John Vassair served in the Canadian Forces during the Cold War era, and as such he participated in a number of peacekeeping missions from the period. Most notably John was deployed in Korea and the Suez in the 50s, during and after the conflicts in both of those nations. As such John followed the actions of the initial UN forces, helping to consolidate Canada’s role in this area. From there, John was deployed in both West Germany and the United States, working with NATO forces. John did this interview with Scott Masters in the summer of 2015, where he discussed the context and the difficulties associated with the UN peacekeeping process; the interview took place at his home. The interview was developed by the Grade 9 Tech classes during the 2015-16 school year.
Oral History Project May 13th, 2016
Gord Allen served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. He grew up in prewar Toronto, where he remembers the tough times of the Great Depression; Gord recalls his father being out of work, and he remembers that he and his friends used to bring food to the homeless men down in the Don Valley. Gord did recall some of the good times, the sports and the movies that kept he and his friends occupied; at the same time, Gord admitted that he was unable to finish high school as he had to help out around the house. By the time of the war, the young Gord was married, with a family on the way, but even with this life development, Gord felt it was his duty to enlist when the time came. The air force was his first choice, but when that did not work out, Gord joined the army, and he was soon sent to Camp Borden. While there, Gord opted for the tank corps, hoping for more action. As the army was being reorganized for the new technological warfare of the battlefields in Europe, Gord ended up in the 17th Light Ambulance, in the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. They would attend to the wounded and/or evacuate them back to Headquarters for hospitalization. Within the unit Gord was a motorcycle dispatch courier, so he would communicate information from the frontline tank infantry to the ambulance unit right behind. In this capacity Gord found himself right in the front lines, where he witnessed the horror of Caen, Falaise, and so many other battles in France, Belgium and Holland. Along the way Gord was himself seriously injured in Bruges, where an accident left him paralyzed for several weeks. Still, once back in health, he rejoined the unit and ended up in Germany at war’s end, where he remembers VE Day as a hollow victory. With the end of the war, Gord remained on the continent for a few months, delivering relief supplies for UNRRA. By the end of the year though, he was on his way back to Canada and his family, where he fell back into the rhythm of civilian life and Canada’s postwar rebuilding.
Mr. Masters visited Gord at his home in Fowler’s Corner, Ontario in July 2018, when he was interviewed for this project. We thank Gord’s family for their help in setting this up.
Oral History Project July 13th, 2018
Rene Cournelisson’s World War Two story is one we have not previously heard at Crestwood. Rene was born into a family of thirteen, and he grew up in prewar Holland, a nation that found itself occupied by Germany in 1940. Rene like so many Dutch chafed under the restrictions of occupation, and like many brave young Dutch citizens, he joined the resistance, doing what he could to disrupt the Nazi regime. When the Americans liberated his area, Rene made the decision to join the Royal Dutch Air Force, hoping to take the fight to Germany alongside the Allies. But they had a different agenda for Rene, and with the end of the European war on the way, Rene was dispatched to the Far East, and his training took place in Australia, as he and his crewmates learned their way around the B-25 Mitchell. They were sent to active duty in New Guinea, but the war with Japan ended quickly. Rene chose to stay in the Dutch East Indies to work in the colonial plantation system for a few years, eventually returning to his family in Holland, where he found the opportunities too limited. Having seen the world, Rene looked for a new place to settle, and memories of Canadians from the war led him to Toronto, where he built a life and family postwar.
We met Rene at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in June 2018, where he was interviewed by Mr. Masters and a delegation of CPC students.
Oral History Project July 5th, 2018
Major Levon Bond is a member of the current Canadian Forces, one who specializes in air force intelligence operations. He has been deployed overseas on a number of occasions, including in Haiti, where Canada provided disaster relief after the devastating earthquake. More recently, he was sent to Afghanistan and Qatar, where he worked to provide intelligence and support to coalition forces in their battles in the ongoing war on terror.
Oral History Project June 5th, 2018
Joan Preston was born in London, England. She was a tap dancer since she was very little. Joan now is 94. During the war, she spent 5 and a half years in the WAAF, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. This was from 1941-1946, during which time she worked for Bomber Command in England and Sri Lanka. Joan is a very happy person who loves to learn. Joan was interviewed in her room at Sunnybrook on January 30, 2018.
Oral History Project April 11th, 2018
The Crestwood Oral History Project is hard at work this month. World War Two veterans and Holocaust survivors have been visiting with the CHC2D students, helping them to complete their oral history interviews. Earlier this week Mr. Masters and Mr. Hawkins took 21 students to Sunnybrook, where 5 veterans were interviewed. They included army, navy and air force veterans from World War Two. Please watch the webpage for updates – http://www.crestwood.on.ca/
Oral History Project January 22nd, 2018
Alex James was born in 1920s Toronto, and he grew up largely in the city’s east end. Alex shared with us his memories of interwar Toronto, and what it was like growing up against the backdrop of the Great Depression. He remembered it as a time when everyone was the same, not knowing that they had nothing. In spite of the tough times, Alex had mainly positive memories of the time, recalling the schools and the airplane models he built. When the war came, Alex said the rationing had some impacts on his family, but overall the expectation of sacrifice was there, and people largely complied with C.D. Howe’s regimen. For his family that included a farm, where Alex spent much of his time working once he left school. When it was Alex’s time to join up, he chose the air force and began his training in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, going from one base to the next as he honed his skills as a mechanic. He specialized in wireless repair, and was quickly selected for “overseas” duty, which meant – in the parlance of the time – Newfoundland. Alex spent the remainder of the war repairing the Hurricanes at gander and St. John’s, helping Canada and its Allies to maintain their upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic. With the end of the war, Alex was discharged, and he began to look for work, and to adjust to life in now postwar Toronto.
Oral History Project January 7th, 2018
We met Mary Pegg at the Castle Peak Retirement Suites in Bracebridge, where she presently lives. Mary is one of several authors/editors who assembled At Your Age, a collection of stories of those who live there. The residents felt it was important for them to record their stories, which serve as a great entry point into their generation’s collective experiences.
Mary is from England, where she came of age during the war. She had given nursing a try, but not finding it to her liking, she opted for the air force, and Mary found her wartime role in working with the new technology of radar. As many in her generation did, she put her own life aside for a few years, and “did her bit”. her duties included tracking incoming Luftwaffe flights, as well as tracking Allied fighters and bombers. Mary recalled many good times from the war too, such as going to dances and meeting her husband; she as well recalled the rationing and hunger, and the new American foods that came into England. She and her husband emigrated to Canada soon afterward, and along with others of their generation, they fell into the new rhythm of civilian life, and helped Canada to forge its postwar identity.
Oral History Project May 26th, 2017
John Ferris grew up in Ontario in the prewar era, alternating between the country and the growing city of Toronto. He experienced the two worlds of Canada, and had positive memories of both. With the war, John enlisted, recalling it to be a duty and an expectation. John chose the air force, and he began his training in the Commonwealth Air Training Program, going from one region of Canada to the next as he learned his new trade. John specialized in communications, and he became a Wireless Air Gunner, or WAG, and was sent off to England to play his role in Bomber Command. As the war was winding down when John arrived, he had the good fortune not to be called to combat duty; his time in England was more a waiting period. Soon back in Canada, he fell into the rhythm of civilian life, marrying and raising a family, and finding his way in the world of business.
Oral History Project May 25th, 2017
Wally Robus was originally from England. He immigrated to Canada before WWII. Wally was in the Canadian air force during the war, and was posted to a number of bases in Canada. After the war, he got married and raised a family in Canada.
Wally presently lives in the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing, where he was interviewed for this project by Tommy Zheng, Bora Kutun and Jonah Patel in January 2017.
Oral History Project April 13th, 2017
Jack Lewis was born in Montreal in 1925, the youngest in a family where both parents were war veterans. His father was a doctor, and his mother was a nurse, and they’d met in the battlefield hospital near Boulogne. They spent much of the Great War in that one location, and Jack remembers that in his war, he passed through that area in about an hour. Growing up in Montreal, Jack was insulated from the tough economic times of the 1930s, and he remembers a vibrant city where he and his friends enjoyed all that life offered. With the coming of the war, Jack’s ambition was to enter the air force, but his eyesight denied him this opportunity, and he ended up in the army. He was selected for an artillery unit, and circumstance saw his unit, part of Canada’s 3rd Division, selected for Operation Overlord, or D-Day. Jack recalls the preliminary bombardment, and the tragedy of a downed Spitfire, before going ashore in his LST in the third wave. Juno was taken by then, so he and his unit provided support to the infantry ahead of them, moving past Caen and Falaise, and then into Belgium and the Netherlands. It was there that Jack’s war ended; he spent some time in the army of occupation before heading back to Canada, where he settled into the rhythm of postwar life.
Jack was interviewed for this project in his home in March 2017, by his daughter Suzie and Scott Masters.
Oral History Project March 31st, 2017
Norman Cohen was born in the east end of Toronto in 1923. Growing up Jewish in the Beach neighbourhood, Norman dealt with the anti-Semitism of the era, as well as the economic pressures that led him to quit school at age 16. Norman found work around the neighbourhood, and he fondly remembered working for Charlie’s Bakery on Queen Street. But then the war came, and shortly after Pearl Harbour Norm and his friends enlisted. Norm opted for the air force and after his in Canada training had been completed, bombardier Norman Cohen set off for England, joining his older brother in Bomber Command. Norm was there for just under year, when rumours of the fates of Jewish airmen led him to seek a change, and he was shipped to Burma. His journey would prove to be an odyssey: along the way Norm ended up in Montecassino, where he joined the battle. Then he found himself in Benghazi, Libya and Tehran, Iran among other places, as he effectively hitched rides in the direction of Burma. Norm finally arrived in Ramree Island, and he joined the Canadians at their base, when he discovered that they had been looking for him and that a court-martial had been considered. Norm spent a year there, where his role was to search out lost and captured soldiers. When the Pacific War ended, Norm made his way back to Europe, and then in 1946 he finally made his way back to Canada, and his family in Toronto.
Oral History Project August 30th, 2016
At a young age Major Dennis was interested in aviation. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and obtained his glider pilot license and private pilot license while in high school in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After attending university at Mount Saint Vincent University, he obtained his commercial pilot license and flew as a flight instructor and bush pilot in a number of locations in Ontario. In 2000 he joined the Royal Canadian Air force, and after military flight training was selected to fly the CC130 Hercules.He deployed twice to the Middle East for six months to Afghanistan and Qatar. He now he attends Joint Command Staff College here in Ontario working toward his Masters in Defence Studies.
Oral History Project June 13th, 2016
Major T.J. (Tom) Goldie was born in Halifax, NS. After completion of high school he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and enjoyed several years serving as an Airframe Technician maintaining aircraft before being selected in 1999 for a military sponsored university training plan through which he completed his studies toward a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Saint Mary’s University. Following graduation he commenced pilot training earning his wings as a military aviator in 2004. He began his operational flying career with 415 (MP) Squadron in Greenwood, NS piloting the CP-140 Aurora Long Range Patrol aircraft.
He gained extensive experience on the Aurora flying more than 3000 flight hours supporting numerous domestic and international operations with 405(LRP) Squadron including a ten month duty on Op Athena (Afghanistan) amassing 145 combat missions as a Mission Commander on Canada’s first Tier 2 UAV deployment. As a Long Range Patrol Crew Commander (LRPCC), he had the privilege to lead a crew during Op Mobile marking several firsts for the Long Range Patrol (LRP) community over Libya and he has further participated in Operations Podium, Cadence, Nanook, Sealion, Leviathan, Qimmiq, Driftnet, and Caribbe. He has been employed as a Flight Instructor at 404 (LRP&T) Squadron and as Operations Flight Commander at 407(LRP) Squadron, Comox, BC. He has earned and exercised qualifications as a Flight Safety Investigator, an Instrument Check Pilot, and Standards and Training Pilot. He is currently enrolled in the Canadian Forces Joint Command and Staff Programme where he is pursuing a Master of Defence Studies degree from Royal Military College.
Major Goldie visited us at Crestwood in March 2015, along with four other officers from the CFC.
Oral History Project May 19th, 2015
Major Richard was born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1976. As a rural kid, he played the mandatory minor hockey until age 14 when he joined the Air Cadets and became hooked. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces as an Artillery Officer in 1994 under the Regular Officer Training Plan. He completed a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta, while training at various military bases during the summer months.
His first posting (1998) was to 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Shilo, Manitoba. Over the course of nearly four years, he advanced from Troop Leader through to Battery Captain, working in both light and medium artillery batteries. One particular highlight was a peacekeeping tour in Bosnia-Herzegovina (OPERATION PALLADIUM) in 2000.
In 2001, Major Richard transferred into the Air Force as an Aerospace Engineering Officer. He subsequently worked in Edmonton and Ottawa, managing and participating in a number of projects related to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or ‘drones’) and helicopters. In 2006, he deployed to Afghanistan as part of OPERATION APOLLO.
In 2011, Major Richard became the Officer Commanding Maintenance Flight / Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Officer at 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Edmonton. In 2014, he was selected to undertake the Joint Command and Staff and Masters of Defence Studies Programmes in Toronto, where he currently works.
Major Richard visited us here at Crestwood in March 2015, along with 3 other officers from the CFC.
Oral History Project May 14th, 2015
Don Morgan is a Canadian World War Two veteran who grew up in rural Ontario. When the time came to enlist, Don chose the air force, and after considerable training in different locations across Canada, he was ready to be a pilot. Further training in England ensued, and Don and his crew were ready to begin missions, on Wellington and Halifax. Don remembers that many early missions focused on the U-boat pens at St-Nazaire, though they completed missions to the Ruhr region as well. On one of those emissions, they were hit; Don kept the plane going while the crew bailed out. When he jumped, he thought he might have heard one of the gunners still in the aircraft, something that haunted him. He hit the ground and was in German custody by the next day, and Stalag Luft III awaited him. He recalls that life in the camp was not easy, but that the German guards treated them satisfactorily. The men greeted the end of the war with great joy, and the return to England and Canada went smoothly.
We met Don Morgan at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing, where he was interviewed in April 2015.
Oral History Project May 11th, 2015
Fred Newton was born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1925. He attended Sarnia Collegiate Institute, and lived in ‘luxury’ throughout his childhood. In May of 1943, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After completing training he was stationed overseas but the whole draft was pulled in Halifax due to having too many pilots. He was then transferred Maitland, Nova Scotia, and took the training course five times, then transferred to Saskatchewan until where he stayed until the end of the war. After the war ended, Fred returned to school. He then got married and took an accounting job with an oil company in Edmonton, where he spent 25 years. He was interviewed in 2015 by Tyler Yap and Logan Lim.
Oral History Project April 30th, 2015
Al Wallace was born in Toronto in1920 on Brock Avenue (which was off Bloor Street). Al and his family lived on Gladstone Avenue. He went to Dovercourt Public School, which was on Hallam Street, and he graduated in 1938. After this, he went to Central Tech for one year. However, Al was unable to go back to school after this, as he quit school to find a job and help out at home. Al remembers chumming around with some of his friends ; he also remembered that sports was the main entertainment. Al eventually went to Loblaw’s and put in an application there for a job – two weeks later, they called him and told him which store he needed to go to. He also joined the army reserve and subsequently joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in Jan. 1941. He attended the BCATP schools and made his way overseas. He and his crew were then transferred to a base in the north of England – the RAF Middleton St George/419 Bomber Squadron. Al was an air gunner and he did fifteen and a half air operations with his crew at 419. One night, on a trip to the city of Duisburg in the Ruhr Valley, the plane was shot down. Al was taken as a POW and spent the remainder of the war in German prison camps, including Stalag Luft III, where the “Great Escape” took place.
Al Wallace visited Crestwood in September 2014 and February 2015, where he was interviewed for this project by Aidan Reilly, Guanghao Chen, Amal Ismail-Ladak, Andy Cai and Matti MacLachlan.
Oral History Project January 14th, 2015
Frank Boyd was born in Toronto in 1922. He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, though he said he was lucky to have been sheltered from the toughest times. After graduating high school, 19-year-old Frank Boyd joined the armed forces in Toronto, choosing the air force. After training he boarded the troopship Louis Pasteur and headed to Britain, where he spent time in Bournemouth and Binnington, completing his flight training. Frank became an air gunner and a member of a Lancaster crew. One mission saw them shot down, and Frank spent time as a POW, where he said he was treated reasonably well. When the war concluded, he returned to Canada and built a life for himself.
We met Frank at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing in February 2014, when he was interviewed by Crestwood students Anthony Audette, Spencer Cohen and Braden Harris.
Oral History Project April 17th, 2014
Jack Ford was born in 1921 and is currently 92 years old. He was born in Oklahoma City, in the United States but grew up in Canada. When the war broke out in 1939, he decided to enlist in the Canadian forces, even though it was not yet an American war. Jack joined the RCAF, where he was trained as a photographer. It was his job to develop pictures and to monitor the air force’s progress in the bombing campaign. We met Jack in his room at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in November 2013, where he was interviewed by Akib Shahjahan and Luca Lettieri.
Oral History Project December 20th, 2013
Oral History Project April 30th, 2013
John Manestar was born in 1922 in Croatia. He came to Canada with his mother because his father had come 6 years earlier, looking for work. The depression hit in 1929 right after they moved into their house. His family along with others had trouble with money, but they learned to make ends meet. John met a friend in Toronto and together they went to go sign up for the air force; this was a shock to his family, which had a naval tradition. He started off as a engineer in the air force. John went overseas, first to England and then to France. He did not see front line combat, but he was instrumental in keeping Canada’s planes in the air, and he did find himself in harm’s way a few times. When the war was over, John returned to Etobicoke and his family’s farm.
John was interviewed for theis project in his room at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in March 2013 by Crestwood students Maddie Pringle and Katherine Charness.
Oral History Project April 24th, 2013
Alex Eisen survived the Jewish Holocaust in Hungary at the end of the war. While he was not deported to the camps, he did witness the horrors inflicted upon the Jews of Budapest, which he was fortunate enough to escape. After the war came to an end, he left Europe and ended up in Palestine, where the British refused his ship entry. Interned for a time on Cyprus, he did eventually succeed in gaining entry into Israel, where he joined the air force. Today he and his wife make their home in Toronto, and we’re pleased that he agreed to become involved in this interview project, once in 2009 and in again in 2010. In 2012 he sat down for a third time, when he was interviewed by Julie Cho and Ryan Kroon.
Oral History Project January 10th, 2013
We met Jim Finnigan at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in the fall of 2012, where he was interviewed by Grade 12 students Katherine Charness, Julie Cho, and Emma Myers. Jim served in the Royal Air Force in the Second Wolrld War, where he was connected to transport details that were deployed largely in the Middle East.
Oral History Project January 9th, 2013
Mr. Wilf Yaphe was born in Toronto Canada in 1920. He went to school in Toronto and Montreal. He worked in a drug store and he later went to enlist in the war effort but he didn’t have the university credit to be a pilot in the air force, so they sent him to a wireless camp. At the wireless camp be would learn Morse code. The wireless station was near Ottawa. Mr. Yaphe wanted to join the war effort to have some adventures and to explore the world. He went over to England for a bit where he went to parties and joined in the war support. Mr. Yaphe was working in a store when the war came to a close. He came to Crestwood courtesy of the Memory Project in November 2010, speaking to Crestwood students David Dennis and Justin Yeung.
Ben Snyder was a bombardier on a B-24 in the USAF during World War Two. When the war broke out, ben was in school, but like most of his classmates he quickly found himself in uniform in the days after Pearl Harbour. Ben ended up in the air force, and training took him all over the continental U.S. before he was deployed to the Pacific, with his crewmates. Ben served with distinction there, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He presently lives in Portland, Maine, where he was interviewed by Scott Masters in December 2011 and 2015.
John Reynolds served in the Canadian Forces during WW2. He had tried to join the Air Force in 1940 but was considered too young, so a year later he tried to join the Navy but was unable to go because his work was considered essential. When they actually let him join the forces, he joined the Army, specifically the signals, which dealt with electronics and communication. After training and going overseas, John ended up in Italy, with the other “D-Day Dodgers”. He saw action in Ortona and Montecassino. All the while, he was supported on the home front by his friend and eventual wife Margaret, who is also heard here.
They were interviewed in their home by Crestwood students Julian Wilson, Dana Davidson, Maria Garcia, and Jonah Prussky. As John suffered a stroke and has some speech impairment, we have included a transcript in the photo section at the bottom of the page.
Jule Nussbaum has lived in Toronto his entire life. Jule enlisted in the Canadian Air Force against his father’s wishes and decided to become a wireless radio operator. He served honourably in the RCAF and returned to build a life in canada after the war. Jule was interviewed in his room at Sunnybrook by Zack Martin, Brandon Michael, and Dov Houle in November 2010.
Mort Lightstone, at the age of 18, decided to join the Canadian Air Force. He was trained as an Air Force Navigator and graduated as an officer in April, 1952. His career continued for 28 years and totalled more than 6,600 hours of flying missions. His job in Korea was mainly to deliver Canadian service personnel, mail and supplies to Korea, and bring back the wounded, usually American. He also took part in the Vietnam War in 1972, where he played a role that was for many years classified. A long military career took Mort all over Canada and the world, and he brings his stories to many Canadian students each year. He visited Crestwood in November 2010 courtesy of the Memory Project. A longtime supporter of our work, Mort returned to Crestwood in may 2018, where he presented his life story to History 10 students.