Fabric Workers' Class 23 at No. 2 K.T.S Jarvis Street in Toronto where they received their training, 1944. Instructors are seated in the front row, from left to right, Cpl Coultini, F/Sgt Breffett and Cpl Allen.Jessie Nason
Jessie Nason (middle), stationed in Moncton, New Brunswick, poses with friends Marion Ellis and Eilleen Horne on April 9, 1944.Jessie Nason
Group portrait of WDs, from left to right are Kag Currie, Jessie Nason, Bea Jeanney and Verna MacLean who were recently discharged in 1945.Jessie Nason
Portrait of Jessie Nason in uniform during wartime years.Jessie Nason
Jessie Nason in Saint John, New Brunswick, on July 28, 2010.Historica Canada
"We were always singing; and they used to say, we were the happiest group of service people they ever came across."
I served in the RCAF WDs [Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division] during the Second World War. I joined 7 July 1943; and I went to [RCAF Station Rockcliffe] Upper Rockcliffe, Ontario for my basic training. I was then stationed to [RCAF Station Downsview] Toronto in September, No. 2 KTS [Composite Training School], Jarvis Street and I took fabric work. And that was to work on aircraft with the ailerons of the aircraft. It was a very easy trade to learn, but it was very dangerous to our health as the paint that we used was lead based. It was very harmful to our lungs. We had to drink a quart of milk a day. We had masks to wear when we were in the spray booth and the masks were from the First World War, so some of us were affected with this [coughs] from then on.
I went from Toronto to No. 4 RD [Repair Depot] Scoudouc, NB [New Brunswick]. It was the largest repair depot in Eastern Canada. It was huge. There were something like 32,000 people there, all trades. And it was very interesting. The WDs [Women’s Divison], I think there were 50 of us on the station and the rest were men. Men didn’t like the women in the air force. We were taking their place, so that they could go train for some other aspect of the air force. It was difficult, but you had to learn to do your trade properly and not have any bad accidents.
Scoudouc was a good place. There were all kinds of activities after work. We used to go on [a] flatbed [truck] to Pointe-du-Chêne in the summertime and go for a swim; and they would have a great big huge box of sandwiches and I think that we had milk and water. Pop was not a popular drink in those days. We could swim. We could be there for two hours and have our lunch, and then come back to the station. In the summertime, Pointe-du-Chêne was a summer spot; and the cottagers would stand outside and wave to us as we went by, going and coming. We were always singing; and they used to say, we were the happiest group of service people they ever came across.
We in the RCAF WDs had the most glamorous underwear, made of factory cotton. To hold them up, we had a tiny button around the waist with a tiny hook. Well, I suppose it was crocheted and many a day, you’d be walking along and you could feel your panties button has dropped and you’d see it rolling along the road ahead of you. Well, I hadn’t had too much problem with it at first, but one day I was coming back from getting my mail and there went my button, right straight ahead of me. I said, oh my gosh. Well, I always carried a safety pin under the lapel of my jacket; and I reached up and I had my safety pin, so I just backed into the drill hall that was across the way from my barrack block. I pulled up my skirt; and I fastened my panties, with a safety pin, brushed my skirt down and started to leave; and I heard a thunderous applause behind me. I didn’t dare look back, but before I closed the door, I looked in and there was umpteen dozen airmen. I just about died. Embarrassing moments ̶ that happened all the time.