Coming to Canada…
April 26, 1966 sitting on top of a stack of cabin trunks on the front steps of our house in Oadby, England, before heading for Liverpool and the Empress of England, ocean liner. My dad had made the trunks himself out of furniture and had hand painted all the appropriate decals on them. My brother and I had been informed that we were to keep a diary of our trip, so we had constructed and coloured our own books.
Dads mum saw us off at the port. I remember hoards of people on the boat and on shore, screaming and yelling, waving, and throwing hundreds of streamers, wishing us well.
The ship was huge. It was cold, wet and windy on the North Atlantic. Dad was the only one who wasn’t sea sick and we were told that fresh air was good for you. I still felt terrible; cold and ill, standing in a chilly wind. A few days were spent in bed in a cosy cabin on C deck in cabin 38.
We landed in Montreal around tea time. Before disembarking, we were asked if we had ‘irt’ on our boots. We all looked at the uniformed man questioningly to find out what he was talking about. ‘irt’ he said over and over, ‘irt.’ Finally it dawned on us he was saying ‘dirt’ with a French accent! We were then herded into the immigration and customs shed which reminded me of an animal auction, except filled with people and tables, not animals and pens.
By this time, it was 11 pm after all the paper work was taken care of. Finally, mum and dad and two tired children boarded a sleeper train to Cobourg, Ontario. Boy, did that bed feel good but no sooner were we asleep then we had to gather all our belongings and meet our sponsors at a railway crossing in the middle of nowhere.
We arrived in Peterborough, too tired to appreciate much and must have slept for 24 hours.
This was a turning point in all our lives. I still have a cabin trunk, complete with decals that dad made out of an oak sideboard and the one doll that I was allowed to keep.
The trunk now sits in the basement, alone, forgotten, tugging at nostalgic emotions when I visit the basement for something else. It tweaks my memory and I reminisce how dad built it from an old oak sideboard in our home in England, custom cut it to make a trunk for all our belongings for the ocean passage to Canada. Selecting what to pack was very emotional, stressful and painful, another story itself.
The trunk, now more than 50 years old, beat up and neglected, sits in a corner below. But what can one do with it now? It served us well long ago.
Atop of the trunk are two toys which we were were allowed to bring packed into the limited space we had. My brother’s turtle gone, where, we don’t remember.