Clayton Hayes was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and he grew up in the Prairies, first in Saskatchewan and later in Brandon, Manitoba. The Depression was a difficult time for the family; his father’s business went bankrupt, and the family moved to improve their prospects. When the war came, Clayton’s older brother joined the navy, and even though Clayton was still just a teenager, he decided that he didn’t want to wait. He ran away from home, riding the rails to Vancouver, where he joined the merchant marine. He quickly signed on, chose a ship, and found himself heading south towards California and Panama. On the way, they hit a severe storm, where Clayton became seasick – for the first and last time. They went through the canal and headed up the east coast. From they went to New York City, where a convoy was formed. Clayton had the chance to see a bit of the city, and he recalls seeing Mae West in a Broadway production of Catherine Was Great. Once the convoy was ready, they made it to Britain without incident, unloading in London’s east end, and enduring the buzz bombs as the war came to a close. The return trip to Vancouver also went smoothly; by the time they were back at their home port, the war was drawing to a close, though Clayton remained in the merchant navy for a number of years to follow.
Clayton was interviewed for this project at the Sunnybrook veterans’ Wing in March 2019, when he was visited by Kian Torabi, Helen Liu and Aries Wang.
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