In 1920 there was an Okanagan Council 2116 which, as the name implies, served the Knights of Columbus throughout the valley. However, after the Kelowna Fr. Pandosy Council was formed, the Okanagan Council did not function beyond World War Two. Several Vernon knights joined the Fr. Pandosy Council because the Catholic population here was small and only in 1950 were the men able to form a Columbus Club. But from then on the city of Vernon was growing and on April 10, 1960, St. James Council 4949 received its charter. Our first Grand Knight was Bro. Hank Murray. We have a list of 53 of our charter members, but at the time of writing (May 2009) only six are still alive. As the BC & Yukon State celebrates a centennial, our council celebrates 50 years.
St. James Council continues to be active in Church, parish and community. A maintenance committee looks after the needs and upkeep of our church, the rectory and also our Catholic school. Members organize the annual necrology mass and Marian Hour. They are involved in the RCIA, prayer group, and Pro-life Society. We are supporting many charities as well as our seminarians, high school graduates, and an orphanage in India. The BC State Convention was held on its diamond jubilee year of 1971 in Vernon. The second time the convention was held here was in 1989, and council received many compliments on the run of this event. In 1997, as the Order celebrated 100 years in Canada, our council asked Vernon City Council to proclaim the week of November 23-29 as the Knights of Columbus Week. Many Star Council and other awards attest to the activities and involvements of our members.
Four years after receiving its charter, Council 4949 was approached by Miss Benedicta Yeatman with the suggestion to build and operate a senior citizens centre. She donated her property for this cause. A society was formed by our Knights and named "Okanagan Commemorative Pioneer Cultural Society (OSPCS)." Miss Yeatman's property lay just about in the middle of town; our permit was denied and the City of Vernon expropriated this property for their own use. Council then purchased another property--an old cannery--with the money received from the City. The Knights renovated a portion of the big building for council chambers. One night, a few years later, a roaring fire destroyed the building and thus left the St. James Council "homeless." Now renewed efforts were made by a number of knights to continue with the original plans.
With the help of the provincial government the men assembled a parcel of land in town. It was located close to many seniors' residences. There a 115-unit intermediate care facility was erected, called "The Gateby", and after its completion in the fall of 1983, was just about immediately fully occupied. A board of directors from the Knights was elected to govern this facility. The next step for the society (OCPCS) was to erect a 17,000 sq.ft. building adjacent to the Gateby. It was to serve as a recreational centre as per the original commitment of many years ago. The centre includes a pool room, crafts room, library, a cafeteria and a complete kitchen which can cater to a variety of banquets. The official opening was held November 3, 1989. Being so accessible from all directions and having a pleasant and tasteful interior, it proves a boon to our city and surrounding area. Many Knights and other volunteers add to the welcoming atmosphere. After several years under the direction and management by the Knights, the Schubert Centre (so named after a pioneer family) was given to the Senior Citizens Society to continue the operation.
Now the OCPCS was able to concentrate on a low-cost housing building. It was to be called Columbus Court. It was finished in 1992 and quickly the 36 suites were filled. A large room became an office and board room for our council. A few years later it was shared by Council 12202. In another spacious room the monthly meetings of Councils 4949 and 12202 take place. In 2002 an addition was constructed with 35 suites. The board of OCPCS still directs and administers the Columbus Court while the "Gateby" is now in the hands of the provincial government. The Schubert Center is operated by the seniors’ society.
It took many years of committed "men they call knights" to bring their dream as well as that of a woman to a fruitful and useful conclusion. These three multi-million dollar buildings will remain a lasting monument for the men of Council 4949 and our Order.