A mother and six children posing for a photo.
An undated photo of the Postill children with their mother Eleanor. Happy Mother’s Day!

Social Justice Roots

The roots of Mother’s Day can be traced back to late-19th Century United States. After the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of Philadelphia initiated “Mother’s Friendship Day” to unite mothers from both Union and Confederate backgrounds. In subsequent years, Mother’s Day activities maintained a social justice focus, with activists like Julia Ward Howe and Juliet Calhoun Blakely organizing events promoting peace, abolitionism, and temperance.

Despite years of advocacy by Anna Jarvis, the daughter of Ann Jarvis, Mother’s Day did not gain national recognition in the U.S. until 1914. It was President Woodrow Wilson who ultimately designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, fulfilling Jarvis’s long-standing efforts to establish it as an official holiday.

Vernon Keeps pace

The relatively young City of Vernon kept pace with these social developments in the United States. During the 1910s, Mother’s Day services were held in several churches of varying religions. By 1921, the Vernon News claimed that “Mother’s Day is becoming more and more a recognized Sunday when everyone’s thoughts turn to mother, the best woman in all the world.” The newspaper also made note that the day could be observed by wearing a white carnation, emblematic of the purity, beauty, fidelity, and peace of motherhood.

During the 1930s, various local businesses started to view Mother’s Day not just as a chance to honor maternal figures but also as a commercial opportunity to promote and sell their products. In May 1938, Nolan’s Drug Store promoted their chocolates, perfume, greeting cards, and photo frames, urging readers not to overlook their mothers on Mother’s Day.

By the 1940s, Mother’s Day had gained recognition in numerous countries worldwide. The Vernon News described how the occasion was marked in Canada and elsewhere, emphasizing the importance of gestures like acts of kindness, visits, letters, gifts, or tributes to honor mothers. The newspaper then tenderly suggested that perhaps every day of the year should be treated like Mother’s Day, recognizing the profound debt of gratitude owed to those who fulfill nurturing roles in our lives.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

Members of the 11th Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) regiment lined up at the Vernon CPR train station circa 1915. Behind them are crowds of well-wishers lining the station platform.

S & O Spur Line

The former CPR station in Vernon, located on 29th Street, is a testament to an era when trains ruled the transportation landscape.

Between 1890 and 1892, a spur line off the main C.P.R railway was built between Sicamous and Okanagan Landing. During construction, a station emerged in Vernon, sparking rapid urban expansion and solidifying the City’s role as a commercial hub of the Okanagan Valley. The station welcomed its inaugural passenger train in October 1891, with Lord and Lady Aberdeen on board.

A new Station is built

In 1911, the original station, then two decades old, was replaced by a new brick building with a fieldstone foundation and granite embellishments, a strategic move by the C.P.R to counter the burgeoning competition from other railways like Canadian Northern. Designed to be cutting-edge, the new station boasted separate offices, a central waiting area, an upstairs telegraph room, and a baggage room.

With its distinctive towers and dormers, the station exuded a landmark presence. Its architectural style, often described as “alpine” or “Swiss,” aimed to evoke a sense of the picturesque and inspire wanderlust. Operating as both a passenger and freight terminal, the station also served as the departure point for troops during both World Wars. However, by the 1960s, passenger services ceased, and the station transitioned into a freight office. By 1973, it was leased to commercial ventures following a fire in 1981 that inflicted damage to its roof and interior.

Commercial interests

After 1981, when the building was damaged by a fire, the CPR sold it to a private investor who undertook its restoration, returning it to its former grandeur. Designated as a heritage site since 2000, the building presently accommodates several private businesses, including the Station BBQ Smokehouse, Impressions Salon, and Ratio Coffee & Restaurant.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

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 baby bird in a nest.
An undated photo of a baby loon next to an egg; loons are among the migratory bird species for which ornithologist James Munro advocated. Photograph taken by James Munro’s nephew, Maurice Munro.
A person wearing glasses and a suit.
An undated photograph of James Munro (public domain image).

Nature’s champion

On April 22, Earth Day will be commemorated in 192 countries around the world. Since its inception in 1970, the event has sought to raise awareness of the need to protect Earth’s natural resources and foster a global environmental movement. Over the years, Vernon has been home to many environmental champions, one of whom was considered a leading authority on waterfowl in western North America.

James A. Munro was born in Kildonan, Manitoba, on November 8, 1884. He grew up in Toronto, where he was introduced to naturalists including Dr. William Brodie, Sam Wood, and John Edmonds. Munro moved to Okanagan Landing in 1910 with his wife Isabella, who was recovering from tuberculosis.

Here, Munro crossed paths with fellow ornithologist Major Allan Brooks. While they reportedly went on numerous field expeditions together and held each other’s abilities in high esteem, their strong-willed and opinionated natures often led to disagreements.

Chief federal migratory bird officer

Here, Munro crossed paths with fellow ornithologist Major Allan Brooks. While they reportedly went on numerous field expeditions together and held each other’s abilities in high esteem, their strong-willed and opinionated natures often led to disagreements.

In 1913, Munro became a member of the American Ornithological Union, and by 1920, assumed the role of Chief Federal Migratory Bird Officer for the four western Canadian provinces. He held this position until his retirement in 1949, during which period he authored more than 175 publications on the birds of British Columbia.

a LEGACY RECOGNIZED

Over the years, Munro’s concern about the human-induced degradation of waterfowl nesting habitats across the province grew steadily. He was deeply trouble by the observed pollution of lakes and streams and was one of the first to draw attention to this issue. His advocacy spurred further field studies investigating the effects of economic expansion and population growth on migratory birds, fish populations, and mammals.

Munro passed away in 1958, and a decade later, the Canadian Government erected a monument commemorating his achievements at Summit Creek, near Creston. This marked the federal government’s first acknowledgment of the accomplishments of one of its dedicated conservationists. On the occasion, Ian McTaggart, Dean of Graduate Studies at UBC, remarked that Munro “had been the chief spokesman in western Canada for the cause of migratory birds for 38 years.”

If you are interested in reading more about James A. Munro, click here for a comprehensive obituary by James L. Baillie. 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

The Titanic on April 10, 1912, five days before its sinking. Public domain image.

A maritime tragedy

During the early hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic descended into the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean following a collision with an iceberg. This catastrophe occurred just four days into the ship’s inaugural journey from Southampton to New York City, and regrettably, more than 1,500 passengers and crew perished in this maritime tragedy. Among those absent from the ill-fated voyage, despite prior intentions to be onboard, was Vernonite Baroness Herry.

The Herry residence in the BX in 1913. GVMA #18242.

celestine herry

Celestine Herry was born on July 23, 1879 in Brussels, Belgium. At the age of 21, she married Baron Harold Herry and the couple went on to have five children. In 1910, Baron and Baroness Herry attended the World’s Fair in Brussels, where they encountered details about the Okanagan Valley.

Since 1907, a consortium of Belgian land developers had been parceling out land in the BX and surrounding areas with the intent of attracting new settlers. Upon encountering advertisements for this “land of milk and honey,” Baron and Baroness Herry were captivated and purchased land sight unseen. They made the decision to move their family to Canada and intended to arrive onboard the Titanic.

Baroness Herry and four of her five children in 1915. GVMA #18237.

New Horizons

However, the story goes that the Baroness had a foreboding feeling about the voyage and postponed their departure until later in April 1912. They ended up traveling onboard the SS Megantic which departed from Liverpool. When they did arrive, it must have been with a sense of relief to have their feet on firm ground.

The family settled into a large home in the BX which they called Sunshine Lodge. Baron Herry owned one of the first modern motor cards in the Valley, and the Baroness swiftly gained recognition for her artistic prowess. Baron Herry served overseas for four years during World War One, after which the family’s fortunes turned and they were required to move into a smaller house.

However, the couple remained active into their older years and passed away one year apart – the Baron in 1951 and the Baroness in 1952.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

(Left) Mayor Frank Becker wearing the ceremonial outfit and Chain of Officer in 1959 while greeting Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip; (Right) Victor Cumming wearing the outfit in March of 2024. After this photo opportunity, the outfit was meticulously placed back into its acid-free storage box, while the Chain of Office was returned to the City of Vernon.

A Ceremonial attire

The Vernon Museum houses an ensemble steeped in ceremonial significance within its artifact collection. The outfit, consisting of a black grosgrain robe adorned with spacious open sleeves, complemented by a matching hat and lace jabot, was purchased from The Toggery Shop in Victoria, likely during the 1950s.

Over the years, it was worn by several mayors at important civic functions. Its earliest recorded appearance dates to 1959 when Mayor Frank Becker welcomed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during their first visit to Vernon. Over the years, successive mayors, including E. B. Cousins, Elwood Rice, and Lionel Mercier, also donned the regalia. Eventually, in 2011, the outfit was donated by the City to the Vernon Museum.

The mayoral Chain of Office.

Mayoral chain of office

In tandem with the first documented appearance of the mayoral robe, Frank Becker also introduced a Chain of Office in 1959. The name of each of Vernon’s mayors has been inscribed on its gold sections, dating back to W. F. Cameron in 1893 and up to Victor Cumming in 2018. The practice of mayor’s chains in the

Documents related to former mayor Elwood Rice donated to the Vernon Archives.

Thompson-Okanagan region traces its origins to the late 14th century, and the traditions of nobility during the Tudor era. While not mandated by legislation, various communities in the Thompson-Okanagan region uphold this tradition

Fast forward to 2024, the ceremonial robe resurfaced once more. With precision and patience, collections volunteer and textile expert Janet Armstrong draped it over a living mannequin in the form of Mayor Victor Cumming, who proudly showcased it alongside his Chain of Office (which continues to be used at investiture ceremonies by the City of Vernon).

Serendipitously, a set of records from former Mayor Elwood Rice had just been donated to the archives moments earlier, adding another layer to the historical tapestry of Vernon.

Thank you to Mayor Cumming for his graciousness and willingness to participate!  

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A black and white image of male and female students.
The Clarence Fulton Secondary School’s 1964/64 Yearbook team, several of whom were seniors. Scanned from the 1964/65 yearbook.

Through the Pages of time

What was the experience like for a senior at Clarence Fulton Secondary School in 1965? A glimpse into the school’s annual from that year provides heartwarming insight.

The 1964/65 academic year began with some confusion for Principal D. L. Mans due to the introduction of a new student timetable. However, by the end of September, most of the issues with the new system had been resolved.

Various events dotted the school calendar, offering students opportunities for socializing and competition. A Sadie Hawkins’ dance kicked off in November, followed by a festive Christmas party in December. In February, students engaged in a spirited volleyball match against the teachers, while April saw them diligently preparing for Easter Exams. The yearbook captures these moments, showcasing students practicing on typewriters, commemorating birthdays, and sharing friendly moments in the hallways.

Athletic triumps and academic achievements 

The school’s Athletic Council, led by Executive President and Grade 12 student Robbie Dunn, orchestrated a dynamic year of athletic endeavors. From football and basketball games to track meets and excursions out of town, the council ensured a lively sports calendar. Notably, the football team enjoyed considerable success, with only one loss in eight league games.

The graduating class of 1965 marked a milestone as the largest in the school’s history thus far. Principal Mann expressed satisfaction with the number of high-achieving “A” students among the graduates. Noteworthy alumni from that year include Queen Silver Star VI Pat Chemko (later Wallace), lauded in the yearbook as “charming in her manner, winning in her way.”

Legacy and change

Local businesses also left their mark in the yearbook, extending congratulations to the graduates while promoting their products and services. Advertisements featured customized graduate jewelry, with WM. Arnott Jewellers offering girls’ rings at $2.50 and boys’ rings at $3.95. Notably, wedding bands also made an appearance in the advertisements.

Originally known as Vernon High School (VHS), the institution was established in 1937 on city land in Polson Park. In 1964, it was renamed Clarence Fulton Secondary School in honor of its first principal. The school later relocated to its current site on Fulton Road in 1993, with the original Polson Park building being demolished in 1998.

As the pages of the annual turn, capturing the essence of a bygone era, one cannot help but smile at the timeless memories and enduring camaraderie shared by the students of Clarence Fulton Secondary School in 1965.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

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

 

The BX Creek area circa 1924.

Climate History a century apart

The El Niño conditions which made for a mild and green Christmas in Vernon appear to be persisting somewhat into January. However, a century ago, the opposite scenario was unfolding.

In January of 1924, Vernon faced exceptionally frigid weather conditions. The freezing of BX Creek compelled the City to exclusively rely on pumping water from a reservoir for its residents. In the early days of the new year, city authorities grew alarmed as the reservoir’s water level dipped below the threshold deemed critical for fire protection.

The legacy of pressure reducing valves

City Superintendent Excell believed that the water level in the reservoir was decreasing more rapidly than the usual demand for city use. This acceleration was attributed to residents keeping their taps running overnight to prevent the freezing of exposed pipes. He advocated for discontinuing this habit, and encouraged residents to adopt water conservation measures.

Vernon’s citizens responded to this appeal, and by mid-month the level in the reservoir had risen just above the critical level. Mr. Excell then changed his tune slightly, suggesting that the elevated water consumption in Vernon was not solely a result of individual decisions but was more indicative of exceedingly high pressure in the city’s pipes. A pressure of 140 lbs was sustained for fire protection but, according to Excell, this was excessive for typical household needs. Excell suggested that pressure reducing valves should be installed to mitigate this problem.

Thankfully, Vernon received a respite in the freezing temperatures towards the end of the month, and the water restrictions were lifted. In the subsequent years, the use of pressure reducing valves became standard practice, a development that would have greatly pleased Mr. Excell.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives