William John Knox was born in 1878 in a small village in north eastern Ontario, the second of eight children. His mother had been a school teacher and his father was a Methodist minister. His family background provided him with a good educational base.
Gifted with a phenomenal memory (he never forgot a person’s name), he always stood at or near the top of the honour roll, and graduated in 1893. Having little money, it wasn’t until he was 21 years old in 1899 that Billy Knox was able to begin his medical career at Queen’s University, Kingston.
He had little money and couldn't afford more training so he ended up in Vancouver, a place that his mother’s uncle had spoken of in his younger days. He had been intrigued by the stories his uncle told about this exotic seaport that was the gateway to the Orient. When he arrived, there was a position open for a ship’s doctor on the “Empress of China”. Being from Ontario he had to take a licensing exam in order to practice medicine in British Columbia. A friend of his, also from Ontario, who failed the exam, asked him to take over his practice in Kelowna. It seems that his friend had promised to take a six month locum tenens for Dr. B. Boyce in Kelowna but was now unable to do so. Bill Knox spent the next six months practising medicine in Kelowna.
He returned to Vancouver to take the position of ship’s doctor but the “Empress” was held up in the Orient. Tired of waiting, Dr. Knox flipped a coin and the decision to return to Kelowna was made. Little did he know, in 1904, that he would spend the next 63 years of his life in the Okanangan.
In June of 1905, Jean Dickson, of Kingston, Ontario, married Bill Knox in Vancouver. During their life together in Kelowna they had two boys and two girls.
Practising medicine at the turn of the century in an outpost like Kelowna meant working in very hard conditions, because hospital facilities were primitive and the house calls were important. Even though Dr. Knox bought himself a car in 1909, he relied heavily on his horse to take him over the roads for most of the year. He had to visit tiny settlements on the lake by rowboat.
Operations were often performed on a dining room table or in a bed using a few slugs of whiskey as the only anesthetic on some occasions. Until the 1920’s most babies were delivered at home. In these early times there were few dentists so M.Ds had to handle dental problems too. Dr. Knox related pulling his first tooth while following the instructions from a book as he proceeded. He was keen to use new medical techniques such as x-rays to help set fractures but exposed his hands to the rays.
In 1906, Dr. Knox was elected to the school board and in 1912 he was appointed medical inspector for schools. He reported annually on the condition of the schools and the health of students for the next 53 years. Because of his work for the betterment of student health and in recognition of his contributions to the community, a school was named in his honor - Dr. Knox Junior - Senior High School.
Dr. Knox is currently a middle school that is home to approximately 800 students in grade 7, 8 and 9.