Vernon Restholm resident Marjorie Coueffin admires the mural of Barnard Street

Vernon Restholm resident Marjorie Coueffin admires the mural of Barnard Street

Mural evokes some fond memories

Tucked away in the basement of Vernon Restholm is a reminder of downtown Vernon’s past.

Marjorie Coueffin surveys the painted scene in front of her.

It’s a view the 91-year-old born and raised Vernonite recognizes well, although she admits the vista has changed somewhat since she was a little girl, growing up in between the First and Second World Wars.

Located in the basement of Couffin’s current residence at Vernon Restholm is a large mural, which shows an eastern view of Vernon’s main street (30th Avenue) when it was known as Barnard Avenue.

“I loved growing up here. Those were the days when everyone was friends with each other. They said hello to you and looked you in the eye when you walked down the street,” said Coueffin, admiring the mural.

Created by James Preslar in March, 1997, the mural,  hidden away from the rest of the world but much admired by both the residents and staff at Vernon Restholm, gives a panoramic view of downtown back when the streets were unpaved.

Painted on two adjoining angled walls, the mural shows what would have been a typical street scene for the times, and is set approximately when Coeuffin was born in 1924.

“Three years ago when I brought Marjorie downstairs to see the mural she could rattle off the names of most of the buildings,” said Jerry Tellier, Vernon Restholm manager.

There are also a few clues to the mural’s historical significance and the changing times that were occurring in B.C. back then.

In the foreground of the mural is a woman, only given the right to vote in 1917, driving a right-hand steering wheeled car, resembling a Model T Ford, up Vernon’s main street. The sign in the middle of the road reads “keep to right.”

Coeffin was two years shy of being born when drivers in B.C. became like their American counterparts and switched over from driving on the left-hand side of the street to driving on the
right.

According to B.C. historical records, the transition from left to right went smoothly, with no accidents to report – but a reminder, such as a sign, was probably a good thing to remind drivers to keep to the right, said Tellier.

Although some of the establishments are now long gone, many of the buildings in the mural are familiar to today’s eyes.

Resting on the backdrop of Vernon Mountain is the Campbell House, a Queen Anne-style mansion built in 1898 that sits atop “Suicide Hill”. On the right is the old Kalamalka Hotel, built in 1891, and since renovated. Across the street sits the Winnipeg Union Bank building, built in 1912, and adjacent to that is the E.G. Prior & Company building, originally a warehouse for agricultural machinery and later converted into a drugstore, now Nolan’s Pharmasave. (It also housed the former men’s only Rancher Club, which is now the Vernon Jazz Club, located upstairs.)

Other familiar sites include the Bank of Commerce building, built in 1914, now the Phoenix Steakhouse, and the two storey Vernon Hardware Company Ltd., built in 1893, which still sits at the corner of 30th Avenue and 32nd Street.

Deena Lehoux, a former employee of Vernon Restholm and a history buff who runs the Vintage Vernon Facebook site, is also a big fan of the mural.

“When I saw the mural down in the basement it influenced me to do the site,” she said. “It’s gives a great view of what life in Vernon must have been like back then.”