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.
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.
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