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Museum Opens at Vernon Cadet Camp


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Museum Opens at Vernon Cadet Camp

Ribbon cutting Friday


Just off Highway 97 at the Vernon Military Camp is a small, reddish brown, nondescript wooden building anyone driving along the highway could easily overlook. But it has a long history. During World War II it was the military post office serving the thousands of soldiers who trained in Vernon. In the 1970s, it became a guard house and the offices of the military police.

The refurbished building will open its doors to tell the story of not only 63 years of the history of the Vernon Army Cadet Summer Training Centre, but also of the military history of Vernon that stretches back more than 100 years.

Former cadet Francois Arseneault, who spent two summers at the camp in the late 70s and later became a collector of camp memorabilia, wondered if it, "wouldn't be a great idea if we built a museum." He envisioned a place at the camp to house and display not only photographs, but artifacts as well. For the past 20 years, Arseneault has researched the history of the camp, gathering material for his web site (www.armycadethistory.com) and for the lectures he presented to cadets.

Vernon Museum and Archives Director Ron Candy said, "Showcasing the camp's history is something we wanted to do for years. It's a natural satellite museum."
With a limited budget, the two men, along with staff from the museum and archives, set out to create the displays. Panels display photographs and historic details from each of the 63 years the camp has been in operation. "We relied on newspaper accounts, interviews, personal stories and photographs to recreate the feel of each year," Arseneault said.

One of the display cabinets contains the uniform of a Cadet Services of Canada officer from the 1950s. Another displays copies of documents from the war years.
"We can't talk about the cadet camp without tying in the history of the early militia units, WWI and WWII. Vernon has a long military history and the presence of the camp has had a direct effect on the city, socially and economically," said Candy. "There were times when the population of the camp was greater than that of the city."

Many of the items, especially the photographs, have never been displayed before. More than 800 photographs are included in the display panels. "Our goal is to help educate the cadets about the roots of their program. Some of them are second and third generation cadets, but they have limited knowledge of the camp and its history," said Arseneault.

Commanding Officer Lt.-Col Lyle Johnson has spent a total of 16 summers on staff at VACSTC. "I'm excited and happy to be part of the process of creating an annex that will become a lasting memory for cadets at the training centre." He also expressed appreciation for the efforts of Arseneault. "He has dedicated many hours, not only recently but over the years towards this project."

One room in particular will interest visitors. "We don't want to give everything away in advance," said Arseneault, "but with the use of wall sized mirrors, we'll recreate the look of a barracks room from the mid-seventies."

"It's been a team effort," said Candy, crediting Vernon archivist Barb Bell, data base manager Liz Ellison and artifact cataloguer June Mitchell as key members of his staff who contributed to creating the displays.

"Volunteer donations have financed the project so far," said Arseneault, and he is looking for donations and sponsors to not only complete the project but to expand its displays in the future.

Ribbon cutting for the new museum will take place on Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm and attendance is by invitation only. "We'll be booking escorted tours, as we do with the murals in downtown Vernon and the ghost tours in the fall," said Candy.


100 Years of Military History

by Melissa Ligertwood - Vernon Correspondent

Jul 13, 2013

What began as a boyhood journey has come full circle for one former Vernon Military Camp army cadet.
Francois Arseneault was 15 years old in 1978 when he boarded a plane for the first time, traveling first from Calgary to Edmonton and eventually landing at the Kelowna airport.

“There were no school buses back then. It was army trucks and army jeeps. It was army life,” says Arseneault.

His experiences at the camp had a profound effect on him, he says, forever changing his life and saving him when he needed to be saved.

“We craved the discipline, we craved the challenges, we craved the lifestyle. It didn’t matter what our sergeants threw at us, we ate it up,” he says.

Arseneault says cadets is the perfect opportunity for young Canadians to learn about themselves, and it gives them opportunities they might not have otherwise.
Stemming from his love of military life, Arseneault became a collector of camp memorabilia. He spent 20 years researching the history of the camp and gathering material for both his web site and lectures he presented to cadets.

When Lt. Colonel Lyle Johnson asked Arseneault to help them build a Vernon Cadet Camp Museum, Arseneault says it was a natural fit.
“I’ve developed a real penchant for history. My grandfather, father and uncles were all involved in military conflicts. My wife jokes that I’m the accidental historian,” said Arseneault.

The cadet camp museum team wasted no time solidifying its partnership with the Vernon Museum and Archives.

Director and Curator Ron Candy says they had been talking about a military museum for several years and had future plans for what he calls satellite museums around town. Again, it seemed to be a natural fit.

“This is the oldest continuously operating cadet camp in Canada,” said Candy. “The building was built during World War II as a military post office, and it was turned over to the museum a couple years ago.”

Candy says the museum and the cadet camp have always shared a vision for a historical military museum at the site.

On Friday, the refurbished building opened its doors to tell the 63-year history of the Vernon Army Cadet Summer Training Centre, and 100 years of military history in Vernon.

“Vernon has a long military history and the presence of the camp has had a direct effect on the city, socially and economically,” said Candy. “There were times when the population of the camp was greater than that of the city.”

Photo Captions:

1. Lt. Col. Johson (L) and Vernon Museum Director Ron Candy (Melissa Ligertwood - Vernon Correspondent)
2. Arseneault (R) talks to museum guests about the display. (Melissa Ligertwood - Vernon Correspondent)
3. Ron Candy (left) and Francois Arseneault prepare items for the new museum at the Vernon Army Cadet Summer Training Centre. It will highlight the camp’s long history. (VACSTC/Wayne Emde photo)



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I'm a proud veteran of the six-week senior leaders course at VACC, 1970.  I still have my platoon photograph and the aerial view shots of the camp.  At one time, I had a copy of the local newspaper that contained the list of all of the cadets from across Canada that had attended the Camp that summer.  Stupidly, I threw it out at some time in the past while trying to reduce my fingerprint.

Six weeks of Hell in BC.  Not Hell, really, but it was the biggest challenge I had  faced up to that point in my life.  Got my 2nd Class Cadet chevron out of it.  It didn't do me any harm, and I was probably a better person for it.  Facing up to challenges and going past what I thought I was capable of.

Thanks for the info.



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We went up to Vernon on the 14th to see the Simon Frazer Pipe Band. Hoped to see the museum, but it was closed. Will make another attempt.

Times have changed. You cannot get into the camp without passing through a security perimeter. " We have children here". Also co-ed.

As an underage Cadet, I spent 6 weeks living in a bell tent at Clear Lake CC in 1961, and 6 weeks on the hill at Vernon CC in 1962. Returned in 1965 as a Militia instructor.

Good experience, guidance for a 13, then 14 year old from a broken home.

I hoped you have looked at: www.armycadethistory.com  It probably has the info you tossed. Found 2 photos of 14 YOA Rifleman62 from 1962!