Mary Jarvis grew up in Ontario in the prewar era, in the Markham area just north of Toronto. She grew up in a conservative, church-going family, in what was then a largely rural community, and Mary recalls chafing just a bit against those restrictions; like her friends, she would have loved to enjoy the movies and dances that were making their appearance. With the war, Mary enlisted, recalling it to be a duty and an expectation – and a way to escape those familial restrictions. She chose the CWACs, and her training took her to Ottawa, where she learned to become a driver. After time on the home front, she was sent off to England to play her role ferrying troops and equipment to the Channel ports. Mary remembers driving the roads in the dead of night, and the talks she had with the wounded soldiers in her charge. She also remembers fulfilling the rebellious streak that led her into the army, and the loss that was part of life – her fiance died on D-Day. Soon back in Canada, she fell into the rhythm of civilian life, marrying and raising a family, and finding her way in postwar Canada
Oral History Project May 29th, 2017
Ken Allen is a Toronto resident in his 101st year, interviewed in April 2017 by Masters at the McCowan Retirement Residence. Ken had many stories to share about his long life in and around Toronto. Ken was born in the then village of Todmorden, in today’s Broadview-Danforth neighbourhood. He remembers a very different Toronto, one with dirt roads and wooden sidewalks, where he spent his early days playing in the Don Valley. Born during the Great War, Ken remembers little of the war itself, but he does recall the flu that followed it, as he lost his mother in that pandemic. Growing up with a father and brothers, Ken recalls longing for his mother, and his jealousy of the other boys. Ken and his family experienced the ups-and-downs of the 20s and 30s, and when World War Two came along, Ken was ready to do his part, and he set out to join the RCAF. Poor health kept him out though, and Ken ended up in the army instead, where he was posted to the Intelligence Corps and sent to western Canada. While there, Ken mapped out the countryside as the Al-Can highway was under construction, and he interviewed Japanese-Canadians bound for internment centres, a task that he regarded as unsavoury, one of the many situations that led him to distrust the political class, Mackenzie King in particular. After time spent out west, where he also dealt with issues of the troops’ morale and taught courses, Ken spent the final year of the war in Ottawa in the Records Branch. It was not his favourite work though, and with demobilization Ken returned to Toronto and work as a graphic artist. He and his wife raised their two sons and made their contributions to postwar Canada, along with others of their generation.
Oral History Project April 19th, 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
Bill Tymchuk was born in Ukraine, when it was under Polish control; he went to school there for 2 years and immigrated to Canada in 1930 (his father had settled down in Canada in 1928). His family was on the farm, and he started school and learned English quickly. Later his family went to Stayner, Ontario and bought a farm there. His family couldn’t afford to send him to high school, so he went to work at the age of 16.
Bill was raised in the shadow of the Great Depression, the rise of Nazis, and he later became a soldier fighting for Canada against Germany on the battlefields of Europe. Bill was keen to join the Canadian army, and to fight in the war as a Canadian soldier in the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment. He is proud to be a Canadian, and he chose to fight for the country he called his home land. Once overseas Bill spent time in Britain, then he went across the channel, to fight in the Battle of Normandy. From there he went on to liberate both Belgium and the Netherlands, where he remained in occupation after the war. Before Canada, he returned to Britain, where he married – then it was back to Canada, where he became a bricklayer in Toronto’s postwar construction boom.
We met Bill at the Legion Branch 75 in October 2016, where he was interviewed by Lyndsay McCulloch, David Huang and Robert McHale.
Oral History Project October 17th, 2016
Reuven Blium survived the Holocaust in Lithuania, a country where as many as 95% of Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Reuven was born in 1930 in Kaunas, into a family of limited means. Reuven’s father passed away when Reuven was only 3, and his mother had no alternative but to put him in an orphanage. Reuven spent his early years there, and he was able to escape the Nazi onslaught due to the foresight of a teacher, Mr. Zundell. He had been concerned about the war’s coming to Lithuania for several months, and had been preparing the students for evacuation. When the Kaunas airfield was bombed, he took many of the boys to the train station, and they headed east into Russia. Many of the younger children at the orphanage did not make it, and many were murdered by Lithuanian collaborators at the orphanage’s summer camp. Reuven believes that he can give them a voice. For those who did escape, a harrowing journey ensued, where the train was repeatedly attacked by the Luftwaffe. On the way, Reuven was jostled about, but he arrived intact into deep Russia, in the area of Galich. There he spent time in an another orphanage, which he describes in very Darwinian terms. Reuven learned to survive there, and he was lucky to get out after a year, making his way to the Volga region, where another orphanage awaited. Along the way, Reuven attended school, and as he got into his teens, he began to work in war industries. With the war’s end, he made his way back to Lithuania, to reconstruct his life. With the end of the war, he ended up in the Red Army. Later he was able to make his way west, eventually settling in Canada. We interviewed Reuven at his home in Toronto, over several visits in the summer and fall of 2016.
Oral History Project September 6th, 2016
Mike Smith was born in the USSR, in the former republic of Belarus. He grew up near Pinsk, in a traditional Jewish family. When the war came to the USSR in 1941, he joined the Soviet Red Army, where he became a member of the Scouts’ Brigade. Doing some of the most dangerous work behind enemy lines, he and his platoon fought in a succession of battles on the eastern front, all the way to Berlin. Mike then was working in a DP camp, where he helped to smuggle Holocaust Survivors to destinations in the west. Seeing his opportunity, he defected and went to the west himself, eventually making his way to Canada. He initially settled in the north, working as a lumberjack in Kapuskasing, Ontario and in the mills in Rouyn and Sudbury. Fate took him to Toronto, and a career in sales followed, as Mike established himself in the community.
Oral History Project August 29th, 2016
Oral History Project August 24th, 2016
Albert Mahon was born into a large family in south London, England in 1923. He grew up in a working class neighbourhood, where school was not a top priority. Instead Albert went to work, and much of his childhood and early years were spent working a variety of jobs, as well as helping with his siblings. Once he was old enough to enlist, he was sent to a number of training camps in England, where he readied himself for the fight to follow. He was sent to North Africa, where as an AA gunner he was involved in the defence of Bizerte harbour. From there he went Italy to fight; he was stationed in a variety of locales, notably the Allied airfields in Foggia. He stayed in the British Army until 1946, finishing in Italy, where he was a guard in the war crimes trials that were underway. After returning to England Albert met his wife, and the two of them moved to Canada where they started their family. Albert became actively involved in the church, and participated actively in choir, where he made a reputation for himself. In 2016, he was interviewed at Kensington Gardens Health Centre by Scott Masters.
Oral History Project August 3rd, 2016
Lawrence Fish was born in Crowle, England in 1923. He was the eldest of four siblings. In school he went to seventh grade and then started to work in farming and driving trucks. Most of his childhood was spent working as well as helping with his siblings. In 1941, once he was old enough to enlist, he was sent to training camp and was then sent to North Africa and Italy to fight. He stayed in the British Army until 1946, where he finished his service as part of the army of occupation stationed in Austria and Greece. After returning to England Lawrence moved to Canada where he soon met his wife and later had five children. In 2016, he was interviewed by his granddaughter Angeline Dine, and in the summer he was visited by Scott Masters for a follow-up session.
Oral History Project June 13th, 2016
Oral History Project June 13th, 2016
Major Barker joined the Canadian Forces in 2000, and graduated from the Royal Military College in 2005. In 2008, he was deployed to Afghanistan, where he worked to help rebuild the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police force. During his time in Afghanistan, he received an official mention in dispatches for his exemplary work. In February of 2016, Major Barker visited Crestwood as part of a delegation from the Canadian Forces College, where he was studying at the time. He spoke with students about the reality of life in the Canadian military.
Oral History Project June 13th, 2016
Oral History Project May 17th, 2016
Hana Windwar was born in 1933 in Warsaw, Poland. She was six years old when the war began and she was the only child of her parents. She went to Russia with her parents. Her dad was taken to Russia, and forced into the army during the war. Her mom needed to work and Hana was put in a orphanage. Hana went back to Germany after the war but lost contact with her mom. She met her husband in 1948 when Hana and her mom were waiting emigrate to Israel. She was married in 1951, and moved to Canada in 1966. Crestwood students visited Hana at Baycrest in February 2016 to hear her story.
Oral History Project May 16th, 2016
Odie Brooker was born in 1929 in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourhood. In the midst of the Depression, Odie was placed in the care of the Children’s Aid Society. He spent the next nine years in foster homes in the Caledon region. At age 15, he snuck into the Canadian Army and spent the next year training at the Exhibition grounds and living in the Horse Palace. He was discharged shortly after VE Day, without seeing combat. He later reenlisted during the Korean War, where he served as a mortar operator. He survived his service, with a few very close calls, and returned to Canada in early 1953. In February of 2016, he sat down with Crestwood students Kevin Guo, Peter Li, Julian Spaziani and Sabrina Wasserman to share his experiences and memories
Oral History Project April 5th, 2016
Leonard Vis was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1930. After the Germans occupied the Netherlands, his family went into hiding. They all survived and were liberated in 1945. Leonard After the war, Leonard served two years in the Dutch Army before moving to New York. In 1967, Leonard came to Canada for a job posting. Leonard came to visit us at Crestwood early in 2016. He was interviewed for this project by Marina Nevison and Aren Karshafian, along with students from Mr. Masters’ Grade 12 history class.
Oral History Project April 4th, 2016
Kelman Cohen, born in 1925, was the son of Morris Cohen and Esther Minden of Toronto. Morris Cohen was a Russian immigrant. Kelman grew up in the Great Depression and in his own words, ‘we all suffered’. Kelman had a colourful childhood in downtown Toronto, and he shared many of his recollections from the neighbourhood and from school. He joined the Canadian Army reserves in 1941 at age sixteen, went overseas with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in March of 1945, and ended his service in the Queen’s Own Rifles as part of the Canadian Army of Occupation September 15 of 1946 .
Kelman was interviewed at his home for this project by Willa Easton, Rory Peckham, Hartley Gelkopf and Harlan Rich in February 2016.
Oral History Project March 18th, 2016
Chava Sloma was born in Otwock, Poland in 1925. Though she recalled incidents of anti-Semitism, she said her prewar life was for the most part good. All that changed dramatically in September 1939 though; the family initially fled to Warsaw, but as the German army advanced, the decision was made to separate, and Chava and her sister headed for the Russian border. After being smuggled across the border, Chava and her sister Frania were shipped to Siberia, where they spent most of the war, working in the gulags deep in the wilderness. While conditions were rough, Chava remembered the kindness of a few people who kept her going, through disease and deprivation. When the war came to an end, she made her way back to Poland, to discover that her family had been murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka. Chava found the will to go on, and she married and began a family, soonafter heading to Canada, where she arrived at Pier 21.
Chava visited Crestwood in February 2016, where four generations of the Lerner family came together one afternoon to listen to and to document her story, and to become witnesses to their own family history in this difficult period of history.
Oral History Project March 6th, 2016
The Crestwood Oral History Project is in the midst of its busy season! The CHCs are completing their oral history interviews – all 80+ of them. In the last week, we have had 2 in class visitors, and done one in home visit. Students from Mr. Masters’ class went to visit Kelman Cohen in his home last week; Mr. Cohen is a Canadian army veteran who went overseas as a replacement soldier in 1944. He told Hartley Gelkopf (whose father is Kelman’s doctor), Harlan Rich, Willa Easton and Rory Peckham some unbelievable stories, first about growing up in prewar Toronto, and then about the experiences he survived in the Netherlands. The next day Israel Glassman – another patient of Dr. Gelkopf – came to Crestwood to share his stories with a large group of Grade 10s. Mr. Glassman served in the navy during WW2, doing trans-Atlantic convoy runs and D-Day support missions in the English Channel. Both men were able to add to the students’ understanding of the war, and to give them an emotional connection to events that shaped Canada 70 years ago. This week Pinchas Gutter came to Crestwood; Pinchas is a survivor of the Holocaust from Poland. He is a renowned speaker who has lectured extensively around the world, and he was chosen by the Shoah Foundation for the holographic initiative – please click here for his appearance on the Today show. Crestwood students were lucky to meet Pinchas in person and to hear how he survived. Stay tuned for an update on our visit to Baycrest!
Vanessa Wappel February 19th, 2016
The Salvation Army is looking for bell ringers for their Christmas Kettle Campaign. Any interested students should contact Ms. Hann for more information.
Vanessa Wappel November 6th, 2015
Felicia Carmelly is a Romanian Holocaust survivor currently residing in Toronto. Born in 1932 amidst European anti-Semitism, Felicia faced persecution at the hands of the Green Shirts in Romania. Felicia and her family were taken from their hometown to Transnistria, an area under Romanian governance where Romanian Jews were forced into mass ghettos. Here, she and her family suffered with little food and resources for survival. Through the help of child partisans, Felicia survived Transnistria and was liberated by the Soviet Army. Following the war, Felicia and her family travelled to Vienna and Israel before finally arriving in Canada in 1962.
Felicia was interviewed for this project in September 2015 by Crestwood students Sabrina Wasserman, Tina Wang, Daven Siu, Robert McHale and Spencer Arshinoff.
Oral History Project November 1st, 2015
Arthur Weiss was born in Philadelphia in 1925. Growing up against the backdrop of war, Arthur was singled out by the military for his mathematical prowess. The military was grooming him for a role in the Manhattan Project, but as Arthur recalls, there was a surfeit of physicists by 1945, and with the war winding down, the army sent him to medical school, where his interests eventually took him in the direction of oncology. Given his talents and the winding down of the war, Arthur did not see active service in World War Two. He would in fact play a greater role in the emerging Cold War, where the nuclear threat and his specialization in oncology would find a common ground. Arthur spent a number of years in the Office of Naval Research, where he was involved in looking at radiation levels in nuclear submarines, and in helping the military in some of the scenarios being developed for possible nuclear conflict. When Arthur left the military, he remained connected to the public sector, involved in research in the emerging and dynamic field of oncology and medical research.
Arthur Weiss presently lives in Falmouth, Maine, where he was interviewed for this project in Agust 2015 by Scott Masters.
Oral History Project August 19th, 2015
Joe Mandel is a Holocaust survivor from the central European region of Ruthenia. When Joe was born in 1924, Ruthenia was part of Czechoslovakia, but following Chamberlain’s failed “Peace in our time” bid and the following wartime border changes, Joe’s town was ceded to Hungary (it has also at various times been part of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ukraine). When Czechoslovakia was taken over by Hitler, Joe and his family had started to feel the weight of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish laws, but absorption into Hungary insulated them from the harshest realities of the Holocaust, at least for a few years.
During this time, Joe was often apart from his family, working a succession of jobs in Budapest. His older brother had been conscripted into the forced labour battalions of the Hungarian army, and this same fate awaited Joe as the war reached its midpoint. But in 1944, the Germans invaded and directly occupied Hungary, and the fate of Hungarian Jews became much more dire. As Joe was in Budapest, he was apart from most of his family, and he was taken as a forced labourer, working in a number of different situations in and around Budapest. Joe would later learn that much of his family was deported to Auschwitz during this time. As the Soviets closed in from the east, Joe was himself transported to a number of camps, including Mauthausen, Dachau, and Gunskirchen, where he was liberated by the Americans. After a period of recovery, Joe went to look for his family, and he managed to find several of his siblings. They stayed in Budapest and began to rebuild their lives, but Joe chafed under communism, and he made the decision to leave Hungary, escaping in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. With the help of a friend he found in Vienna, Joe came to Canada, where he started over, first in Regina.
Joe was interviewed for this project by Scott Masters, courtesy of March of the Living. We met in Joe’s home in June 2015.
Oral History Project July 9th, 2015
Oral History Project June 3rd, 2015
Pete Gregerson served in Canada’s armed forces in both World War Two and Korea. Born and raised in the west end of Toronto, Pete grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, attending public school and then Central Tech, where he studied to be a draftsman. Pete enlisted in the army as WW2 came to a close, but because he was too young, he was not shipped overseas. He was in the midst of transportation training, and was expecting to be shipped to the Pacific when the atomic bombs brought the war to a close. Now a young man, Pete began to make his life in postwar Canada, marrying and starting to raise a family. When the Korean War got underway in 1950, Pete decided to enlist, going into the Princess Pats as a gunner. He took part in the momentous Battle of Gapyeong, and he served Canada and the United Nations forces with pride during those years. Pete now lives at Sunnybrook in the Veterans’ Wing; he was interviewed there by Mr. Masters in May 2015.
Oral History Project May 27th, 2015
Major Daniel Matheson is a current member of the Canadian Forces, who hails from Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia, a small fishing community just outside Halifax. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 1997 right out of High School under the Regular Officer Training Plan and attended Royal Military College in St Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC and Kingston, ON. Upon graduation in May 2002, he was commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. After completing his Artillery Officer training in August 2002, he was posted to 2 Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA) in Petawawa, ON as a Troop Commander in E Battery. He deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan on Operation ATHENA in 2003-2004 with Kabul Multi-National Brigade (F Battery) as Radar Troop Commander. His second tour was in Kandahar, 2006-2007 with Task Force 3-06 1 Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group (E Battery) as a Forward Observation Officer / Forward Air Controller. In June 2007, he was posted to the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School (RCAS) in Gagetown, New Brunswick and completed the year-long Instructor-in-Gunnery Course (Field). In 2011 he was provided the opportunity to join 1 RCHA in Shilo, MB as principle staff in the capacity of Regimental Command Post Officer (RCPO). He was promoted Major that same year and took Command of A Battery, 1 RCHA in June 2012.
Major Matheson has taken part in two domestic operations as well. He was involved in the Ice Storm clean-up in 1997/1998 as an Officer Cadet attending RMC Prep Year in St Jean; it was his first real exposure to the Canadian Army. Major Matheson said: “My experience during this time impressed upon me the importance of the diverse role the Armed Forces can and should play in times of domestic as well as international strife.” He was also involved Operation PALACI in Roger’s Pass, B.C. first as a Troop Commander in 2003 and as the lead Technical Authority for 1 RCHA in my capacity as RCPO in 2011/12.
Major Matheson visited us at Crestwood in March 2015, along with four other officers from the CFC.
Oral History Project May 19th, 2015
Oral History Project April 23rd, 2015
Oral History Project April 20th, 2015
Erica Nirenberg was born in 1931 in a small town in Romania. She had 3 siblings but they passed away at a young age. When she was 12 years old, her father was rounded up by the Russian Army and never returned. She and her mother fled to a large Romanian city called Czernovitz to escape capture. A close family friend was instrumental in ensuring her survival during the war.
Mrs. Nirenberg immigrated to Toronto when she was 18 years old. She attended a business program and eventually found work as a bookkeeper. She later worked with her husband in their clothing store. At the age of fifty, she decided to go back to school and earned a degree in bookkeeping from George Brown College.
Mrs. Nirenberg was married to her husband Arnold (Adash) for 52 years until he passed away. She has two sons –Joel who lives in Florida and David who lives in Toronto. She has five grandchildren. She is very close to her family.
Mrs. Nirenberg enjoys knitting and reading and is very interested in history and politics. She likes to keep physically active and enjoys chair exercise, swimming and walking. She loves to spend time with family and friends.
She was interviewed for this project in March 2015 by Marina Morris, Liam Mayer, and Blair Gwartzman.
Oral History Project March 30th, 2015
George Carter is the first native-born, black judge in Canada. He was born in Toronto, Canada, and was the first of 14 children of John Carter and Louise Braithwaite Carter, who were from Barbados.
Carter excelled in sports as a cricket player, and he was a strong student as well. He was also very social and from an early age he understood the importance of networking, building relationships with many people he would know throughout his life. He also connected with the Universal Negro Improvement Association and was inspired by visiting speakers such as Marcus Garvey and A. Phillip Randolph.
In 1944, Carter received his B.A. from Trinity College, University of Toronto. In that same year, he went into the Canadian army. While he did not serve overseas, he was sent to numerous camps, such as Ipperwash, and was selected for officer training. He was instrumental in creating the Toronto Negro Veterans Association after the war. After his military service, Carter went on to Osgoode Hall from 1945-48 to study law. After completing his education, he became one of Canada’s first black lawyers. He was appointed as a judge in the 1970s.
In that regard Judge George E. Carter was instrumental in establishing legal aid services and in the formation of the Adoption of Coloured Children agency.
He was interviewed for this project in February 2015 by Scott Masters and Kathy Grant.
Oral History Project March 24th, 2015
Michael Boyer is a veteran born in Toronto, into a big family. Fairly well-to-do, Mr. Boyer and his family were less affected by the depression than many. He joined the army at a young age and became part of the Fourth Field Royal Canadian Artillery. Travelling to Europe, Mr. Boyer fought along allied forces such as the British 8th Brigade in battles that eventually liberated the Netherlands and defeated Germany. After the war, he returned to Canada to attend University.
The interview with Mr. Boyer was done at Sunnybrook Hospital in January 2015 by Crestwood students Steven Feng, Guanghao Chen, and Owen Salter.
Oral History Project February 16th, 2015