Knowing the rivalry that’s existed for more than a century, Sharron Simpson wasn’t sure she should promote her history of Kelowna in Vernon.
“When Harbour Publishing asked me about a book signing in Vernon, I thought it would be interesting,” said Simpson, author of The Kelowna Story: An Okanagan History.
The event takes place at Coles in the Village Green Centre Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.
Simpson hopes Vernonites will be open to her writing.
“Maybe we can generate some discussion. There are lots of Vernon stories in it,” she said.
In fact, much of Kelowna’s early beginnings are interwoven with those of its northern counterpart.
“Vernon was the dominant city in the valley (a century ago),” she said of it having the railway terminus and the extensive shipyards in Okanagan Landing that provided access to the rest of the valley.
“Once people ended up in Vernon, they continued on to Kelowna.”
It was from Vernon that developers and land investors looked for opportunities to the south.
“Kelowna would have gone nowhere if Vernon hadn’t started the whole development.”
Legendary pioneers played a critical role in both communities — Forbes Vernon, G.G. MacKay, Lord and Lady Aberdeen and Coutts Marjoribanks and Capt. Thomas Shorts.
But it didn’t take long for the rivalry between Kelowna and Vernon to become evident.
Perhaps no better story demonstrates it more than the opening of Kelowna’s hospital in 1908. MLA Price Ellison, who lived in Vernon, showed up late and questioned why his Kelowna constituents couldn’t just travel to Vernon for their medical needs.
“He didn’t want it (hospital),” said Simpson. “He didn’t want to divert some of his money to Kelowna. There was some disdain there.”
Skip forward a few decades and the situation hadn’t changed much.
Residents across the valley began lobbying the provincial government to open a college in the 1960s. Both Vernon and Kelowna wanted to be selected as the host community.
Simpson says she wrote the book to pay tribute to her hometown but to also capture the rich stories and shared experiences of the entire valley.
“I asked the publisher to call this an Okanagan history because this isn’t just a Kelowna history.”