A black and white photo of 11 women, some seated on chairs, some in front on the floor, with one standing in the back. They are in a room lined with bookshelves that has brick walls and several large houseplants/.
Members of the National Council of Women in Ottawa in 1898. Lady Aberdeen is in the centre, holding a book. Image courtesy: Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-028035

Gender Equality Week

September 18 to 24 is Gender Equality Week in Canada, and this year’s theme was “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities.” In an official statement, the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, described the week as a time to “recognize the important progress we’ve made towards gender equality while also recognizing the important work that lies ahead of us.”

a local connection

One organization with local roots that was dedicated to the advancement of women was the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC). Founded it 1893, it is one of Canada’s oldest advocacy groups, and is still operating from its headquarters in Ottawa. The NCWC, a member of the International Council of Women (ICW), was created by its first president—and former Vernonite—Lady Ishabel Aberdeen.

Lady Aberdeen was the wife of Lord Aberdeen, Canada’s Governor General from 1893 until 1898. When she established the National Council of Women, she was also the president of the ICW. In 1895, Lady Aberdeen established a Vernon Branch of the NCWC, with Addie Cochrane serving as president.

Women’s Suffrage

The NCWC began fighting for women’s suffrage in 1910; however, the NCWC was considered to be an elitist organization by several well-known suffragists, including Nellie McClung, due to its middle-class composition and lack of French Canadians and women of colour.

The case was similar here in Vernon, in that the local branch was mostly made up of women from Vernon’s more wealthy families. However, both the local and national chapters of the Council of Women made important contributions towards gender equality in Canada.

ORGANIZATIONAL ACHEIVEMENTS

One of the most prominent accomplishments of the Vernon branch was the petition for a hospital, which led to the opening of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital in 1909. Meanwhile, the NCWC established the Victorian Order of Nurses to provide at-home nursing care, and supported the rights and opportunities of women in the workforce.

Mysteriously, the local branch of the NCWC virtually disappeared in 1920, and the reason for this is unknown. In 1959, it was resurrected as the Vernon & District Council of Women which operated until 1974 before folding due to low membership numbers. However, since then, other local organizations have continued to protect and promote the rights of women and gender equality for all.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

a group of men and women standing facing the camera. Behind them is a golf course, and on the right is part of a sign that reads "1st tee and range" with an arrow.
A sister city exchange group from Saint-Lambert visiting Vernon in 1992. Included in the picture are Vernonites Patrick Mackie (center, wearing a hat), and then Mayor Wayne McGrath (third from left).
A short, bush-like tree with gnarled branches and dropping leaves outside a brown brick building.
The Weeping Beach donated to the City of Vernon by the City of Saint-Lambert outside the Vernon Museum.

A tree from Saint-Lambert

Outside the Vernon Museum, at the foot of a small gnarled tree, one can find a little plaque that reads “weeping beech donated by Mayor Guy Boissy of Saint-Lambert, Quebec, a Sister City of Vernon, 18 October 1997.” Saint-Lambert, located in southwestern Quebec, is home to more than 20,000 people, and, as the plaque suggests, is one of Vernon’s six sister cities.

The History of Town twinning

A sister city or twin town agreement is made to promote peace and diplomacy and to create cultural and commercial ties between municipalities across borders. The first modern example of town twinning can be traced back to World War Two, when Alfred Robert Grindlay, then Mayor of Coventry, England, demonstrated solidarity for the people of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in Russia, since both cities were emerging from the wreck of devastating blitz attacks.  

Vernon’s Sister City Committee

At a Vernon City Council meeting on September 1, 1982, an “International Friendship Committee” was established, and a resolution passed that twinned Vernon with its first sister city—Modesto, California.

The Committee later became known as the Sister Cities Committee, and coordinated the twinning of another five municipalities, including Saint-Lambert. The others are Tome, Japan (twinned in 1986), Tavullia, Italy (1993), Frankenburg, Austria (2008), and Anandpur Sahib, India (2012). Over the years, the Committee organized several trips to these sister cities, including a visit to the “Holy City of Bliss” (Anandpur Sahib) in 2016.

Enduring relationships

A testament to Vernon’s enduring relationship with its twin cities can be seen in the form of a wayfinding sign outside of City Hall with the cardinal directions and approximate distances of Tome, Tavullia, Frankenburg, Anandpur Sahib, Saint-Lambert, and Modesto. 

 

A slightly-angled view of a black and white school building with arched windows and a curtain verandah. It has two stories. Several old-fashioned cars are parked in the front.
The building that once housed Vernon’s first court house, and, later, the Joe Hardwood/South Vernon School, at 3410 Coldstream Avenue. This photo was taken shortly before it was demolished in 1959.

Classroom overcrowding

Especially during the COVID era, a return to school presents challenges in terms of classroom overcrowding, but long before the pandemic, Vernon schools were attempting to navigate this very same difficulty.

In 1921, there were a handful of elementary schools in use in Vernon, including the Okanagan Landing and Park Schools. Even so, more students had registered for school that year than could be accommodated, with 170 more pupils than in 1920, and drastic measures were needed to ensure that no one was turned away.

A front view of a black and white building white a dark brown brick exterior and white trim. The doorways and windows are arched at the top. Several spindly tress without leaves are standing in front of the two-story building and an unpaved road is in front of it.
The former Vernon Court House on Coldstream Avenue in 1892, the year it was completed.

The Old Vernon Court House

The summer before the new term, school trustees were scrambling to house all the students; thankfully, they secured use of what was formerly Vernon’s first court house on Coldstream Avenue. With one month left before school started up again, work crews busily began adding classrooms to the building. However, despite their best efforts, the work was not finished in time.

Instead, some students found themselves in makeshift classrooms in the basement of Central (now Beairsto) school for the first few weeks of September. They were able to move into the Court House School, nicknamed the “Joe Harwood School” after the city councilor who spearheaded the project and was later named President of the BC School Trustees Association, when construction was completed on September 19, 1921.

The South Vernon School

The Joe Harwood School (or the South Vernon School as it was actually called) consisted of four classrooms; over the years, the building was put to other uses as well, including as a Legion and a health unit. In the years following the 1921 scramble, the opening of other schools—including Harwood Elementary—meant that the Joe Harwood School was no longer needed.

The building was demolished in 1959.

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

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Undated view of the Campbell and Winter Funeral Home at 3007 28th St.; this facility was one of the first in the area to have a chapel attached.
a paved pathway leads to an entry way of a blue house with white trim under an arched verandah. To the left, a large, free-standing sign, painted yellow, reads "Sultenfuss Parlor."
𝘔𝘺 𝘎𝘪𝘳𝘭’𝘴 Sultenfuss Funeral Parlor.

Funeral Homes on the Big Screen

Much of the film My Girl, which will be the feature piece at a movie night in Polson Park on September 2, hosted by the Vernon Museum and the Polson Artisan Night Market, is set in a Pennsylvania funeral home; 11-year-old protagonist Vada is the daughter of a funeral director. 

William George Winter

William George Winter, a funeral director born in Birmingham, England, came to Vernon in 1936, when he was 63-years-old. He had previously operated a funeral parlor in Drumheller, but responded to a callout from Vernon City Council for someone to direct ambulance services in the area.

As well as taking on this task, William opened a funeral home on 31st Street, just across from the Campbell Brothers’ joint mercantile and undertaking business. By then, the Campbell Brothers had been attending to the community’s funeral needs for almost 40 years, but William was not daunted by this competition.

Winter and Winter  Winter and Campbell

William ran the Winter and Winter funeral parlor with his daughter Ivy until 1943, when he decided to join forces with Douglas Campbell to form Campbell and Winter Ltd. Together, the new merger was able to design and build a brand new facility on 28th Street, where the Vernon Funeral Home is located today.A large, free-standing black sign with white lettering reads "Vernon Funeral Home - Funerals - Cremations - Monuments." It is standing next to a beige building, and the sky is a pale blue in the background.

William Winter used to say that embalming was a lost art with ancient roots. He practiced his art until 1953, when he passed away at the age 79.

If you are interested in learning more about the Winter Family, we invite you to listen to this oral history interview with Arlene (Kermode) Smith, William Winter’s granddaughter, which is part of our archival collection. 

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

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

A black and white side view of a stem engine train passing along tracks. "962" is written beneath the conductor's window, and the figure of a man is seen leaning out of it. "Canadian Pacific" is written on the back half of the engine.
A view of Engine 962, courtesy of the website Okanagan.net.
A black and white image of a man waving from the window of a train. He is smiling and looking back over his shoulder. He is wearing a pale conductor's hat, and has on a tie and jacket. "962" is printed beneath the window.
A photo from the Kelowna Courier of February 27, 1950, showing conductor Charles Haggitt, veteran conductor of Engine 962, on his final run before retiring. Courtesy of the website Okanagan.net.

Veteran 962

“No longer will the clanging bell and the piercing whistles of veteran No. 962 be heard on the Okanagan sub-division between Kelowna and Sicamous” read an article in the Kelowna Courier of March 18, 1957.

Engine 962 carried both passengers and freight through the Okanagan Valley in a time when steam-powered trains were considered the work-horses of the Canadian Pacific’s Okanagan run. Ontario-born Charles Hagitt, who served as the engine’s chief engineer, described it as the “pride of the Okanagan,” and when he retired in 1950 said he felt like he was parting from an old friend.  

Service Discontinued

It was thought that the engine would be used for many more years after Haggitt’s retirement, but when service between Kelowna and Sicamous was discontinued in 1954, the engine was used as a yard switcher in Vernon.

It performed its last passenger run in 1957 (and was, in fact, the last steam engine to haul a passenger train from Kelowna on the CPR) with engineer Cyrill Taylor at the controls. The engine was then scraped in 1958 when the CPR converted to diesel power.

A black and white image of a large metallic bell on a table with three men looking at it. All three are wearing bowler hats, and have their backs to the camera. The bell is hanging in a metal sling contraption.
The bell of CPR steam engine 962 being presented to the City of Vernon in 1959.

The Bell Donated

The engine’s bell—which was heard many times by the residents of Vernon as the train passed through—was donated to the City in 1959, and was later turned over the Vernon Museum. It remains on display at the museum’s front entrance.

A gold-coloured bell in a black metal sling sitting on a rock floor. The base of a black door with a window is visible to the right.
The bell from Engine 962 on display in the Vernon Museum in 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

A black and white image of a 1910s house in Vernon. A tree partially covers a veranda over the front door and a white fence circles a small yard. A truck with a canopy is parked in front of the house.

The Atkinson Family

An unassuming house at 1900 33rd Street was once the site of a maternity home.

The house, located a few blocks away from the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, was built on what was formerly known as Sully Street in 1906. Carpenter/contractor Joseph A. Atkinson built the two-story building for his wife and five children, who had journeyed west from Ontario. In 1914, Joseph’s wife Angeline, a trained midwife, had it converted into a maternity home.

A Family Home Transformed

An obituary for Angeline Atkinson that appeared in the Vernon News a year after her passing, in 1938.

The building needed some remodeling to accommodate this change; the dining room was re-designed to serve as a nursery, and a small room off of the dining room as the birthing area. Meanwhile, the bedrooms upstairs were used as the maternity wards. The mothers were made very comfortable, as were their babies, nestled in bassinets made from old laundry hampers.

Babies R Us

Angeline worked closely with several local doctors, who often recommended her maternity home to their patients. When other business prevented them from attending their labouring patients, it was often Angeline herself who delivered the babies.

Angeline and Joseph Atkinson are buried in Vernon’s Pleasant Valley Cemetery.

During its 19 years of operation, hundreds of babies were born in the Atkinson Maternity Home. It closed in 1933, and Angeline passed away four years later, in 1937.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

A black and white photo of the Okanagan Spring Brewery. Okanagan Spring Brewery is written along the top of a warehouse in the background of the image. Closer to the front is the word office, over top of a series of stacked beer kegs. Closest to the viewer is written the words beer store, over top of a door and staircase to access the shop.
Front exterior view of the Okanagan Spring Brewery beer store and main office as it appeared in 1990.

This past Friday, August 5, was International Beer Day! While our city’s first brewery, the Vernon Spring Brewery, is now long gone, Vernon’s experience with brewing continues under the direction of the Okanagan Spring Brewery.

The brewery opened in 1985 in a former B.C. Packers warehouse in downtown Vernon. Most of the equipment and materials needed to supply the $1-million-dollar facility were made in the Okanagan, with some supplies brought over from Europe. Fermenting and aging tanks were installed in the warehouse’s basement, since the thick walls of the building provided the beer with protection from temperature changes. This was all overseen by the company’s co-founder, Jakob Tobler, whose son Stefan continues as brewmaster today. 

When the brewery first opened, however, the brewmaster was Raimund Kalinoswki, trained in Germany. Kalinoswki was tasked with producing a premium lager similar to that of the Granville Island Brewing Company, using only Canadian ingredients. Thus, the celebrated 1516 lager was born.

This particular brew was (and is) made with only four ingredients, a fact reflected in its name; “1516” is the year that the Bavarian Purity Law, which limited the ingredients of beer to barley, hops, yeast and water, was adopted.

The output of the brewery in the first few years was 5,000 hectolitres—approximately 300 bottles. It was sold directly from the brewery, and at hotels, restaurants, and liquor stores around the Okanagan. To promote their product, the brewery took on the phone number 542-2337, with the last four digits corresponding with the dial letters B, E, E, and R.

The Okanagan Spring Brewery is now in its 37th year of successful operation.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Do you have memories of winter carnivals past?

The Vernon Winter Carnival logo. The word Vernon is written in a straight font while Winter Carnival is written in cursive. To the left of the words are two baby blue snowflakes.

Vernon Winter Carnival will be creating a series of videos – engaging local residents to tell their stories of past Vernon Winter Carnivals – allowing us to share knowledge and past experiences to future generations, thereby engaging seniors in the community through the mentoring of others. The videos will be edited and shared with the community through social media and possibly featured in schools and at an event during Vernon Winter Carnival 2023. This project is funded through the Government of Canada – New Horizons Seniors Program.

The video interviews will be conducted in mid-late August with a focus on three main questions:
  1. Tell us your memories of Vernon Winter Carnival…
  2. How has VWC impacted our community
  3. What would you like to share to our future generations about the importance of community events like Vernon Winter Carnival?
Residents wishing to be interviewed should meet the following requirements:
  • Over the age of 60
  • Lived in Vernon for at least 10 years
  • Must sign a media release allowing VWC to use their interview and image for promotional purposes
  • Must be available in August to be interviewed
  • Must have a strong, positive, connection to Vernon Winter Carnival and the Vernon Community
If you or someone you know might be interested in participating contact the Winter Carnival Society today by emailing INFO@VERNONWINTERCARNIVAL.COM or calling 250-545-2236.​

In the meantime, take a trip back in past to the 1964 Vernon Winter Carnival. 

First Stop: Winter Carnival Parade

We’re not sure what those Vikings from the Revelstoke float are doing would go over very well today, that spider float is a bit horrifying, and at least one small child is not impressed! Nonetheless, it’s a charming and entertaining journey back to a parade of the past.

Next Stop: Silver Star Mountain

This appears to be a slalom competition. We’re fairly certain those were the alpine downhill skis of the day, but it looks like people are competing downhill on Nordic cross-country skis — and admirably so! 

 

 

Two women in front of a beige, multi-storied building, holding botanical samples. The woman on the left is blond, and smiling at the camera. The woman on the right has dark red hair with bangs, with piercings on her hair and one below her mouth, and smiling slightly and looking off to her left. The left sample is a green plant with a white flower pressed flat on a sheet of paper between sheets of thin plastic. The right sample has pink, bell-shaped flowers.
Cheryl Craig and Jennifer Rhodes of the UBCO Biology Department displaying samples from Jim Grant’s botany collection in 2022.

A collection of 400 laminated botanical samples collected around B.C. by local naturalist Jim Grant has been transferred from the Vernon Museum to UBCO’s Biology Department.

A smiling man with short grey hair wearing a blue beret. He is also wearing a while collar shirt, with is peaking out from a being knit sweater. He is looking at the camera and has black binoculars on a brown strap around his neck.
Portrait of James Grant. Courtesy of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.

James Grant, often known as Jim, was born in Trinity Valley near Lumby in 1920. Even as a child, Jim showed a keen interest in nature and art. At the age of 15, his lifelike sketches of birds had become so impressive that he won a bird-drawing competition conducted by the English magazine “The Bird Lover’s League.”

Jim later worked as a farmer and a logger before enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1941. He served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals until 1946, when he returned to Vernon and was employed by the Federal Forest Entomology Lab.

His work took him throughout the province, and he quickly became a skilled ornithologist, entomologist, and botanist. He also spent a few years doing similar field work in Alberta. In 1970, he was appointed Field Studies Coordinator for School District 22, a position which saw him organizing and conducting student field trips to grassland, forest and pond sites, where he remained until his retirement in 1978.   

White orchid flowers on yellow-green stems surrounded by dark green words in a semi-circle that read North Okanagan Naturalists' Club.
North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club logo featuring a bog orchid.

Jim was a founding member of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club; in fact, during an excursion to the Mara Meadows Ecological Reserve in 1965, he spotted a small, white bog orchid which later became the club’s emblem. He also operated a hospital for injured hawks and owls from his home in Lavington.

After Jim’s passing in 1986, his botany collection was donated to the Vernon Museum. However, earlier this year, the museum’s collection committee decided that it would be of more value to the Biology Department at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, and it was transferred accordingly, to the great excitement of the university staff.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

A black and white view over a lake. The lake stretched to the horizon. On the right is an exposed mountain with desert-like shrubbery. The left side is more lush with tall trees and shrubbery. The sky is dotted with puffy white clouds.
Looking south from Middleton Mountain over what used to be Long Lake Reserve #5 circa 1950.

Ancestral Territory

It comes as a surprise to many that one of Vernon’s most popular summer destinations, Kal Beach, is located on what used to be reserve land.

A colour photo of a lake and sandy beach. In the background is a hillside with green grass and houses along the shoreline.
Kal Beach as it now appears. Photo courtesy of Michael Russell Photography.

Needless to say, the ancestral territory of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation comprised much of Kalamalka Lake; the lake, which bore the name Long Lake up until 1953, is named after Chief Kalamalka after all. Moreover, members of the OKIB still reside on land around the lake where historical villages once stood.

A document with the words "Minutes of Decision" along the top. It is page 215.
An image from the Final Report of the Royal Commission’s decision in regards to reserves in the Okanagan region. The full report can be viewed online.

However, little evidence remains to mark the bounds of Long Lake Reserve #5, which once stretched from approximately Kal Beach to what is now the Kalavista subdivision. The reserve was allotted in 1877 by the Joint Indian Reserve Commission, established two years earlier by the Federal and Provincial Governments to set the boundaries of reserve land in B.C.

In 1909, Hlakay (also known as Pierre Nequalla), Chief of the Nk’maplqs (Head of the Lake) Band, opposed a sale of the land, suggesting that grave irregularities had occurred in obtaining proper surrender permissions; this was later confirmed by the Federal Government and the sale was set aside. However, in 1913, the land was “cut-off” under the McKenna McBride Royal Commission.

Mckenna mcbride royal commission

The stated goal of this commission (named after the two men who signed it into effect, federal commissioner Joseph McKenna and BC Premier Richard McBride) was to adjust the acreage of reserves in B.C., based on gathered evidence from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as to their adequacy. As a result of the commission, an additional 87,000 acres of reserve land were added to most bands, while 47,000 acres of far more valuable land was removed from 54 bands. This included the 128 acres of Long Lake Reserve #5.

This “cut-off” land was later sold to a Mr. John Kennedy, who then released portions of it to the City of Vernon for beachfront access, and to the Canadian National Railway Company.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator