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Immigration story of Hans Hagemeier (German Immigrant)

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Category: 
Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Port of Arrival: 
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2016.140.1

Story Text: 

THE JOURNEY ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
The journey started from Bremerhaven where the family had been in a camp for some time waiting for berths on a ship. Finally we were placed on the Anna Salen. She was on her way back from the Olympic Games in Helsinki, with competitors and spectators, on her way to New York. This trip was an adventure in many ways. First, it was the first time that I had seen a black person. This man was very kind to me for the duration of our trip, as were the rest of the people on the ship.
The second memorable event was a terrible storm that was encountered. I can remember Dad taking me onto the deck to see the giant waves. I don’t ever want to see waves that high again. The meal that night was a disaster. Food could not be kept on the tables. Most of us went with what we could hold in our hands. Dad and the three boys had a bad night. Mom, who was pregnant with Margret spent most of her time in bed sea sick.
Event number three was an event I will never forget. It was in the middle of the night when most of us ended up on the floor of our cabins after the big bang. Next came the blare from the sirens. Everyone rushed onto the deck very excited and scared. To make matters worse there was fire. We all spent the night sitting on deck with life jackets on, not knowing what was to come next. There are maps and descriptions included of the ships involved and a report of what happened that night included.
The next day the ship was escorted into a harbour in the Scapa Flow to have repairs made so that the journey could be continued. While we were in for repairs the crew would take anyone who desired to shore for the day. Dad and I made several of these trips. On one occasion Dad bought fishing equipment in Kirkwall and on one occasion caught a fish taking it back on board. The crew cooked it for our supper that night. Also Dad being a big soccer fan we went to see a game on a Sunday afternoon. These are good memories.
Once repairs were completed we continued our voyage. The next event was the sighting of large schools of fish and the sighting of whales. I now realize that we were on the Grand Banks getting close to our destination. The ship docked at Pier 21 in Halifax on August 26 1952. This pier is where most Immigrants entered Canada for many years.At last we are in Canada. A 5 day voyage that lasted several weeks!LIFE IN CANADA
As mentioned earlier, our ship, the Anna Salen docked at Pier 21 in Halifax on August 26th, 1952. Here we were in the strange new land where none of us could speak the language. Next was the long train ride to Barrie. Collier Street united Church was the sponsor for the family to come to Canada. I can’t remember too much about the train ride other than at one of the stops along the way Dad bought a loaf of bread and a glass of jam. I still have this glass. Also the train was a coal fired steam engine. The weather was very warm, and with the windows being open, when we arrived in Barrie everyone was rather black. The first event was a bath for everyone.
We stayed with the United Church Minister, S.E. [Ernest] Lewis and his wife for a few days. They had two children Ann and Peter, who were teenagers. Also there was a lady present who could speak German and interpret for us. This was very helpful for everyone.
After a few days in Barrie we were taken to our first place of residence in Canada. The condition that allowed us to come to Canada was that Dad had to work on a farm for one year. This farm was located on Con.#5 of Innisfil Township. It was a second farm owned by Charlie Lucas. The name on the mail box read Willowdale Farm. I presume named so because of the two large willow trees at the entrance of the driveway. The conditions were that we had the house, free fire wood for cooking and heat milk for the family, plus $100 per month. For this Dad had to work seven days a week. Sunday was a short day, just had to go for milking the cows in the morning and at night.
The only mode for us getting anywhere was by walking, or for Charlie Lucas to take us. It was from here that I started school in Canada. After being in grade two in Germany, it was back to grade one [no speak the language]. I have often wondered about the distance that I walked to school and last year [2010] Mary and I checked this on a visit to the area. It is 2.6 km uphill both ways. This was to S.S #4 in Lefroy. Also in Lefroy was the general store, Gilmore and Son, where we bought our groceries. It was a long walk to carry groceries back. Life was not easy. Our crates with our belongings arrived several months after us. It was a very heartbreaking day for Mom. A very large amount for her dishes and glassware were broken, some going back to her Mother and Grandmother. Also present at the unpacking were Government Inspectors, from what Department I don’t know. The contents in the crates had been packed in hay and this way burnt on the site as the crates were unpacked.
School became more enjoyable as the days and months passed. The kids were easy to get along with and all tried their best to help me. The teacher would have me come to her house after school, to help me with my English. It wasn’t that long before I could speak enough to get by. This was probably the reason that I was sent to the store most of the time.
We found that there were storks in Canada too, for in January of 1953, the three boys had a sister delivered. Margret was in our life. This changed everything for the boys, for in Dad’s eyes she could never do anything wrong. For all we know maybe she never did.
There were not too many mishaps while we lived at this location. Two that stand out in my memory are when Reiner fell and hit his forehead on a stone; a large amount of blood and a visit to the doctor in Barrie. I think that he still has a scar from this incident. The other was when I sent to Gilmores Store to buy some groceries. The money was placed into an envelope for me. By the time I had walked ¾ of the way there I noticed that the envelope was missing. The frantic search started, walking back and forth on the 20 side road. There were thoughts of running away from home, but I was lucky. The lost was found after a long search. Once back home I had to make up a story as to why it took so long. All is well that ends well.
Dad worked his agreed year at the Lucas farm. In the fall of 1953 we moved to a large farm house, the next one down the road from the Lucas Farm across the 20 side road towards the lake. Also living here was Mrs. Neil and her 5 children. Her son Jim and I were in the same grade in school. We had walked to school and played together all along but living this close we soon became good friends. It was during this winter 1953-1954 that Jim and I tried to toboggan off the barn roof, a not so successful adventure. I had trouble walking after our painful landing. Another time that I couldn’t tell the truth about what happened. While we lived here Dad was working in Toronto and would come home on weekends. It was also a very good arrangement for Mom. She had someone to talk to and learn English. I think the year at the Lucas farm was very lonely for her.
Mrs. Neil was living here with her five children. Her husband Bob had disappeared. His truck was found abandoned with no sign of him. He was in the construction trade and the rumor at the time was that he owed a lot of money. More on this topic later, it’s a long and complicated matter.
The spring of 1954 saw us moving to Toronto, 144 Lindsay Ave. We rented the upstairs of the house owned by a family from the Ukraine. I can’t remember the name anymore. They had son Stanley who was my age and a daughter Rita, who was younger. Stanley and I became good friends and spent a lot of time together. We went to different schools, I to Brock Street Public and Stanley to a Catholic school. John would play with us a lot. There was no TV in these days and we had to make our own entertainment, playing cowboys, building go-carts with orange crates, chasing the ice truck on the hot summer days. No fridges. The Ice truck would come several times per week, delivering blocks of ice.
The milkman would come every day. This was still with a horse drawn milk wagon. On Saturdays during the horse racing season, Stanley and I would go to the Dufferin Race Track which was not far from home. There we would sell programmes to make a few cents to spend at the corner store on candy. During our stay in Toronto, Dad worked first at Canada Packers, and then he worked at installing hard wood floors. This was piece work and he would work long hours to make extra money. From this he went to working in the construction industry. He would work at this until his retirement. Also he took driving lessons, obtained his license, and bought a car, a 1949 Chevrolet. This changed our life. We could get around now, and we did, going on many trips on Sundays, A big change for all of us.
Mom did day care at this time for two families, the Vogels and Honkas. The  Vogels had a daughter Connie who was a little snob, just like her parents. We would visit them occasionally. I never enjoyed these visits but had to go. The Honkas had a son Bob who, several years later, lived with us for several months. The Honkas would visit with Mom and Dad for many years to come and kept in contact with Mom and Dad the rest of her life.
Some of the high points of life in Toronto were the many trips to High Parks on Sundays, the Eaton’s Christmas Parade in the snow, and for me the best, was meeting Roy Rogers and Trigger at the CNE. I got a shirt from him that was worn until it was full of holes. I also remember the flooded streets, walking through the deep water during Hurricane Hazel, a very disastrous storm. We drove to the Holland Marsh to look at the damage that had occurred there. The area looked like one large lake, and trees were down everywhere. It was a disaster.
On a sad note, it was two years later 1956 that we received the news that Stanley had drowned while swimming in a very crowded pool at Sunnyside Park. Apparently he had gone down the slide head first, and split his head open. Nobody noticed this accident until it was too late.
In the early summer of 1955 we were on the move once more, this time back to Innisfil Township. Mom and Dad rented the upstairs of Ivanski’s farm house on the 7th line. The worst thing, there was no hydro there. We lived without hydro until the next spring. At this time Dad agreed to pay for half the cost of the installation. This would be repaid with free rent.
The Ivanski’s had two children, Frank who was a year younger than I, and Halina who was Margret’s age. We arrived here in early June that year and I finished that school year at Nantyr School. The teacher at this time was Miss Lonergan. When the new school year started in September we had a new teacher, Mr. Don Langford, who remained there for the rest of my years at Nantyr. He was a great teacher, and we enjoyed going to school. We were a sport minded group because of him, playing baseball, football and hockey. During the baseball season Mr. Langford would take us to other schools to have a game of ball, transporting us in his 1954Chev. The car was packed, and some of us would ride in the open trunk. I think that this practise would be banned now.
Winters during our school days were something that would be unheard of to-day. We had our own hockey rink. You would be at school by 8 am, put your hockey equipment on, and play until 9 am. The only equipment that was removed was our skates. Hockey was played every recess, noon hour and after school. Boards were donated by someone’s father. They were only two feet high, great for getting checked out of the rink. Dad was working at construction at the airport in Toronto and obtained some discarded electrical wire that Jim Brady’s brother, who was an electrician installed for us. Mr. Langford bought the lights, with permission from our local School Board, who were mostly parents. We had night time hockey and many skating parties. These are referred to as the good old days!!
As I mentioned Dad was working at construction in Toronto, living in camp and only home on the weekends. During the summer of 1956 while we were all playing, John, who was in his bare feet, put on my rubber boots and chased us into the pasture. The boots, being too large for him, caused him to take a bad tumble. This happened on a Friday and on Saturday morning his arm was rather swollen and misshapen. Off to the hospital he went returning home with a cast, the result of a broken arm. Who was the blame? Hans for letting John wear my oversized boots.
Saturday was always shopping day. The family would all pack into the car and off we would go to Thompson’s general Store. It was located at the corner of the 8th line and highway 11. Mom and Dad would go in to buy groceries, and we kids would sit in the car eating our weekly ice cream cone. We always look forward to the trip. At one point in time I worked at this store after school stocking shelves, a job that I never enjoyed. It was Dad’s idea not mine.
Saturdays would end with the polishing of shoes. Dad was very fussy about shoes and they had to be done every week. Sunday at noon it was kitchen soup, and fried chicken. Some weeks this would change to cottage roll and homemade French fries. This tradition lasted for many years. Honka’s would visit us often during the summer. This also lasted into the 1960’s. When no visitors were expected on Sunday we would go on many car trips; Algonquin Park, Spring Water Park at Midhurst, and a lot of trips to Bradford where we would fish in the river. Not one of Mom’s favourite outings. 
During this time in my life I formed a very close friendship with Don Smurthwaite. We were very close, and are still good friends to this day. The Smurthwaite farm was a short distance up the road from us and the two of us would alternate our visits often. On one of these occasions Don, Frank Ivanski, and I came up with a plan. We wanted excitement. The morning and a good part of the afternoon was spent gathering cats from the neighbourhood and putting them into a chicken house that was in the pasture at Ivanski’s. Once we had a sufficient number of cats, we put Frank’s German Sheppard, and Don’s Collie in with the cats. All was over in less than a minute. The dogs came out through the windows. Our anticipated excitement was a disappointment and all we got was hell for the broken windows. Not a good day. Not just for us boys, but also for the dogs. I think that the cats fared the best.
At some point during 1957 Mom received news from Germany. The German Government was paying a few cents on the German Mark on money that had been in the banks before the devaluation of the Mark during the war. This was not a lot of money, but Mom and Dad used it to purchase two acres of land from Jonah’s on the 20th side road. This was our piece of Canada, and plans were made to start building a house.
After we moved back from Toronto Mom renewed her friendship with Mrs. Neil. Her husband Bob, who had disappeared a few years before was apprehended by the RCMP in Alberta. He was brought back to Ontario, served a short term in prison, then came back to his family and it wasn’t long until there was another Neil in the world. Bob became a friend of Dad’s and being a builder helped Dad with the construction of the house. Once the building was closed in, we moved into the basement and in the winter when Dad was off work he worked at finishing the upstairs.
During the years that we lived here I had numerous jobs as a teenager. The first one was working on a farm for Ken Ralston on the 6th line, working on weekends at $3 per day. This turned into a summer job. For the summer three meals per day were supplied. We would do early chores, have breakfast then the hard work started. For this the pay was $60 per month. Having saved money from my weekend work I ordered a bike out of the T. Eaton catalogue. It arrived by train in Lefroy. A bright red three speed, first new bike for me. The next spring I would ride to the 10th line where I worked after school and weekends for a friend of the family, George Eckart, who operated a market garden and green house business. The next two summers I worked on farms for Gordon McQuarrie, and Jack Duncan. Jack lived with his mother, and most of us were afraid of her, would never go there for Halloween, but working for him was a surprise. She was a very kind pleasant lady, and a great cook. Best food of any place that I had worked.
1960 was a special year. I turned 16. On my birthday Dad took me to Bradford. Two great occasions. First I went for my driving test and obtained my licence, next we went to the Hardware Store and for a birthday present Dad bought me a 12 gauge shotgun. Now we could go hunting together. We spent a lot of time together going duck hunting in the fall and rabbits in the winter. We always had an Ice fishing hut on Lake Simcoe, and many enjoyable days were spent out on the lake. It used to be a great place to catch herring and whitefish. There are still a lot of people on the lake fishing these days but not as many as fish being caught.
I am not sure of the date, either 1961 or 1962. I was working at Canadian Tire in Barrie. Mom called me at work, something that never happened. Dad had been injured at work and was in the hospital. He was working on the addition to the Newmarket Hospital and had fallen off the scaffolding at the third story level. We rushed to Newmarket. The news was not good. He had injured his back, and had no feeling in his legs. Dad was in the hospital for quite some time and then transferred to the Workers Compensation Hospital in Toronto. The feeling gradually came back, but he was in rehabilitation for six months. Dad would be in Toronto for this, coming home on weekends. All turned out well but a lot of worries for Mom and Dad at this time.
There was another bad scare for the family, I don’t know what the occasion was. Mom and Dad had gone to an appointment at the lawyers office in Barrie and the four of us were at home. We were all in the living room when, with no warning, Margret had a very bad seizure and Reiner went into shock. Not knowing what to do, I called the Township Police who came and took the four of us to the hospital in Barrie. Mom and Dad were notified and rushed to the hospital. The diagnosis: Reiner would be ok; Margret would have to stay for tests. The news was not good. Margret had epilepsy. In all of Dad’s life I saw him cry twice this was the first time.
In the month of May 1964 the family made our last move. The house on the 20th side road had been sold. How and why Dad decided on Invermay as the place to move to no one knows.
We hadn’t been settled in for very long before John developed problems with his feet. After many trips to the hospital in London, the doctors made the decision that he needed surgery. Both feet were operated on. They took bone from his legs to put into his feet. Both legs were in casts and John was on crutches, not san enjoyable summer holiday for him. The property that was purchased also included a strip of land across the road and bordered on the Sauble River. We spent a lot of time fishing there and caught a lot of pike.
Dad continued to work at different construction sites over the years. Once he retired from construction work the “Berry Patch” took over. Mom and Dad grew strawberries for many years selling thousands of quarts of them. Not a very easy job picking them on a hot day.
Our neighbours to the south were the Rody`s. Mom became good friends with Audrey and the children, who could call her Mother Cortan. Norm was a difficult person to like [in my opinion]. John and Paul spent time together fishing and going with Norm to the Horse Races in Hanover.
The years passed us by and in 1967 I married, the first to leave home. The next one was Reiner. The first grandchild to be born into the family was Laurie in June of 1970, next was Brian in November of that year. Grandpa and Grandma enjoyed having them at the house. Linda came into the picture in 1972. As the kids get older they would spent a lot of time with Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa Miller caught him riding his toy tractor past Trelford`s Garage on his way to Invermay.
Dad would come to Tara most days to buy the newspaper, and many times on his way home would drive passed the house with Smarties for the kids.
At some time in the early 70`s the house was sold and Mom and dad bought a Mobile home. This was erected on a lot that they owned across the street. Margret was the only one still at home at this time.
In 1976 dad returned to Jugoslavia for a visit, his first since his capture and departure in 1941. His Mother had passed on by this time but his brother and his family were there. On his return home he was very quiet, didn’t speak much on the drive home from the airport. Once he started to talk about the trip you could tell that he was somewhat disappointed. Everything had changed. The picture that he had in his mind of home was not what he encountered.
In December of 1978 mom suffered her first heart attack. I took Dad to the hospital that morning. The news from the Dr. was not very encouraging. As we left the hospital it was the second time in my life I would see Dad cry. All went well. Mom was home for Christmas but had another attack after Christmas, and another stay in the hospital. In February of 1979 Mary took Dad to the hospital. He had been sick most of the night. From Southampton he was transferred to Owen Sound and he would get worse by the day. He passed away on March 9th.
Mom stayed living in Invermay. Mary would take her shopping every week and also made sure to take her to any other appointments she had or shopping that she would want to do. A small apartment became available in Tara in 1982, Mom rented this and sold the place in Invermay. The Seniors Apartments in Tara were under construction at the time and Mom would move into her apartment there in the fall of 1983. Mary and I had gone to Germany with her that summer. It was a reunion for her Conformation class and she did not want to fly by herself, and after a night of one beer too many I decided that we should with her. This was the first visit back for either one of us. A very good trip. I could understand how Dad felt on his return to Jugoslavia, for I too had this picture of how everything had changed. It was a completely different scene that what I had expected to see.
Mom enjoyed her life in the apartments. Everything was looked after for her. She could walk to the grocery store, Bank and Post Office. Mom would make several trips back to Germany on her own. On one trip she would take John along, he being the only other one in the family who had a few memories of Germany.
Mom suffered with a lot of back pain during her later years. The Dr. put this down to arthritis. She took medication but the pain always got worse. After a change in Dr. she was diagnosed with kidney cancer [January 2005]. The Urologist told her that she had most likely had this for a long time. Mom decided against surgery. In August of that year she moved to Evan’s Nursing Home in Allenford. Mom passed away with John at her side on November 4th 2005. The end of life of this generation of our family.Life in Tara
A short note about my life over the past 48 years, they have been good and mostly happy years. Mary and I met in 1964 she has lived all of her life in the Village of Tara, we were married in 1967, our son Brian was born in 1970 and our daughter Linda was born in 1972. This was also the year that I changed jobs going from my father’s occupation of cabinet maker to taking a job with the Municipal Works department. I could see the end of the furniture industry coming to an end. I stayed with the Municipality for 38 years was promoted to foreman in 1980 a very rewarding and enjoyable job great people to work for and with!   
In 1972 along with a new job I also joined the local Volunteer Fire Department, in 1975 was made a Captain and in 1992 was appointed Fire Chief and in 2002 after 30 years of jumping out of bed in the middle of the night I retired from the Department these were good years and lifelong friends were made.                                                                                                                                                       In the late 1980s we were offered a wonderful home in Germany (free) if we moved back to Germany, a very kind offer but one that was turned down rather quickly. I would never entertain the thought of leaving this country that has been so good to me over the years and as I wrote in my Family history we have found a NEW HOME.  
There has also been a very sad event for our family, on Dec.23 2012 our daughter Linda and her husband Cory died as the result of a car crash leaving our 18 year old Grandson alone, we are doing our best helping him through these trying times and hoping that over time he will have less pain along with the rest of the family, we all have a lot of very good memories and this dose help ease the pain some.  
The support that we received after the accident from the larger community was overwhelming something that will stay with us forever.  
                                                                                                   
Our son Brian has been married for 20 years to Sherry they have three sons this makes four grandsons for the old folk and no chance of getting a granddaughter to spoil.     
Brian owns a Runners shoe store in London Ont. And Sherry has her own Bookkeeping business. On a finishing note we have been back to Germany several times to visit family, yes we had good times but it was not home.                                                                                                                                                   
For me Canada is HOME!!!