James, Alex

Alex James was born in 1920s Toronto, and he grew up largely in the city’s east end.  Alex shared with us his memories of interwar Toronto, and what it was like growing up against the backdrop of the Great Depression.  He remembered it as a time when everyone was the same, not knowing that they had nothing.  In spite of the tough times, Alex had mainly positive memories of the time, recalling the schools and the airplane models he built.  When the war came, Alex said the rationing had some impacts on his family, but overall the expectation of sacrifice was there, and people largely complied with C.D. Howe’s regimen.  For his family that included a farm, where Alex spent much of his time working once he left school.  When it was Alex’s time to join up, he chose the air force and began his training in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, going from one base to the next as he honed his skills as a mechanic.  He specialized in wireless repair, and was quickly selected for “overseas” duty, which meant – in the parlance of the time – Newfoundland.  Alex spent the remainder of the war repairing the Hurricanes at gander and St. John’s, helping Canada and its Allies to maintain their upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic.  With the end of the war, Alex was discharged, and he began to look for work, and to adjust to life in now postwar Toronto.

We met Alex at the Tony Stacey Centre for Veterans’ Care in the east end of Toronto, where Alex was interviewed by Mr. Masters and Grade 12 student Navid Sarshar. We thank Jay Burford of the Royal Canadian Legion and Andy Barros at Tony Stacey for their help in setting up this connection.