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.

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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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