Francess Halpenny hails from eastern Ontario, where she grew up in the 20s and 30s. The family relocated to the Toronto area early on, and it was there that the young Francess fell in love with books, as she made her way through the Great Depression and built upon her education, which would take her to the University of Toronto. When the war came, Francess saw all the young men around go into the military, and she resolved to the same. She found herself in eastern Canada for most of the war, first in Newfoundland and then in PEI. Her work was in the Meteorological Office, helping with the weather forecasts that were a vital part of Canada’s contribution to the Battle of the Atlantic.
We met Francess in the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing in March 2017, where she was interviewed by Arielle Meyer and Mr. Masters.
Oral History Project May 12th, 2017
Larry Bunston was born in Saskatoon, but early in his life his father made the decision to take the family to Ontario, hopefully to make a better life for his family. Larry grew up in different parts of Ontario, notably Oshawa and Brantford, where he and his four brothers played sports and kept on their parents’ good side. With the coming of the war, all four brothers enlisted, and Larry and another brother made it overseas. Larry went into the army, and after training at Camp Borden, he made his way down east, where a troop ship awaited him in Halifax. In England he was trained as a despatch rider, with motorcycle and truck driving lessons in his future. He crossed over to France shortly after D-Day, where he found himself in many precarious positions as he fulfilled his driving duties. Several times he was in search of broken down vehicles and almost fell into German hands. Wounded near the end of the war, Larry was sent back to England and his future wife, and later they made their way together back to Canada, falling into the rhythm of Canada’s postwar boom.
Oral History Project January 26th, 2018
Oral History Project January 22nd, 2018
Norm Short served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. Born in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, the young Norm moved to Quebec along with his family when they settled in Shawinigan Falls. When the war came, Norm joined up in Montreal, as part of the Essex Scottish Regiment. he completed his basic training and waited until his 19th birthday, when he was sent overseas. In England he was trained as a motorcycle dispatch rider. After D-Day, Norm headed across the Channel on D+5, and he was called to duty as the Battle of Caen was raging. Norm took part in the terrible Battle of Carpiquet, a costly Canadian victory before the Falaise Gap and the collapse of the German army in France. Norm and his fellow soldiers moved across northern Europe, liberating towns and civilians and enjoying the fruits of their labours. With VE Day, Norm headed back to England, and then Canada, settling into the postwar rhythm of life in Toronto.
We met Norm in the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in December 2017, when he was interviewed by a delegation of Crestwood students over the December Break.
Oral History Project January 7th, 2018
Jack Boeki’s World War Two story is a unique one. Born in Rotterdam in 1925, Jack grew up with fond memories of the city and its people, and of his family and childhood. All of it was shattered in May 1940, when the German blitzkrieg turned west towards the Netherlands, and Jack’s city came under assault. The family lost everything in the bombing and was forced to start all over, amid mounting restrictions on Jews which saw Jack go into hiding. The family he was staying with soon after warned him that it had become too dangerous and Jack took off to avoid capture. From there, Jack obtained a fake identity and began his series of remarkable escapes, repeatedly eluding the grasp of the Nazis. Jack left the Netherlands and escaped to France, where the underground put him in contact with agents of the American OSS, the original version of the CIA. They arranged to get Jack to Britain, where his talents were recognized, and Jack was dispatched to the United States for military training. In March 1944, as the liberation of occupied Europe drew near, Jack’s unit was ordered to England. Now an agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), he had received special training to uncover war criminals and would soon put his skills to use on his most important missions yet. On June 8, just two days after the initial D-Day landings, Jack’s team of agents landed on Utah Beach in Normandy, France.
Oral History Project December 18th, 2017
John Hall was born in the Canadian West in the early 1920s. He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, though he said he was lucky to have been sheltered from the toughest times. With his brother he made his way to western Ontario, riding the rails and working the ports of Lake Superior. While his brother stayed and worked the mines, John finished school and joined the armed forces in Toronto, eventually landing in the First Hussars. After training he boarded the Queen Elizabeth troopship and headed to Britain, where he spent time in Aldershot, completing his tank crew training. John became a radio operator and main gun loader and a member of a Sherman tank crew. John went ashore in France a few weeks after D-Day and the liberation of Caen, and he saw his early action in Falaise and the ensuing Battle of Normandy. From there he moved through Belgium and the Netherlands, where he has fond memories of the civilians greeting the troops. When the war concluded, John returned to Canada and built a life for himself.
We met John at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing in July 2017, when he was interviewed by Crestwood students Arielle Meyer and Samara Black.
Oral History Project August 9th, 2017
Edith Gelbard was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1932. She lived with her parents, sister and grandmother. After the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, her family fled to Belgium and then to France. In 1942, her father was murdered in Auschwitz. Edith and her brother were hidden in an orphanage. She was liberated in 1945 and reunited with rest of her family. After the war, she lived in Paris and immigrated to Canada in 1958.
We first interviewed Edith at Baycrest in October 2016, and she came to visit us at Crestwood in January 2017, when Arielle Meyer, Zoe Shen and Sally Li spoke to her..
Oral History Project November 7th, 2016
Oral History Project August 24th, 2016
Tom Bradley is an American veteran of the Second World War, having served with the 29th Infantry Division in Europe. Tom hails from New Jersey, where he grew up during the Great Depression. When the war came, he was in school in Massachusetts, expecting to go on to college. But the government had other ideas, and he was sent off for basic training and then overseas to Europe, one of four brothers from the Bradley family who would do the same. Tom went ashore at Omaha Beach in the weeks after D-Day and along with the 29th he set out across France, and into Belgium and Germany. Tom served in the Ammunition Corps, keeping the front line soldiers supplied with needed materiel.
Scott Masters interviewed him at his home in Falmouth, Maine in July 2016.
Oral History Project July 12th, 2016
Noelle Meyer was born in Paris to parents of Ukrainian Jewish ancestry. She was 2 and a half years old at the time of the Nazi occupation of France, and for one and a half years, until ‘44, we do not know who took care of her. She was then taken in by the orphanage, OPEJ (Oeuvres Pour les Enfants Juifs) and put into a host family in Villepinte, a family named Lepage. At the end of ‘44, she was transferred out of this family into a new orphanage for Jewish children in Rueil Malmaison. In 2016, she sat down with her granddaughter Arielle to share her family history, much of it recreated through painstaking research by Noelle.
Oral History Project May 31st, 2016
Renee Fiszman is a child survivor of the Shoah from France. Her father joined the French military at the war’s outset, and this would prove to be a crucial decision for the rest of the family; he was taken as a POW early in the war, and would not rejoin the family until 1945. When the July 16 round-ups began in Paris, Renee and her mother and brother were taken out of the line since her father was a soldier; as Renee says, they were minutes away from deportation to Drancy, and Auschwitz itself. Her mother saw events closing in, and she moved to put her children in hiding. Renee and her brother stayed with a family away from her beloved Marais district, and she went through the motions, attending school and church and hoping the family would be together again. Her mother was tragically deported to Auschwitz, where she was murdered, and while her father did return, family life did not resume as it had been. Renee remembered many difficult days coming to grips with loss and her new reality after the war. She did marry, and did find solace there, moving to Canada with her husband Charles in the 1950s.
Renee visited with Crestwood students twice in 2016; first Arielle, Guanghao and Alexander visited her at her home, and she subsequently did an interview in French with Arielle and Daven.
Oral History Project March 9th, 2016
Raffaella DeSimone was born in Italy in 1943, in the midst of the Second World War. As her parents were farmers, and there was no work, the family relocated to France, and then to Canada. The family arrived in Halifax, at Pier 21, and they began to adapt to their new country, reaching out to family that had arrived earlier. Raffaella’s memories of her early days were mostly positive ones, as she and her family were welcomed into and prepared to make their mark in Canada’s postwar history.
Raffaella was interviewed by her grandson, Crestwood student Michael DiBattista, in December 2015.
Oral History Project March 6th, 2016
Berthe Cygelfarb is a Holocaust Survivor with a compelling story to tell, and she tells it beautifully. When Berthe visited Crestwood in December 2015, she spoke to Mme Doherty’s French class, and they were entranced by Berthe’s charm and humour, as were the students in the subsequent interview. Berthe recounted to both groups the horrors of the Holocaust in France, of the deportations and complicity of the Vichy regime. She brought with her a host of photos, which tell the story of her family and of Berthe’s own recovery.
We thank the Azrieli Foundation and March of the Living for their role in referring Berthe to us.
Oral History Project March 4th, 2016
The Social Studies Department had some exciting visitors this week, creating great opportunities for students interested in Canada’s military history. On Monday, January 25th, five officers from the Canadian Forces College visited Crestwood, sharing their experiences in Canada’s recent overseas missions, notably Afghanistan. Majors Dennis, Lajeunesse, Harvey, Dias and Barker represented all facets of the military and all spoke eloquently about serving Canada overseas.
Then on Tuesday, January 26th, many of the Canadian History 10 students were lucky enough to have Lorne Winer visit their class. Mr. Winer is a Jewish Canadian veteran of World War Two who recently turned 98. Mr. Winer spoke of his time in Europe, from being stationed in England to being involved in the liberation of France and the Netherlands. Other Crestwood students will soon be doing their own interviews, when we visit Sunnybrook and Baycrest – stay tuned!
Vanessa Wappel January 29th, 2016
Phil Harmon is an American veteran of the Second World War from Maine, where he presently lives in the town of Hollis. Originally from the Cape Elizabeth area, Phil grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, though his family was fortunate to be spared many of its most negative impacts. By 1939, as events in Europe and Asia spiralled into war, Phil was attending Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he ran cross country. But as the U.S. entered the war, Phil received his draft notice and reported for duty in 1943. Training took him to Missouri, and he was shipped to Marseilles, France, not long after D-Day. His unit made its way north, preparing to enter the Battle of the Bulge. And it was during that battle where Phil was wounded, soon after reaching the front lines. He spent several months in the hospital recovering from a chest wound, and by the time he was returned to his unit, most of the fighting was over. He spent several months in Europe during which time he met his sister in Paris; then he was shipped home, where he was happy to leave his soldier’s life behind him.
Phil was interviewed for this project by Scott Masters in December 2015.
Oral History Project January 3rd, 2016
Bill King served in the Canadian Forces from 1951-56. Bill grew up in Nova Scotia, against the backdrop of WW2. He remembers well the sacrifices of other family members who served in that conflict, and he considers them the real veterans. Bill’s service coincided with the Korean War, and although he did not go to Korea, he was decorated by the Korean government, for his role in the transhipment of supplies through his European base. Bill’s service took place in Europe, in both France and Germany, just as the Cold War was heating up. He has fond memories of his time in both nations, and considers himself lucky to have served alongside other NATO forces. At the end of his term, Bill resumed his life in Canada, taking a job with CP in Toronto. He remains active in the Legion, and we thank Helen Pearce and Legion Branch 11 for hosting this interview.
Oral History Project October 26th, 2015
Salut, my name is Mlle Phardis and I am teaching grade 4 and 5 French this year at Crestwood School. At the junior level I am focusing on increasing student’s ability to communicate in French by building on their ability to speak, write, listen, and read in a second (or even third) language. I motivate students to bring a positive attitude to class so they can have a great experience and actively participate in daily routines and activities.
My passion for French started coincidently enough when I was in grade 4. It was through this exposure to French that I found my talent for learning languages. Since then, it has been my goal to teach French to other students living in Toronto and to share my love for language and culture. To accomplish this goal I completed an Honors French program at York University, studied in Toulouse, France, and am currently working on completing my Specialist AQ in FSL (French as a Second Language). Although English is my mother tongue (as I was born in Toronto), I grew up speaking Greek at home, and eventually grew a liking to Spanish as well. For me, language teaching and learning is a pleasure and I enjoy sharing my passion with others.
Aside from language, this year at Crestwood I’ve already started coaching U10 Soccer, and I look forward to incorporating some Zumba and hip-hop dance into spirit days, to participate in this year’s Carnaval and to even have a French Café at the end of the year!
Luke Connors September 25th, 2015
Posted In: Back To School
LCdr LeFresne enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces as a MARS (Maritime Surface-Subsurface) Officer in June 1997. After 4 Years at the Royal Military College (RMC), he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Military and Strategic Studies and was posted to Victoria, BC to complete bridge officer training. Upon completion of this training, LCdr LeFresne was posted to HMCS Charlottetown in Halifax, NS to proceed with Officer of the Watch (OOW) certification. During his tour with Charlottetown, he attained the Naval Officer Professional Qualification and sailed in numerous fisheries patrols and task group exercises. A highlight of this two and half year period was Charlottetown’s participation in the 60th Anniversary of D-Day celebrations held off the shores of France.
Upon completion of his tour with Charlottetown, LCdr LeFresne was assigned to the Canadian Forces Naval Operations School to complete training as an Under Water Warfare Officer, which is the position he served in HMCS Fredericton. Service in Fredericton also saw east coast sea time in multiple fisheries patrols and task group exercises as well as assistance to the RCMP in one of the largest drug interceptions in Canadian history. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander in April 2012.
LCdr LeFresne remained in Victoria, BC and oversaw the development of technical and readiness trials for frigates completing the Halifax Class Modernization (HCM) program. During this period he was heavily involved in the planning and preparation of Royal Canadian Navy’s participation in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014, the world’s largest maritime exercise.
LCdr LeFresne is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Defence Studies as part of the Joint Command and Staff Program at the Canadian Forces College. He lives in Toronto with his wife and 3 children.
LCdr LeFresne came to visit us at Crestwood, courtesy of the CFC, in March 2015, when he was interviewed by a host of students from different grades. Mindy Zhou and Doris Qiao took the lead in completing this project.
Oral History Project May 13th, 2015
Jim Shontaler was born in the Canadian west, growing up in the difficult days of the Great Depression. As there were some family problems, Jim spent many of his early years in an orphanage. With the war underway and with no firm direction before him, he joined up as soon as he was able, heading off to training and then overseas. Jim headed first to north Africa and Italy, to begin his “baptism under fire”. He were in the thick of it, right away, fighting through the defensive lines in Italy, where he was wounded. From there his unit was shipped north, and they participated in the liberation of France, Belgium, and especially the Netherlands, where Jim had many good experiencess. Jim’s memories of those times are clear, and his stories are ideal for Canadians looking to find insights in the minds of young Canadian men in the 1940s.
We met Jim in his room at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing, where he was interviewed for this project in April 2015.
Oral History Project May 12th, 2015
Oral History Project April 20th, 2015
Oral History Project April 19th, 2015
Alan Forster was born in Toronto, growing up in the city’s east end during the Great Depression. From a military family, he joined up as soon as he was able, heading off to training and then to England. Shortly after the D-Day invasion, Alan headed to France, to begin his “baptism under fire”. They were in the thick of it, right away, fighting through Normandy and into Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany itself. Alan’s memories of those times are clear, and his stories are ideal for Canadians looking to find insights in the minds of young Canadian men in the 1940s.
We met Alan in his room at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing, where he was interviewed for this project in April 2015.
Oral History Project March 31st, 2015
Bonjour! My name is Madame Martin and I am covering Madame Canrinus’ position as primary French teacher while she takes her maternity leave. Just like Madame Canrinus, I am using the AIM program to teach the kids.
I have a long history of french in my background, starting from kindergarten. Actually, it began even earlier than that – my father immigrated here from the south of France when he was very young. I grew up hearing a lot of what I call “Frenglish”. A mixture of French and English thrown together in no particular pattern, but simply by the choice of which language felt more natural when a certain thing needed to be expressed.
I was enrolled in French Immersion and was educated in all subjects through the French language. I valued my second language so highly, even as a younger person, that I incorporated it into my program of study at York University. I majored in Classical History – focusing mainly on Greece, Rome, and Egypt.
I am also running the Eco Team this year. On the weekends I volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum, and felt I could bring much of what I learn concerning the environment to the kids at Crestwood. The Eco Team meets twice a week, and we discuss and plan projects to help Crestwood be a helpful contributor to the environment.
I am loving my stay at Crestwood – the kids and staff are remarkable and I am looking forward to many years at Crestwood School.
À Bientôt !!!
Luke Connors February 12th, 2015
Posted In: Uncategorized
Susan Pasternak, born Sissi Friedman was 7 months old when the war broke out in September of 1939. She was born on February 1st, 1939 in Zambriow, which is in northeastern Poland. Her parent’s names were Mordechai and Sarah Friedman and Susan was their first and only child. Her father had his own bakery shop and they lived a good life, until one day the Nazis took all the Jews to the ghetto. Susan was fortunate enough to never see an extermination camp as her birth mother arranged for a Polish woman to hide the family, though not her father, who unfortunately was killed in the ghetto. Susan and her mother managed to sneak out of the ghetto and arrive at a Polish woman’s apartment. They lived there for three and a half years, under a table. It was covered however with a black cloth that covered the entire table and went all the way down to the floor so that they could not be seen by anybody. After those three and a half years, Susan’s mother wrote to her sister, Rosa Weinstein, who lived in Canada. Her sister then gave passage for them to come to Canada. On the way her mother had a heart attack and died, and Susan was then sent to an orphanage in France, and from there to Germany, where she stayed for two years. Her mother’s sister wondered what had happened to them, so she enlisted help from the international Red Cross. In May 1947, two years after the war had ended, her aunt sent passage to England; Susan then went from England to Halifax. She then met her in Halifax, making Susan one of the first children to cross the Atlantic after the war ended.
Susan spoke at Crestwood in December 2014, when she presented her story to Mrs. Pagano’s English 8 class.
Oral History Project January 21st, 2015
Frank Mendham was born in Toronto in 1924; like many his age he grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, dealing with the realities of day-to-day life. When the war came, Frank went into the cavalry, like his father before him. By the time of the Second World War, tanks had replaced horses. Frank spent time in England before heading over to France on D-Day; from Normandy, he and his regiment made their way through France and the Netherlands, into Germany.
We visited Frank at the Sunnybrook veterans’ Wing on February 27, 2014, where he was interviewed by Crestwood students Ahmed Izzeldin, Simon Yuan, and Jacob Gurdzy.
Oral History Project April 16th, 2014
John Hishon and his mother lived in the Yonge & Bloor area of Toronto, where his Mom worked extremely hard to make a living during the Great Depression.. When the war broke out, John trained on the Canadian Exhibition grounds, where at first they did not have any equipment and were laughed at. He eventually was shipped to England, where he saw firsthand the Battle of Britain. His squadron was wiped out at Dieppe, but John was lucky to escape this tragic event because he was injured at the time. He was sent to France after D-Day and was involved in the attack on Caen on the fourth of July, 1944. He advanced with the Canadian army in northwestern Europe, through belgium and Netherlands, through to VE Day. We met Mr. Hishon at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in November 2013, where he was interviewed by Steven Feng and Hunter Kell.
Oral History Project January 3rd, 2014
Bill Talbot grew up against the backdrop of 1930s Toronto. When his father, a World War One veteran, passed away, Bill dropped out of school to help his mother make ends meet. When the war came along, Bill enlisted, eventually finding his way into the First Canadian Parachute Regiment. Training took place in both the U.S. and Canada, and Bill was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, in addition to other camps. He made his way overseas and began to prepare for the inevitability of D-Day. Bill was among the first Canadians into France, on the night of June 5-6. His Battle of Normandy lashed for about one month, when a sniper’s bullet ended the war for him.
Bill came to us with Jack Reid; both men were interviewed in October 2013, with Bill sitting down with Liam Mayer, Nick Mennell, Antony Cook and Zach Brown.
Oral History Project November 12th, 2013
Charles Mann is a Canadian veteran of World War Two who served with the Black Devils. Originally from Port Hope, Charles and his family were affected by the Great Depression, like so many other Canadian families. Charles left school for work, but with the coming of the war, he enlisted in the army, and when they asked for men to sign up for special services training, Charles jumped at the opportunity, soon finding himself in the Second Parachute Battalion. From there, he went to Montana, where Canadian and American soldiers together went into the Special Services, later to be re-named the Black Devils. After the arduous training was complete, the first destination was Alaska, but the Japanese had left just weeks before the Devils arrived. He was then shipped off to Africa, and from there he saw combat in Italy and southern France; Charles welcomed VE Day in London, England.
Charles visited us in May 2013, where students Sarah Mainprize and Stephanie Erdman took the lead in his interview.
Oral History Project May 22nd, 2013
We met Max Bornstein at Baycrest Geriatric Centre in Toronto, where he is a resident. We learned about him through the Azrieli Foundation, as they have published his memoirs. Crestwood students Emma Myers and Sarah Mainprize interviewed Max at Baycrest in February 2013.
Max’s story is remarkable, and a singular one in many ways. He and his family travelled back and forth across the Atlantic many times in the prewar years: much of Max’s early life was spent in an orphanage in Canada, but events in his family saw them reunited in France in the prewar years. As the war began, the family made their way to southern France, where Max was detained – a 17 year old by then, he was a potential military recruit. He did manage to escape to Spain, but there he was ensnared by Franco’s government, and he spent a considerable amount of time in a concentration camp. Eventually he made his way back to England, and later to Canada – a veritable odyssey that saw him settle in postwar Toronto.
Oral History Project May 6th, 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