Saskatoon youth was sent away

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - JONATHAN CHARL­TON jcharl­[email protected]­ Twit­­ton

Ken Stahl is try­ing to find out why he was taken away from his mother as a child.

Prince Ge­orge’s Ken Stahl vividly re­mem­bers the day, some seven decades ago, when he was taken from his home and lov­ing mother and dropped off at Kil­burn Hall.

He re­calls a big black li­mou­sine show­ing up at his house, and a man in a black suit get­ting out to speak to his mother, Kather­ine. His fa­ther, Ed, had gone over­seas in 1939, about a year af­ter Ken was born.

The young Stahl didn’t hear the con­ver­sa­tion. His mom started cry­ing, went into the house and threw some of his clothes in a card­board box, he says. Then the strange man took his hand and led him to the car.

“I’m cry­ing out the back win­dow, my mom’s run­ning be­hind the ve­hi­cle, cry­ing her eyes out. It was the last time I saw her un­til I was 18 years old,” he says.

Stahl, now 76, isn’t sure how old he was or the pre­cise date of the event, but he says he re­mem­bers be­ing put in a crib when he ar­rived at Kil­burn Hall.

He has never learned why he was taken away, and he hopes that by telling his story he will prompt some­one to come for­ward with an­swers.

At the time, Kil­burn Hall was a shel­ter for ne­glected chil­dren, op­er­ated by the Saskatoon Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety and sub­si­dized by the city.

The old build­ing has since been de­mol­ished, and its


re­place­ment is a youth cus­tody fa­cil­ity.

Stahl says he didn’t en­joy the reg­i­mented ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We were al­lowed to go out back and play in the back; there was a yard, a big ball di­a­mond. But we were counted, (they) made damn sure we were there.”

He says he was bul­lied and sex­u­ally ha­rassed by some of the older girls.

“They made us do things that I didn’t know what the hell I was do­ing un­til I was an adult, if you know what I’m try­ing to say … Touch­ing them and what­ever. They seemed to get off on it, I guess,” he says.

Stahl doesn’t know ex­actly how long he was at Kil­burn Hall; he says city staff told him the city has no records of his time there.

His lawyer found out that he at­tended Buena Vista school in Grade 1 and that Kil­burn Hall was listed as his guardian, Stahl says.

“It frus­trates me to no end. I might sound a lit­tle antsy here, but I just feel peed right off be­cause of all this ... go­ing on, I can’t even find out noth­ing about my life,” he says, chok­ing up.

“Some­body’s got to know some thing.”

All he knows is that his un­fa­mil­iar fa­ther came and picked him up af­ter the war, in De­cem­ber 1945.

“I didn’t even know this man that was called my fa­ther,” he re­calls.

By that time, his fa­ther had di­vorced his mother. Stahl says he only saw his fa­ther’s new part­ner twice be­fore they mar­ried.

To this day, he doesn’t know why he was taken away from his mother. His fa­ther never spoke about it, he says. Stahl’s best guess is that his fa­ther sus­pected his mother of be­ing un­faith- ful and asked the Cana­dian Army to put him in Kil­burn Hall.

Stahl never got an­swers from his mom, ei­ther. By the time he turned 18, she had started drink­ing, he says. He only saw her a few times be­fore she died, fairly young.

“Maybe it’s be­cause she lost her son, or I don’t know. But in the cou­ple years I lived with her she was a beau­ti­ful mom.”

He says his new home wasn’t a happy place to be. He found his fa­ther to be a fair, but very strict man.

“It was his way or the high­way.”

His step­mother wasn’t so kind, he says.

“When I was young — seven, eight, nine years old — if I would act out of place or some­thing, she would say, ‘We’re go­ing to send you back to Kil­burn Hall.’ … That was the last place I wanted to go to, so I walked a straight line with these guys. I was the nicest kid in the house ever, be­cause I did not want to go back there.”

He left home at 18 and joined the army, en­joy­ing the ca­ma­raderie. He served in Ger­many for nearly a decade.

When he re­turned to Canada, his fa­ther and step­mother had moved to BC. He lived with them un­til he met his wife, Irene, and set­tled down in Prince Ge­orge, where he still lives. They have four chil­dren and 10 grand­chil­dren.

Stahl says he feels his grand­chil­dren are too young to hear his story, but he wants to be able to share it with his chil­dren.

“I think my kids de­serve to know, be­fore I die, what hap­pened to me dur­ing that time.”

A young Ken Stahl in the grounds of Kil­burn Hall — the shel­ter for ne­glected chil­dren.


Ken Stahl, 76, grew up in Saskatoon and was taken away from his mother as a young child. Now he’s on amis­sion to find out why.

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