R U coming to buy a home b 4 it’s too late?
May 21, 2020
Long before texting acronyms were even invented, a postcard from the mid-20th century employed a similar tactic to encourage newcomers to settle in Vernon. The advertisement for H.P. Lee Real Estate boasts the tagline “R U coming to buy a home B 4 it is too late???” A bundled immigrant with a suitcase of cash standing “East of the Rockies” is welcomed into the warmth of the Okanagan by a well-dressed orchardist.
The beginning of the 20th-century marked a boom in immigration in Vernon. Prior to that, parts of the Okanagan Valley were largely inaccessible due to a lack of infrastructure. Forbes George Vernon, our city’s eponym, was responsible for adding some much-needed roads during his tenure as Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and these additions, alongside the movement of steamships up and down the lake, allowed more people to settle in Vernon.
Governor-general Lord Aberdeen, who had emigrated with his family from Scotland, invested in orchards in the BX and Coldstream, and this decision was called in the 1958 Royal Commission on the Tree Fruit Industry of British Columbia “the single event which served most to focus the attention of people on the Okanagan Valley.” Following Lord Aberdeen’s interest in the Valley, the region began to be promoted widely throughout the United Kingdom as a pleasant and abundant place to live.
Indeed, most of the early settlers to Vernon were European, and largely British. In the 1901 Census of Canada for the district of Yale, which encompassed the Okanagan Valley, the British were by far the largest ethnic group at 7,821, followed by First Nations people at 5,247. The other groups included 1,148 Chinese and Japanese, 501 French, 461 Germans, and 284 Scandinavians.
An important by unfortunate truth of Vernon’s immigration story is that not everyone was welcomed with opened arms. The political and social selection process was choosy, and largely favored Europeans. Other minority populations, such as the Chinese and Japanese, faced discrimination, while the arrival of newcomers of all ethnicities largely displaced the local indigenous peoples for whom the Valley had long been home.
And yet, thanks to immigration from around the world, Vernon now boasts a more varied and diverse population than one might think. In 2016, more than 5,000 Vernonites spoke languages other than English or French at home, including nsyilxcən, Hindi, Tagalog, and Italian.