Mason Street High School, circa 1910, was built in 1904 and at the time was home to 20 high school students and their teacher, Clarence Fulton. At the time, the building on Mason Street (28th Avenue) was considered one of the most modern in the interior, with three large classrooms and heat from a hot air furnace. (Vernon Museum & Archives photo)

Mason Street High School, circa 1910, was built in 1904 and at the time was home to 20 high school students and their teacher, Clarence Fulton. At the time, the building on Mason Street (28th Avenue) was considered one of the most modern in the interior, with three large classrooms and heat from a hot air furnace. (Vernon Museum & Archives photo)

A new book provides a history lesson in Vernon schools

Vernon Retired Teachers Association has published a detailed history of the school district

At one time, Cherryville was home to several schools — each with its own board, BX school was built on the site of Vernon’s first golf course and The Candy Man donated the land where Alexis Park elementary was built.

These and hundreds of other interesting facts about local schools can be found in The History of Schools and Other Learning Facilities in School District #22 (Vernon), a project of the Vernon Retired Teachers Heritage Committee.

“I love history and there was a push from the B.C. Retired Teachers Association towards history and the Vernon Retired Teachers Association sent a letter that they were starting a heritage committee,” said committee member Marg Myers, who began her teaching career in Cherryville in 1962. “So we put out the word. At our first meeting, we thought where do we go with this, so we checked with other districts to see what they had done.”

The committee began work on the book in 2011, with members of the committee meeting regularly: Myers, Sandra Edgar, Florence Gallon, Isabel Leveille, Joanne Main (who passed away in 2015) and Toshiko Tabata.

“There was so much work put into this, and it’s been great having teachers who have been in the district for so long,” said Mel Maglio, past-president of the Vernon Retired Teachers Association. “I admire the work and time and research that has gone into this — it has taken a lot of work, detail and collaboration.

“The scope of it is amazing — as a historian, I have so much appreciation for this.”

The book is a fascinating peek into Vernon’s early history,while also providing detailed information up to the present day. Historians will enjoy learning that Vernon Central Public School (now Beairsto) once had separate playgrounds for boys and girls and that every morning the whole school would line up outside by twos in their respective classes for the raising of the Canadian flag. Or that JW Inglis’ namesake, James Wilson Inglis, was born in Lumby in 1897, graduated from high school in Vernon and served with the 72nd Highlanders during the First World War.

The Vernon School District was established in 1946 by the Cameron Report, which abolished all of the one-room school boards and amalgamated them with nearby larger centres. This created larger school districts throughout the province, with each district receiving a number, starting with the most eastern district — Fernie — designated #1.

“In doing our research, the museum archives was fabulous and we visited every school in the district,” said Myers, whose daughter Lawrna Myers did the design and layout for the book. “We also checked year books.”

The 205-page book gives a detailed history of not only the district and all of the elementary and secondary schools, but also includes the alternative programs and the local independent schools such as St. James, Cedar Bridge and schools that are now a part of history, including St. Michael’s School for Girls and Vernon Preparatory School.

This is the second book for the Vernon Retired Teachers Association. Its first, Early Schools of Vernon, Lumby and Cherryville Areas, was published in 2014.

“The first book was all about the old schools,” said Leveille. “Back then, every school had its own school board.”

A third book is in the works, told from the point of view of teachers, who will share their memories of their time in the classroom.

As for all of the old schools in Cherryville, the current elementary school was formed in 1951 when Richlands, Medora Creek and Cherryville Superior (formerly Hilton) schools were amalgamated under the name of Cherryville School.

BX School is located on a six-acre parcel of land on Silver Star Road, a location that was part of the land used to set up Vernon’s first golf course in 1913.

And the land on which Alexis Park elementary was built was donated by Vernon businessman Nick (The Candy Man) Alexis, owner of longtime Vernon establishment Nick’s Kandy Kitchen.

The History of Schools was printed by Wayside Press in Vernon and is available for $20 by calling Maglio at 250-545-2852 or Myers at 250-542-7882. The book is also available at the Vernon library and Okanagan College.

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A new book provides a history lesson in Vernon schools