Boys’ Benevolent Society

They went by the moniker of Vernon’s “Rink Rats,” yet they would have preferred to be known as the “Boys’ Benevolent Society.” This group comprised agile youngsters aged 12 to 15 who would swiftly hit the ice between hockey periods and games to give it a thorough sweep. Although they received no payment for their efforts, they enjoyed complimentary admission to all the skating and hockey games they desired at the Vernon Civic Arena.

The term “Rink Rats” seems to have gained prominence in the 1940s. Before the onset of World War Two, the task of maintaining the ice was primarily carried out by young men in their early twenties. However, when these individuals departed to serve overseas, the Rink Rats stepped in to fill the void.

A wARTIME VOID

In the wartime era, the Rink Rats operated under the supervision of Hugo Schultz, the foreman of the Civic Arena. Hugo was reputed to be strict, often described as someone who would “stand around with a club, yelling and snorting for more action from the brooms and scrapers.” However, his demeanor underwent a noticeable shift when two young women, Della Badley and Sheila Hill, joined the team; Hugo displayed a much more patient attitude towards the ladies, much to the disgruntlement of the Rink Rats.

But, the diligent efforts of the boys did not escape recognition entirely. Annually, during Christmas time, they were honored with a banquet held in the arena’s canteen. In the memorable year of 1942, they indulged in a Christmas cake skillfully iced and adorned to resemble a miniature version of a hockey rink, complete with tiny goal nets.

tHE cIVIC aREnA

The Civic Arena, the famed dwelling of the Rink Rats, opened in Vernon in 1938. At the time of its inauguration, it proudly hosted the sole artificial ice surface between Vancouver and the Kootenays. The arena, a custodian of 80 years of sports history, was eventually demolished in 2018.

On the subject of the Civic Arena, check out this wonderful footage from the YouTube channel, Reel Life. It shows a Vernon Canadians vs. Nelson Maple Leafs Hockey at the Civic Arena some time during the 1958/59 season. 

The footage was discovered, digitized and edited by local historian Francois Arseneault.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

A black-and-white photo of four men in airforce uniforms. Three are sitting around the table with a window behind it and one is standing.
Lorne Chambers, far right, in 1941, with other RAF members. This photo is believed to have been taken while Chambers was being held in the Baltic Prisoner of War camp; the same photo, cropped to show only his face, was printed in the Vancouver Sun with a note saying that most of the prisoners were beginning to grow beards like Chambers.

“Nazi radio reports vernon airman alive,”

read a dramatic newspaper headline in a September 1941 edition of the Vancouver Sun. Flying officer Lorne Chambers had been missing since May of that year when his plane was shot down, and the worst had been assumed. Although the news that Chambers was instead being held in a Prisoner of War camp in Germany brought its own concerns, the confirmation that he was still alive came as a great relief to his parents in Vernon.

Lorne Chambers was the son of Edward and Ella Chambers. Prior to the beginning of World War Two, in 1937, he traveled to England to join the Royal Air Force (RAF). In 1939, he was picked for a Canadian unit of the RAF, Squadron 242. Members of this squadron were trained to fly spitfires and later hurricanes. Their shifts would consist of three 18-hour sessions, followed by a day of rest. During this training, Chambers met Beverley Smiley of Wolseley, Saskatchewan, and the two became roommates.

May 18, 1941

On May 18, 1941, Chambers’ plane was shot down while flying above France. Smiley, witnessing the explosion, presumed his friend dead, information which he relayed in a letter to his mother, who in turn passed it along to Ella Chambers. A few days later, Smiley’s own plane was shot down; he escaped using a parachute but was taken to a Prisoner of War hospital. He awoke a few days later to find himself in a bed next to Chambers.

A few weeks after reuniting with Smiley, Chambers wrote the following in a letter to his parents: “This is just to let you know I am well and happy. I was shot down in France on May 18. My plane exploded and I jumped in my parachute. I was in a French hospital under German control for eight weeks recovering from burns on my face, hands, right leg and both feet. I am perfectly all right now.”

One of Fifteen

After leaving the hospital in France, Chambers was moved to a Prisoner of War camp on the shores of the Baltic, under watch of the German Air Force, where they were said to be well-treated. In September of 1941, Chambers and several other American and Canadian pilots in the camp were permitted to broadcast messages home to their families. Chambers reportedly relayed that the message that he was well, and told his parents not to worry. In late 1942, he was moved to a camp near Dresden, around the same time as he received his promotion from Flying Officer to Flight Lieutenant.

Chambers was one of fifteen Vernon men who were held in German or Italian Prisoner of War Camps during World War Two. In May of 1945, following German surrender, the Vernon News reported that the fifteen prisoners were eagerly anticipating their release but had remained in relatively good spirits throughout the ordeal.

At this point, records about Chambers’ life dwindle in the Vernon Archives. It is presumed that he was released shortly after, as there are a few references to him having eventually settled in Seattle. It is also known that he went on to have a family of his own.

 

**Update November 7, 2023: The following additional information was kindly submitted by a descendant of Lorne Chambers.** 

After the war Lorne married a nurse, Emily, who had cared for him on his return. They settled in Penticton with the rest of the Chambers family, his parents, brother Lyall, sisters Eileen and Ruth and their families. Lorne and Emily and their two children moved to Honolulu in the late 50s. After Honolulu they settled in the Seattle area. Lorne retired to the Palm Springs area later in life and passed away in 1997.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

Report #87

The Okanagan Historical Society (OHS) recently announced the release of its 87th annual report. This year’s report, like those before it, is full of fascinating stories of the Valley’s people and places. Moreover, considering that the first was published all the way back in 1926, the reports also provide an invaluable source of anecdotal evidence.

The history of the Society itself is just as fascinating as the stories its members have so dutifully collected for nearly a century. Although the OHS is now composed of seven branches ranging as far north as Salmon Arm and as far south as Osoyoos, the society actually started in Vernon. On September 4, 1925, a group of citizens held a meeting at the Vernon City Hall to discuss the formation of a society focused on “historical, topographical and natural history research in connection with the whole of the Okanagan Valley.”

A black and white image of a man in a white shirt with a pale suit jacket and tie. He has a handle bar mustache and short, white hair.
Leonard Norris circa 1925.

Leonard Norris becomes first president

Leonard Norris, the City’s Government Agent since 1893, was selected as the Society’s first president. Norris and his fellow elected officers set to the task of preparing a constitution for the society, based roughly on that in use by the B.C. Historical Society. Overtime, community members from the surrounding districts were also elected to the Society’s Executive Council.

In a public statement following the formation of the OHS, Norris suggested that the history of the B.C. Interior had yet to be properly investigated, and that the Society hoped to rectify this. Its members set to writing a series of articles covering the post-contact history of the Okanagan Valley and by 1935, the first five reports had been published.

The notion of the region’s untapped historical potential must have resonated with many of the Valley’s citizens, as within ten years, the Society’s membership had grown to 205. In later years, this number would reach into the thousands.   

Diversification

The OHS took a hiatus from publishing between 1931 and 1935, while it faced the impact of the Great Depression. The sixth report, when it was finally released in 1935, brought with a new tone and pace for future ones; it was printed on glossy paper, and contained a wealth of information spanning 309 pages. The society weathered the storm of World War Two, and in 1948 begin publishing a report each year.

As the years went on, the Society pursued a number of notable projects aside from the publication of the report, including the mapping of the Fur Brigade Trails in the Okanagan and Similkameen-Hope areas, and the preservation of the original Fairview town-site. Additionally, the Vernon branch has published a number of other historical best-sellers, including Water from the Hills: The Story of Irrigation in the Vernon District, by local author Peter Tassie. The report itself has also seen a natural diversification of its content to include Indigenous history and other multicultural stories.

The 87th Report of the Okanagan Historical Society can be purchased from the Museum & Archives of Vernon for $30.00. The museum and archives encourages those interested in local history to support te Society by becoming a member of the Vernon Branch. To learn more, click here

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

For the summer months, we are thrilled to present a series of blog posts by Collections Intern Rebeka Beganova. Rebeka (she/her) is a post-secondary student with a passion for research, literature, and history. Having completed an Associate of Arts Degree at Okanagan College, she is glad to be joining the MAV team during her last summer in Vernon before heading off to UBC Vancouver. There is no better way to say goodbye to her hometown than to explore its local history!

A sepia snapshot of a butter rationing form from WWII. The title of the form reads "butter declaration for the month of"
Butter declaration form used in WWII, exact year unknown. Like the canning sugar forms, they resemble our current-day tax returns.

Every so often, Vernonites may get the feeling that their city is somewhat sheltered from the goings-on of the wider world. Living in the shadow of Canada’s largest metropolises – especially Vancouver – seems to soften the blow of international events. However, some events are so large-scale that they inevitably seep into even the most secluded kitchens of our city. World War II was one such event.

The Mechanics of Rationing

On November 4, 1942, the President of the Vernon Board of Trade announced the formation of a local ration board. It was high time for this development: 32 of the 33 BC municipalities had already formed theirs. Ration laws themselves were not established immediately, and meat rationing actually began half a year later, in May of 1943. News articles throughout April mused about what the future policies would look like; each person (and baby) was estimated to receive two pounds of meat per week, and rationed meat was to include beef, pork, and “the lowly but popular sausage, in all its forms.” The BC Loggers Association was already up in arms, advocating for a greater allowance for labourers. Café proprietors rightly predicted ‘meatless days’ for their businesses.

The eventual rationing regulations were perhaps stricter than some were imagining. Ration books and coupons basically became the new currency: as such, they were treated like true treasure. It was illegal to possess a ration book belonging to someone outside your household, and retail food operators were required to open Ration Bank Accounts. Those tempted to dodge around these laws were threatened with up to two years’ imprisonment, as well as up to $5000 in fines.

A spoonful of sugar, an ounce of beef

Sugar and meat quickly became two of the most precious resources in Vernon. The prior remained on the rationing list for two years after WWII ended and for five years in total. It was possibly the hardest ingredient to limit, as evidenced by the fact that canning sugar and sugar for cooking rhubarb were subject to separate policies. Applications for canning sugar resembled our current tax return forms and surely provoked just as much stress. Icing recipes were released across Canada that minimized the use of cane and beet sugar.

Meat rationing was pushed equally as hard. The newspaper predictions from 1943 proved largely accurate in terms of the severity of meat cut-downs. 40% of Canada’s meat production was shipping overseas – but civilians were encouraged to send their food waste as well. Ads appeared in papers urging readers to “save all waste, fats & bones” because they were used in the production of explosives. Taglines like “Out of the frying pan and into the firing line” accompanied unsettling cartoons. These ads were generally produced by the Department of National War Service.

The bureaucracies and restrictions that formed in Vernon during this time demonstrate the invasive nature of large-scale war. Those hoping to lead a private life found regulatory fingers reaching into their cupboards and pantries. If our troops are fighting overseas, they said, then you have your own part to play.

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

Rebeka Beganova, Collections Intern

 

 

 

A black-and-white photos of a group of men leaning against, or standing between, two ladders.
Japanese orchard labourers circa 1943 in Vernon. Makoto Kawamoto, standing in the between the two ladders, willingly took up work in a Vernon Orchard after being forcibly removed from the “protected zone” to Lillooet, B.C. He and his family later moved to Vernon and became champions of Japanese culture and tradition.

Asian History Month

May is Asian History Month in Canada, and this year’s theme is “Stories of Determination,” in acknowledgement of the challenges overcome by Asian communities in Canada over the last two centuries. One local community who exemplifies this story of triumph-over-adversity is Vernon’s Japanese-Canadian population.

An online exhibit from the University of Victoria’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, titled “Landscapes of Injustice,” starkly reveals the role Vernon played during the dispossession of Japanese Canadians as part of their forced displacement and internment in the 1940s.

World War Two

In 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, the Federal Government called for the removal of Japanese Canadian men between the ages of 18 to 45 from a “protected zone” along the B.C. coast. A few months later, this order was expanded to include all Japanese men, women, and children living within this zone, despite the fact that over 75% of them were Canadian-born or naturalized citizens.

After first being sent to makeshift holding centres in Vancouver’s Hastings Park (where the celebrated PNE is now held), most were sent to internment camps in B.C.’s Interior. The men were often separated from their wives and children in these camps, and forced to complete roadwork and other physical labour.

Forced relocation

Vernon was not the site of an internment camp during the Second World War, unlike the First World War, which saw 1100 individuals of mostly Austro-Hungarian and German descent interned on the site of what is now MacDonald Park. However, hundreds of Japanese Canadians were forcibly uprooted to Vernon during this time, in part due to the fact that the Okanagan Security Committee was pushing for the use of interned Japanese as involuntary orchard labourers.

Edith Nishikawa came to Canada as a young child with her parents Usaburo and Tora, and later became a naturalized citizen. At the age of 17, while attending high school in Vancouver, she was forcibly uprooted, along with Usaboro and Tora, and sent to Vernon.

Born in Canada in 1921, 21-year-old Suyeo Kawamoto was sent to Vernon in 1943; his removal occurred despite evidence that he was not living within the “protected zone,” since he was working as a farmer in Maple Ridge.

Japanese national Chikao Yamamoto, born in 1888, was working for the B.C. Fir and Cedar Company in Vancouver when he, his wife Etsu, and children Masao (11), Kazuko (9) and Tsugiwo (7), were sent to Vernon in 1942; in 1946, a year after the war ended, they were exiled to Japan.

Stories of Determination 

Unfortunately, these are just a few stories among many. But despite this opposition, many Japanese Canadians, both those who were forcibly removed to Vernon and those who moved here willingly over the years, were determined to carve a space for themselves, and contributed to the forming of a rich local Japanese community.

To celebrate Asian History Month, 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. 

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

The spitfire replica being returned to the roof of the ANAVETS building on 46th Avenue in 2011. Glen Fletcher is standing on the lift while Randy Lundman watches from the roof.

UNIT #5 SEEKS A SPITFIRE

This year marks 20 years since a replica Spitfire plane was installed above the building of Vernon’s Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans Club on 46th Avenue.

The ANAVETS is Canada’s oldest veterans association, believed to have been founded in 1840, with the first unit in Montreal. Meanwhile, ANAF Unit #5 has served the Vernon area since 1971.

In the 1980s, the unit approached the Department of National Defence with the goal of purchasing a genuine Spitfire plane, but could not afford the $90,000 price tag. The Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft used during and following World War Two. Today, the spitfire remains popular among enthusiasts, with approximately 70 still operational around the world.

sCALE MODEL

Although ANAF Unit #5 could not secure an authentic spitfire, they were determined to see one “fly” over Vernon, and took on the task of creating a replica. The model was the brainchild of Jack Brash, Glen Fletcher, and Doug McNichol, and construction on it began in 1992.

In 1993, the built-to-scale replica was complete, and measured 31 feet from nose to tail. A dummy, named Jackson Glen after two of the three original contributors, was even installed in the front seat. This fake pilot is allegedly so realistic that he had engaged in a one-sided conversation with a Vernon utility worker while seated on the back porch of Glen Fletcher’s home before being installed in the plane.

mUCH-NEEDED REPAIrS

According to an ANAF Unit #5 brochure, the letters and numbers on the model were borrowed from the log book of a spitfire which was piloted by Vernon veteran Philip Bodnarchuk. Bodnarchuk served as a pilot with the RCAF in World War Two. Despite being shot down three times, he survived until demobilization and passed away at the age of 79 in 1996.

In 2010, Vernon’s spitfire was discovered to have been damaged by rock-throwing vandals which allowed water to enter the model. The damage was so extensive that it had to be completely rebuilt, including dummy pilot Jackson Glen. Glen Fletcher, than 74-years-old, was aided by Randy Lundman in this task, which took the two men 11 months. Finally, in August of 2011, the replica was returned to its rightful place above the ANAVETS building.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives

 

 

 

 

 

A woman with grey hair wearing a jean shirt over a blue patterned dress has a pink birthday badge pinned to her dress. She is outdoors, and leading a horse by a rope.
The above photo shows Miss Jayne at one of her birthday parties, the year she decided to invite a horse as a guest just so that she could take it for a walk. She had always loved horses. This photo was used as the cover of her funeral program, a copy of which is held at the Vernon Archives.

George VI’s Body Double

Did you know that the Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s first physiotherapist, Miriam Jayne, also had connections to King George VI?

Miriam Jayne was born in 1923 in Bristol, England, to Lt. Col. and Mrs. Wallace Jayne. When she was a child, Miriam’s father Wallace worked as a body double for King George VI, a role which was shrouded in mystery. While the responsibilities of royal body doubles is kept quiet for safety’s sake, Queen Elizabeth’s body double was known to attend practice runs of important state events in order to afford the Queen more time in her packed schedule, so it is suspected Wallace Jayne filled a similar role for her father.

Journey to Canada

Meanwhile, Miss Jayne went on to have her own military career, and joined the Women’s Land Army during World War Two. She later trained as a chartered physiotherapist and orthopedic nurse, practicing in England, Wales, and Scotland. Miss Jayne moved to Canada in 1950, and Vernon in 1952, where she began working at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital. She remained in this position until 1988.

An Okanagan Landing resident

Miss Jayne was also an active community member; a resident of Okanagan Landing, she was approached in 1998 by the Landing Association to produce a history of the organization since their beginnings in 1949. This publication was unveiled in 2002, and included sections on the history of the SS Naramata, the Okanagan Landing Regatta, the North Okanagan Sailing Association and the Okanagan Landing Fire Department.

Miriam Jayne passed away in 2014.

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

A man wearing a military uniform is holding a sword with a woman in a suit jacket with a neck scarf and a poppy broach. A number of people are standing in the background.
David Kinloch at Camp Vernon the year he earned the position of Honourary Colonel of the B.C. Dragoons, 1973. With him is Constance Pearkes, wife of former Lieutenant Governor George Pearkes.

A lOcal Hero

He is remembered as Greater Vernon’s top military leader.

Colonel David Kinloch was born in Scotland in 1914, but moved to Coldstream at the age of five. In 1934, he joined the Canadian Officer Training Corps, the country’s university officer training program. He was transferred to the B.C. Dragoons as a lieutenant in 1939, and, during World War Two, served with the 9th Armoured Regiment in Canada, Italy, and Britain.

Lieutenant – Major – Colonel

Over the years, Kinloch reached a number of different ranks. During the war, he was promoted to the position of major. In 1963, he earned the rank of Colonel, and in 1973, that of Honourary Colonel of the B.C. Dragoons.

In 1991, Kinloch visited the Montecchio War Cemetery in northeastern Italy, where many of his fellow soldiers of the B.C. Dragoons lost their lives during the Battle of the Gothic Line in August of 1944. Kinloch was instrumental in ensuring that this history was preserved, and saw a number of important Dragoon records donated to the Vernon Archives.

Civic Spirit

In addition to his active military career, Kinloch was very civic-minded. He served as the first full-time commander of the Vernon Army Cadet Camp from 1951 to 1952. He was a Coldstream municipal clerk from 1945 to 1952, and worked at the Hiram Walker Distillery until retiring in 1977. He was also a member of the Vernon Rotary Club, the Royal Canada Legion, and the Miriam Lodge.

In 2002, the City of Vernon presented Kinloch with its highest honour—the Freedom of the City. Colonel David Kinloch passed away in 2003.

We will remember them.

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

Aerial view of Camp Vernon, where Sikh soldiers Gill and Sangha trained during World War Two.

Sikh Heritage Month

Since 2019, April has been recognized as Sikh Heritage Month in Canada. The Sikh population in this country numbers more than 500,000 people, one of the largest in the world outside of India. Sikh Canadians have greatly contributed to the country’s social, economic, and political history, and to its cultural fabric.

World War One

One aspect of history in which the contributions of Sikh Canadians is often overlooked is their service during the World Wars. Despite being denied the rights of citizenship, ten Sikh men did serve during World War One—and, tragically, most of them did not survive (to learn more, check out the documentary Canadian Soldier Sikhs under the “Resources” section below).

World War Two

Meanwhile, during World War Two, Sikh men were conscripted; however, Vancouver’s Khalsa Diwan Society, which represented the Sikh population in British Columbia, intervened on their behalf, and called on community members to refuse service until they were granted full franchise rights.

However, some Sikh Canadians did decide to enlist, and were trained at Camp Vernon. The book Becoming Canadians: Pioneer Sikhs in Their Own Words, by Sarjeet Singh Jagpal, describes the experience of Phangan Gill, who was trained in Vernon before heading to Halifax for advanced instruction. Due to a finger injury, he did not go overseas, but was stationed at Exhibition Park in Vancouver, where he witnessed the internment of Japanese Canadians.

Darshan Sangha was also trained at Camp Vernon, and was the only Sikh in his troop. Sangha was later released from the army, and returned to working in a mill. Like many Sikh men, he felt that the war was not his to fight.

Eventually, the Canadian Government relented on compulsory service for Sikh men, and in 1947, Chinese and South Asian Canadians were given the right to vote.

Resources

 

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

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Vernon Preparatory School

July 12, 2021

 

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 Mackie Family

In 1940, Hugh and Grace Mackie purchased a house at 7804 Kidston Road and turned it into a beautiful and serene home.

Hugh and Grace had been in the Vernon area since 1913, when they arrived with Hugh’s brother Augustine, an Anglican cleric, to establish a boarding school for boys.

This institution, the purpose of which was to mold young boys into model English gentlemen, was called the Vernon Preparatory School.

schooled In British Culture

Such a school was in high demand at the time it was established. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Vernon area was home to a significant number of settlers from the United Kingdom.

 

Group photo of the student body of the Vernon Preparatory School in front of the school building circa 1931. Headmasters Augustine and Hugh Mackie are located in the centre of the third row from the front, with Grace Mackie between them.

 

Although they had traveled great distances to live in Canada, many of them still wished to see their children educated in British custom and culture. The school officially opened in January of 1914 for male boarders and day pupils between the ages of 7 and 14. 

The school had a few different locations over the years. As the class sizes expanded, the Mackie Brothers ended up leasing the Hensman Ranch so that their facilities could accommodate up to 50 pupils. Here Reverend Mackie built the St. Nichola’s Chapel, which the students attended regularly as part of their curriculum.

Discipline and Reputation

Discipline was strict at the Vernon Prep School, and the boys started each day at 6 am with a cold bath in an unheated washroom. But they were also allowed to engage in a variety of sports, from cricket, to soccer, to badminton, to swimming, to hiking, and the food was said to be exceptional.

All of this helped to develop the credibility and reputation of the school. Gerry McGeer, Vancouver’s mayor from 1935 to 1945, even sent his son the Vernon Prep School. McGeer was known for his efforts to stamp out the booze trade in Vancouver’s underworld, and his son became the subject of retaliatory threats during his time at the school. Luckily, the threats never amounted to anything beyond words and the boy was kept safe under the watchful eye of the Mackie brothers.

Mackie Lake House

When the Mackies purchased what would become known as the Mackie Lake House, they retired from the teaching profession. The school remained in operation until 1972. In 1997, the property was purchased and transformed into what is now the Coldstream Meadows Retirement Home.

 

Gwyn Evans