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The Immigration Story of Andrew W. Bairden (Scottish 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.

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Departure: Plymouth, England

Date: June 1951

Ship: S.S. Europa

Arrival: Halifax June 1951

An Immigrant’s Story by Andrew W. Bairden

I was born on the 15th of February 1930 at number 7 Polmadie Street, a tenement building, in a working class area on the south side of the river Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

When I was 14, I left school and went to work as an Office Boy in a place around the corner, called J.H. Carruthers, that built equipment for ships and built overhead cranes. When I was 16 I started a five year apprenticeship as a Draughtsman and I went to night school to further my education. In 1951, after five years training, I was a qualified Draughtsman (or Draftsman).

At that time, the Canadian Government was encouraging qualified tradesmen to emigrate to Canada and were offering assisted passage to Canada in the form of travel tickets that had to be repaid when the immigrant was working in Canada. About the same time, I heard that a company in Lachine (Dominion Bridge) in the Province of Quebec, Canada was seeking Draftsmen.

I applied to the Canadian Government and was provided with travel documents that would take me from Glasgow to Canada.

In the evening of June 8th 1951 I left Glasgow Central Station to go by train to Plymouth on the south coast of England. There to see me off were my mother and Jean Emond my future wife. I heard other Scottish accents and gathered from conversations that many were bound for Canada too. On the overnight train trip I shared a carriage with young men like me. Early next morning we arrived at Plymouth and made our way to the docks.

Anchored off shore was the ship that was to take us to Canada. The S.S. Europa. We got on a tender, sailed out to the Europa, then got aboard. I had never been aboard a ship like that before so it was a big thrill for me.

We were shown to our cabins which were sparsely furnished. As I recall, our cabin had four bunk beds and a wash basin. The toilets and showers were in another room.

We sailed to Le Harve in France to pick up more passengers and I heard all kinds of accents. It was another thrill to me to visit France even for a little while offshore. One of the passengers that boarded was a young man named Henri from Belgium. I was to find out later that he was heading for Lachine too. I was glad to make friends with him since he could speak English and French. With my broad Scottish accent I had problems with foreign languages.

Soon we were heading across the Atlantic Ocean. The sea was calm for the most part except half way across when things got a bit rough. Crew members tied heavy ropes to railings to provide hand holds and we were warned not to walk around the ship.

I had been eating plain food for years so it was a treat to have such fancy food and it was served to us by smiling waiters.

We spent the time just sitting around talking, telling stories, playing cards etc. We spoke of many things like where we came from and where we were going and what we did for a living. We covered the latest soccer news, boxing, and everything under the sun. One man that had lived in Canada before told us tales of his experience.

We watched the sun rise and set. We watched ships in the distance.

Thus the week passed and soon we neared Halifax. All the passengers were heading in different directions and most of them had to catch trains at different times. The train to Montreal was to leave later in the evening so those of us going there took our time to walk to the railway station.

My train ticket was marked,“Colonist Class”, so I assumed I was a Colonist, whatever that meant. Instead of little compartments the carriages consisted of one large compartment with many seats. The train was old and had seen better days. Parts of the floor were wet from leaking water.

The train ride from Halifax to Montreal was rough and bumpy but we survived. In Montreal I had to check in at the Employment Office that was on a street called Dolormier Street. I am glad that Henri was with me because I pronounced it Doll-or-mere Street but he pronounced it as Dol-or-mee-ay. Needless to say, his French was better than mine.

Henri, I, and several others spent the night in Montreal at lodgings provided by the Y.M.C.A. and in the morning Henri and I took a bus into the small town of Lachine in Quebec. I headed for Dominion Bridge and he looked for the company that was to employ him.

I was hired to start work as soon as possible as a Junior Draftsman and I accepted the salary that I was offered without much thought. The people at Dominion Bridge suggested that I try the Mercroft Hotel, close to a nearby lake, as a place to stay. Henri and I took a bus to the Mercroft which was not as fancy as the name suggests.

The manager offered us a room at a great price reduction because there were no screens on the windows. Well it was the middle of Summer and we had all the windows open. At night the room was full of bugs and mosquitoes bit me all over. The next day, Henri found us a boarding house that was cheaper and more comfortable.

I was not very happy at Dominion Bridge because I was treated like a schoolboy and I had been in the crane business for years. The atmosphere was not very friendly. People seemed to be afraid they might lose their jobs and I realized that the money I was being paid would not go very far. I was being paid about $45 a week less various deductions.

I started to look around and I read that Provincial Engineering at Niagara Falls, Ontario was looking for Draftsmen and that they had an agent in Montreal. I contacted him and he hired me right away at a salary of $60 a week. After five weeks I left Dominion Bridge. The Chief Engineer said to me“You Limeys come over here and think that money grows on trees”. Since“Limey” is a derogatory word for English men and I was Scottish, I told what I thought about him and the company.

The representative for Provincial Engineering gave me a First Class ticket by train from Montreal to Niagara Falls. I had my own compartment and a bed.

I arrived at Niagara Falls in the middle of summer and went to Provincial Engineering for an interview and was asked to start as soon as possible. There it was suggested that I should stay at Mrs. Jones boarding house on Welland Avenue. Pretoria (Mrs. Jones) rented me a shared room.

The Personnel Department at work offered me a loan of cash to bring my future wife over from Scotland. I immediately accepted and in October Jean flew to Toronto where I was waiting for her at the airport. Mrs. Jones gave Jean a room for a few days and Jean Emond became Mrs. Bairden on the 27th of October 1951 at the City Hall in Niagara Falls.

A couple with two daughters rented us part of their house. We had the attic, a bedroom and we shared the bathroom. We stayed there a few months then Mrs. Jones rented us an apartment that was part of her large house.

On June 16th 1952, exactly one year after I landed at Halifax, our daughter Linda was born. Since she was born premature she was kept in an incubator at hospital until she weighed five pounds.

We stayed at Niagara Falls until 1955 then moved when I was offered a job with A.V. Roe an aircraft company in Toronto, Ontario. As I recall, I was paid $85 a week. We rented an apartment and later bought a house outside of Toronto.

When I worked at A.V. Roe, I met a few American men who had come from California U.S.A. to work because of their aircraft design knowledge and they impressed me with stories of America and California in particular. The spoke of beaches, deserts and mountains; all a few miles apart.

A year later, a company from Cleveland, Ohio, advertised in our local newspapers for Draftsmen. I applied for a job and was accepted. I obtained a work visa and soon we were on a train to Cleveland.

In Cleveland, I learned how to drive and I bought a brand new 1957 Chevrolet car. During the Winter of 1957 I was driving on the freeway by the side of Lake Erie. It was snowing and the road had patches of ice. My car slid and stated to spin. Luckily I did not hit other cars and my car was not hit.

This incident made me think of the men from California that I had met at A.V. Roe and I thought of the weather and my car spinning on ice. That made me decide to move to California.

In June of 1958 I drove to California along Route 66 with my wife and daughter in my new car. We took a week to drive there from Ohio, stopping along the way to sight see. I worked at various places and we stayed at various places finally buying a house in Torrance. I worked at a variety of jobs.

Before we lived in Torrance we lived in Inglewood where our daughter, Dianne was born on July 9th 1959.

At that time all the good, well-paying jobs were in the defense industry and required U.S. citizenship. Since I was staying in the country and we liked it, we became U.S. citizens in 1961 after the required 5 year waiting period. I went to work at North American Aviation in Downey, California.

Since that was so far from Torrance, I eventually left for a job with T.R.W. in nearby Redondo Beach and it was the best place that I have ever worked. I stayed there from 1963 until 1991 when I retired at age 61. Now I am 80 years old, we have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I have forgotten many places and things, but I will never forget that time in 1951 when I sailed on the S.S. Europa to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.