Iler, Harley

Harley Iler grew up in Essex County, in southwest Ontario.  Harley spent his formative years on a farm, where he remembers his parents struggling through the difficult years of the Great Depression.  Harley attended school in a one-room schoolhouse, and at home he tinkered with his HAM radio, developing the passion and technical know-how that would serve him well in the war years and in his career to come.  With the coming of the war, Harley was torn; on the one hand, he wanted to serve his country alongside his friends, but on the other hand Harley grew up in the Baptist Church, and like his ancestors, he was a committed pacifist.  An ad in a prewar magazine gave him his opportunity; wireless operators were needed in the merchant marine, and Harley signed on, seeing it as a way to uphold both of his commitments.  Harley was assigned to a Greek cargo ship called the Lily, and he set out on a convoy from New York City to Scotland.  It was a difficult trip there and back, replete with mechanical failures and terrible weather.  Harley decided it was enough, and he applied to be an officer on a Great Lakes steamer, where he spent much of the following year.  From there, he made his way to Toronto, where his technical skills were put to work at Research Enterprises, a crown corporation in Leaside.  Harley worked to develop Canada’s radar technology, which kept him busy until 1945; as an essential worker, he was deferred from military service.  Harley recalled the joy and exhilaration of VE Day, after which time he continued work in the technical field, first on electrocardiograms and then electric transformers.

We met Harley Iler in the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing in November 2018, when he was interviewed by a delegation of Crestwood students.