They went by the moniker of Vernon's "Rink Rats," yet they would have preferred to be known as the "Boys' Benevolent Society."
This group comprised agile youngsters aged 12 to 15 who would swiftly hit the ice between hockey periods and games to give it a thorough sweep. Although they received no payment for their efforts, they enjoyed complimentary admission to all the skating and hockey games they desired at the Vernon Civic Arena.
The term "Rink Rats" seems to have gained prominence in the 1940s. Before the onset of the Second World War, the task of maintaining the ice was primarily carried out by young men in their early 20s. However, when these individuals departed to serve overseas, the Rink Rats stepped in to fill the void.
In the wartime era, the Rink Rats operated under the supervision of Hugo Schultz, the foreman of the Civic Arena.
Hugo was reputed to be strict, often described as someone who would "stand around with a club, yelling and snorting for more action from the brooms and scrapers." However, his demeanour underwent a noticeable shift when two young women, Della Badley and Sheila Hill, joined the team. Hugo displayed a much more patient attitude towards the ladies, much to the disgruntlement of the Rink Rats.
But, the diligent efforts of the boys did not escape recognition entirely. Annually, during Christmas time, they were honoured with a banquet held in the arena's canteen. In the memorable year of 1942, they indulged in a Christmas cake skillfully iced and adorned to resemble a miniature version of a hockey rink, complete with tiny goal nets.
The Civic Arena, the famed dwelling of the Rink Rats, opened in Vernon in 1938. At the time of its inauguration, it proudly hosted the sole artificial ice surface between Vancouver and the Kootenays. The arena, a custodian of 80 years of sports history, was eventually demolished in 2018.
Gwyn Evans is the Head of Archives with the Museum and Archives of Vernon.