I wasn’t born here, so I’m not a true Vernonite.
The fact that I was packed up at the age of three against my will (apparently I didn’t want to go to ‘tupid ternon’) and transplanted with my family from the civilized neighbourhoods of North Surrey to the wilds of beyond Hope and what passed for East Hill in 1963 counts for little.
In fact, I think your dad or mom has to be born here, at the bare minimum, to be considered a Vernonite of any standing. The rest of us mere transplants.
But I’ve grown to consider this place home with some affection, even though some relatives and friends at the Coast still consider, after all these years, anything outside the Lower Mainland to be somehow inferior and question our sanity for remaining in the hinterland.
Oh, the irony. I stopped trying to tell them it’s the other way around.
Anyway one beef I have with Vernon, and it’s minor but annoying, and ironically is a carryover from Surrey, is that we number our streets.
For instance, I grew up on 16th Street near 28th Avenue, hardly the stuff of legendary novels, but a great place to spend your childhood nevertheless
It could have been worse. If we stayed in Surrey it might have been 119A Street and a house number of at least five, likely six, digits.
In Salmon Arm it might have been 20th Avenue SE because the city of less than 20,000 is so big it needs geographical elements broken into four quadrants for people to get around (or some former city planner from Calgary thought a few decades ago to leave a legacy that at least helps the locals learn direction).
But in Nelson you have historic Baker Street or beautiful Stanley Street, I’m sure they have some avenues as well. You’re not going to forget those names, not to mention they give the city character and charm and a story to tell.
Ask me how to get anywhere in Vernon and I can barely name the streets, except maybe Bella Vista Road, Pleasant Valley Road, Old Kamloops Road and Barnard Avenue (which is really 30th Avenue and is only secretly Barnard from back when our city fathers knew how to name a street) because they have names and not forgettable numbers.
I know, I know, it’s easier to get around for tourists (and locals who never bothered to learn the streets) with numbers cause it makes sense and you can figure it out.
That never carried much weight for me cause I always figured if I was giving directions it’s always about landmarks, past and present, anyway. Which means if you haven’t lived here for at least a couple decades you’re likely out of luck … and it goes something like this:
“As you come down Hospital Hill you go though a set of lights where NOCA Dairy and the Vernon Fruit Union used to be across from Polson Park and the old Fulton School (which ain’t there anymore) but is now a plaza and a warehouse store. Keep going and go past OK Tel, or Telus I guess, and you come to bank corner, which used to be three banks and is soon going to be one, CIBC, which actually sits where the Bay and Shop-Easy used to be.
”Keep going through that light, past the old Vernon Lock & Cycle and Mr. Mike’s, until you get to the light with KFC that’s been there for decades, kitty corner from what used to be Art’s (B/A) Gulf gas station and is now a parking lot for the credit union which has a new name but the same site. Keep going again, past the first and second Super-Valu buildings (Total Pet, Staples), past the old Dairy Queen roof (Telus) and the gas station that’s now a pizza joint and you’re pretty much on your way.
“When you get to a restaurant that looks like it used to be a Sambo’s you’ve reached 43rd Avenue I think and then the next light after that is 48th so you take a right, you can’t take a left, and just stay on that road all the way to Butcher Boys, which has always been there, which is where the road becomes Silver Star Road, and don’t ask me why it can’t be called that all the way to the highway, and you are on your way to Silver Star Mountain Resort in mere minutes. Now wasn’t that easy?”
Or they could just use their GPS.
Glenn Mitchell is the former long-time editor of The Morning Star. He continues to write a weekly column for the Black Press newspaper.