Allen, Ken

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.