Group photo of the members of a local hockey team posing on the ice on Kalamalka Lake in 1922. Back row, left to right: Jack Sadler, Graham Ferguson, Charles Sadler, and Lionel Locke. Front row, left to right: George Belsey and Albert Belsey.

Hello, 2022

Another year has begun under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Omicron variant causing an increase in case numbers and a return to heightened health-and-safety measures, it can feel like we are right back where we were almost two years ago, in March of 2020.

As difficult as it can be to consider the passing of time on a longer scale, especially when our everyday is plagued with uncertainty, it can provide a sense of perspective; no matter how bad things might seem now, they too shall pass.

100 years ago: A civic Election

100 years ago, in January of 1922, the City of Vernon was ringing in the New Year with a civic election. On January 5, the Vernon News sullenly reported that although the election of the City Council, School Trustees, and Police Commissioner was set for the following Thursday, the general populace seemed to be taking little interest in the whole event. What generated the most stir was that a woman, Elsie Richards, was nominated for a School Trustee position, a first for the city. Although Mrs. Richards was not successful in her bid, it was a positive step forward.

A daring robbery

That same month, a small group of robbers broke into Vernon’s Government Liquor Store through the building’s main entrance, made their way upstairs, smashed the locks on the storage room doors, and took two cases of Scotch and one of Rye Whiskey. The store manager George Brazier was not overly upset by the robbery, because the thieves’ poor taste meant that they had made off with the cheaper brands of Whiskey.

Princes, pirates, and princesses, oh my!

A children’s costume party was held by the Vernon chapter of the I.O.D.E. (the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire) at the local armoury. The children dressed as knights, pirates, and princesses were said to have acted the part admirably, as if they had “been lifted from the story book page, or brought to Vernon from some far away romantic land in a swift airplane just for the occasion.” The evening raised nearly two hundred dollars towards supporting the widows and families of those who served in World War One. 

Mild weather and winter sports

The first few days of January 1922 were relatively mild in temperature, with highs just below freezing and lows of -10°C. But a fine ice and snow season meant that local curlers, skaters, and skiers were able to enjoy their chosen winter sport. Meanwhile, the first hockey game of the season, held at a local rink between Vernon and Armstrong, saw the former achieve a quick and clean victory.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.

 

The First Balloon is Released

In the afternoon of October 31, 1971, more than 100 people turned out, including the mayor, a federal deputy minister, and the local MP, to watch Russ Colville, a meteorological technician at the Vernon Upper Air Station, launch the site’s first hydrogen balloon.

The Vernon weather station opened that year on a hill overlooking the commonage for a cost of $200,000. At the time, it was only the fourth of its kind in the province, and the thirty-fifth in Canada, and was part of a world-wide network of stations that provided data for weather-forecasting purposes. 

During the station’s first few years, it operated under a staff of four; two men worked per shift, five hours on, five hours off, with two days in between.

How Weather Balloons Work

Twice a day, at 3:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., a hydrogen-filled balloon was launched from the Vernon station and sent more than 32 kilometres into the atmosphere. These weren’t your average birthday balloons; they were white and massive, at more than 1.5 metres in diameter. Tied to the bottom of the balloon was a lightweight instrument called a radiosonde. As it ascended into the sky beneath the balloon, the device beamed atmospheric information such as pressure, temperature, and humidity back to the ground station via a small radio transmitter. 

The balloon would rise at about 1,000 feet per minute, expanding until it reached a maximum diameter of around 20 feet. Somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 feet, the balloon would burst, and the radiosonde would hurtle back towards the earth. A little parachute helped to slow its descent, and eventually it would touch down, often great distances from its release point. The device was not recovered, but instead was left to biodegrade.

A final Launch

By 1994, technological changes meant that the manual release of balloons was no longer required. The weather station’s duties were transferred to the Mountain Weather Service office in Kelowna which employed a quicker, more automated system. But for those who had dedicated their lives to measuring weather using balloons, the final launch on January 13, 1994, marked a sad occasion. Russ Colville was called out of retirement to release the last balloon, and a handful of people arrived for the occasion.

The building that once housed the Vernon Upper Air Station still stands, and now contains the Allan Brooks Nature Centre.

 

 

 

Russ Colville releases the last weather balloon from the Vernon Upper Air Station on January 13, 1994. GVMA #14980.

The Vernon Upper Air Station during its decommission in 1994. GVMA #14916.

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre now occupies the building used by the Vernon Upper Air Station at 250 Allan Brooks Way. Image courtesy of the Allan Brooks Nature Centre. 

 

 

 

 

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