My favorite group of photos from the Henderson air training collection are the ones taken during the 1944 New Year’s Day meal at No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School, Sky Harbour, Goderich. Compared to all the individual head shots and formal class photos, these are refreshingly candid. For the most part, the airmen pictured in this series are members of the British Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (hence the sailor-looking uniforms). By 1943, the RAF had a surplus of trained pilots, so the British Navy started training their airmen at No. 12 EFTS to continue making use of the facilities.

Due to the indoor lighting and the general state of merriment it’s hard to make out a lot of detail in these photos. As soon as I saw all those bottles, however, I needed to know what kind of beer they were drinking. Luckily, there is just enough detail across the series to be able to make out a few kinds: O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock Ale, Black Horse Ale, and something made by Montreal’s Dow Brewery.


Detail from image no. A992.0003.339, showing a closeup of an O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock Ale beer bottle, New Year’s Day at Sky Harbour, 1944. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.

The O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock was confirmed by this photo:
Through some internet sleuthing, I also found out the the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library has a very nice collection of historical Canadian beer labels, including an era-appropriate O’Keefe’s label.

beer label

O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock Ale label, c. 1933-1967.

The Black Horse Ale was confirmed by beer boxes visible in a couple of the photos (for instance, the first photo in the top gallery, bottom right). The Dow Brewery beer might be obvious to a Canadian beer historian, but I couldn’t pin it down. If you can identify the beer, contact us, we’d love to know.

Closeup of beer bottles

Detail from image no. A992.0003.328, New Year’s Day at Sky Harbour, 1944. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.