VERNON - After decades spent buried beneath buildings, a number of historical objects were uncovered during recent construction work at the Vernon Military Camp.
The surprise discoveries have local historian Francois Arsenault, curator of the camp’s museum, quite excited.
The objects were found over the past two years when six buildings were refurbished by the Department of National Defence.
“They gave me permission to do basic archaeological work,” Arsenault says, noting he is not an expert in the field.
He went under the buildings, which sit above ground on wooden pillars, and located numerous objects.
“Not ancient Egypt-type items, but things dating back to the 1930s and 1940s,” Arsenault says.
Because the buildings sit above ground, Arsenault believes many items were simply chucked underneath by those residing at the camp.
Arsenault found numerous bottles that are over 70 years old, as well as a rare North Okanagan Creamery Association waxed cardboard container.
“North Okanagan Creamery Association bottles are common, but this is astonishing,” Arsenault says.
In some cases, how an object came to be preserved is as interesting as the item itself. Underneath one building, Arseneault found a hoard of old buttons and colour badges from the 1950s.
“They were picked up by a pack rat,” Arsenault says, adding the critter’s skeleton was found nearby.
These are just some of the items that were found, and more will be unveiled and put on display at the museum when it re-opens on Canada Day, 2017.
“All the items are being carefully stored,” Arsenault says.
Most of the buildings at the camp were built over the course of two months in the fall of 1940. At any given time during that period, Arsenault says there were 600 to 800 men working at the camp. By December, 60 buildings were constructed, with one-and-a-half to two-million board feet of wood sourced from the region — so much that local builders became frustrated by the ensuing shortage of wood.
When the builders ran out of lumber for the wooden pillars that hold up the barracks, they had to become resourceful.
“When we went underneath, sure enough, we found they used tree trunks,” Arsenault says.
Between 1940 to 1946, there were, at times, as many as five to six thousand men residing at the camp — almost equal to the population of Vernon at the time.
Arsenault says the historical objects unearthed today help tell the story of the army camp, and hopes they will provide visitors with some insight into its unique history.
“These are not things you would put on eBay, but it’s our local history,” he says.
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