Date: 1942

Origin: Photo courtesy of Exhibition Place Archives and Content references excerpts from: The CNE and the 2nd World War‚ by George Kidd in Once Upon a Century: 100 Year History published 1978 by John Robinson, J. H. Robinson Publishing Ltd., Toronto Ontario


In the spring of 1942, The Board of Directors of the Canadian National Exhibition Association agreed to turn the CNE grounds (Exhibition Park) and buildings over to the Government of Canada for its use during the Second World War, with the understanding that the CNE would not operate for the duration of the war.

The buildings became home to thousands of soldiers. They slept in small stalls on double-decker bunks in the Horse Palace as they enlisted; the same stalls that just months before had housed horses and other animals. The old Press Building became a dental office. The Automotive Building became the Naval Barracks and Recruiting Office for the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS York. The International Building was transformed into a documentation depot for Military District No. 2, with thousands of men passing in a steady stream while their life history was typed onto cards and filed away. Within hours, their various hair styles and civilian clothing had disappeared, replaced with short hair and often ill-fitting uniforms. As the war continued, new recruits continued to arrive, engulfing virtually every inch of the CNE grounds. Although the war ended in 1945, the military authorities could not vacate the CNE grounds until May 31, 1946, which meant that the next CNE could not take place until 1947.