Mystery solved: Kelowna's Quo Vadis Motel

Second look at old motel

In my last column, I noted there was an unidentified motel in the historical photo taken near the intersection of KLO and Lakeshore Roads.

Thanks to information provided by readers, the mystery motel has been identified

The motel in question was the Quo Vadis Motel. I remember seeing the unusual name during my frequent visits to the Okanagan in the early 1970s, as well as after I moved to the valley in 1978. However I had no recollection of it’s location.

A number of readers did remember its location very well and several had fond memories of staying or working there.

An email from Barb Scott simply identified the motel as the QuoVadis and noted, “We stayed there when we lived at the Coast and vacationed in Kelowna.

According to Gilbert Bede, who stayed there from October 1976 to April 1977 while attending Okanagan College, the Quo Vadis was built in 1960 by Jozef Kaczmarek.

However some questions regarding the ownership arose when I received an email from Dale Manson, who wrote “the… motel was owned by Gaston Gauthier and his son Grant, who then built the SaveOn Foods store and the Scotiabank building.”

Still more uncertainty about the ownership of the motel developed when Wendy Holling emailed me saying, “That motel was the Quo Vadis. I worked there cleaning rooms in my teens. It was owned by someone we never met, named Hammer.”

I resolved the apparent paradoxes by presuming they are all correct and simply refer to owners of the motel during different periods of time.

Then my thoughts turned to the possible origins of the seemingly odd name for a motel.

I discovered a novel titled, Quo Vadis, written by the Nobel prize-winning Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz, was published in 1896. It was an epic work of historical fiction about the final years of Roman Emperor Nero’s rule and was made into a Hollywood block-buster movie in 1951.

From the spelling of his name, I postulated that if Jozef Kaczmarek was the first owner, he likely had Polish roots. If so, perhaps he was familiar with the book written by the Polish Nobel laureate and that’s what spawned the motel’s name.

It is also possible that if the motel was built in 1960, perhaps the owners, whoever they were, chose the name Quo Vadis trying to capitalize on the familiarity of the epic film’s title. I wonder if they were hoping that the inferred association with that movie’s scenes of Roman grandeur and opulence would entice travellers to stay at their uniquely named establishment.

It certainly is a name that is hard to forget.

This column consists of a considerable amount of speculation on my part and I will conclude it with one last thing for you to contemplate. Even though the image of the metal helmet on the motel sign looks more like one worn by a medieval knight than a Roman centurion, the unusual name is actually rather appropriate.

“Quo vadis” translates from Latin as “Where are you going?” That’s an appropriate name for a motel, since it is a question, along with “Unde venistis?” Or “Where are you from?,” questions any Roman inn-keeper, or modern era motel owner, might ask of a guest.

Thanks to the readers who emailed me and were able to put a name to the previously unidentified motel and provide some of the details used in this column. Thanks also for your kind words and support in general. A special thank-you to Gilbert Bede who sent me the postcard images of the exterior of the Quo Vadis motel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


The view nearly 50 years ago from K.L.O. and Lakeshore

Then and now in Mission

These two photos are from different eras and different seasons. The lower photo was taken in the early summer of 2019 when the temperature was above 20 C.

In contrast, the upper historical photo was taken circa 1975. Based on the leafless trees and melting dirty snow patches it appears that it was probably taken in late winter or during a mid-winter, warming spell. From the shopping centre sign we can see a temperature reading of 2 C.

It is easy to spot some of the changes that have taken place in the nearly 45 years or so between the two images... differences, like sidewalks and solid pavement from one side of the road to the other, a dedicated cycling lane, a re-modeled shopping centre sign (without a temperature display), and the construction of a Starbucks Coffee shop over part of the original parking lot. In addition to the new buildings like Starbucks, the Bank of Montreal has more prominent signage on their corner location in the Mission Park Centre.

Across the road, the Siesta Motel has morphed into Siesta Suites and the A&W and other residences and businesses are now located in buildings constructed since 1975. The motel sign for an unidentified and unseen motel, located immediately south of Mission Park, is gone.

Where only trees appear on the 1975 image, visible in the current photo of Mission Park area is the top part of the Okanagan Heath Surgical Centre that was constructed in more recent times to the southeast on Richter Street.

These photos were taken very near where Lakeshore and K.L.O. roads intersect. The name of Lakeshore Road probably comes from its proximity to, and parallel symmetry with, the lakeshore. But what’s the source of the letters “K.L.O?”

They are the initials the “Kelowna Land and Orchard Company.” The company business plan was to purchase some 6,500 acres (over 26 square kilometres) of land south of Mission Creek and divide it up into hundreds of small farm plots. The K.L.O. company would promote the benefits of life in the Okanagan, encourage people to visit Kelowna and sell them “land and orchard properties.”

Support your local museums, archives and historical societies who are preserving our shared history and heritage.

Please email your comments and suggestion onto Terry at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Kamloops: Peter or Paul and the legacy of David Thompson

A second look at Kamloops

Two geographic features dominate the panoramic view of Kamloops, taken in 1910 (top photo) and in the bottom image, taken in the spring of 2023. They are Mount Paul and the Thompson Rivers.

The mountain, with its two prominent domes that loom over the city at the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers, is commonly referred to as Mount Paul. However, the higher of the two summits is Peter Peak, recorded as 1,080 metres above sea level. The more westerly dome, Paul Peak, is only 830 metres high.

So, when most people point to the summit of what they call Mount Paul, they are actually identifying the top of what should more properly be called Mount Peter. That’s the technical nomenclature as I understand it, but local common use of names often trumps official geographic designations.

While one can only imagine that it was some unknown religious pioneer cleric who named the two prominent local peaks after a couple of biblical apostles, the provenance of the name of the river passing through Kamloops is well documented.
The Thompson River was named by fur treader and explorer Simon Fraser for his friend and colleague, master surveyor and map maker extraordinaire, David Thompson.

On his daring dash down the river that now bears his name, Fraser erroneously thought the major river that joined the Fraser near the present day community of Lytton was the same one Thompson had recently discovered and was actively exploring and mapping its upper reaches.

That other river came to be known as the Columba River, whose drainage system was not part of the vast Thompson River system. Ultimately, the Columbia River system proved to be more extensive and more important financially than the Thompson system.

It is ironic that Thompson, the man who explored, surveyed and accurately mapped more of North America than any other explorer on this continent (some 4.9 million-square-kilometres), had his name attached erroneously to a river he did not discover, nor was it part of the 90,000 kilometre distance he covered in his explorations on foot, by horse and in a canoe.

Here are some additional items to take note of in the two photo images:

HH—There may be others, but the feature labeled “HH” on both photos is clearly a heritage home or building that has been re-finished on the exterior but has retained its original structure and shape.

WW—The original Woodwards building, located at the intersection of Victoria Street West and First Avenue, was reincarnated as the B.C. Lottery Corporation headquarters in the modern photo and labeled “LC” in that image.

There are probably many other interesting features visible in these photos that Kamloops residents will be able to point out. So, if you are familiar with the area and notice something that catches your eye, please email me your observations or corrections if I made any serious errors.

It can be tricky identifying and labelling streets, especially on archival photos, as roads can shift considerably—or even disappear completely in a blink of an historical eye.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Kelowna’s Bernard Avenue looking east—a shrinking vista

Second look at city view

The archival photo above was taken in 1908 from the roof of the Holmes Grocery store, looking east up Bernard Avenue from it’s intersection with Pandosy Street.

The large boxy building in the left foreground was the livery stable, where horses and wagons were kept for hire. It was also where the animals and vehicles of people coming to town could be stabled and secured while their owners conducted whatever business they had in Kelowna.

Near the centre point of the distant horizon, two rounded humps mark the location of Black Mountain—sntsk'il'nt?n Regional Park. The larger and higher promontory is the summit of the mountain commonly known as Black Mountain. However, it is more correctly cited in geographic reference sources as Black Knight Mountain.

The modern day photo shows that even when viewed from a location several storeys higher than the rooftop elevation of the older photograph, the extent to which existing multiple-storey structures, as well as ones currently under construction, have shrunk and broken up a once broad uninterrupted vista.

In a previous column I wrote a few lines about the origin of the names of Bernard and Leon Avenues in Kelowna. I noted it was pioneer settler Bernard Lequime who was responsible for the initial survey and layout of Kelowna in 1892. He saw to it that his and his brother’s names were included as street names on that first survey.

In this column, three more prominent street names are specifically noted, Pandosy, Ellis and Richter.

Many residents of Kelowna may know Pandosy Street was named for the Catholic priest, Jean Pandosy. Father Pandosy is identified as the first permanent European settler in the Kelowna area. He came to North America from France in 1847 and was assigned to serve his church in various locations in what is now Washington State and also in Esquimalt on Vancouver Island before taking on the task of converting and ministering amongst the indigenous people of the Okanagan Valley.

Upon his arrival in the Kelowna area in 1859, he established a church and school near what is now called Mission Creek. He was an avid farmer and did a considerable amount of promotion of the agricultural potential of the Okanagan area in an effort to attract more settlers, presumably to help increase his pastoral following, as well as for the advancement the entire community would enjoy as the population increased.

The origin of the names Ellis and Richter are less well known today. The two streets were named after a pair of pioneer cattle ranchers, land speculators and venture capitalists who held land rights and owned property several parts of the Okanagan Valley, from the border with the U.S. to Vernon.

Frank Richter arrived in the Okanagan from Austria in 1864 and Thomas Ellis came from Ireland and arrived in British Columbia in 1865. Although both men were more closely associated with communities in the southern Okanagan, both were also prominent men and well known throughout the entire valley by the 1890s when the names for the first Kelowna streets were chosen.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Terry W. Robertson received a bachelor of science degree in geology from UBC in 1970. His studies included physical geography, surveying and air-photo interpretation. Subsequently, he worked in petroleum exploration, initially based in Calgary and from 1978 to 1988 as an independent geological consultant working from his home the Okanagan.

In 1988, he left the oil industry and participated in the start-up and development of several small businesses in Lake Country, including a travel agency and a community newspaper which he edited and published from 1996 to 2003. With two children in local schools at the time and with a passion for politics, Terry was elected as the Lake Country trustee on the Central Okanagan School Board from 1990 to 2002.

He remains interested in politics and was an active supporter of the “Yes” side in the 2018 B.C. referendum on Proportional Representation. He enjoys getting outdoors, as well as travelling and exploring historic sites and museums. In addition, he likes to write about politics, history and geography.

Terry is interested in obtaining old (pre 1970)  photos of landscapes, street scenes or images of prominent structures from the Okanagan or Thompson region. If you possess any such images that you would permit him to copy and use in a future column, or have any comments about his column, please email him at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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