Take a stroll back in time
If you were to take a walk down Vernon’s 30th Avenue today in 2023, which shops would you see? You might notice the grandiose columns of the Nixon Wenger building, the bright red sign of the Curry Pot, or the many shiny windows of the CIBC Banking Centre. You might even observe some remnants of bygone eras, such as pale orange letters above the Bean Scene Coffee House that read “Land and Agricultural Company of Canada.”
Nearly 130 years ago, one local editor did just this (although, during his time, 30th Avenue was known as Barnard Avenue), and relayed his observations in the Vernon News of December 20, 1894. His account is as follows:
Cameron and Hudson’s Bay Co. Stores
“Starting at the west end of Barnard Avenue, the first store is that of W. F. Cameron, one of the pioneer merchants of the Okanagan … The handsome wooden building is … packed from cellar to roof with one of the largest and most varied stocks of general merchandise to be found in the interior.”
“The next business establishment is the Hudson Bay store, a handsome brick structure, with an entrance on two streets. Hats, caps, and fur goods fill one of the large show windows, while the other contains a tempting display of dried fruits and groceries.”
Megaw and Armstrong shops
“Situated in a splendid business position at the corner of Mission [now 34th] Street and Barnard Avenue is the large brick block of W. R. Megaw, whose stock of general goods embraces almost everything … a show case near the front entrance, filled with a rich selection of silk handkerchiefs and ladies’ ties, is sure to attract attention, and on the opposite side an almost endless variety of shirts and underwear invite the male visitor to loosen up the strings of his pocket-book.”
“One block above, on the corner of Coldstream Avenue and Vance [now 33rd] Street, Mr. W. J. Armstrong hangs out his sign as ‘The Hardware, Tin, and Stove Man’ … Scattered through the building may be found cook-stoves, ranges, and parlor stoves in all designs, shapes, and sizes; granite-ware, chocolate-ware, shelf and heavy hardware, and tin goods, cover the counters, fill the shelves to overflowing, or hang suspended from the ceiling.”
Epicurean delights and more
“On the north side of Barnard Avenue at the corner of Vance Street, Mr. A. C. Fuller conducts business in the grocery and liquor lines … There is no old or shelf-worn stock in his store, and the groceries present a fresh and inviting appearance.” Meanwhile, an “abundant supply of poultry of all kinds may be found at the establishment of Knight & Co., purveyors of meats … and the array of beef, pork, sausages, head cheese, etc., which are to be here found are displayed in a manner to delight epicurean eyes.”
The article traces its way down the remainder of 30th Avenue, describing the many confectionary, stationery, drug, and jewelry stores along the way. While we unfortunately cannot travel back in time, it is almost possible to imagine yourself in 1894, walking down Vernon’s unpaved main street, with such descriptive writing.
To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!
Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives