Long shot of a field with drying tobacco leaves
Tobacco drying in a field in Vernon in the 1920s.

A promising industry

Between the 1890s and 1930s, Kelowna had a flourishing tobacco industry, evidenced in the numerous tobacco barns still present on the city’s outskirts. What is less well-known, however, is that Vernon also once had its own, much-smaller tobacco industry.

The beginning of the commercial tobacco industry in the Okanagan Valley is often attributed to Louis Holman, who arrived in 1893 and later managed the Kelowna Tobacco Co. However, Holman’s understanding of tobacco cultivation stemmed from observing the techniques of the Syilx People of the Okanagan.

Wild tobacco and syilx culture

Smańxʷ, or wild tobacco, is a culturally-important plant for the Syilx People, who cultivated it for generations prior to the arrival of settlers. The plants were grown along creeks and in other moist locations, and the leaves were harvested in the fall and left in the sun to dry for smoking and ceremonial purposes.

While the commercial tobacco industry in Kelowna had started flourishing as early as 1905, the serious cultivation of the plant by non-Indigenous individuals in Vernon didn’t begin until the 1920s. On August 16, 1927, Vernon residents were intrigued to witness trucks loaded with harvested tobacco passing through the city streets. A tobacco field in the BX area was undergoing harvesting, and the crops were being transported to a warehouse on 30th Avenue for drying. Around 30 acres of tobacco had been planted on properties surrounding Vernon.

The dream dwindles

In September of that same year, tobacco sourced from Vernon made its way to the Provincial Exhibition in New Westminster, where it was said to have garnered significant interest. Following this, the plants were exhibited in various stores in Vancouver and New Westminster. At this juncture, the future of Vernon’s tobacco industry seemed promising.

However, in 1928, growers in Vernon started to voice concerns over the lack of demand for their produce. Whereas the previous year saw the purchase of the Vernon crop by B.C. Tobacco Products Co. Ltd., situated in Vancouver, the current year witnessed a decline in demand. This issue of supply and demand was pervasive across Canada.

This, combined with the onset of the Great Depression and research findings out of Summerland that suggested that the Valley might not actually be well-suited for the cultivation of the plant, contributed to the decline of the tobacco industry in Vernon. Shortly thereafter, Kelowna’s tobacco industry also faltered.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

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

An assortments of pins, around 1 inch each, in a variety of shapes including triangles, squares, rectangles, and round.

 

An assortments of pins, around 1 inch each, in a variety of shapes including triangles, squares, rectangles, and round.
One of the Vernon Museum’s set of Winter Carnival Pins, with examples from 1961 to 2022.

64 Years of Pins

The 2024 Vernon Winter Carnival has kicked off! While each year brings its own set of surprises and delights, this was particular true of the first Winter Carnival, held in 1961. This inaugural event brought about the first parade, a series of sports jamborees, and even a square dance melody composed by the renowned Canadian musician Don Messer as a tribute to Vernon (“Bow to your partner, corner too, circle to the left, that’s what you do, to Vernon, B.C., the sports paradise, their winter carnival’s a must in your life”). It also saw the introduction of the Vernon Winter Carnival Button Program.

Since then, a button with its own unique design connected to the Carnival’s theme has been released annually. Throughout the entirety of the Carnival’s history, individuals have sought to collect at least one button a year, with even some younger residents hunting through antique stores and at collectible shows to find them all.

Local varieties

In addition to the year-to-year buttons and pins, two distinct button varieties exist. In the inaugural year of 1961, a triangle-shaped button was initially produced with sharply pointed corners. Following an apparent sellout, a second run was executed, this time with rounded corners, creating the first variety. Similarly, in 1962, a second run was conducted with a different-sized round die, resulting in either a smaller or larger button than the first run. The quantities of these varieties remain unknown. In 1997, an all-metal button named the “Good Times Award” was introduced, with a blue ribbon permanently attached and stating “I was caught having a ball at the Vernon Winter Carnival.” While the volume of these is also unclear, they are seldom seen at the Carnival office.

Certain collectors aim to discover all the button varieties and designs crafted throughout the years. Some also seek out an additional set of metal pins that come in three “confirmed” varieties—one featuring Jopo and a snowflake, another depicting a hot air balloon, and the third showcasing a Carnival Cop. While some collectors discern between button colors, slight variations are expected due to the printing process, and these are not typically considered distinctive features.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

Black and white image of a man and woman with eight children of various agees around them, with a few of them in wheelchairs. Ernie Coombs is sitting with an infant on his lap, and Judith Lawrence is kneeling and holding two puppets.
Ernie Coombs and Judith Lawrence visiting children at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital in 1970.

A beloved Canadian Icon

He was Canada’s own “Mister Rogers” (in fact, he actually served as understudy to Fred Rogers for several years); Ernie Coombs, known more often under his stage name Mr. Dressup, was an iconic Canadian children’s entertainer whose TV show ran on the CBC for nearly 30 years. He also visited Vernon on several occasions, to the delight of many of the city’s children.

Coombs was born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1927. After attending North Yarmouth Academy, he pursued a career in children’s entertainment. In the early ‘60s, he worked as an assistant puppeteer for Mr. Rogers on The Children’s Corner. Rogers was offered a show in 1962 at the CBC, and he invited Coombs to join him in Canada, where they worked on an earlier version of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

MR. DRESSUP AIRS

Upon his departure from Canada three years later, Rogers recommended Coombs to the CBC, and the latter began working on a new production called Butternut Square. After this show ended, Coombs developed Mr. Dressup, which aired for the first time in 1967. The show consisted of arts, crafts, songs, stories and games for children, presented by Coombs and his friends Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup’s back yard.

In 1970, Coombs, along with his principal puppeteer Judith Lawrence, traveled to Vernon. They visited the children’s ward of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, where the patients were delighted to meet Casey and Finnegan. Coombs visited the City several other times, including in the 1980s when he hosted a performance at the Vernon Recreation Centre, which drew in crowds of not just young children, but older siblings and adults as well.

The final episode of Mr. Dressup was taped on February 14, 1996. That same year, Coombs received the Order of Canada, after becoming a Canadian Citizen two years earlier. Ernie Coombs died on September 18, 2001, at the age of 73.

 

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 young woman wearing a necklace of bear claws and a traditional Indigenous outfit is staring away from the camera.
E. Pauline Johnson, photographed ca. 1895. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

“Unforeseen audacities”

In April of 1899, a shining star passed through Vernon that turned many curious heads. Emily Pauline Johnson, Indigenous poet and reciter, came to town for a week of performance and thrilling sensation. Her appearances quickly became the center of local attention. Johnson was indeed already a figure of well-known talent. Her stay in Vernon earned her a spotlight in the papers and praise from an audience self-reportedly “not the easiest persons in the world to please.” Her likeableness stemmed – for this city’s folk – from her eloquence, captivation, humour, and humility. In one sitting, she could put her audience in stitches, then minutes later mesmerize them with heart-stopping lyrics.

Her popularity may be surprising to us now, knowing what we do about the social dynamics in 1899. We may wonder what it was like for Johnson, as an Indigenous woman, to stand alone before an overwhelmingly white audience holding, at best, thinly-veiled racist attitudes. Reports about Johnson bear the mark of white bias; her style is described as “full of unforeseen audacities” and at the same time, “a lofty strain of the purest patriotism.” Especially compared to Johnson’s own self-image, these interpretations call into question whether the audience, who so adored E. Pauline Johnson, really understood her messages at all.

Tekahionwake

Johnson was half Indigenous and half English. Her father, G.H.M. Johnson, was Chief of the Mohawk Tribe, part of the Iroquois Six Nations. Her mother, Emily S. Howell, hailed from Bristol. Much of Pauline Johnson’s writing centered around her Indigenous background and emphasized the relationship – the violence and disrespect – spearheaded by white settlers toward her people. She went by her Mohawk name, Tekahionwake, just as her father had his: Onwanonsyshon.

Her pride in her Indigenous identity further muddles Vernon’s reaction to her performances. It is hard to imagine the population of 1899 welcoming with open arms a public figure that challenged so many of their social, political, and religious convictions. Much of her poetry was not subtle, either. “A Cry from an Indian Wife,” for example, concludes with the lines: “By right, by birth we Indians own these lands, / Though starved, crushed, plundered, lies our nation low. / Perhaps the white man’s God has willed it so.” Her meaning is unmistakable.

Message not received

The prolific poet passed away in Vancouver in 1913 after battling cancer. News of her death reached Vernon to much despair and grief. An article was published in the Vernon News detailing her passing, an article that spanned two entire page-long columns. The account included a short description of her early life as well as her accomplishments as an artist. It was undeniably a heart-felt tribute.

It is left for us to ponder, then, the paradox of E. Pauline Johnson’s impact and the simultaneous persistence of unchecked anti-Indigenous racism in Vernon. Her words pierced so deeply, yet her message was somehow lost in translation – ignored, as is very likely the case. Johnson’s denunciation of colonialism must be remembered now, even if it was not then. The introduction to her book, The Shagganappi, quotes of her: “Never let anyone call me a white woman. There are those who think they pay me a compliment in saying that I am just like a white woman. My aim, my joy, my pride is to sing the glories of my own people.”

 

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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern

 

 

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

 

 

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 image of a multi-story house, taken from the side, and mostly concealed by trees and shrubs.
The Vernon College building, at this point already redubbed as the Cochrane House. Photographed in 1906.

Amid Vernon’s social and technological advancements of the 1890s, many minds turned to the future generations already planting roots in the city. Would they have what they needed to live full, prosperous lives? What would entice them to move in and stay in? It became apparent that for the city to fulfill its potential as an Okanagan hub, local education begged improvement – specifically, it required the development of a solid post-secondary institution. In 1892, Frederick A. Meyer stepped up to the challenge and founded Vernon Private College.

Right idea, rIGHT tIME (MAYBE)

Multiple factors led Meyer to believe Vernon College would thrive. He saw the area’s mild climate and growing community as components of an inevitable “education centre,” or scholarly hotspot. Advertisements for the school were ambitiously welcoming (and in hindsight, unflinchingly sexist) and stated that “the college is intended for young men desirous to study for any of the professions or public examinations.” Subjects such as book-keeping, painting, and science were points of pride, and those of mathematics, foreign languages, and drawing were also promoted.

 As both founder and principal, Meyer ran the establishment with seemingly little help, at least by today’s standards. Additionally, the staff’s teaching credentials were suspiciously undermentioned, as in the following quote from a newspaper article: “Should anyone wish to take up any special class of work not mentioned, Mr. Meyer or one of his assistants will be only too pleased to instruct them.” The sky, apparently, was the limit. Nonetheless, Vernon College seemed set up for success. The first term began on Jan. 8, 1893, with options to board (and take advantage of Mrs. Meyer’s cooking), attend night classes, or book private lessons. Over the next few years, the school even set up its own student awards, including a Warden’s prize for classics: Latin and Greek.

a qUALIFIED lEADER

Meyer’s background was never much discussed in the school’s advertisements. Publicly, his teaching credentials were as elusive as the rest of the staff’s; however, his life experiences actually made him one of the most qualified people for the job. Meyer was originally from England, and while young he began working for the shipping trade between his home country and China. Later, he settled in Japan, where he spent twenty years as the headmaster of the Japanese Royal Naval College. His work earned him the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor, an award that required the Queen’s permission to be bestowed upon a British subject.

Like a pair of dedicated soulmates, Meyer and Vernon College met their end within years of each other. The college building was soon transformed into the Cochrane House, and by 1906, it was up for sale. Meyer died from apoplexy on Sept. 1, 1908, after falling into a coma – right at the beginning of the school year. It is unclear why Vernon College lasted so few years. Perhaps it simply changed form and moved elsewhere. From the records of its existence, though, it seemed a brilliant flame that simply burned a little too bright.

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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern

 

 

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!

A black-and-white image of a man staring away from the camera while he conducts an orchestra (not pictured).
Okanagan Symphony Orchestra conductor Leonard Camplin, photographed in 1969

Food for the soul

Music is food for the soul, and Vernon has always had enough to satisfy.

Since the 1920s – when the city dubbed itself the “Pioneer in Music of Interior BC Cities” – and beyond, citizens have seemed to possess a yearning for expression and an ear for the arts. Every known and unknown genre has filled the Okanagan Valley at some point. Classical music has been a staple for decades: the Vernon Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1925, an abounding collective borne from a humble room of twenty musicians. Beyond the orchestra, music with local themes has poured from parchment to instrument to audience, with pieces heralding the Ogopogo and songs proclaiming the city’s beauty. The “Vernon Song,” for example, claims that Vernon is “a warm and friendly folksy kind of town,” and that “it’s the only place on earth to be with someone there to love you.”

Lending a helping hand (or bow, or pick, or string…)

A black and white image of a large group of men looking at the camera, standing in a semi-circle. They are holding a range of instruments, including clarinets, trumpets, and trompones.
Army band at Camp Vernon, 1916. Love of music was shared by civilians and military personnel alike.

Vernon musicians are not only masters of their craft; many are also good Samaritans. Benefit concerts and fundraisers are common local events that simultaneously spread good cheer and fight for important causes. In 2012, a local trio (including a prodigious eleven-year-old) lit up Los Huesos at Christmas time to raise money and food donations for the Vernon Women’s Transition House. The musicians adapted to the theme of the restaurant by performing Spanish Christmas songs. That same year, a concert called Tunes for Teeth helped raise money for the Community Dental Access Centre. This organization is a non-profit dental clinic providing support for low-income residents, and its place in the community is so invaluable that musicians travelled all the way from Denman Island to play in its honour.

Fundraisers have also been held over the years for the Vernon Community Music School (where, in 2013, a Winter’s Aria graced the ears of eager listeners) and for the Jessica Eaman Memorial Fund, which helps make possible cross-country skiing lessons for kids. From time to time, bands have performed in support of their own members, like the band New Classics did in 2013 for Mike Nitchie. Nitchie was diagnosed with HHT, a bleeding disorder, and underwent multiple surgeries. His friends and fellow musicians put on a show of support – literally – that raised both money and awareness for the disorder.

Music has long flowed through Vernon’s streets, as background sound and as spotlight events. Whether outwardly or not, it has been a binding force within the community: an aid in times of need, a balm for collective aches. What to know more about Vernon’s musical scene? Check out these other blog posts:

 

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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern

 

 

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!

A black-and-white photo of a the front of end of a bus; a woman wearing a long skirt is standing in front of it,
One of the very first Greyhound buses in the Okanagan, photographed in 1930.

For those Vernonites accustomed to traveling across BC, whether for work or for leisure, the Greyhound is likely a fond memory. The cross-province bus line was a long-standing staple for local residents, and its impact is not surprising – the Greyhound arrived amid the early stages of road construction and consistently stressed comfort, convenience, and cost-efficiency as the pillars of modern transportation.

Setting the Stage

Greyhound Lines (BC) Limited announced its debut in the Okanagan in July of 1930. It offered two round trips a day, connecting Kamloops, Vernon, Penticton, Oroville, and many points in between. From its very first newspaper ads, the Greyhound boasted modernity. Indeed, it arrived on a half-paved scene (literally) that contrasted the enormity of such a far-reaching bus line. For context, West Side Road was still being widened the year the Greyhound was established; the highway to Kamloops would not be constructed for another two decades; and the first car to reach the Silver Star summit would not do so until nine years later.

A black-and-white photo of a small bus with curtains. Several men with suitcases are standing in front of it.
New recruits arriving by Greyhound bus at Camp Vernon for their military training, photographed ca. 1940.

The very first round trip ran from Kamloops to Kelowna. It was a momentous day – the bus collected representatives from Vernon and surrounding areas, offered them luxurious deep-cushioned wicker seats, and treated them to the most scenic route in the Okanagan. This early form of the Greyhound bus consisted of two stages and room for twenty occupants. Claims about modernity and comfort were seemingly fulfilled, as one newspaper reported a pleasantly cool ride “despite the fact that the thermometer was flirting with the hundred mark.” The local representatives arrived together at a banquet at the Royal Anne Hotel where they congratulated the Greyhound on its forward-thinking initiative.

An Abrupt ending

More than 80 years later, in October of 2018, the last BC Greyhound bus ran its course. The announcement three months prior detailing the termination of the route upset Vernon residents and officials alike. Much compensation was needed to provide alternative transportation for those reliant on the bus line, and fast: the decision by Greyhound was apparently unpleasantly abrupt and one-sided, according to the BC Minister of Transportation. Some chalked the suddenly cool move up to the fact that the Greyhound was, after all, an American line (the route between Vancouver and Seattle remained in operation past 2018). Greyhound representatives cited a drop in ridership since 2010 and “unsustainable routes” as the reasons behind the termination.

Despite the rather stiff conclusion to the Greyhound’s time in BC, its impact and significant beginnings cement it as an invaluable piece of Vernon history. The bus line welded together Okanagan cities that were, in the 1930s, considered quite distant. There is no doubt that the Greyhound has been responsible for countless personal and professional connections that have since flourished across the province.

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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern

 

 

 

A black and white image of a float moving through Vernon's main street. The float is decorated with union jacks and chinese regalia and several women and girls in traditional dress are seated on the back.
The Chinese community’s float during the 1937 Coronation Parade in Vernon.

King Charles’ Grandfather

Before yesterday, the last time a king was crowned was May 12, 1937, when George VI and his wife Elizabeth ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth. In Vernon, as was the case across the Commonwealth, the day was met with much pomp and circumstance, with festivities taking place from noon until the wee hours of the following morning.

An estimated 3,000 people thronged downtown for the occasion. Businesses were decorated with flags, bunting, and other special coronation decorations, set off nicely by large displays of spring flowers. The chief feature of the day was a parade through Vernon’s main streets, which was under the supervision and direction of celebrated teacher H. K. Beairsto.

Parade

The parade formed up on 27th Street, and then was lead by Chief of Police R. N. Clerke, mounted and in uniform, down 30th Avenue. The contingent eventually made their way to Polson Park, where a program began with the unfurling of the Union Jack by a group of boy scouts. The crowd was then welcomed by Mayor E. W. Prowse, saying “I have no doubt that when you saw the glorious sunshine early this morning your hearts swelled in thankfulness.”

In between recitations of the National Anthem, hymns, and prayers, the Japanese community set off a series of daylight fireworks, the first of which was a large Union Jack. A gun salute was also performed by the B.C. Dragoons under the watchful eye of Captain J. Stamer.

Multiculturalism 

A new May Queen was crowned (Marion Baverstock) and a number of young ladies entertained the crown with maypole dances. Members of the Ukrainian community also performed a series of dances. The program ended with sporting events, including races for children of various ages. These children had travelled from several neighbouring communities and after this busy and exciting day, were served dinner by the Vernon Women’s Institute and the Scottish’ Daughters League.

One other cultural group who made a strong appearance during the Coronation Day festivities was the local Chinese community. While it is unknown whether or not this community felt a particular connection to the new monarchs, they were certainly proud to represent their culture with perhaps the most ornate float of the day, upon which sat a number of young girls and women dressed in traditional regalia. 

May is Asian History Month, and to celebrate the occasion, the Vernon Museum is hosting a special exhibit. Learn about the richness and diversity of Asian Canadian heritage in the Okanagan. Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and South Asian cultures will be represented in this exhibition. Interpretative panels and tri-folds explore each community as unique and integral parts of Okanagan culture. Traditional clothing and cultural objects, both part of Vernon Museum’s collection, and on loan from Okanagan residents, will be on display as well.

Amazingly, we actually have footage from the 1937 coronation day festivities! This footage was digitized by one of our wonderful volunteers, Francois Arseneault. Content warning: At timestamp 1:53, this footage shows a group of Indigenous children in the parade, likely residential school students. The school is not identified. Some may find this triggering. 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives