Training WWII Pilots at Home
November 10, 2014
George Fraser is 99 years old, born on July 10, 1915 in Vancouver. Perhaps it’s George’s strong sense of independence and his daily two hour walks downtown – he is the youngest 99 year old you could imagine meeting. George shared the story of his service as a flight instructor in Canada during WWII and life stories of travel and adventure.
The War and NYC
According to George’s flight log, he became a flight instructor in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in August 1942. He completed his own training in High River, Alberta, where his first flight was over Calgary, Alberta. He was eventually stationed in Hagersville, Ontario, north of Lake Eerie. George shared his Air Force log book which was nearly full with notes from the many pilots he trained through WWII.
When asked about his most memorable experience from his service, George quickly told of his holiday for Canadian Thanksgiving to New York City. As luck would have it, a train went through Hagersville, ON directly to NYC. George decided to take a weekend trip.
Upon arriving and checking into his hotel, George made his way to the Waldorf Astoria hotel bar for a drink. As he approached the bar to order a drink, the bartender said his drink was on the house. Though George was in uniform, he asked why his drink was on the house and was directed down the bar to a man who nodded at him. The man’s name was Mr. Wynn and his father had served in WWI. George and Mr. Wynn got along famously and Mr. Wynn would introduce George to his wife where they lived in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria.
George happened to meet the right person as he was treated to a show in the Wedgewood Room where the piano comedian, Victor Borge, was performing. Being asked on stage and recognized for his service was a very memorable experience for him. Chuckling, George describes heading back to his cheap hotel after an evening at the Waldorf Astoria where he barely spent a cent.
Life Post War
George described his luck in remaining healthy and alive. He did not serve overseas but has the lifelong reminder of his service due to his hard hearing. The time surrounded by engine noise caused him permanent damage. At the end of the war, George returned to Vancouver to continue his career as a traveling salesman mainly in the jewelry business. He travelled very often; it was what he loved. George never married nor had any children. His lifestyle of travel and independence is still very evident today as he lives at Tapestry at Arbutus Walk. Although George is hard of hearing and is now legally blind, nearly every day he gets on a Vancouver city bus, rides downtown to Granville Street for a coffee, walks to the waterfront, then back up through Bentall Centre to Robson Street, and back to the bus stop to return to his apartment at Arbutus Walk in Kitsilano. Even when it rains? Of course – and George doesn’t even use an umbrella. True Vancouverite.
George’s war experience was about choice and travel. He chose to enlist in the Air Force instead of risking being drafted in the army. He chose to fly. George took opportunities in his service and career to travel to many places and meet many people. His attitude and active lifestyle certainly influences his health and who he is today as a near centenarian.