Profiling: George Kenneth Lancaster

By Sara H., Summer Student

As my summer at the museum is wrapping up, it has been the perfect time to reflect on my time at the museum and how much I have learned about museums and Oshawa’s history.  My last blog post talked about past industries in Oshawa that were featured on the  Discover Historic Oshawa website.  When looking through the website to find places to talk about, I came across the entry for the Lancaster Hotel.       

Last summer, I was the Heritage Engagement Intern at the McLaughlin Library.  When I was learning about the Oshawa City Directories, Nicole, the awesome Local History Librarian, gave me the name “Lancaster” to look up. The directories collection covers many years, but it was not until 1936 that I came across “Lancaster.”  Charles Lancaster was listed as the president of the Commercial Hotel, located at 27-29 King St. W.; his wife, Ellen was also listed, as well as Kenneth and Reginald G. who lived at the same address.  In 1941, Kathleen N. was listed as a stenographer at General Motors and as living at the same address.  Kenneth’s name disappeared between 1937-1943, but I didn’t think much of it as I assumed he moved away.  In 1944 however, his name was listed with a new title, RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force).  In 1945, Kenneth’s name was gone but a new name was added, another Charles.  In 1946, Kenneth was still missing, but Charles had married M. Joyce, and Reginald had married Gertrude.  I kept looking through the rest of the directories and noticed other changes with the family, but Kenneth never reappeared.        

1944 Directory (Lancaster entries from 1944 Vernon’s City of Oshawa Directory, Internet Archive) and 1946 Directory (Lancaster entries from 1946 Vernon’s City of Oshawa Directory)

George Kenneth Lancaster was born on May 29, 1918 in Birmingham, England.  His parents were Charles and Ellen Lancaster, and he had two brothers, Reginald Graham and Charles George, and one sister, Kathleen.  The family owned and operated the Commercial Hotel from 1936-1975, and changed the name to Lancaster Hotel in 1957.  Kenneth Lancaster attended Oshawa Collegiate & Vocational Institute from 1932-1937 for Junior Matriculation (high school diploma), and from 1937-1938 for a 1-year special commercial certificate. Kenneth was a professional magician and a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. His hobbies included skiing, swimming and photography.  He worked as a commercial traveller (travelling salesman) for Carlton Cards in Toronto from 1938 until October 1941 when he was called up to the R.C.A.F.

Black and white photograph of a Caucasian man standing in front of a backdrop for measuring height
G.K. Lancaster photo (Photo of George Kenneth Lancaster, submitted by Operation Picture Me on Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

I figured that Kenneth was probably in his early 20s and enlisted to fight in the Second World War.  I assumed he studied and maybe worked at the Lancaster Hotel for a bit before going off on his own and working at Carlton Cards.  His temporary absence from 1937-1943 worried me, but it made sense that he moved or started his training during that time.  Seeing his name again in 1943-1944 was a relief, but I did have a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that something else caused his disappearance. Once I searched his name, “George Kenneth Lancaster,” the first search result I was met with was a page from Canadian Virtual War Memorial.  Flying Officer George Kenneth Lancaster, son of Charles and Ellen Lancaster, was killed in action on June 13, 1944 at the age of 26.  Kenneth is buried at the Poix-de-Picardie Churchyard in France with the rest of the crew.  Their names are Flying Officer John Frederick Wyllie, Flying Officer John Samuel Ritchie, Flying Officer George Kenneth Lancaster, Pilot Officer Douglas Idris Davies, Pilot Officer James Edward Byers, Pilot Officer Mungo William Couper, and Sergeant William Duncan

I found a copy of Kenneth’s World War II Record and Service File on Ancestry, and through these I was able to create a more complete picture of his life.  I saw the forms he had filled out, complete with his signature, and one where he listed his hobbies useful to the R.C.A.F. as “professional magician and photography.”  I saw the forms where he listed his father as who to contact in case of causality and his mother as the sole beneficiary of his will.  I saw the forms that confirmed who his siblings were, who his parents were, where he attended school and where he lived.  And finally, I saw the report created concerning his death and the letters sent to his parents notifying them of the renumbering of Kenneth’s grave and awarding their son the Operational Wings and Certificate in recognition of the gallant services rendered by Kenneth. 

I found out that we both attended the same high school, albeit 81 years apart, and lived in Oshawa.  Kenneth was 26 when he died, and many of his crew members were around the same age, which is close to the age of my friends and I.  Even though I did the majority of my research last summer, reviewing it and finding out more information about Kenneth, the crew and his family made me think more about what life was like during the Second World War and how families, like mine and Kenneth’s, would have had to deal with it and the constant stream of loss.  Even though I have no connection to the Lancaster family, I still felt a great deal of sadness upon learning about Kenneth’s death and I cannot imagine what his family must have felt when they learned.  This experience made me realize that you can make connections with individuals even with the barrier of history in between; and even though the hotel is no longer standing, the lives and stories of the people who lived and worked there are still available to us.    

Commemorative page featuring a photograph of a Caucasian man in an army uniform, and writing underneath
Lancaster Book of Remembrance Page (George Kenneth Lancaster’s page in Oshawa’s Book of Remembrance, Oshawa Public Libraries Heritage Collection)

Resources consulted:

Ancestry.com. Canada, World War II Records and Service Files of War Dead, 1939-1947 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Service Files of the Second World War―War Dead, 1939–1947. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Canada. George Lancaster file, pages 153-210. Accessed from: https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/9145/images/44485_83024005549_0573-00153?treeid=&personid=&hintid=&queryId=17b1eb71bc87746257e717e899cac81f&usePUB=true&_phsrc=kIK8&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&_gl=1*16ykklw*_ga*MjAwMjk3NTQ2Ny4xNjU5NDQyOTM1*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MTY1OTQ0MjkzNS4xLjEuMTY1OTQ0MzMwNC4w&_ga=2.22429499.1230264848.1659442937-2002975467.1659442935&pId=202

Canadian Virtual War Memorial – https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/2847022

Commonwealth War Graves – https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/2847022/george-kenneth-lancaster/

Discover Historic Oshawa: Lancaster Hotel – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/lancaster-hotel/

Find a Grave –
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56199788/george-kenneth-lancaster
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/233697106/charles-lancaster
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/231977253/reginald-g-lancaster

Graves Registration Report, Commonwealth War Graves – https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/2847022/george-kenneth-lancaster/#&gid=1&pid=1

Oshawa’s Book of Remembrance, Oshawa Public Libraries Heritage Collection – https://images.ourontario.ca/oshawa/details.asp?ID=3688171&n=1 

Oshawa City Directories –
https://archive.org/details/vernonscityofoshawadirectory1944/page/n145/mode/2up
https://archive.org/details/vernonscityofoshawadirectory1946/page/n171/mode/2up

The Red Cross and Knitting for the War Effort

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In May, our Registrar, Kes, wrote about a donation of materials from the Red Cross Society, Durham Branch. Along with the artefacts she highlighted in her blog post, the donation also contained several booklets produced by the Red Cross containing knitting patterns. As many might know, I am an avid knitter and love any mention of historic knitting (I’ll leave links at the end of other blogs I’ve written). I was very excited when Kes let me know that the booklets were scanned and digitized, eager to look at the patterns from decades ago. 

Four booklets were included in this donation: 

  • The Canadian Red Cross Society Selected Civilian Knitting Instructions for Women and Children (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory) (A022.23.10)
  • The Canadian Red Cross Society Knitting Instructions for the Armed Forces (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory) (A022.23.11)
  • Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work, Number 1 For the Services, Issued by The Canadian Red Cross Society, Revised Edition, November 1940 (A022.23.12)
  • Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work, Number 2 Knitted Comforts for Women, Issued by The Canadian Red Cross Society, November 1940 (A022.23.13)

These booklets were made available by the Red Cross, free of charge, to those who wanted copies. 

For those on the Homefront during the two world wars, there were many ways they contributed to the war effort. Knitting was one such way to contribute. During World War I, patterns from the Red Cross or other sources appeared in local newspapers; a pattern from the Red Cross, for example, was published in the Port Perry Star, while the pattern which appeared in the Ontario Reformer did not list a particular source. The pamphlets in our collection, which included directions for women and children – civilians – reflected a change in the nature of World War II. As stated by the Red Cross, “By the time of the Second World War… warfare had changed: battlefront and Homefront blurred, and civilian lives were routinely endangered.”1 These booklets for civilians reflect the change in the Red Cross’s mandate, expanding beyond attending to the needs of soldiers and military personnel exclusively.

The quality of the knitted goods had to reach high standards, and pieces might have been rejected or, more often, fixed by other Red Cross volunteers had it not been up to the standards. This might sound harsh, but think about it. When you have a pebble in your shoe, or maybe the seam of your sock isn’t sitting where you want it to, it can be irritating. Imagine wearing knit socks, and there were knots along the sock’s sole, or the toes haven’t been seamed correctly. Soldiers foot health was of great importance, which is why the Red Cross set out such high standards. Novice knitters, fear not. As the Globe and Mail reported in 1941, “The weaving (grafting) of the tip of the toe is a pitfall into which so many kindhearted, anxious-to-do-their bit, loyal knitters stumble; but the Red Cross workers have told me to tell you that if, when you come to the place which invariably trips you up, you will slip the twenty stitches remaining you’re your two needles onto a strand of wool, take the socks to the Red Cross – they will be delighted to finish them for you.”2 

Knitters would send their finished pieces to the Red Cross’s offices on Jarvis Street in Toronto. Here, volunteers would inspect the pieces, such as socks, mittens, scarfs, and sweaters, before sending them to the soldiers overseas. If pieces didn’t reach the high quality standard the Red Cross needed, volunteers could set about fixing the items. One volunteer, Mrs. Gibbett, was interviewed about the work of re-knitting items, and about socks, she commented “I hate to think of the poor boy’s feet after wearing a pair of those [socks with knots along the bottom under the heel and toes]. I rip them back and knit it up again.” Her job was described as ‘Unexciting,’ and even Mrs. Gibbett herself said “It’s not a very attractive job, but it’s got to be done. We can’t let all that wool go to waste, you know.”3

The Whitby Gazette & Chronicle reported in 1940 that the Whitby Red Cross branch was well into their knitting initiatives, and that between October 1939 and March 1940, they had knitted over 1000 pairs of socks for the active services.4 Whitby also boasted an instructions committee, headed by Mrs. E Bowman “who gave daily instructions in the making of all knitted garments and correct any mistakes which will not pass instruction.”

For the Oshawa Museum’s Stories from the Homefront project, many shared memories of life in Oshawa during WWII and how they contributed, including participating in salvaging drives, growing their own food in Victory Gardens, donating blood at Red Cross blood donor clinics, and knitting for the forces. Murray McKay remembered “We took up knitting in school. We used to make scarves. Each class would spend one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon,” and Jeannette Mark Nugent recalled, “It was mostly socks that I would knit, perhaps mitts. They were for the servicemen overseas. Sometimes we would put a note in the socks to the servicemen along with our name and address. Although I never received any letters, some friends I knew did hear from servicemen thanking them for the socks.” 

It was estimated that some 750,000 people on the homefront (the majority of which were likely women) produced more than 50 million garments during the Second World War.5 Locally, sewing and knitting groups had 1200 women who made nearly 50,000 articles towards the war effort.6 There were likely knitters of every skill level pitching in to do their bit. Knitting for the forces was just one way that those on the homefront supported the war efforts during the First and Second World Wars.


Here are a few other posts I have written, for those wanting more info on historic knitting:


References

  1. Canadian Red Cross WWII Civilian Knitting Instructions, https://www.redcross.ca/history/artifacts/wwii-civilian-knitting-instructions
  2. IR McK,”This and That,” The Globe and Mail, Oct 3, 1940, pg. 9
  3. “Reknits Others’ Knitting, Woman’s Job Is Unexciting,” The Globe and Mail, Aug 1, 1944, pg. 10.
  4. “Thousand Pairs of Socks Knitted by Whitby Red Cross,” The Gazette and Chronicle, March 6, 1940, page 1.
  5. That stat came from the Canadian War Museum: https://www.warmuseum.ca/blog/an-army-of-knitters-in-support-of-the-war-effort/
  6. Oshawa Historical Society, Stories from the Homefront, 2004, page ####

Additional Research:

https://www.redcross.ca/blog/2021/4/knitting-through-covid-19-and-through-red-cross-history

https://thediscoverblog.com/tag/canadian-red-cross/

The 1940s One Egg Cake

Since early 2020, grocery store shelves haven’t been as well stocked. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, people were in short supply of toilet paper, Kleenex, paper towels and antibacterial cleaning supplies. But this isn’t the first time the world has experienced shortages like this. In the 1970s, due to tensions in the Middle East and rising oil prices, there was a gas shortage throughout North America and other countries around the world. The era of rationing that people most remember though, is that during and after World War II.

In 1942, The Government of Canada rationed everyday grocery items and gasoline for civilians. This system of rationing managed with small coupon books distributed to families. By 1943, the Canadian Bankers Association had a system in place whereby shopkeepers deposited ration coupons into the banks that then issued cheques to the shopkeepers.

During the War, the government issued over 11 million ration books throughout the country. Families needed to keep these ration books very safe because if they were lost, it meant going without until they could replace it.

Even though the War had ended, rationing still continued while the world got back on its feet.

For Family Day 2021, the OM took to social media and encouraged our followers to spend some family time together in the kitchen. We shared a cake recipe which is heavily influenced by wartime rationing. The ingredients needed are all things that women would typically have had in their home, regardless of rationing. There are other recipes that are made with much less in terms of what is needed, a true mark of the creativity and ingenuity of the people during the time of rationing.

The recipe served as an advertisement for Swans Down cake flour and Calumet baking powder, but use whatever you have in your kitchen.


And here is the recipe, typed out:

One Egg Cake

This recipe appeared in the Toronto Daily Star, 19 Oct 1944, page 18, as an advertisement for Swans Down Cake Flour.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sifted Swans Down Cake Flour (1:1 substitute with all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons Calumet baking Powder
  • 1/3 cup butter or other shortening (2.5 ounces)
  • 1 cup sugar (8 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, unbeaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  • Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift together three times.
  • Cream butter, add sugar gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy.
  • Add egg and beat very thoroughly.
  • Add flour, alternately with milk, a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.
  • Add vanilla. Bake in two greased 8-inch layer pans, in moderate oven (375°) for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Cover with Sugarless Chocolate Frosting—you’ll find the recipe on the Baker’s Choice package—or with your own favourite Chocolate Frosting.

Where The Streets Get Their Names – Chadburn Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

A number of streets in Oshawa are named for significant war battles or for Oshawa’s veterans, denoted with a poppy on the street sign. Chadburn Street is one such street. Lloyd Vernon Chadburn was one of Canada’s most decorated pilots of the Second World War.  Chadburn, or “Chad” as he was known to his friends, was only 22 years old when he commanded his first squadron into battle, becoming the youngest flight leader in the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Born in Montreal in 1919, Chadburn moved with his parents to Oshawa as an infant, residing on Masson Street.  His father, Thomas, was the owner of Chadburn Motor Company, located at King and Prince Streets in Oshawa. The family later resided in Aurora.

As a teenager, Chadburn worked as a clerk for the Bank of Toronto and as a salesman for the Red Rose Tea Company.  After completing high school, he twice applied to the RCAF but was turned down both times.  By the time the Second World War broke out in 1939, Chadburn was employed by General Motors, driving cars off the assembly line.

In 1940, Chadburn was finally accepted into the RCAF, only a few months before his 21st birthday.  After basic flight training in Toronto and Windsor, he graduated as a pilot officer from the Number 2 Flight Training School in Ottawa.

Chadburn went overseas on October 2, 1940 to join Number 2 RCAF squadron in England.  He made his first operational flight in March 1941, flying the Hawker Hurricane fighter.  A year later he took command of Number 416 squadron in Scotland, becoming the first graduate of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to command a flight squadron.  Chadburn’s leadership won him the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and made his squadron the most successful RCAF fighter group.  One of the squadron’s more daring escapades was providing cover for the Dieppe Raid in 1942, saving hundreds of Allied lives.

Image from: RCAF Memories by 420 Wing RCAF Association, Oshawa Public Library Collection.

In the winter of 1942-43, Chadburn returned to Oshawa, where he received a civic reception and a tour of General Motors during war production.  During this visit, Chadburn gave permission for the Oshawa Air Cadet Squadron to use his name which it still retains today, the only such squadron to be named after an individual.1

Upon returning to service in Europe, Chadburn commanded the 402 (Winnipeg), 416 (Oshawa), and 118 (RAF) squadrons, flying escort for American bombers.  The bomber crews came to know Chadburn as “The Angel.”  In 60 sorties escorting the bombers, only one of them was ever lost to enemy fire.  To honour his achievements, Chadburn became the first of only four RCAF officers to be decorated with the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

In early 1944, following another visit to Canada, this time to promote war bonds on CBC, Chadburn was appointed Wing Commander of Fighter Operations.  At 24 years old, he was the youngest officer to hold that position.  Working behind a desk made Chadburn restless, yearning to be back in the skies.

In June 1944, he was back in the cockpit of a Spitfire warplane, leading the first air assault on D-Day.  The following week however, his fighting came to an end as he was tragically killed in a mid-air collision with another Spitfire.  His body was laid to rest Ranville War Cemetery near Caen, France. He was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre and made a Chevalier (Knight) of the Legion d’Honneur.

The name Chadburn was not only given to a street in Oshawa, but also given to a lake in Yukon.  It is said that the pilots who served with Chadburn during the war wrote to his mother every Mother’s Day until her death in 1968.

We first see Chadburn Street in Oshawa City Directories in 1950 – there is a simple notation saying 12 new houses, indicating that it is newly named and constructed upon. It is located amongst streets named for World War I battle sites, such as Verdun Road and Vimy Avenue.


References:

  1. “Chadburn Squadron History” 151 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron website, https://www.chadburn.org/squadron-history/chadburn-squadron; accessed 11/02/20.

Additional References

Canadian Virtual War Memorial, Veterans Affairs Canada, https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/2847750, accessed 11/02/20.

Historical Oshawa Information Sheet, Oshawa Historical Society.

Oshawa Times, Saturday October 10, 1992.

Oshawa Times, March 27, 1987.

“Flying Ace was ‘Real Regular’ Oshawa Boy,” East6; “Aurora Remembers Ideal Fighter Pilot,”Peason Bowerman, North32; Toronto Star, February 28, 1984.

RCAF Memories Scrapbook, from the Local History Collection at the OPL, accessed on 11/02/20 from https://archive.org/details/fta082rcafmemoires/page/n43/mode/2up.

Ajax’s Defence Industry Limited

By Tracy Wright, Durham College Journalism Student

When the opportunity came for Louise Johnson to work at Defence Industry Limited (DIL), she took it, with the blessing in the only letter she ever received from her father saying, “Go for it, it sounds like a great opportunity.”

Dil1

This was a historical moment. In 1942, almost all jobs for women were in the home, taking care of the family. “Back then,” says Johnson, “you worked the farm and married the boy down the road.” But the Second World War changed that.

Men had been recruited to go to the Second World War, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. There was a shortage of workers, so women were needed to fill the jobs men would normally do.

Defence Industries Limited (DIL) was a shell filling plant, says author and historian Lynn Hodgson.  Its main purpose was to build shells with explosives and have them crated then transported by cargo then rail and finally shipped to England to the men in field, according to Hodgson.

Louise Johnson was 21 years old, living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  She was single and working at Saskatoon City Hospital in the nurse’s residence. Louise said she was lucky to have been at home when the call came from Civil Services (now known as Human Resources) about working at DIL.

DIL opened in the summer of 1941. It had 9,000 employees and 75 per cent of these employees were women, explains Brenda Kriz, Records and FOI coordinator for the Town of Ajax. The women came to Ajax from across Canada, as far away as Northern Alberta and Nova Scotia.

Before the Second World War, Ajax was not a city. It was all farmland.  “It became Ajax, after the war,” says Hodgson, who wrote Ajax Arsenal of Democracy.

Dil 2

The women at DIL were called Bombgirls. Johnson, like the other women, did not know what to expect when she arrived in Pickering Township.  When she was recruited, she was told the job was dangerous. She was assured she and the other 9,000 employees would be taken care of; they would receive housing and meals along with a uniform, and if they did not like it there, they would get a train ticket back home.

Defence Industries Limited was built in 1941 on 2,800 acres of land. “The land was expropriated from Pickering Township to create Defence Industries Limited,” says Kriz. This was the largest shell plant during the British Commonwealth, according to Kriz. The township of Pickering set up the factory to build bombs for the Second World War.  Pickering Township, now Ajax, was considered the perfect location.  It was away from residential areas and water supplies, which was very important because it required million gallons a day to support the site, says Kriz.

There were 600 wartime homes built as temporary residences close to the plant. “There was a community hall, movie theatre and a convenience store and a post office so you didn’t have to go outside,” according to Hodgson, who goes on to explain that “loose lips sink ships” and this is why DIL didn’t want workers speaking to the public about their job.

When the plant closed, the idea was the homes would be broken down and sent to Britain to help with the housing shortage there, but instead a town was established.  Ajax was named after a battleship called HMS Ajax.  Naming of the town came after the post office in Pickering Village could not handle the loads of mail sent there.  For a post office to be in a town, the town had to have a name.  A vote was held by to choose between Dilco, Powder City and Ajax, after the mythological Greek hero.

DIL had been in operation for about five years before Ajax got its name.

To get access to the plant, you would walk across the Bayly Bridge which is no longer there but you would have crossed over the 401 at Harwood and Bayly. This is how you’d enter the gates for DIL. From there you would take a bus that would bring you to the line where you worked.  “At the end of your shift, you’d take the bus back over the bridge and then walk back to your residence,” explains Hodgson.

“There were four lines each line produce a different kind of shell,” says Kriz.

There was heavy security at DIL, Johnson recalls.  “If you did not have a badge, you could not pass through the gates,” says Johnson.  The whole facility was surrounded by barbed wire fence.  Hodgson explains, “Security was very tight; the guards were armed veterans from the First World War.” For safety reasons, no matches were allowed on the property.  If you were caught with matches, you would go to jail. One guy served 30 days in Whitby jail for smoking behind the line, says Hodgson.

Johnson worked on line 3. Here she measured cordite, which is another form of gunpowder. Her job was to weigh it on a scale and she had to be very precise. If not filled properly, the ammunition could either explode in transport or not detonate in the field. Work was in rotating shifts each week: eight hours a day six days a week. Each shift was represented by a different colour bandana: blue, red and white. Johnson’s was blue.

The only day off was Sunday and Christmas day.  “On Sundays, you just watch the walls and cook dinner,” says Johnson.

Life at DIL was not just about work. Relationships were built there. “I met my husband at work,” laughs Johnson. “He was the cordite deliverer.”

Russell and Louise were married in 1944 and had one child, a daughter named Lynda. Russell died in 1965. “He worked hard, but was not a well man,” Johnson said.

With the end of the war, the need for shells ended too.  The lines at the factory were shut down one by one. When it came to Johnson, she was called to the office and asked if she knew how to type.  She said, “I could look for keys,” she said, “and make a stab at it.”

Johnson was assigned the task of typing quit slips. She placed her slip at the bottom of the pile and when the time came typed her own quit slip. She was the last production employee at DIL.

Johnson then went to Selective Services, now Employment Insurance, to receive her compensation.  Johnson asked the lady behind the desk if she should comeback after her EI ran out.  She was advised to not come back as there was no work for women.

Men were coming back from war. “It was a two-sided coin,” Johnson says. “The men left work to go to war and they came back.”

Not only were the jobs few, Johnson’s husband did not want her to work. She stayed home and took care of her daughter, who was eight years old.  She did start working again and was able to work from home.

Johnson now aged 96, lives on her own in the same wartime bungalow she purchased with her husband.

Comparing the workforce for women from 1942 to now in 2018 Johnson says, “Hasn’t changed.”

As for DIL, “few buildings remain. But not many,” says Kriz.   The original DIL hospital became Ajax/Pickering hospital.  The original building was demolished in the late ’60s, according to Kriz. The Ajax Town Hall sits in the same place the DIL administration office was. “The heart of the community has always been on this site,” says Kriz. Without DIL, “There would be no Ajax a town born overnight,” says Hodgson.


The land where we stand is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

Durham College‘s newspaper, The Chronicle, launches a new feature series called The Land Where We Stand, about the hidden stories that shape our region.

Some of the articles found on this blog have been provided through partnerships with external sources, and we welcome reader engagement through comments.  The views expressed in such articles/comments may not necessarily reflect those of the OHS/OM.

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