The immigration story of Brigitte Groth (German immigrant)

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My father, Ewald K. Groth, came to Canada 0n May 28th, 1954 on the Arosa Star leaving from Bremerhaven, Germany. He found a job (he was a plumber and he initially helped build houses in Rexdale) and a place for us to live. My mother, Elisabeth A. Groth, and I followed on October 21st, 1954 on the Arosa Kulm. I was seven years old at the time, so I cannot recall some details.

Other details are quite vivid. For example, I remember that the ocean crossing was quite rough, due perhaps to Hurricane Hazel. I recall that the captain tried to go around the worst weather, but the waves were still high. To me they looked like mountains. Even some of the ship's crew were seasick, but I was lucky not to be affected. One vivid memory I have is of going into the play room on the ship with another child and we sat on play horses with wheels and raced down the floor as the ship tilted first one way and then another. We would have to quickly turn the play horses around as we hit the wall. It was like sledding and very exciting. Eventually, a sick-looking staff person told us to go back to our cabins because everyone was confined to their cabins. I remember we had a room with several bunk beds. My mother and I shared with people we did not know. Once in the St. Lawrence, I remember seeing Quebec City from the ship, but I cannot recall if we got off there or in Montreal.

At any rate, my mother and I took the train to Toronto and my father met us at Union Station. He surprised us because he had gotten his driver's license and had bought a used car. In Germany owning a car had been considered a luxury, so this was quite exciting for us. We came to Toronto right after the tragedy of Hurricane Hazel that had cost 81 Canadians their lives. Bridges were washed out and we had quite a time getting to Mimico (Etobicoke, a borough of Toronto), our first home--a rented cottage on Lakeshore Blvd. My first school was John English Public School. I spoke no English and in those days there were no programs for speakers of other languages. My second grade teacher did her best, though. Every day she would spend a few minutes with me and point to items in an Eaton's catalog and say, for example, "This is a 'doll.'" Still, it was hard not knowing the language although I learned fairly quickly. My parents went to night school to learn English. We had numerous friends in Mimico who were from the same neighborhood in Hamburg, Germany. These were folks with whom my father had gone to school. I loved living in Mimico as I soon learned how to take the streetcar by myself and I would go to places like High Park. In five or six years my parents bought their first house in Clarkson, which is now in Mississauga. I found suburbia dull as I could no longer get around on the streetcar and I was too young to drive. In the meantime, my brother had been born in Toronto in 1957 (I was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1947). In 1961 the economy was not great in Toronto and my father was unemployed for a time. We found out via my grandmother in Germany that he had a cousin in New York State who, unbeknown to us at the time, had come to the US via Ellis Island also in 1954. This cousin and her family had escaped East Germany before the Berlin Wall was constructed. We immigrated to the US in 1961, but I came back to Toronto in 1973. I had gone to high school and college in Brockport, NY. I worked for the Toronto Star from 1974 to 1979, at which time I returned to the States to be near my family and get my Master's degree. I am now 68 years old and still working as an educator. I became a Canadian citizen in 1960, and am still a citizen. I still have friends in Canada and visit as often as I can. One friend wants me to retire in Canada. We shall see. I am proud to carry a Canadian passport when I travel, but I also enjoy my home in Irondequoit, NY, a suburb of Rochester near the lake. I now live on the south side of Lake Ontario, but my current home reminds me of Mimico, my Canadian home town.

Sadly, my father died November 13, 2011 in Rochester NY at the age of 92. My mother is still alive and well. She is 93 years old and will be 94 on July 1, 2015.