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Historical narrative of the canning industry in British Columbia’s southern interior. Jones, Vincent Peter 2011

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Page 1 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  Vincent P. Jones Hstory 489 – Directed Studies Autumn 2010 University of British Columbia           Historical narrative of the canning industry in British Columbia’s southern interior             Page 2 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  Introduction British Columbia’s southern interior boast fertil soil and a wonderful climate tha faciltes the growth of fruit. Thus the region was ripe for the development of an griultural sctor. T development of t agricultural sector owed much to the stereotypial ‘pioneer’ charactr that many of the intrior’s early stlrs demonstraed. Thes people wre hardworking, resourceful and able to adapt to their surroundings. Furtrmore, it logicaly follows that where succsful busines endeavours operate other asocited industries wil develop too. With referenc to the British Columbian intrior this cn refr to the tobaco industry, packing houss, canneries, transporttion companies, refrigeration companies, amongst other ventures that have al blossomed at one point in time. This narrative is not intended to be completly comprehensive; however it is intended to gi a clear historical overview of what acualy happened. I ha outlined where most of the intrior’s cnneris operatd, in wt years, under what owrship and under what terms ty ultimately folded. In this endevor I am ieasurably indebted to the late Ian F. Grenwood who did much of the initial research that alowd m to go in nd have an excelnt and solid base from which to begin. I am also indebted to those at the Kelowna Public Archives notably Tara Hurley, Donna Johnson and Executive Director Wayne Wilson.  I am also gretly indebtd to my instructor for this course, Dr. James Hull. I also provide a short description on how the interior’s canning industry worked; with referenc given to the complex relationship betwn the cnners, growers, marketers and equipmnt selrs. Page 3 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  The canning industry in the Okanagan can be sen to have existed for about one hundred yers. This period can be bookended by two significant ents. The first significant event occurred in 1892 and this i where t story of the canning industry in the Okanagan begins. The first cannery, Vernon Canning and Jm Co., ws etablished wn Lord and Lady Aberdeen purchasd property at Coldstrea Ranch in that yer. T second significnt event occurred when Beaven Canning fild for bankruptcy in 1992. It was the last commercial cnnery in t Okanagan. The intervening one hundred years ere hugely significnt however, and I hope I have done thm and Ian’s reserch and undoubted pasion for this subjct a measure of justice.  Page 4 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  Source: http:/ The above map show most of the places in the interior that wil be covered within ts narrative. In addition to the above I’ve also included the map below. It shows the Okagan valey in greater detail. This i useful for acquaintng oneself with areas such as Wood Lake that aret tims central to the narrative. I found it helpful to acquaint myself with the geography as I tracked t history of the industry.   Page 5 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  Source: http:/  The Canneries – a Narrative In this sction I have outlined information for almost every cannery that has ever existed in the Okanagan. I’ve ordered this chronologicaly. It should be noted tt the information on which this narrative is baed comes principaly from t Ian F. Greenwood colletion at the Kelowna Public Archives.  The story of t canning industry in the Okanagan begins in 1892. The first cannery, Vernon Canning and Jm Co., was etblished wn Lord and Lady Aberdeen purchasd property at Coldstrea Ranch. The Okanagan’s first cannery ws etblished to produce jam, but never entered production commercialy. It ws in indepent operation until 1912/13. In 1913, Dominion Canners purchased the building. The entity tha would ultimately become the Dinirs housd in Lord and Lady Aberdeen’s formr property in Coldstream; was etblished in 1906 as the Southern Okanagan Cannery Ltd. The company initily cnned tomatoes under t Alymer brand, but later cd just fruit. Tre was a terribl fire at the site in 1919 and operations csd in 1922. Established in 1908 the Wood Lake Canning Company Ltd. began canning operations in 1909. T operation cnned mny goods, mostly tomatoes, but also canned peaches, corn, beans and pickles. John K. Olis wa the first President with Egbert Trask s Mnaging Director and Ed Todd instaled, briefly, as manager. Despit is variety the operation almost went io liquidation in 1912. Howver, the Vrnon Fruit Company stepped in and operatd the plant for the 1912 season. Tre were no operations in 1913 or 1914. In 1914 the operaton went io lquidaton. Afr the Frs World War Thomas Page 6 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  Bulman purchased the company’s machinery and transported it to his farm at Elison. The old Wood Lake Canning Comny building was then demolished in 1920. Dominion Canners began production in t Okanagan valey under that name at Peachlnd in 1909. They took the decison to move to Kelow in 1910 and beca ngaged with a company by t name of Westrn Canners which went io liquidation in 1914. During the Great Wr Dominion Canners took over operations, and by 1918 had full control of t former Wstern Cars operation. Operati ceasd in 1960. In 1909, two brothers, Gorge and Oscar Fox, established t Kootenay Jam Co. As the name suggest ty were producing jm. They sold t property in 1911 and oved to Mison. The original Kootenay Ja Co. building stil stands and is a wel-preserved heritage building. Meanwhil in Nelson, also in 1909, Jim McDonald, aka “Long Jim” due to his towring 6’ 7” fram, established t Maconald Ja Plnt. Again, this cannery produced ja and operations continued under the original name until 1953. The company was sold to the National Fruit Company in 1955. In Summerlnd in 1910 t Smith Cannery was etblished by Mr. T.J. Smith. The Cannery producd canned tomatoes and peches. It ws taken over by Dominion Cars in 1913 who operated the plnt until 1915. Also in 1910, the Okanagan Cannery Co. was etblished at Okanagan Centre. At this cannery tomatoes, pumpkin and apples were preserved. Operations ceasd in 1918. In 1914 a cannery ws etblished in Cawston. This cannery had an extremely chekered history. The plant had more than four owners and had a number of years where it was not in operation. T plnt was initialy established by the Orser Bros. and ws named the Estrn Cannery Co. In 1918 Sutherlnd and Ritchi of Klowna began Page 7 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  operating the plant. This arrangement continued for a number of years; yet the plant also remained idle for a number of years too. In 1923 the community of Cawston sold shares nd operatd it wih S.R. Mnery in charge. This arrangent continued until 1933 when fierc competion from Dominion Canners forced the plant to close. The cannery remained inactive until 1944. In 1944 Larry Kly, owner of the Rowclife Canning Company in Kelowna, obtained the plnt. The original cannery canned only tomatoes, but Kely continued with not only tomatoes, but asparagus and fruits too. The operation closd in 1959. Also in 1914 Leopold Hyes etablished t Ocidental Cannery in Kelowna. This cannery profitd from the misfortune of another cnnery: the Okanagan Centre Canning Company. The Okanagan Centre Canning Company had declared bankruptcy and Hayes stepped in and purchased their machinery. Tomatoes and apples were canned at this loction, and pumpkin pi filng ws alo produced. The presrved products were sold to a Winnipeg, Manitoba company by the nam of Macdonald’s Consolidatd Ltd.  Macdonald’s were very happy with t quality of the product and entred a contract wih Oidental. This facilted the need for mechani and spatial operational expansion. As mentioned, the reltionship betwn canners, growers, marketers and equipment slrs was a complex one. Part of this complex relationship is evidencd with this cannery as the growrs and Mcdonald’s slowy purchasd the operation over a number of years. In 1929, Safewy entered the westrn Canadian mrket and purchased Macdonald’s to be the sol supplir, as wholsalr, to their stores. This ws a problm for Oidental. In t year leding up to the purchase Ocidental procesd 200,000 case of fruit and vegetbls. Ultimately, Ocidental deid to sel to Page 8 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  Canadian Canners, a company from Hamilton, Ontario. This decison was tken as a result of Sfeway’s entry io the mrket. The cnnery ws in operation until 1960. 1914 ws a very busy year for cannery start ups. A year lter in 1915 another cannery by the nam of R.J. Graham Company ws etablished in Vrnon in t old Dominion Canners plant. The cannery canned vegetbles (onions, carrots and potatoes) and apples. In 1926 Thoms Bulmn bought the company’s evaporator and operations cesd that year too. For obvious reasons that I need not labour here cannery start-ups were ra post 1914 and throughout the First World Wr. However, the wr did incres demand for preserved products that could be sent to troops on t front line.  In 1918 Pure Foods Products etablished a cannery in Keremos. They procesd corn and tomatoes for two years before seling t operation to the ubiquitous Dominion Canners in 1920. Dominion operatd th plant until 1929, t year of t great depresion. Also in Keremos in the early 1920s was a company by the name of Keremos Packing Company. The cannery cnned tomtoes and se fruit products. In 1920 t Okanagan United Growers Fruit Products Company was etblished in Vernon. The company operatd for two years, producing evaporated apples and cider. Howver, t local growers became unhappy and operations ceasd in 1922. The equipment ws sold to Thoms Buln.  In Klowna, in 1923, Larry Kely established Rowclife Canning. This cannery packed tomatoes, fruits and ws an erly front runner in the production of apple juic. The plnt eventualy closd in 1964. Page 9 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  In Summerland in 1924 the Milne family established t Milne cannery. This cannery packed asparagus, crries, apricots, pecs, pers, plums and tomtoes. This ompany was very succesful even spreading into the U.K. market. The cannery was sold to the Bandeens in 1964. In 1924 Dominion Canners began operations atn Oliver site under t ownership of Frank Eraut. The plant procesd tomatoes and changed its nam to Canadian Canners in 1931. Operations cesd and the plnt closed in 1960. In 1928 Rutland Canners was etblished by E.L. Cross. This cannery procesd tomatoes, vegetbles and produced some juic. Unfortunately the plnt ws detroyed by fire in 1938. Also in 1928 Bulman’s was etblished in Vrnon under the ownership of Thomas Bulman. As with the First World War, another major global event, the Great Depresion, facilted a lull in cannery strt-ups in t valey. In 1932, Sunoka Fruit Products Ld. was etblished at Summerland. In 1934 Regal Fruit was etblished eventualy tking over Sunoka. Ultiatly, Regal went out of busines and ws tken over by the grower owned B.C. Fruit Procesors, what lar became Sun Rype. The plant ws detroyed by fire in 1947. It was never rebuilt. In Oliver in 1936 Cyril Huntley established t Huntley Bros. Cannery with the help of Jim Stowel. The cannery procsd tomtoes and was operated by the family through to the end of t Second World War. Oliver also sw the establishment of Stowel Canning Co. Ltd. in 1936 by Jim Stowel. It came about as t Huntly Bros. looked to move into canned fruit and expand operations. Stowl managed this area of production. Candied fruit and glace cherries wre procesd. Operations ceasd in 1960.   Page 10 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  In 1937 the Kelowna based Modern Foods was etblished. T plant procesd dehydrated appls, concntrat, juic and vinegar. The Sun Rype brand ws etblished in 1939. The plant ws sold to B.C. Fruit Procesors (which later became Sun Rype) in 1946. In 1938 Osoyoos Evaporator was etblished in Osoyoos. The company was established by H.P. Mahler and M. Huxley. T plant produced drid apples. Unfortunately, the plnt burnt down in 1944 and ws never rebuilt. A Oliver, also in 1938, Louis Dighton established t L. Deighton cannery where apricots, peaches, pears, apples, prunes, cherries and candid fruit were procesd. T plant ws sold by Deighton in 1952. Again in 1938 the Vernon Fruit Union was etblished at Woodsdale. The plant procesd apple juic under t O.K. brand before being purchased by B.C. Fruit Procsors in 1946. In 1939 Barkwil’s Cannery was etblished in Summerland. The plant procesd apricots, peaches, pears and apples under t AMB and Royal City lbels. T company ws a champion of innovation and continued operations much longer than many of its counterparts, eventualy closing in 1980. In Kelowna in the early 1940s Bil Deighton, brother of Louis, etablished a cannery with his wife Elga. It ws namd Dion Cannery and they procesd fruits nd vegetables grown on their property. They ceasd operations in t early 1950s. Blir Underwood established Garnet Vly Cannery in Summerlnd in 1942. Along with producing potto chips and popcorn; it also procesd tomatoes, cherries, prunes, apricots and peaches. Larry Kely of the aforemntioned Rowclife Cannery in Page 11 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  Kelowna purchased the cannery in 1946 and operated it until 1960 at which time it closd. Ewart McNaughton established MacNughton Canning Co. in Osoyoos in 1946. It procesd apriots, peches, pers, plums, tomtoes, cherries and various other fruits. The operation was forced to close in 1950 because tre was a freze in 1949 that limted t amount of fruit availabl for canning. At Summrlnd in 1946 the Sumerland Cooperative Growers Cannery ws etblished. T cannery mainly packed peches. Ultimately, the outfit was purchased by Safewy in 1948 with operations continuing until 1974. In 1947 Creston Canners was etblished in Creston. The cannery procesd fruit, vegetables and apple juic. The plnt closed in 1958 after it ws deemd cheaper to transport the product from elsewre rather than kep a plant in Creston. In 1948 Dennis and Bil Edge establisd the Edge Brothers Cannery in Okanagan Fals. The cannery procesd tomtoes and peacs, but t freez of 1949 put paid to their operation. In 1951 Mary and Henry Avenarious established t Avenarious Diabetic Cannery. This w a unique operation and ws aited in part by the Summerlnd Resarch Staion. Theration was run from the Avenarious home. Ultiatly the products (fruits and jams with artifcl swetners) were sold al over the nation until government regultions forced closure in 1955. At Osoyoos in 1954 Canada Packers was etblished. Canada packers purchased the MacNughton Cannery after its closure. Cherries, apricots, peahes, tomatoes and Page 12 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  pears were canned at this cannery. Confusingly, the name was changed to York Farms in 1956. The company closed in 1958. In 1957 Lionel Fudge began operating a custom canning operation under the name of Fudge Canning. The company was purchased in 1970 by John Beaven and t  changed to Beaven Canning. The operation continued to focus on custom canning. After three years worth of poor crops, and t limted work that brought, the cpany fild for bankruptcy in 1992. This wa the last of the Okanagan’s commercial cnneries.  Analysis  The industry reached its zenith in the 1940s and 50s when tre were many indepent commercil cnneris in t interior (se below chart).     Page 13 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  The above chart shows the number of canneries in existenc in the Okanagan by year. Thus, if four canneries opened in one yer, but four closd in t following year then t chart wil show no change. This intended to show when t largest number of full time canneriesre in operation in the Okanagan. T data used is from the informtion contained within ts narrative. It is clear that the znith of t canning industry ws in the lte 1940s and early 1950s when tre were at least sventen canneries in indepent commercil operation.  Cannery start-ups in the Okanagan by decade  The above chart shows cannery start-ups within the Okanagan by decade. Cleary, during t years analyzed, 1930-1940 ws the decaden cannery ‘strt ups’ wre most popular.  The relationship betwen the canners, growers, marketers and equipment slers. A key component in the Okanagan cnning industry was the complx relationship betwen canners, growers, marketrs and those sling equipment within the industry. Page 14 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  This relationship was complex as al four parties relid on each other to a varying degree at one time or another. Moreover, one of the major fctors contributing to the complxity of this relationship is t fragile nature of fruit that goes to market. Growers wre in the positon where once their crops wre harvested they quickly needed to sl. Thisa especialy so in t early yearshen refrigeration was not an option. The aim ws to nsure that the fruit ws stil ripe; thus maximizng their return. Yet thisa fraughtith dificulty. Ty not only had to market their goods, but also had to transport them. Often they had to sel, in the words of Ian: “wrever a market could be found and at whatver price t orchardist could get.”1 Naturaly, this led to some fairly scandalous prices and practies. This coupled with the ‘se-sw’ nature of agricultural crop returns could spel disatr for som orchardist. Atmpts to etablish unions to regulate the marketing of goods proved: “unsuccesful and it wsn’t until the early ‘30s… that t BC Fruit Growers Asociaton (BCFGA)… focused its activies on solving the problems of Southern Intrior fruit growers.”2 Ultimately these four parties depended on the Okanagan fruit crop and were al interreltd. T creation of BCFGA crtainly aided t situaion. As irrigation mthods and production progresed there were an incresing number of culls. These wre items not deemd fit for market. T BCFGA helped secure fair prices for culld appls which wre usd in the production of apple juic. An exampl of the powr of a unionized industry is evidenced by the pric paid for culls. Indeed, “t venture was so succsful                                                  1 Simpson, Sharon J and Grenwood,Ian F. Deep Rots, Strong Braches. Manhtta Beach Publishing, Kelwn,B.C. 206. Pg 9. 2 Ibid. Pg 9Page 15 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  tha the initial $3.00 per ton [paid for culls]… grew to $22.00 a ton.”3 As with any union organiztion there were fractious members who wished to have more control and more say over how thingsre run. Of cours, canners and t wider market were not always happy with the prices they had to pay and the BCFGA often got cught in the middle unable to pleas eitr side.  Conclusion  The Okanagan fruit canning industry reached its zenith in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Treafter the industry fel away and had dwindld significntly by the mid-1960s. From my resarch it is clr that demand for canned products such as those onc produced in the Okanagan has diappered alost entirely. There exist som small demand, but nothing significnt enough to justify a commercial cnning operation. The cnning industry itself grew and then declined to its prent point. However, this i not indiative of the Okanagan fruit/vegetable industry as a whole. The Okanagan fruit/getble industry is very adaptbl; as the relatively recnt shift to wine production demonstras. The itry has over time grown and consolidated. Sun-Rype is a great exaple of one of t industry’s great consolidators. Inded, the fruit/vegetabl industry itslf i at the mercy of many elemnts such as weather; crop growth; tchnological innovations; cumr dend to nae but a fw. This ensures that the industry has to be responsive and it is. This i most clar in the products that have been produced and offered over the years. Initialy, mny cnneries wre canning tomatoes, but at tims there was much variety from peches to onions and asparagus.  Succes or failure                                                  3 Ibid. Pg 12 Page 16 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  depended on a number of  factors; with consumer recption being just one such factor. Indeed, a great example of the fruit/vegetabl industry adapting can be found in its respons to technological changes. Technological changes fcilted a greater amount of culls. This ld the industry to produc jui. Such adaptability shows the nature of the industry as a whole. Ultimately, Many diferent products have been trid and varying factors have contributd to the succes or failure of a gin product. Juice is by far the most popular ‘by-product’ t industry has produced. Over time as ventures becme ls profitble novel ideas were shelved and a shift towards stapl its occurred. This i why the Summrland Resrch Staion was so vital as it provided an outlet for creative production. Overal, what is cler is that the cnning industry declined and as with any decline there a many varid reasons for t change. However, from my research and signifiant secondary reding I believe there a several key causes for the decline. One chif isue is the advancmnt of transportation and highways. This led to produce being able to travel greater distances. Moreover, this combined with refrigeratd trucks alowd produc to be shipped gret distances and remain ‘fresh’ thus making the availble markets extremely competive. Now that products had a much greter chance of reching mt fresh the ned for preserved goods dwindled. For instanc, it becam more cost efective for a company like Safwy to maintn a flt of refrigerated trucks than to hold and maintn a canning company and its premise. As a reult, companis like Safewy no longer needed to use canneries a extensively as before and this significntly harmed the industry. Thus, tchnological advancemnts in the second half of the 20th century limtd t need and demand for cnneris. Furthermore, t 1960s was a period of gretr governmnt irvention in the food industry and greater government Page 17 of 18 Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  centralizaton of the industry as whole. This led to stricer regulations, such as those that aftd the Avenarious Diabetic Cannery, and harsher penalties for infractions. For som cnneries t cost of implenting the changes wa an isue and this led to cpanies going out of busines. With that said, t government funded Summrland Resarch Staion did much to aid and dvance the local industry. Under the stewrdship of Ted Atkinson in particular the Staion asitd ll growers and canneris in testing products for market. Thus, government involvement within the industry should not be cast solely in a negative light. Of cours, there a other isue that contributed to the decline of the Okanan fruit canning industry, but from my extensive resarch I consider tse to be the major fctors.              Page 18 of  Historical nrative ofthe canig ndustry inBritsh Columbia’s outhern iterio VineP.JosAutumn 201 – History 489  Sources  Atkinson, F.E. (Ted).“In the Beginning.” 43rd Report of the Okanagan Historical Society 1979. 15-18.  Brown, Martin and Philips, Petr. “Craft Labor and Mechanization in Ninetenth-Century Americn Canning” Journal of Economic History 46, Spt 1986.  Dndy, David and Kyle, Kathlen M., A Fruitful Century. British Columbia Fruit Growers’ Asociaton, Klowna, B.C. 1990.  Freidberg, Susnne. Fresh: A Perishable History. Cambridge: Harvard University Pres, 2009.  “Inside British Columbia” mp. URL: http:/  Kerr, Anne M et al. Okanagan Fruitlands: Land-Use Change Dynamics and the Impact of Fderal PogramsEnvironment Canada: Otaw, 1985  Newl, Dianne (ed). The Dvlopmnt of the Pacifc Salmon-Canning Industry. Montre and Kingston: McGi-Queen’s Universty Pres, 1989.  “Okanagan Now” map. URL: http:/  rmsby, Margaret A. “Fruit Marketing in the Okan Valey of British Columbi,” Agricultural Hisory 9. April 1935. 80-97  Simpson, Sharon J and Greenwood, Ian F. Dep Roots, Strong Branches. Manhatan Beach Publishing, Kelowna, B.C. 2006 “The Report of the Royal Commison on the Tree-fruit Industry of British Columbia.” Victoria: Queen’s Printer, 1958. pp.650-651  Wilde, Mrk Wilam. “Industrializton of Food Procesing in the United Staes, 1860-1960” Ph.D. Dserttion, Universy of Delawre, 1988. Chapter 2.   


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