Veteran Stories:
Sydney Lawrence Wax

Air Force

  • RCAF #6 Repair Depot, Trenton W/T Conversion Squadron.

    Dr. Sydney Wax
  • Sydney Lawrence Wax, Ben Wax and Maurice Wax - the three brothers in the Canadian Armed Services in 1944.

    Dr. Sydney Wax
  • Photo of LAC Wax and other Airmen at work on aeroplanes at #6 R.D Trenton, Ontario.

    Dr. Sydney Wax
  • Picture of LAC Wax and Aircrew repairing planes at the #6 Repair Depot Trenton, Ontario.

    Dr. Sydney Wax
  • RCAF Discharge Certificate, October 17, 1945.

    Dr. Sydney Wax
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"It all started out with the war and ended up as a doctor and a, a fine arts connoisseur, you know, whatever you want to call it."

Transcript

When I was in the service, there were notices that the Jewish servicemen were offered an opportunity to go to a neighbouring village, particularly Belleville, a city I should say, Belleville, and we were able to attend services; and we were received by the Jewish community there. I had never been in a barracks. I had been married in May 1942, so I was just newly married a couple of months when I enlisted. And I was just getting used to sharing my life with a partner, so it was very strange suddenly to be among just a group of men in a barracks and in [CFB] Trenton, we had the barrack and we were assigned a bed and you had like mutual washrooms and laundry facilities. And, of course, the dining room was common. You went up for the meals and went back to the hangar to work during the day. So it was like a gigantic factory. We would go right from our barracks to the hangars, in particular works, working on the planes during the day. Then you’d be cut off for lunch and go up to the barracks for your lunch, and so on. And you went to choose the foods that you wanted that was being offered, so you pretty well had to eat what you were being offered or choose carefully if you had any religious feelings about them. Well, after the training program, which was a basic marching and obeying commands, and the military routine of being in formations and so on, we were sent out to the, to your depot so I arrived [at No.] 6 RD [Repair Depot Trenton] and once I was assigned to a barracks there, I was next sent to one of the particular hangars and based on my skills, I was assigned to work as an air frame mechanic. We were immediately put to work under a corporal working with six to eight people; and assigned particular tasks to working on the airplane according to what was being done, whether it was repair or just getting it ready to send out for flying; or if it needed some alterations or installations. And I started right around, working with the airplanes when I arrived at the depot. And I took correspondence courses and I was amazed to see that, you know, how it made your time go by so nicely, so I took courses in mathematics and chemistry, physics, literature. And over the course of a few years, I’d accumulated five honour credit studies by correspondence with Montreal universities. This opened up the whole door and I went to study literature and composition, and everything, so I did that; and that finally led to that when I was discharged in 1945, I was able to complete the education and to apply to faculty of medicine and get admitted to the University of Toronto as a, into the faculty of medicine. I became very interested in fine arts. It came out of the war. I don’t know how, but I just, maybe the long hours of having, you know, being alone, not having other things to do, I became interested in reading in art and studying in art. After the war, even though I was in medicine, I still kept looking and reading and studying, and that; and I became very interested in the art scene in Toronto. I began to follow what was going on and then my wife encouraged me to go back, even though I had a medical degree, to study fine arts. So I did, I enrolled at the University of Toronto at nights, summers, weekends and I got a BA [Bachelor of Arts] in Fine Arts; and then I went back and I got a fourth year Honours BA in Fine Arts. And then I applied to the school of graduate studies and I was accepted for a Masters course in fine arts. I completed all the requirements for an MA [Masters of Arts] in Fine Arts. So then I was offered a job at York University. I taught art there for two years, just in between my medical work. I got very busy with the Art Gallery of Ontario. And because I now had academic training in it, I became an instructor at the Art Gallery of Ontario; and I used to give lectures at the Art Gallery. And then I became a chairman of the Old Masters Committee and I got on the Board of Directors, so I was chairman of the Old Masters Committee and then a Current Modern Collectors Committee; and also I used to give, out on the Board of Directors. So I had a very nice long period of interest in fine arts as well as medicine, all based around the Art Gallery of Ontario. It all started out with the war and ended up as a doctor and a, a fine arts connoisseur, you know, whatever you want to call it. If you, you know, sort of can get an idea of what you would like to do and what you could manage, it doesn’t matter at what stage you begin that because when I was attending the university, I was always surprised to find that, you know, that you were that much older. I was already, you know, all the war years, older than the equivalent group and that makes it so much easier just to go from school to school. But not going to school, having the war interval and having to be on the, in the air force, and living and doing that work for those four years, I realize that it’s possible to shape and mold your life if you really want to be interested. And so I did that. I went back. I got my schooling. I got into university. I got a medical degree and, and I had quite a very long and successful medical career as a general practitioner. I worked not only at the Mount Sinai Hospital, but I also got a teaching position at the University of Toronto; and by the time I retired, I was an assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto. And I also got interested in geriatrics at Baycrest [Hospital]; and I was offered an opportunity there in the middle fifties to go to work with them. And I worked for 37 years at Baycrest as the longest acting physician who remained at Baycrest that long. And I developed many of the programs that are being used for the Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive failure. And I was awarded a designation as a Treasurer of the Baycrest Geriatric Centre by the institution and featured in the celebration for the work I’d done there over the 30 years. So it’s interesting that, you know, how you can create all these interests in life if you really want to.
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