources in Vernon. The prior remained on the rationing list for two years after WWII ended and for five years in total. It was possibly the hardest ingredient to limit, as evidenced by the fact that canning sugar and sugar for cooking rhubarb were subject to separate policies. Applications for canning sugar resembled our current tax return forms and surely provoked just as much stress. Icing recipes were released across Canada that minimized the use of cane and beet sugar.

Meat rationing was pushed equally as hard. The newspaper predictions from 1943 proved largely accurate in terms of the severity of meat cut-downs. 40% of Canada’s meat production was shipping overseas – but civilians were encouraged to send their food waste as well. Ads appeared in papers urging readers to “save all waste, fats & bones” because they were used in the production of explosives. Taglines like “Out of the frying pan and into the firing line” accompanied unsettling cartoons. These ads were generally produced by the Department of National War Service.

The bureaucracies and restrictions that formed in Vernon during this time demonstrate the invasive nature of large-scale war. Those hoping to lead a private life found regulatory fingers reaching into their cupboards and pantries. If our troops are fighting overseas, they said, then you have your own part to play.

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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern