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The Immigration Story of Adrienne Brown (English immigrant)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

Category: 
Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Port of Arrival: 
Date of Arrival: 
March 24 1961
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2012.579.1

Story Text: 

I was 19 years old. On Friday 13th January 1961 I had'flu and as I lay in my bed in a scruffy shared flat in the centre of London, UK, I thought about my life and what I wanted from it. All of a sudden I suddenly decided to dump my boyfriend (wasn't going anywhere anyway) and sail to Canada to visit my brother who had emigrated 5 years earlier.

I got out of bed and phoned Cunard Lines and instantly booked a berth on the HMS Saxonia for Friday 17 March (St. Patrick's Day). I had two months to find the money. I think it was around one hundred pounds. My mother was rather taken aback when I asked her to lend me the money. She did not want me to leave England - but never said so. We visited the bank and she co-signed a loan for two hundred pounds (enough for a return fare!). Today, I wonder how I found the courage to suddenly do such a thing.

I packed my old school trunk and arrived at Southampton. My mother and boyfriend came to see me off. The last thing my mother said to me was "Please don't marry a Canadian ". (She was a war widow and we were very close.) I was sharing a cabin with 3 other women -and it was filled with flowers from many friends wishing me'bon voyage'. The 7 days at sea were wonderful. I asked to sit at the Purser's table - and was lucky because that is where I was for the week. The Purser was quite delicious - and I had a great flirtation with him all week! I played Bingo for the first time and won enough money to pay for my gin and tonics all week. A delightful middle aged gentleman from First Class used to come over to'our side' every evening to dance - he said the first class passengers were rather boring. One day it was so rough we stopped in mid Atlantic and I was rather sea sick. The week was great and I enjoyed it like a holiday in a hotel - waited on hand and foot - even my bath! Which was run for me by the cabin steward.

We arrived in Halifax in the early hours of Friday, March 24 and I only vaguely remember going through Immigration. I was eventually given this pale green slip of paper "Canadian Immigration Identification Card " which is stamped Mar 24 1961 by Immigration. I was told never to lose it - nor have I. It says "This card is required for customs clearance and when making application for citizenship. It will also prove useful for many other purposes. " (I gather I will need it for my Old Age Pension!) I can't remember anything about the immigration place at all. It didn't seem to matter that I had no job to come to - but I had the qualifications. It was all so easy. I do recall that in London I went to see someone at an address on Green Street to be interviewed.

In Halifax I felt very lonely and lost -also very homesick for the first time. Halifax really looked like a dump in the winter. I have never been back - I know I should because it will have changed - but it sure left a bad impression. I had to wait until the evening to catch the train to Montreal. Upon leaving the boat I realized I had no Canadian money. My'sugar daddy' from first class lent me ten dollars and said I could send it to him when I got a job. He looked after me all day until we got on the train. He was in first class and I had a sleeper in tourist class. I remember at daylight looking at the forests we passed by - miles and miles of woods deep in snow. I recalled my girl guide song - "Land of the Silver Birch, home of the beaver, where still the might moose wanders at will ". That song used to haunt my thoughts as a child - and here I was in that land. I was certainly drawn to the country. We arrived in Montreal and stopped for quite a while before going!

On to Toronto. In Toronto my brother met me (he was in the Canadian Army and lived 60 miles north of Toronto) and I remember being amazed at the size of the City - I thought Toronto was just a small place!

I stayed with very distant cousins for the first week until I found a place to live and a job. Easy to find both - English secretaries were in demand and I soon was earning $240 a month. I had to pay my loan back so I started selling Watkins Products in the evening. That brought me in another $40 a month. On my first call someone slammed the door in my face. I cried all the way home - but the next night I tried again and made a sale! I had no idea how much I would suffer from homesickness - I cried for the first couple of months every night.

That spur of the moment decision on 13 Jan 1961 changed the whole course of my life. I did marry a Canadian (Stubble jumper in the Canadian Army) and we celebrate our 39th anniversary this year.

I look back on how Canada has changed me and my values. I think the hardest part of emigrating was changing the way I believed things should be done. I was brought up to understand that the British knew how to do things correctly. Because Canada is multi-cultural I learned that there is no right or wrong - just different. What a blessing - it removes so much stress from life when you accept differences. Thank you Canada for a wonderful forty years.

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Here ends one version of Mrs. Brown's immigration story and begins another, much shorter, slightly different version of the same story.
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Adrienne Drought nee brown arrived in Canada aboard the Saxonia on March 24, 1961.