A black-and-white image of a fireplace next to a medium-sized tree decorated with tinsel. A few pieces of pottery line the top of the brick fireplace.
A Vernon home decorated for Christmas in the 1920s.

The Season of nostalgia

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! Christmas is the season of festively-decorated trees and gifts wrapped with care. It is also, arguably, the season of nostalgia, prompting us to ponder: how did Christmas in Vernon look 100 years ago, back in 1923?

As per the December 27, 1923 edition of the Vernon News, the essence of Christmas filled every corner and crevice of residences throughout the city. Various hotels offered grand, lavish dinners, while smaller gatherings of friends enjoyed intimate meals complete with all the festive trimmings in the comfort of their homes.

Charitable acts and Telephone staff

Baskets filled with essentials and delights were reportedly delivered to the homes of those who had faced difficulties throughout the year. Community groups such as the Salvation Army Child Welfare committee and the Elks diligently carried out acts of charity.

On Christmas Eve, the staff of the Vernon Office of the Okanagan Telephone congregated beneath a towering Christmas Tree, its uppermost branches rumored to brush against the ceiling. Adorned with presents for the operators, numerous gifts were also nestled beneath the tree.

Happiness at the Hospital

The atmosphere at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital was equally festive. Nurses and patients alike sang Christmas carols and admired decorations of greenery and red streamers. On Christmas morning, the role of Santa Claus was charmingly assumed by C. B. Lefroy, who swooped in for a visit, handing out presents and laughter. 

The weather that year was favorable, with a pristine layer of snow blanketing the valley. This delighted the little ones who eagerly ventured outside with their toboggans and skates.

According to the newspaper, Vernon had a very Merry Christmas all told and one hopes this trend continues in 2023. Despite the passage of a century, certain aspects remain unchanged. Friends and family still come together to celebrate, local hotels are still serving delicious festive meals, community organizations persist in aiding those in need, and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital is adorned with an illuminated tree in hues of green and red at its summit.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives


A black-and-white image of a house-like building with a covered verandah.
The Cottage Hospital circa 1897.

The Vernon Jubilee Hospital Committee

Did you know that Vernon’s first hospital was no more than a cottage?

Vernon was incorporated in 1892, but for the first five years of its official existence, the community did not have a hospital, with doctors instead making house calls as needed, and more severe cases being sent to the hospital in Kamloops.

However, with Vernon’s population growing, it was obvious that the City would soon need a facility of its own, and a Hospital Committee was formed, including such big-wigs as Price Ellison, Luc Girouard, and Cornelius O’Keefe. In 1897, it was decided that the future hospital would be named the “Vernon Jubilee,” to honour Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Now all that was needed was the selection of a site.

The first hospital is erected

Largely thanks to the tireless fundraising of Clara Cameron, Vice-President of the National Council of Women and wife of Vernon’s first major, William Cameron, Vernon’s first hospital finally opened later that year. It was erected in a vacant building owned by builder T. E. Crowell, and purchased for a cost of $2,000. It stood on 28th Avenue.

The building was actually bigger than the hospital needed at the time, but had a broad verandah around the outside for patients to get some fresh air and exercise. The Women’s Council took on the task of visiting the hospital twice a week to ensure that “the Rules for the Hospital [were] being strictly carried out and that all internal arrangements are being conducted in a satisfactory manner.”  

Patients began arriving at the Cottage Hospital, as it became fondly known, in November of 1897, under the care of Matron Pratt. It had approximately 16 beds. By Spring of 1899, a contingent of new staff had been on boarded, and a few years later a maternity extension was added thanks to the securing of government grants.

Expansions and constraints

By 1905, the Cottage Hospital staff consisted of five nurses, four probationers, and two cooks. A nurse’s home was added to accommodate the group, and improvements to the buildings were made from time to time.

Shortly thereafter, the Hospital Committee initiated conversations regarding the necessity of an expanded facility, recognizing the requirement for an isolation wing to address diseases like tuberculosis; with Vernon’s expanding population, the Cottage Hospital was no longer big enough.

Samuel Polson donated property north of 21st Avenue for a new building, and in September of 1909, a hospital building with 100 beds was opened on the site still used today. As for the Cottage Hospital, the site was put up for sale in 1910, and it was later reopened as a “temperance” hotel.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives





Black and white image of a roofless car in front of a building covered in foliage. A man is standing next to it, with one leg resting on the bumber.
Dr. Williams circa 1920; the Vernon Archives does not have a photograph of Miss Gallaher in their collection.

“Resignation of the Hospital Staff”

“Matron and Nurses Relinquish Their Positions on April 2,” read a shocking headline in the Vernon News of March 28, 1912. This dramatic act of protest was initiated by the Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s Lady Superintendent, Minnie Katherine Gallaher, in response to what she deemed a “long series of indignities suffered by her and her staff at the hands of Dr. Williams.”

Miss Gallaher was born in Kingston, Ontario, in 1880, and came to VJH in 1909, after seven years as Assistant Superintendent at the Carlton County Hospital in Ottawa. On March 22, 1912, she sent a long letter to the hospital’s directors (which was also published in the Vernon News) describing Dr. Williams behavior.

“Charges against a doctor”

One particular situation saw a confusion over who should be administering a sedative to a patient, resulting in Dr. Williams screaming that “too long had nurses been dictating and he wouldn’t allow it.” He proceeded to “dance with rage and more profanity was used,” after which he subjected Miss Gallaher to a five or ten minute diatribe, “continually interspersing his remarks with profanity.”

Dr. Williams was given a chance to defend himself against the accusations, and although the hospital board concluded by sustaining the nurses’ charges and warning the doctor to not behave in such a manner again, he was allowed to continue working at the hospital. This decision is what caused all of the nurses to resign in a considerable show of solidarity.

“Respectfully Yours, M. Katherine Gallaher”

Dr. Gerald Williams arrived in Vernon in 1894, after training at the St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, England. He was known as the bitter enemy of not only Miss Gallaher, but another local doctor as well, Osborne Morris. It is perhaps telling, therefore, that Dr. Morris was described as a “genial and cordial gentleman” and had a particular kindliness when working with children.

By April of 1912, the nurses had been replaced by 8 others, which was just as well, as there were 40 patients in the hospital that month. Miss Gallaher continued to have a successful healthcare career, serving as Assistant Superintendent at the Vancouver General Hospital and later Superintendent at the Moose Jaw General Hospital. Dr. Williams carried on practicing in Vernon for many years and is believed to have died around 1935.


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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives





For the months of June and July, 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!

Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff photographed in 1915. Dr. Duncan sits on the far right of the middle row. Beside him is Dr. Arbuckle, who often filled his shoes when Dr. Duncan was out of town.

George Edward Duncan

Dr. George Edward Duncan (1870-1947) was one of Vernon’s earliest City Medical Health officers. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, he practiced medicine all throughout BC. He also served overseas in WWI, as part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. Looking down the archive’s long list of ‘Early Doctors, Vernon & Area,’ Dr. Duncan’s profile does not jump out as particularly monumental. However, if you chanced upon the collection of newspaper articles mentioning his name, you might be struck by the curious assortment of local events that Dr. Duncan had his sterilized hands in. In fact, his portfolio reads bizarrely like a series of superhero comics, where the titular character – complete with a pleasingly alliterate moniker – emerges inexplicably onto scenes of local trouble. We give you, Dr. Duncan of Vernon.

The Tragic Death of sir Edmund Lacon

This legitimate title from a 1911 newspaper could grace the front cover of Dr. Duncan’s first mystery novel. Sir Lacon met his end in the first fatal automobile accident ever reported in the Okanagan. On September 28, 1911, on Mission Road, an overturned car was discovered with seemingly no body nearby. The article detailing the resulting series of events is written like a proper detective story, littered with phrases such as “last seen here about 6:30” and “thought he heard something like a groan.”

Dr. Duncan appeared in both the action-packed inciting incident and the ensuing inquest. At the initial discovery of the toppled automobile, he was fetched from the drug store and materialized with (of all the quintessential ghost story props) a lantern to light the way. It was he who found the injured Sir Lacon by the roadside and witnessed the man’s death as he carried him to the car. During the inquest, Dr. Duncan’s hard-hitting evidence was reportedly the touchstone of truth that overrode other accounts. Fittingly enough, the conclusion to the article photocopy is obscured by a mystifying dark stain.


The CASE of the miserable milk

Dr. Duncan next crops up in a gripping local storyline centering on milk: specifically, its insufficient quality and abundance. In November of 1911, the Marvelous MD published a report analyzing the ingredients in milk from various suppliers. By revealing less-than-ideal percentages of butter fat and water, he proved instrumental in the creation of a by-law ensuring quality milk for every Vernon household. Some subpar suppliers were consequently cut off, but even after complaints were voiced about declining delivery rates, one Board of Health representative said he would rather never taste another drop “than drink the stuff they had before the by-law was passed.” Dr. Duncan’s analytical mind seemed just as valiant to citizens as his court room wits.

Vernon held a certain appreciation for its understated hero. The sentiment is evident through other subplots, such as public debates for his pay rise and motions to send him to the prodigious Canadian Public Health Congress. Even when Dr. Duncan relocated to Vancouver, the papers sent him off with enough good cheer to constitute a happy ending.


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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern




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





the roaring twenties

January 3, 2020

It’s hard to believe, but the ‘20s have rolled around again. Very few of us experienced the 1920s, but it is arguably one of the most celebrated decades in popular culture, immortalized, almost to the point of cliché, as an age of modernity, jazz, and flappers. But what was really going on in Vernon one hundred years ago, in 1920?

1920 began with a cautious optimism that the year ahead would bring “the zest to aspire, to struggle and, if it may be to attain.” The Vernon News of January 1 reported that the previous year had been somewhat of a disappointment; it began with so much enthusiasm and gratitude for the end of the Great War, but this elation quickly faded as the reality of what the world had experienced for the last four years began to sink in. 



Photo of Vernon, taken from East Hill, in 1920

The newspaper cautioned against too much of the “shoddy sense of optimism that throws a base of unreality over the future,” adding that “the period which opens up before us will demand a good deal of grim determination … comfortable platitudes will have to be discarded, and a realization reached that though the war is over, it still remains to be paid for.” It would take several months for the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties to overshadow the darkness of World War One.

The prosperity that came to mark the decade was felt even in the Okanagan Valley, where an exceptional crop year in 1919 produced more than six million dollars, nearly two million more than was accumulated in 1918. This figure accounted for more than 80% of the fruit grown in B.C. that year. The valley had cemented its place in food-production, and the ‘20s was a period of agricultural boom.

On a darker note, it was also during this time that the Vernon Internment Camp finally closed, nearly two years after the war had ended. Hundreds of men, women, and children were kept behind barbed wire fences in an age where fear and suspicion reigned supreme, until they were released in February of 1920. Among the freed were eight to ten children under the age of five who had never experienced life outside of the camp.

The 1920s was the age of women’s suffrage. In June, Nellie McClung, Canadian author, politician, and suffragette, presented at Vernon’s Empress Theatre. Her theme was “The Building of a New World.” She discussed the importance of uniting with those one views as different or foreign from themselves in the wake of a broken post-war world. The Vernon News states that “none who heard this gifted author and speaker for the first time failed to have their most sanguine expectations more than realized.” Groups like the National Council of Women were very active in Vernon, its members inspired by suffragettes like McClung and the group’s founder and Vernonite Lady Aberdeen.   

Over this period, Vernon boasted both the biggest Chinese community in B.C.’s interior (500 individuals), and experienced the largest increase in Masonic Lodge membership in the history of the province. A training school for nurses was started up again at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital in November of that year. Clubs that were disbanded during the War were reformed, factories were opened, and new roads were built.

Vernon and the Okanagan Valley experienced a significant number of changes during the 1920s, as the district crawled from the wreckage of the First World War and experienced a period of (unfortunately short-lived) prosperity. Reflecting on the events of a century ago makes you wonder what this round of the ‘20s holds for our city of Vernon.

Gwyn Evans