-Carli Berry/Capital News Don Knox, president of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society, skims through a copy of the society’s report while sitting in Benvoulin Heritage Park.

Kelowna shaped by colourful characters

Don Knox is the president of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society

Don Knox, president of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society, is full of stories about Kelowna’s founders and popular figures.

“Growing up here, you’re just immersed in what was going on at the time. As a kid, when I went down to UBC, there were more people at UBC than there were in Kelowna. There were 22,000 people in Kelowna, but that was before the amalgamation” Knox said.

“The thing was, it was a beautiful spot, it was wide open as a kid, it was safe. There weren’t any restrictions. You could run wild. The reality was that it was a small town.”

He remembers going out for drinks when he was probably underage, and sitting at Sing’s Cafe, located on Bernard Avenue in the 1960s.

“This man at another table was acting up, so Sing, who was not a big man, told him to smarten up or he’d tell the young man’s parents,” Knox said. “(The young man) just wilted.”

The 69-year-old Knox’s roots are embedded in Kelowna’s history.

His grandfather, Dr. William John Knox, was one of Kelowna’s first doctors. He moved to the city in 1894. During that time he made $75 a month. In 1922, he played a key role in forming the first interior medical association and was elected its president.

RELATED: A piece of Kelowna’s history goes up in smoke

“He actually practised in Kelowna for 60 years. He tried to retire when he was 80 but these little old ladies wouldn’t let him. He stayed on until he had a stroke when he was 86,” Knox said.

Knox’s parents Betty Knox and Robert Dickson Knox were also active community members.

His father was in the navy during the Second World War and dealt with mail shipments and secret service documents. He also served for 11 years on city council. His mother was Project Literacy’s first president. As a dietician, she also ran a food service at the hospital.

“She’s part of the reason I got involved with the Heritage Society because she was a member in the early days and was very active,” Knox said.

Prior to the 1900s, Vernon was the Okanagan’s leading city because of the railway, he said. Penticton had mining shipments from the Kootenays and used the Kettle Valley Railway.

“Kelowna was just kind of in the middle,” he said. It wasn’t until the Aberdeens started fruit farming in the 1890s that Kelowna started to build a population base.

In the 1920s, a shift focused on Kelowna’s waterfront, he said.

The waterfront was originally marshland, filled in by the Kelowna Saw Mill to create usable land,. That is why Kelowna doesn’t have similar beaches to Vernon and Penticton, he said.

Back then, the popular Kelowna business owner and Chinese immigrant Mar Jok, after he closed his Golden Pheasant Cafe on Water Street for the day, would open up the back of his business to feed the homeless, Knox said. Mar Jok founded the Chinese Cultural Society and Mar Jok Elementary in West Kelowna carries his name today.

READ MORE: Chinese pioneers honoured

And those are just some of the pieces of Kelowna’s heritage. Preserving history is important, Knox said, so locals know where they come from.

Historical buildings also have value because they have stories of their own.

“The information about where one comes from, or where the city comes from and how it developed, is the story,” Knox said. “And the value in the buildings is the story they can tell in terms of ownership and the importance of the time and also the information that’s there from the building itself.

“When a building is made, the individual who builds it has certain crafts and abilities, and the wood comes from certain areas. Wood was milled here in old buildings, and that gives information about what was going on (during that time.)”

Knox hopes the younger generation will continue to carry an interest in the Okanagan’s history.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Kelowna artist featured on furniture

Shandra Smith’s work is now available on credenzas

Destructive blaze in West Kelowna fatal for cat

The fire at a West Kelowna condo claimed the life of one tenant’s cat

Man pinned under metal tank in West Kelowna

Emergency personnel are on the scene

Mudslide sends debris into Highway

Highway 33 near Joe Rich had mud spilled on the highway from the slide

Kangaroo Creek Farm hops into season

Lake Country’s popular tourist site has opened its doors for the season

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Bobrovsky perfect as Blue Jackets blank Canucks 5-0

Vancouver shut out for 10th time this season

Sock Hop aims to send dancers back to another time

Writers’ Festival fundraiser in Salmon Arm springs into step for another year

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Penticton SAR team helicopters injured climber to safety

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

Kootnekoff: R v. Sidhu, was he asleep?

Driver in Humboldt crash wasn’t distracted at time of collision with bus,… Continue reading

Most Read