Susie Kosenko (from left)

Susie Kosenko (from left)

Lodge houses 40 years of memories

The Best Western Plus Vernon Lodge – commonly known as The Lodge – turns 40 this year

Bryan Adams and David Suzuki have stayed there.

Music legends Roger Hodgson (voice of Supertramp) and Gerry and the Pacemakers have played its ballrooms.

Endless wedding receptions and banquets have been housed in the ballrooms as well.

The courtyard, with its thousands of plants, once housed a stage where musical acts would entertain guests.

Checkers Pub was once Lodge City Disco. BX Creek Bar and Grill was formerly Maynard’s.

Speaking of BX Creek (BX-Swan Lake Creek is its formal name), its water still flows through the middle of the facility.

And two large oversized chairs, one in the lobby, one in the courtyard, have played host to thousands upon thousands of photo opportunities.

The Best Western Plus Vernon Lodge – commonly known as The Lodge –  turns 40 this year.

Built on the site of the old Vernon Lodge, a heritage style structure, the current hotel was the idea of Maynard and Colleen Vollan of Edmonton.

They purchased the property in 1973 and built the new hotel in 1974, incorporating the neighbouring creek into the design.

“It was Maynard’s idea to build over the creek,” said Colleen, who still resides in Vernon. “Originally, the hotel was very stark inside with very few plants. But the creek was very visible.”

The creek, naturally, would play havoc with some of the entertainment in what is now the courtyard area.

Once, the stage started disappearing into the creek because of flooding. Another entertainer was performing when one of the palm trees beside him disappeared into the fast flowing waters.

“He got off the stage in a hurry,” laughed Vollan.

The hotel always had a nightclub and with its ability to house lots of people, its restaurant, its banquet facilities and its dedicated staff, the Vernon Lodge Hotel was the “it” place to be, especially in the early 1980s.

“There was always something going on,” said Vollan, who sold the hotel in 1989 to the current owners, RPB Hotels and Resorts.

Today, there are still more than 100 rooms, three ballrooms, a pub, a restaurant and the courtyard, thousands of plants and the always topical creek.

It’s difficult even to ballpark how many people have worked in some area of the Vernon Lodge hotel since it opened in 1974.

One thing is clear: those who land a job don’t often leave, and it’s mainly because of their co-workers. Here are a handful of current Lodge employees and their story:

Susie Kosenko, 26 years, housekeeping: “I started as a housekeeper, moved to daytime cleaning, then went to laundry, where I am now full-time. Before that, I was a flag girl in Vernon. I was pretty well pounding the pavement dropping off resumés at hotels and motels. Deb Peebles was working the front desk at the time. Rather than take my resumé, she told me to go right to housekeeping and talk to Martha Smith. She hired me on the spot.

“I like the family atmosphere here. It’s been that way ever since I started.”

Kathy Arychuk, 31 years, floor manager BX Creek Bar and Grill: “I was desperate for a job. My friend who worked here said go talk to Manuel. I came in. They called me two days before Christmas and asked me if I wanted to work Christmas Day, so my start day was Christmas. The people, the staff and the customers are the reasons I enjoy it here.

“I’m winding down to retirement now but I probably won’t be able to go cold turkey. The hotel is my baby. I give 110 per cent every time I’m here. Funniest thing that happened here, some geese got into the hotel. I hate birds and they were flying around me. We had to phone the fish and game club to get them out.”

Mike Brooks, 10 years, food and beverage manager: “I was working at the sister property, the Ramada in Kelowna. My wife was offered a job here. She was promoted to general manager here in Vernon and I got offered the job as food and beverage manager. The people I work with are terrific. They’re a great team, work well together. Everybody cares about getting the right job done.”

Laurell Cornell, two stints, current hotel sales manager: “I worked here throughout high school on-and-off as a banquet server and dishwasher, and I worked on the plants with my mom (Myrna Seefeldt). I started here again in Checkers (pub) in 2006. The Vernon Lodge has been the hub for so many different events. (Vernon Winter) Carnival every year, the B.C. Winter Games.”

Tracey Kiss, 19.5 years, rooms division manager: “We had just moved here from Vancouver and I was looking for part-time work. I had worked for 15 years in hotels in Vancouver so I dropped off a resumé here. I got hired, then found out I was pregnant. I came over to the hotel after my ultrasound and told my boss I was pregnant and would understand if she didn’t want to hire me. They hired me knowing I was pregnant.

“My three girls have all worked here at some point as bellmans or with banquets. For me, it’s always been about the people. I’ve had regular customers coming here since before I was hired. Some guests are very specific in the room types they want. Some really know the hotel and its layout and they’re specific in what rooms they want.”