Special to the Morning Star
Just off Highway 97 at the Vernon Army Camp is a small, reddish brown, nondescript wooden building anyone driving along the highway could easily overlook.
But it has a long history. During the Second World War, it was the military post office serving the thousands of soldiers who trained in Vernon. In the 1970s, it became a guard house and the offices of the military police.
Today, the building will open its doors to tell the story of not only 63 years of the history of the Vernon Army Cadet Summer Training Centre, but also of the military history of Vernon that stretches back more than 100 years.
“Showcasing the camp’s history is something we wanted to do for years. It’s a natural satellite museum,” said Ron Candy, Greater Vernon Museum curator.
Former cadet Francois Arseneault, who became a collector of camp memorabilia, wondered if it “wouldn’t be a great idea if we built a museum.”
With a limited budget, the two men, along with staff from the museum and archives, set out to create the displays. Panels display photographs and historic details from each of the 63 years the camp has been in operation.
“We relied on newspaper accounts, interviews, personal stories and photographs to recreate the feel of each year,” Arseneault said.
One of the display cabinets contains the uniform of a Cadet Services of Canada officer from the 1950s. Another displays copies of documents from the war years.
“Vernon has a long military history and the presence of the camp has had a direct effect on the city, socially and economically,” said Candy.
“There were times when the population of the camp was greater than that of the city.”
Many of the items, especially the photographs, have never been displayed before. More than 800 photographs are included in the display panels.
We’ll be booking escorted tours, as we do with the murals in downtown Vernon and the ghost tours in the fall,” said Candy.