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
Mr. Minoru Yatabe served in Canada’s armed forces during WW2, while his family and other Japanese-Canadians were battling racism and internment on Canada’s home front. Mr. Yatabe originally was from British Columbia, but he was sent to Ontario for the early part of the war, where he worked on a farm. When he turned 18, he enlisted and was trained for service in the Pacific. He was attached to an intelligence unit, whose task was to interview Japanese POWs as the war reached its conclusion.
He was interviewed for this project Feb. 2009 by Crestwood students Sean Lee and Josh Stern. In May 2016 Min visited us again, this time sitting down with students from the History 12 class.
When WW2 broke out, all Japanese-Canadians were labeled as enemy aliens were sent to the internment camps. Mr. Moritsuguand his brother were separated from his family; while Mr. Moritsugu’s family were sent to Tashme camp, he and his brother Ken were sent to Yard Creek Road. Despite the treatment accorded his family by their own government, Frank enlisted in the army and passed his training. He was sent to Bombay and Meerut in India and London for his translation- operations. Discriminations did not fade away even after he became a soldier. In India, he went to a swimming pool with his British soldier friends, but he was not allowed in – there was a sign which said ‘Only White people allowed’. Frank Moritsugu served honourably in intelligence work and was discharged after the war. He came to us via the Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre, delivering a powerful message of tolerance for Crestwood students.
Sumiko Koshida is the grandmother of Crestwood student Justin Yeung. Sumiko grew up in Tashme, one of the WW2 relocation centres into which Japanese-Canadians were forced early in WW2. When the war concluded, she and her family were sent back to Japan. Here she shares her childhood memories of the family’s experiences.