The front page of the Vernon News from October 13th, 1921.

100 years ago

What was happening in Vernon 100 years ago, in the autumn of 1921? The Vernon News (and particularly the “Town and District” column) provides some insight.

Group photo of some of the Coldstream Ranch fruit pickers, circa 1915. GVMA #2523.

On October 3 of that year, a masquerade ball was held at the dining hall of the Coldstream Ranch fruit pickers. The venue was decorated with autumn leaves, berries, asparagus ferns, and paper lanterns, and entertainment and refreshments were provided. Attendees dressed as knights, princesses, sailors, soldiers, and clowns milled about the dance floor. Someone even arrived disguised as Palmolive soap.

The Post Office clock circa 1935. GVMA #4767.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For about a week during that October, Vernonites were reported as being very tardy, on account of the Post Office clock being out of commission. When the clock was dismantled for repairs, those who governed their daily actions by the ticking of the clock were “forced to rely on their own more or less accurate timepieces.”

A bizarre was hosted by children of the Presbyterian Church Sunday School on October 15, 1921. Large quantities of farm produce, preserves, pickles, and home cooking were available for purchase. The afternoon concluded with a musical program.

Edna Harwood and Agnes Fletcher dressed as witches for Halloween circa 1918. GVMA #1519.
The Empress Theatre in 1922. GVMA #4597.

The Empress Theatre hosted showings of the 1921 films “Stranger than Fiction,” “The Devil,” and “Nobody,” and a local minister invited those who cuss to a lecture on the Third Commandment.

On the afternoon of October 31, a Halloween party was held at the new South Vernon School; around 400 students attended. Later that evening, the doors of the school were opened so that the citizens of Vernon could inspect the new facility.

Among all of these notable events, the everyday moments of life are also noted in the Vernon News: from births, deaths, and birthdays, to special visitors, meeting notices, and local sales.   

Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Vernon in the summer of 1908.

 

2021 Western Canada Heat Wave

This past June, dozens of records were set in Vernon and across B.C. during an unprecedented heat wave. The highest reported temperature in Vernon during this time was a staggering 44.2 C, recorded on June 28.

Although different weather stations around the City reported different temperatures, and, moreover, historical temperature data for Vernon is not conclusive, it is believed that this high shattered a previous record of 40 C set on July 21, 1908.

Staying cool before A/C

Needless to say, the luxury of air conditioning did not exist 113 years ago (the first in-home unit was installed in a Minneapolis mansion in 1914), but a variety of methods were used to help people stay cool.

An ad for the Cooper and Christien Grocer in the Vernon News of July 23, 1908, encouraged the public to stock up on lemons and limes for lemonade. (Hot! Hot! Hot! And it may be hotter,” reads the headline). Refreshing treats such as ice cream, watermelon, and iced tea were a particularly popular way to cool down, something which to this day hasn’t changed. 

On the same page of the Vernon News, the W.R. Megaw department store announced that they were hosting a hot weather sale, with discounts on kilted sailor suits for children and taffeta silk parasols for their mothers. Light-weight materials like canvas, cotton, and linen were popular choices during the hot summer months.

Another ad recommended the use of Zam-Buk, a medicinal skin balm first sold in 1902, to relieve the symptoms of heat rash. Although there was no over-the-counter cure for heat-related illnesses, strenuous work was avoided when the sun was at its most extreme; instead, afternoon naps were popularized as a way to reduce the threat of heat exhaustion or stroke.

July 21, 1908

However, despite the best efforts of advertisers, the high temperatures of July 1908 actually did not seem to cause much of a stir among the people of Vernon. The record high was relegated to a small note in the newspaper’s “Town and District” section that read “Tuesday was the hottest day experienced here for some years. The thermometer at the Government meteorological station at the Coldstream Ranch registered 104 [40 C] in the shade.”

However, a description of the lacrosse match for the Minto Cup played by the Montreal Shamrocks and the New Westminster club on the same day that Vernon reached its record high temperature earned a full paragraph.

 

Gwyn Evans

 

the home town paper

January 30, 2020

 

In this age of information, it is undeniable that our relationship with local print newspapers has changed. While many of us still enjoy pouring over the local going-ons with a cup of coffee in hand, the explosion of the internet in the 1990s increased the range of media sources available to the average reader. Now most of us get our daily news straight to our smartphones, while the print newspaper industry has experienced a significant decline. 

Before the advent of the internet, the local newspaper held an almost reverential position as the hub of community conversations. This was made obvious in a 1948 mini documentary produced by the National Film Board and directed by Morten Parker, called “The Home Town Paper.” Over the course of twenty-two minutes, narrator John Drainie, speaking with that polished, flourished language one expects from the time period,  introduces viewers to a successful community newspaper—the Vernon News.

 

 

Vernon News press room with staff about to print, 1920

 

Click here to view the NFB documentary on the Vernon News, “Home Town Paper”!

NFB Home Town Paper

While the scenes of the physical printing process of the newspaper is fascinating in and of itself, the true beauty of this documentary is the look it provides into everyday life in mid-century Vernon.  In the bright Vernon News office, beside neatly-stacked piles of paper, editors pour over the next day’s edition, only to be interrupted by a tap at the window. It’s a popular garage owner, all smiles with two large trout he caught earlier that week at Mabel Lake in hand (turns out, they’re actually salmon imported from the Coast for the role, but the illusion still stands). As the narrator notes, this is the stuff that will make the next day’s paper. The footage captures other issues of the day—the loss of the British fruit market, still caught up in post-war austerity, the City Council’s discussions of the need for a new, larger City Hall, and the city band’s upcoming concert.

The Vernon News started in 1891 as a five-column, eight page paper, with articles of mostly agricultural topics. Despite some significant obstacles along the way (including the destruction of the entire office to a fire in 1897), the paper dominated the news industry for years in Vernon. The National Film Board documentary highlights not only the importance of the Vernon News to our community, but the slower, congenial pace of life in Vernon at the time.

Gwyn Evans