Oyama during World War II
The final featured Heritage Marker will be placed where the Okanagan Rail Trail crosses Oyama Road. Like the other markers in the series, this one was prepared with the assistance of a Canada 150 grant.
The crossroads of Highway 97 and Oyama Road was the commercial hub of Oyama, before the widening of the highway in the 1950s when all of the commercial buildings were torn down. Most of what a farming community needed on a daily basis could be found here. Alex and Myrtle Smith’s grocery store was well stocked, and for some time it also featured a butcher shop and a bank. Next-door was the Oyama Garage with a resident mechanic and Home gas pumps. Across the highway was the Kalwood Inn, featuring a café with a number of booths where the local teenagers hung out on evenings and weekends. The Kalwood Inn included cabins out back, gas pumps and a Greyhound bus stop. Further south was Rae’s blacksmith shop, where farmers could bring broken machinery for repair. The beach on Wood Lake was great for swimming and one could also rent fishing boats. The canal was a couple of hundred yards along Oyama Road.
As the large 1942 photograph indicates, there was not a lot of traffic midday in Oyama during wartime. Children were in school and farm families were working on their farms. Still, this was the heart of the community. Oyama lost its core when the highway was widened and good roads and widespread car ownership made shopping in Vernon attractive.
This era will never be recovered but with the advent of tourist attractions like cycling circle route around Wood Lake featuring Pelmewash Parkway and the Okanagan Rail Trail, new businesses will likely sprout up. After all, Oyama is the “Jewel of the Okanagan.”
Earlier blog posts about these heritage markers are available on this website: