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Share Your Story!

Do you have a story? I suppose that is a silly question. Everyone has a story, they are what define us. Stories are the memories of our past which help shape us in our present. And our stories will live on in the future, when we are no longer around to tell them.

Stories are what humanize us as individuals. Some will inspire us to achieve great successes, while others will caution us against rash action. Stories like that of Amelia Mary Earhart’s epic transatlantic flight can motivate children to achieve their dreams, while memories of tragic accidents can remind us to protect ourselves when undertaking any potentially dangerous task. Even stories that you may think would be mundane and uninteresting to others can speak of strength and courage that could very well inspire someone else faced with a similar situation.

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” - Robert McKee

Do you have a story? I ask again in the hopes that perhaps you are thinking of your life and your own experiences a little differently by now.

What is my story? Just like you, I am full of stories that range from a disastrous reintroduction to skiing that led to my first black diamond trail, baking a triple layered chocolate tall ship cake, and also taking my first jump out of an airplane with no door in the wintertime.[1]

A tall yellow cake shaped like a ship, with blue colored icing at the bottom.

An adventure in icing! Here’s a tall ship cake that I made for a friend’s 30th birthday. All was well until she warmed up and listed a bit on the port side.

Four people in sky-jumping outfits laughing and holding each other in front of the aircraft.

While you may be like my grandfather in thinking that we are crazy for jumping out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft, you cannot begrudge a day with good friends and a lot of laughs!

Here at the Museum, the gathering of stories is a big part of what we do in the Collection Department. We actively collect stories that are shared with us by people who have immigrated to Canada, by their families and by anyone who has experienced some aspect of the immigration process. We are an organization that values first-person voice and are proud to share firsthand accounts relating why newcomers left their homelands and what motivated them to come to Canada. We want to know how immigrants came to our country and what life was like once they arrived.

The written story collection is full of ordinary and extraordinary memories of new Canadians, not so new Canadians, and first generation Canadians looking to preserve the history of their family. One such story was submitted by English War Bride Rita Buckrell, who immigrated to Canada in May 1946 on the Ile de France. It may not be an adventure sport, but according to her, learning to skate changed her life forever!

A bride and groom stand in front of a church, the bride is holding a large bouquet.

Rita Buckrell with her husband Les on their wedding day, 1946. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (DI2012.1750.2).

“I had a pair of second hand black figure skates, new ones would have used up six months clothing coupons, and learned how not to fall down. The first Canadian soldiers arrived in Brighton had enlisted after the great Depression, and for those not familiar with England there was a pub on every street corner open from 10 in the morning until 11 at night and you can image what occurred. I was still in school and my mother warned me if she ever caught me skating with a Canadian she would burn my skates.” - Rita Buckrell (Credit: Buckrell immigration story, 1946. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (S2012.1750.1)).

Rita learned to skate on a pair of second-hand skates in her last year of school during the Second World War. She left school to work as a bookkeeper in her father’s radar factory and continued to skate every opportunity she could. She remembers that on one such night out skating, she met Les, a Canadian boy serving overseas in the army, whom she married and for who she later immigrated to Canada to join. This is by no means the complete story of Rita Buckrell and her family. Her experience of life in Canada was not all positive as this brief excerpt may suggest. Life was different in Canada and though she spoke English she would sometimes get flustered being caught using words that had a much different meaning in Canada.

Archival image of woman sitting on a blanket on the deck of a ship.

Rita relaxing aboard the Ile de France, 1946. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (DI2012.1750.3).

What makes the Buckrell story, and every immigration story, so important is that the memory of each experience is unique to the family and a valuable contribution to the Collection. As a whole, these individual stories provide the public with an understanding of what it was like to immigrate to Canada, and of the vital role that immigration has played in building our country and shaping our culture.

Do you have an immigration story that you would like to share with the Museum? We are actively seeking to add to the Museum’s Collection so that we can share your story with generations to come, as a source of learning, enjoyment and research.

If you are interested in sharing your immigration story, please visit the share section of our Website for more information.

  1. Please note that February is not a great time to push your fear boundaries by jumping out of an airplane. It is however the cheapest time to go, so I was sold. Also, should you ever find yourself at the Museum, ask me about what it was like re-learning to ski, or as I like to say, the day I learned what it was like to become a human snowball.