The year was 1943 with WW2 raging overseas. Just imagine the pride of a young RCAF pilot who had just received his ‘wings’ and was on his first leave to come home from Weyburn, Saskatchewan to see his family in Burlington. He was dressed out in his crisp new uniform showing his treasured ‘wing insignia’ on his left chest. While waiting in the Toronto bus station for the last leg of his trip home to show his family what he has accomplished, he saw a woman approaching him. It would seem obvious that she was coming to wish him well and thank him for his service to the country. He stood a little straighter and smiled at the woman as she said, “excuse me driver, can you tell me when the bus is going to leave?” This was not the anticipated reaction that Allan Ferrey expected, and he laughs about it to this day.
There are only a few Burlington boys who served actively in WW2 and still are part of our community. On June 22 of this year Allan Ferrey will be 99 years old and is an active resident at Heritage Place Retirement Community here in Burlington. He is as sharp as a tack and can still beat you in a game of bridge.
Allan was born in Hamilton not long after his father had been transferred here from Ohio when the Valley Camp Coal company expanded operations to this area. Coal was a major commodity in those days and the steel plants were a big consumer. When Allan was about four years old his parents moved to Burlington and bought a home in the new housing development named Roseland. Allan went to an old three-room elementary School on Walker’s Line and then attended the newer Burlington Central High School on Brant Street that was built in 1922. Basically, Allan was a Burlington hometown boy and vividly remembers what life was like here in the 1930’s and 40’s before WW2.
After high school Allan followed his brother’s footsteps and he went off to attend the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia which is one of the oldest military colleges in the US. In 1943 when the war was calling on young men to sign up to defend their countries Allan left college and came back to Hamilton to enlist in the RCAF. His older brother who was born in Ohio had already enlisted in the US forces.
Allan trained at various flight schools all over Canada before being posted for duty in England. He flew most of the different fighter planes but primarily was involved in flying the heavily armed Hawker Typhoon that provided support to the Allied infantry troops fighting on the ground. Thus, although he never set foot on Europe, he saw it from the air. He left the RCAF in 1946 and returned home to finish his education in Virginia at the military college. His one older brother who had enlisted in the US Air Force was captured in the Philippines and declared ‘missing presumed dead’. However, he turned up later and did survive the war in the Pacific.
After college Allan came back to Canada and worked in the coal industry like his father for a short time before joining the Honeywell Corporation as a sales executive. He had a very successful career looking after accounts in Northern Ontario and later in Toronto. Strangely enough Allan never flew an airplane again in his life.
Allan met and married or as he said, ‘got hitched’, to a Hamilton girl named Anne Boyle in 1953 and they were blessed with a boy and a girl, which Allan calls ‘a millionaire’s family’. Together they were able to enjoy those great years in the last half of the 20th century living in both Sudbury and then Toronto before returning to Burlington. They also owned a cottage north of Peterborough which provided idyllic respite and was the joy of their lives. It still represents paradise for Allan to this day. Sadly, Allan lost Anne in 2010 and moved to Heritage Place six years ago.
The number of veterans who served in WW2 and are still with us is rapidly declining. Allan is now only one of three of those brave men left in our small community who we are able to claim as friends and shake their hands.
Happy birthday Allan and thank you for your service to our country and your positive influence on those who have known you.
Story By Roy Merkley