Quarantine Memories of Chicken Wire and an Uncomplaining Mom

Author(s)

Carrie-Ann Smith

Carrie-Ann Smith is the Vice-President of Audience Engagement at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. She joined the Pier 21 Society in the summer of 1998 and has watched the organization evolve from an idea into an interpretive centre, and now a national museum. Though she has occupied several positions at the museum, collecting and sharing stories has always been her favourite thing to do—it still is.

His sister’s case of the measles landed six-year-old Mike Sumner’s family in quarantine after they arrived in Canada in March of 1963.

“I spoke to my dad and he thinks it was around 3 to 4 weeks that we were there,” Mike recalled. “The brick walls and the bars on the windows.

“My sister actually contracted measles as we crossed over. On the boat I assume. And by the time we got here, she was full blown measles. And I do remember walking up a hill…to the hospital to see her…And then the rest of us were quarantined.”

The Accommodation and Detention quarters at Pier 21 had a large airing gallery so people could get fresh air. Mike recalled chicken wire and bars.

“I have a vivid memory of the, of the window with the chicken wire, you know that sort of diamond shaped chicken wire on the window, and the bars.

“I’m fairly certain there was some stress there with my mom. Now, do I remember her complaining or getting upset or things like that? No, I don’t.”

Mike’s sister Carrie made a full recovery and they were soon on their way to Toronto.

What rings the most true for me in Mike’s recollection is his mother putting on a brave face for the children and never complaining. Hang in there moms and dads.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (11.09.09MS)