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The Immigration Story of Albert McRobb (Scottish immigrant)

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On March 29 1950, my mom and dad, younger brother George and myself boarded the Flying Scotsman in Aberdeen. Destination Southampton, to board the RMS Queen Mary. We were bound for NYC and onto Toronto Canada. What an adventure for a young boy from the Granite City of Aberdeen.
The voyage at sea was both exciting and mind boggling. We were travelling in 3rd class. The voyage took us 7 days and for the time of year it was quite pleasant.
As we travelled by taxi from the pier in New York to Grand Central Station. I am sure that my brother and I were only looking skyward, to see such tall buildings.
At the grand central station my mother bought George and I our first ever"Hot Dog" what a strange treat with mustard and relish. On board the overnight train to Toronto, my brother and I were able to sleep on the table between our folks.
In Toronto we were met by my Granma Maggie Jane Rae, who had immigrated 3 years prior. She was accompanied by my uncle Jack Bowen, who was married to my Mom's sister jean.
Outside of the Cathedral like station we climbed into uncle Jack's car. The largest car we had ever been in.
Driving up yonge street to 110 St Clair ave we were still in awe of the huge buildings.
63 years later I am still in love with Canada.
I thank my parents for immigrating during a difficult post war period in Scotland.
I went on to enlist in the Canadian Army as a Soldier Apprentice in 1960 at the age of 16. I have just completed my second book in retirement."Canada has been good to this Immigrant"


Dedicated to my Mother and Father, who not only gave me life.
They contributed one hundred percent in my upbringing. They supported me no matter what life choices I made.
My Mom and Dad gave my siblings and I a safe and happy home. They are always in my heart.
[Two pictures of subjects of the dedication and story. See original file.]
People say that every good story has a beginning , a middle and a conclusion. Even our Bible starts with“In the beginning”.
This tale of my life will begin with my grandparents on my mother’s side.
George Cadger Rae married Maggie Jane Forbes in Aberdeen. (16 August 1913)
Thomas McRobb married Annie Simpson in Aberdeen. ( 31 December 1894)
These two unions led to the birth of my Father Albert McRobb (25 January 1913) and my Mother Christina Forbes Rae. ( 8 December 1919). They wed in 1940 and I was born in 1944.
My grandfather Thomas on my fathers’ side sadly passed away when my dad was 12, so I never met him. My grandma Annie McRobb passed away in Aberdeen October 1953 when I was 9.
My maternal grandparents whom I knew as Dan and Nannie, were both adventurous and progressive in their youth.
My granddad served in the Gordon Highlanders 4th Battalion city of Aberdeen during WW1. After the war he, my nannie and four daughters immigrated to Canada in 1929. During this time my Dan worked as a fireman on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. In 1937 he my Nannie and 2 daughters returned to bonnie Scotland. My mother and aunt Kathy being the daughters that returned to Aberdeen. Aunts Ina and Jean remained in the Toronto area of Canada.
My grandfather then became a bookmaker (Bookie). WW2 came along he was a fire warden in the city of Aberdeen.
My father joined the Royal Artillery to serve out the war.
They married in 1940 and as the war progressed over those lean years, my nannie, mother (to be) and aunty Kathy worked in the both the munitions factory and the soap works.
I entered the world kicking and screaming. Having been delivered by my nannie at 0230 am
19 January 1944.
The venue was not a maternity hospital, but our flat at 19 Stevenson St just under the Rosemount Viaduct.
After the war my father worked as a street sweeper for the city. The nickname of this job was Scaffie
The flat on Stevenson St consisted of one large room. Which had a curtain drawn across the bed area where my parents slept.
My mother cooked all meals in a fireplace with a tiny brick oven on the side.
The privy was outside, which proved chilly at times in the grey damp of Aberdeen winters.
It was a happy home with my nannie and dan having the room across the hall. Aunty Kathy and uncle Peter were upstairs.
The wash house or as they say in“Doric” the wash hoosie, was also out back. The women boiled washed and mangled the laundry. Using Posser Sticks ( more a bit later).
My little brother George then appeared in our lives. He to was delivered by our nannie. I was told many times, although I do not remember his birth. George was born blue with no pulse. My nannie then placed him in alternating tubs of hot and cold water. This apparently kick started him and he wailed, and God bless him he wailed for the next 65 years.
Now some bad news. At least for me, as I was a favourite in their lives. . My Grandparents had decided in 1947 to try Canada once again. Off they went just after George was a few months old.
Life in Scotland was hard to say the least. Those years of rationing, low wages, lack of heat and appliances of the modern world. Never the less my parents raised us well. I attended Skene St School, which was a few minutes walk from our door. No worries of a 4/5 year old walking to school. My days were filled with school, and play. Many adventures include falling of an air raid shelter where we had been sword fighting. I split my head open and to this day the scar still shows.“With pride”, I am not sure but I have told and embellished this story over the past 7 decades. I have always been a voracious reader, starting with the Dandy, Beano, Eagle and of course“oor Wullie and the Broons in the Sunday papers.
My mother was always the outgoing person in our family happy and fun to be with.
Even though my Aunty Kathy her husband Peter and cousin Myra lived up stairs.
My Mother always wanted to return to Canada.
Aunty Kathy and uncle Peter moved to Glasgow where he was employed at the famous John Brown shipyards in Clydebank.
My mom finally convinced (or wore down my Dad) and the decision to immigrate to Canada was made.
My biggest life adventure was now to begin.

Canada has been Good to this Immigrant.
A. Robby McRobb CD
On the 7th of April 1950. We arrived in Canada at Union station. Together with, my little brother, George and my Mother and Father. Albert and Christina. We had left Southampton aboard the Cunard liner RMS Queen Mary, bound for New York.
What an exciting time for 2 little boys from Aberdeen, whose travel experiences thus far had been to Hazelhead, or perhaps winkle picking (Buckies as they are called in Aberdonian) at Buckie.
We boarded the famous overnight train, the“Flying Scotsman” to London, where we changed trains early the following morning for Southampton. We climbed aboard the ocean liner bound for New York.RMS Queen Mary.
Little did I realise then, that I would one day climb the gangway of that famous Queen, some 40 years later in Long Beach California to share with my children, the mode of transport we used as immigrants. [Two pictures of the Queen Mary. See original file.]
My memories of the shipboard experience are limited. I do remember sitting outside the doctors’ office with my Mom and little brother as he had an ear infection, and he did nothing but cry. It felt like hours but hey, I was just a wee loonie. (in Aberdonian Doric a boy is known as a loonie and a girl a quinie, nothing to do with the current Canadian Dollar also known as a Loonie).
However I digress.
At Union Station my Granma Rae and my Uncle Jack Bowen welcomed us. I was deliriously happy to see my nannie after a 3 year separation. Baggage and all we left cavernous, cathedral like station and we climbed into this huge car owned by my uncle. It was a 48 Pontiac. We pulled up at“The Park Lane” a magnificent structure, 10 floors in height. Underground parking , with two car valets and maid services. After leaving, the city of my birth, which may have had a few 3 or 4 story buildings. This was monstrous. As were the skyscrapers we had seen in New York and on the ride back up Yonge St in Toronto.
My father was first employed by my grandfather as his assistant, I remember vividly my father sitting out on window ledges all the way to the tenth floor cleaning the windows. [Photo of two unknown people. See original file.]
This terrified my mother, but dad took it in stride. When the spring came in full glory it was time to clean the furnaces out. In the cavernous heating room the largest Furnace I had ever seen. Two men could walk in it fully upright, to scrape ashes out, simultaneously. The coal bin was huge I seem to remember my dan saying it held 8 ton in storage.
I have no doubt at that time my mind was going a mile a minute wondering what our future would bring.
In Aberdeen we had 2 cousins Myra and Rodney Irvine, mom’s sister Kathie’s children. In Canada we had 10 Cousins 5 Bowens, Jackie, Georgie, Eddy, Gordy and Jimmy with Aunty Jean and Uncle Jack, On the other gang of cousins Aunty Ina and Mike Berard had Billy, Junie, Bunny, Dougie, and Louie . The family had certainly grown from Aberdeen.
The Park Lane in those days had many famous tenants including Lady Timothy Eaton who used to give my brother and I a silver dollar to walk to the T Eaton Memorial Church in our Kilts with her. She loved our broad Scots accent. As young, entrepreneurial, Aberdonians, Georgie and I exploited our accents and kilts, to their, fullest advantage.
At school though the novelty soon wore off and we had to become Canadian or be shunned?
Strange in those early days no one thought that this was a form of bullying.
Easter that first year was in April the week of our arrival and we received so many chocolate rabbits and eggs. That I am sure we ate them till Christmas. We lived with my Nannie and Dan. Living in this huge apartment building lasted untill my Dad found a job and a place to live. My Dad got a job with the Toronto Transit Commission and spent 30 plus years of his life employed there.
When we moved to our first place on Speers St, our back yard shared a fence with my new school. That first winter my Mom taught me to skate on an outdoor rink. Ankles bent pushing a kitchen chair around the ice. That was a strange yet wonderful winter having never seen so much snow before. I have no recollection of one memory, but my Mother told me off it, many times. Apparently early one morning I was off to play hockey on this outdoor rink in the school yard. After an hour or so my Mother heard yelling below the windows and looked out. I was being carried by two older boys. Apparently unconscious. Mom came down stairs and ran out. An ambulance was called and I was taken to sick kids in downtown Toronto. Apparently a slap shot had caught me with the Puck. It struck my temple and I was knocked out for 24 hours, according to my Mom. Perhaps that is the initial cause of my memory loss in my senior years.
All the normal winter games and sports were tried by both my brother George and myself, Skating, Tobogganing, snow fort building and of course snow ball fights.
For my Mom this was a long way from 19 Stevenson St in Aberdeen, where we had a large room on the ground floor, with a curtain separating the bed for mom and dad. Our toilet was outside in the back. The wash house (which I am sure my Mother never missed) was a large room out back. The wash tub was concrete and shaped like an Igloo with a fire box underneath.
Clothes had to be stirred about in the water to remove the dirt, and some items, such as white collars on Sunday shirts, needed scrubbing. The most basic is just a cement box with a soap shelf. This was often used to scrub the collars and cuffs of shirts on a washboard to get serious dirt out before the real wash. Then they went into the"poss tub" where clothes were dunked and swirled vigorously with the"posser" Whites, especially white cottons, were boiled, and got a tiny dose of"dolly blue" dye to enhance their brilliance.
The washed clothes had to be"mangled" to get the water out. This was a hot, steamy job calling for strength to lift the wet, heavy material out of the tub using sprung wooden tongs; and skill to feed enough of the cloth into the rollers for the mangle to get a grip. Then more effort to turn the handle and squeeze the clothes through the rollers. There was a skill in getting just the right pressure on the mangle for the type and volume of material. It also helped if you did some preliminary folding, because it did save a bit of ironing later. With luck, the weather would be warm and breezy, and clever pegging out on the washing line would use the wind to get rid of more creases as well as drying the clothes. Finally, the washtub or machine had to be emptied by hand. A chore in it’self
If the weather was too bad to get the clothes out onto the washing line, they hung round the house on clothes horses or on"pulleys" hung from the ceiling, getting in everyone's way. Once clothes were almost dry the creases had to be removed, so they were pressed with a series of flat-irons heated on the fire; and finally"aired" before being put away until wanted
My memory does not serve me well as far as the water goes. They either filled it by buckets or perhaps there was a tap Cold water only. The women would stir the laundry with stout poles, then wring it out by hand and put it through a mangle to squeeze the rest of the water out. Rinse then back into the mangle. Clothes, bedding in fact everything was then hung out to dry, oft times for days.
Now my Mother had a wringer washer that she shared with the lady down stairs. No drier so things were either hung in the basement or outside on nice days. [Photo. See file for original.] Caption: Poss Sticks and a washboard.
We spent one school year on Speers St, our brother Joe was born while we lived on Speers St. The flat was too small now and we moved to the High Park area. 180 Pacific Avenue, Where we lived till, I joined the soldier apprentice plan in 1960.
I consider Pacific Ave the growing up part of my life. Life at the McRobb’s consisted of church, cubs, explorers and lots of street games with neighbourhood kids. One boy in particular who had arrived in 1953 from Peterhead was to be my best friend forever, as the youth of today say myBFF. Bobby Bruce was his name and we shared many adventures growing up in the high park area. We were together through the proverbial thick and thin of boyhood and puberty. We were cubs and scouts together. We learned to dance? Or should I say we learned to shuffle about dreaming of girls.
[Two images of unidentified people. See file for original.]
Sadly Bobby returned to Scotland with his folks in 1960 and I cried my heart out for my missing friend.
My brother Joe was the first of our family born in Canada at the Wellesley Maternity hospital, sister Sandra Pearl arrived in 1953 then Linda Ann arrived in 1955 Our family had increased by three since our arrival in Canada. My dad carried on at the TTC while my mom was a school cook. She then opened the first refreshment cabin in High Park. As this was the park where we spent a lot of our time, hiking, fishing and generally messing around it was nice to have mom on hand. I had wanted to be a veterinarian but sadly could not achieve the grades required. This never deterred me from my love of all animals.
The first catering job I ever had was in The Grenadier Restaurant overlooking grenadier pond in the centre of High Park. I was a busboy at 65 cents an hour. My first experience in the food industry, little did I know that this would be my life career.
Grenadier pond was named after a platoon of the Grenadier Guards in England. Who as the story goes were chasing local Indians out of York. They ran across the ice of the pond in the dead of winter. Their heavy breast plates were too much for the ice and they fell through losing everyman. Historically I can attest to this as many years later I found an old musket rusted and corroded in the pond’s muddy bottom , while out catching turtles. I took this weapon to the Royal Ontario Museum where they cleaned it, and placed it on display.
Life as a young teen in the Junction was fun and exciting, Saturday matinees, summer camp, bike riding to Woodbridge all in a safe environment. Woodbridge was considered the country in the 1950’s. A good ride for energetic young boys with lots, to see and things to explore. We would fish in the Humber River catching suckers and sell them to the local Chinese restaurants. Enterprising restaurateurs the Chinese people.
Girls never entered my life at school until I had left and joined the Soldier Apprentice plan. That is not to say there were not any girls around. Penelope Marshall, whose Mother was my Sunday school teacher is still a close friend these 60 plus years later. In fact I have never missed her birthday, with a card since 1960.
It is not that I was a shy boy it was simply that girls were not part of life. As we explored, the ins and outs, of High Park, Grenadier Pond. Catfish Pond and in the summer the“Minnies”.
These were the Mineral Baths located on Bloor St at Quebec Ave. Days lounging around the pool and daring one another to jump of the High Board. On a Sunday we would walk as a family to Sunnyside, where at that time, the worlds’ largest wooden Roller Coaster was located, a fun fair, swimming pool and a wading pool. In the evening there was normally a group of our neighbourhood kids in the street, playing hide and seek, kick the can and red rover. In the winter Skating and Tobogganing took over from swimming and street games.
Oakmount Park was a wonderful park for sledding. A hill which we christened“the 7 bumps” was the best hill to slide down. One winter we had a massive Ice Storm and the entire park was a sheet of glistening ice, boy did we slide. [Photo of child. See file for original.] Caption: This is my little brother George posing for a fashion shoot at the pool.

In 1954 Hurricane Hazel arrived in full force the damage was extensive and the death toll was 81.
My Dad was away at work the night the Hurricane hit, he spent the next 5 days and nights as part of the search and rescue effort. Two weeks after our scout and cub group went on clean up patrol along the Humber River. I do remember seeing dead cats, dogs, and the odd farm animal. It was terrible to say the least. This Google Link will explain the Hurricanes devastation in Toronto.
My Father worked the night shift for over 30 years. When I was 13 or 14 I decided that while my father slept, I would use his TTC Pass to travel across Toronto. My dad was sleeping and I slipped his pass from his wallet. Off I went Albert McRobb TTC employee. I boarded the streetcar and showed the pass as nonchalantly as possible. The driver said to me.
“How long have you been with the commission”? I babbled something and he said, perhaps I better keep this pass. I got of the street car and started to really worry, what would my dad say when he noticed his pass was gone? I fretted all the rest of that day. Dad left for work and so far nothing was said. Apparently that evening when he reported in there was a message for him from head office. They told him about my trying to use the pass.
The next morning Dad came home from work, and as my memory serves me, he looked like steam was coming from his ears. He was furious that I had taken his pass. He told me how he could have lost his job. Then where would we get money to feed and clothe the family. He then let me go to school thoroughly chided. God Bless my dad he never laid a hand on me but I felt that I had really let him down. My baby brother Joey also told me that no matter what happened growing up neither our
Mom nor Dad ever struck us. This was a wonderful way to raise a family.
[Two images. See file for original.] Caption: My Granpa“Dan” was a fine man and always ready for a laugh.
On reflection I look back and I had a wonderful childhood. Church played an important part of lives then for many reasons. One being that we were not a rich family monetary wise and many a Christmas hamper was delivered to our house from the Church. The times of getting clothes from both the Sally Ann and our church did not deter from the life in Canada for us as kids. One memory that I do not have is growing up with my brothers and sisters, as the eldest I was just that wee bit ahead of their growing up. Georgie was just a shade behind me in growing up so my friends etc were older and little brothers were considered a pain. As for Joe, Sandra and Linda. They were still in grades, kindergarten one and two when I signed up and left home.
All in all I have no bad memories of growing up in Toronto. In fact I would say my life was as close to idyllic as was humanly possible, in this city, of peace and families. The only bad guys I remember are the infamous bank robbing gang known as the Boyd Gang.
I devoured tales of travel and adventure, Paul Bunyan and Babe, his Big Blue Ox. The Toronto Star weekly column by Gregory Clarke, was eagerly looked forward to. Greg Clarke was a soldier in WW1, and returned to home town of Toronto, where he started his writing career. His columns were humorous, and informative. As a young boy in Canada we shared his adventures. Magazines, newspapers, books and films all contributed to my life. Even now, approaching my, 70th year in life. I can recall many of the things I read or watched in those great years as an immigrant child in this great country.
Dick Tracy and his telephone wristwatch hmmmm what did that cartoonist know about the future. I loved reading anything I could get my hands on.
The radio was indeed where I first heard Rock and Roll late at night in those days we used to get US radio signals loud and clear. WWVA (Wheeling West Virginia) Chicago, Detroit and the sounds of Elvis, Bill Haley and his Comets reached young Canadian ears. [Image of generic radio. See file.]
The Radio allowed kids the opportunity to travel in their mind, Imagination is a wonderful asset.
Shows like The Shadow, Sgt King of the Mounties, Red Ryder, so many shows including comedies like Amos and Andy, the Groucho Marx show, what great times listening to the radio. One thing I do remember is that we never bored. How many times now have I heard that from my Grandchildren
“I am Bored”
I honestly do not ever remember being bored. With the lack of TV and Videos, we made up our own fun. A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing. A cardboard box can be a ship a plane a tank or simply a hideout. In the days where children had far less material possessions I feel that we were blessed, having a safe warm home with a loving family.
Grandparents were an integral part of growing up and again we in the McRobb household were blessed by having nannie and dan as our grandparents. Toronto was by far a better place to grow up in the 40s 50s and 60s.
What has happened in the intervening years, I cannot say
Now in this year of 2013, 63 years later I would not live in Toronto on a bet. Shootings, stabbings, drugs?? Where has the respect gone that we showed our elders, the police, teachers etc. With the loss of respect and the church we have lost a happy time in Canada