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Early Oyama Packinghouse

Economic activity in Oyama really increased with the opening of the navigation canal across the isthmus in Oyama in 1908. The first steamer, theCity of Vernon, passed through the canal on September 3, 1908, creating a water link to the north end of Kalamalka Lake.  By 1909 the Wood Lake Cannery had started on the shore of Wood Lake, the Wood Lake Fruitlands Company had its irrigation system operational on the east benches, the first stores were opened and the school established.

In 1913 the Vernon Fruit Union Packinghouse began operations near the community hall, followed in 1914 by the privately owned Sterling and Pitcairn Packinghouse. Grote Sterling, one of the owners, was elected as a Conservative MP in 1924, which is likely when he sold the packinghouse to local orchardists, J. D. Quine and W. T. Heddle. The building was destroyed by fire in 1935. After the fire, the property, now site of the Tween Lakes Resort, was for many years the playing field (baseball, soccer and hockey) for Oyama School teams. David McClure recalls that his father umpired “Twilight Baseball”games at the canal field in 1945-47, before teams moved to the field behind the community hall.  

Sterling and Pitcairn Packinghouse

This first photo of the newly constructed Sterling and Pitcairn building is from the Ron Taylor Collection. The packinghouse was built alongside the canal, but fruit had to be loaded at a dock across Oyama Road from the packinghouse.

The second photograph, from the Heddle Collection, was taken sometime after 1924, judging from the election poster stapled to the wall of the building. Assembled is the small crew at the Quine and Heddle plant, sorters, packers, box maker and warehousemen. Arnold Trewhitt has identified Vernon Ellison sitting on the left and Gordon McClure on the far right. Blaine Griffiths is standing, leaning against the wall. In the front row, the woman fourth from the left is Alys (Martlew) Heddle. The older lady beside her is likely her mother–in-law, Mrs. Kate Heddle, and some of the younger ladies may have been Heddles or Quines as these families both included working-age daughters.  Vernon Ellison is likely the box maker, given his canvas apron and the box maker’s hatchet driven into the plank beside him.

Oyama Packinghouse Crew

Can any reader identify these folks from other historic photos?


  • Liz Ellison of the Vernon Museum indicated that the Archives owns a similar photo, taken at the same time. She identifies some individuals that I was not able to. Here is a copy of her email.

    Stirling & Pitcairn packing house crew in Oyama. Back row left to right: Vernon E.
    Ellison; G.G. Allan; Bob Pointer; Sam Tyndall; Gordon McLure;. Front row left to
    right: Hattie Wilson; Freda Piggott; Doris Rimmer; Alice Heddle; Connie Heddle, ?

  • Reg is correct.

    Thomas Willing Stirling (known as TW) was the orchardist and co-owner of Stirling & Pitcairn.

    Grote Stirling didn’t come to Canada until 1912.

    Would you please correct the name spelling in the article? Stirling is spelt incorrectly at least 3 times. Thanks

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