Roughly half of Vernon’s streets had names 75 years ago in 1947, and city council faced a dilemma.
The post office had complained for years about the inconsistent and often illogical numbering of streets and houses in our growing city. With a burgeoning post-war population, the matter had become urgent.
Following a suggestion the city should switch entirely from names to a numbering system, council held a plebiscite to decide the fate of Vernon’s street names.
Vernon citizens voted 56 per cent in favour of retaining the names. This result did not solve the problem. Upon the advice of the city solicitor, council decided to change to numbers anyway, but appeased voters by retaining 18 names which would be posted on street signs alongside the new numbers.
The changes applied only to streets within the then city limits.
Though those names exist to this day, their use began to dwindle almost immediately. Vernon’s population exploded in the 1950s, as newcomers, with little interest in history, found it far easier to use numbers for their addresses.
Over time, the names faded into obscurity and the post office eventually refused to deliver mail to addresses containing the original names.
However, names mean something and numbers don’t. Even now, Vernon’s origins are reflected in the lives of the men and women memorialized in those street names.
Who were those pioneers? What did they do to deserve such recognition?
In some cases a road was named for the person whose house stood at the end of it.
Sometimes a mayor or an entrepreneur or a philanthropist was given the honour. And on a few occasions a street name honoured an individual whose extraordinary achievements had left a permanent mark not merely on the city, but on the province or nation.
In this first series of articles, we will begin by focusing on the early names of Vernon itself, and then on those men and women whose names were lost when our streets were numbered.
Born in Vernon, Terry Hurst has had a life-long passion for Vernon’s history. She is author of Vernon and District Pioneer Routes, the stories behind the area’s street names, published by the Vernon Branch of the Okanagan Historical Society in 1996. Watch for future columns recounting the origins of road and street names in the BX, Coldstream and Okanagan Landing.