This week is Heritage week in the Central Okanagan and with this in mind I am writing about my family’s contribution to thehistory of our beautiful city over the years.
Just imagine for a minute it is 1922 and the little City of Kelowna with only about 5,000 residents has just grown by five excited souls from Weyburn, Saskatchewan. The 10-acre piece of land on Ethel Street across from where Cottonwoods Extended Care Hospital is today, was purchased by my grandfather Arthur Burnett who moved his family including mygrandma Mabel, my dad Ernie and his two sisters Lillian and Dorothy.
The land was not bare, as it had been settled on 20 years earlier by another transplanted prairie family who built a home anda few out buildings including a barn. At the time my dad was just 12-years-old and he soon became friends with the youngLysons kids across the street. Grandpa got busy and began fixing up the house with new stucco, indoor plumbing and abeautiful stone fireplace. He also began planting several crops in the fields including corn, potatoes, onions and his specialty,field tomatoes.
He found a great market for the tomatoes at the Cannery on Ellis Street and he shipped many tons of onions to markets backeast via the new railway which extended a branch to Kelowna in the mid-twenties. Grandpa purchased young tomato andpepper seedlings from various places but mainly from Mr. Lysons who had established one of the largest and most moderngreenhouse operations in the B.C. interior. However in order to save some of this cost he built a small seedling houseattached to the residence. The little greenhouse was sunk into the ground and actually had a door which led into thebasement of the house which made it very convenient.
I remember this structure quite vividly as it remained functional until I was into my early teens. Now grandpa could grow hisown transplants for the field and it wasn’t long before he had requests from other farmers for transplants. Meanwhile whenmy dad finished high school he began working in the packing house to bring in some outside revenue. He saved some of thisin order to help grandpa build the first full sized greenhouse on the property as the market for more plant sales was growingrapidly.
It was now 1932. The Burnett family had been in Kelowna for 10 years. Lillian met a young jeweler named Jim Haworth andtogether they started what was to become Haworth and Son Watchmakers and Jewelers. My dad began working with horses aswell at that time and did custom work around Kelowna such as ploughing, disking and haying. He also dug about 37basements over the years with the horses using a fresno which was a scoop with two handles attached. Even though thehorses worked hard my dad often said he believed he was required to work just as hard and though he wasn’t large in staturehe was sure tough.
Dad’s passion for growing plants soon superseded his passion for horses and he often hired teamsters to manage that end ofthe business while he and grandpa carried on building greenhouses. By the mid-forties there were five of them eachmeasuring 27 feet wide and 135 feet long.
Oops…looks like I’ve run out of space so I will continue along these lines next week.
Listen to Don Burnett and Ken Salvail every Saturday Morning from 8am to 10am presenting the Garden Show on AM 1150now in its 34th year.