One-of-a-kind museum tells cadet story

Marina Craig, Vernon Cadet Museum Director of Marketing and Operations, makes a final check on one of the many displays of uniforms before the re-opening of the Vernon Cadet Museum for the summer.

Marina Craig, Vernon Cadet Museum Director of Marketing and Operations, makes a final check on one of the many displays of uniforms before the re-opening of the Vernon Cadet Museum for the summer.

Wayne Emde, Army Cadets Corps Public Affairs ~

There are approximately 59,000 young Canadians enrolled in cadet programs across Canada.

But here is only one Cadet Museum and it’s in Vernon, B.C.

From the outside, the former guardhouse and post office just off Highway 97 retains the well-worn textures and colours that harken back to the early 1940s when Vernon Military Camp housed thousands of soldiers training for duty overseas in the Second World War. Inside, it’s a different story.

In the spring of 2013, the building was declared surplus to needs and the keys were handed over to Francois Arseneault to create the museum.

Arseneault became interested in cadet history after his summers between 1978 and 1980 at the Vernon Army Cadet Training Camp, also the oldest cadet training centre in Canada.

He began collecting photos, shoulder flashes, cap badges and other items related to Army Cadets in Canada. On a shoestring, and with a great deal of support and encouragement from then Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Terry Kopan, the museum opened its doors for cadets and visitors.

In the years since, collections have grown with donations of photos, uniforms, documents, and band instruments. Many former cadets have contributed financially, and a yearly auction serves as a major fundraiser. 

“It’s been a team effort,” said Arseneault, who works with a committee consisting of Mitch Steck, Maria and Graham Brunskill, Lisa Devine, and Cory Schultz.

Dale Dickie of West Kelowna designed and built a detailed model of one of the H-Huts. Captain Dan Emde, a Licensed Electrical Contractor, upgraded the wiring and replaced the existing fluorescent lights with LED lights.

Arsesneault’s father-in-law, Eric Otto, built cabinets and performed carpentry magic to bring the building up to code.

Visitors to the museum may be surprised by the scope of the collections. More than 2,500 items are on display. Glass cases display uniforms. Video screens loop historic footage. There’s a collection of books and several hands-on displays and challenges, including a working “Buzzer Practice Cadet Type” Morris code transmitter. 

Cabinets display newspaper clippings and patriotic posters of historic items from both World Wars, including civilian gas masks, a Ross rifle from the First World War and a Lee Enfield from Second World War.

Because summer cadet training centres now include all three elements (air, sea and land), new displays represent this change, and the museum underwent a recent update.

Arseneault also created a website (www.armycadethistory.com) to archive the history of Vernon. The museum is designed both for cadets who are attending summer training, former cadets, and the general public.

“I hope to inspire the cadets by showing them their history,” said Arseneault.

Visitor parking is available on the west side of Highway 97 and visitors enter through the tunnel under the highway. The museum is open to the public daily from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. except Mondays.

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