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The Immigration Story of Ewald Koops (German 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: 
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2012.2004.1

Story Text: 

From Chronicles of 34 German Immigrants to Canada in the 1950s and Three Stragglers compiled by Vera Weller. See LEAVING GERMANY AND EARLY BEGINNINGS IN CANADA, Vera's introduction to the collection in the entry under her name.

Ewald (Ede) Koops

To-day is September 1st, Labor Day, and nobody seems to be working, not even the LCBO and Brewers Retail are open. But I have to sit down writing (working) to beat the deadline for a short report that Vera requested. Even though I would rather do something else, I am still of German descent, and the Germans are generally known to be punctual, reliable, disciplined and willing to co-operate. So here are some of my experiences and memories on my immigration to Canada.

I come from a large family (six brothers, no sisters) in Hamburg. In the early 1950s everything in Germany was improving, the difficult years after the war were almost over. Even though the cities, roads, factories etc. were still being rebuilt, there was enough work for everybody. With the new currency (DM-Deutsche Mark) which was introduced in 1948, all goods, food, shelter and services were readily available again. The economy was improving, and the future looked promising. Starting in 1952 my brother Helmut and I were members of a Christian Boy Scout group in Hamburg, and during the next 3 years we made several trips to German and foreign European destinations. Because of this we caught the travel bug. One morning in early 1956 we decided to try a destination farther away than Europe. This is how we came to plan on temporary immigration to some continent farther a-field. Our age was in the early 20s and we had no plans to settle down on a permanent basis.

At that time we had 3 choices for immigration: Australia, South Africa and Canada. We decided on Canada because it was closer and a return trip to Germany would have been less expensive. It also seemed more interesting than the other two countries. I had a steady, and in those days valuable, government job (Beamter) and was able to take½ year leave of absence.

After a medical examination and interview by Canadian Immigration officials I received my immigration visa and a document that stated I was welcome in Canada as a general laborer.

July 1956 was a time before jet travel, and so we decided to take a sea voyage on the“Arosa Star” from Bremerhaven to Quebec City. The crossing took about 8 days and it was very relaxing, interesting and much fun. About 3/4 of the passengers were immigrants, but the rest were mainly American tourists (A choir that had toured Europe and was returning to US).

Our first view of Canada was in darkness at the mouth of the St. Lawrence. When we got up the next morning we were anchored in the middle of the river facing the majestic Chateau Frontenac. We were told this was a Sunday, and no dock workers and immigration clerks were working. So we had to wait until Monday morning for the ship to pull up to the dock and then we were cleared through Customs and Immigration. My brother and I took a taxi to the Quebec Rail Station and boarded the next train to Montreal. On the ride we noticed that the villages were much further apart than in Germany. Arriving in Montreal we had to wait a few hours for our connecting train to Toronto. This gave us time to step outside and have a short look around. I distinctly remember that some of the roads were much wider than in German cities. The American cars were much bigger and running much quieter. (No diesel and motor bikes).

On arrival in Toronto we were met by a cousin of our father who had immigrated to Canada 2 years earlier. To our surprise he already had a Chevy, and he offered to drive us to the High Park area to look for a room to rent. I will never forget my first view of Lake Ontario. As we were riding along the Lakeshore past the Exhibition grounds, I could not believe the size of this water. To me it seemed more like a Sea or Ocean, since you could note see the shore line on the opposite side. Without problems we found a nice room for rent on Indian Road and we settled in. The little bit of spending money we had left would have lasted a few days, and so it was of utmost importance to find a paying job. We visited the Unemployment Office the next day and were referred to a Good Year Tire service station and factory on Keele Street. We were hired for $45.- a week and could start the next day. This was the dirtiest job I can ever remember. In the factory they were re-treading and vulcanizing old car and truck tires. It was an extremely dusty job to grind down the remaining tread on the tires before a new rubber base was pressed and glued on, and then inserted into hot molds to re-tread. For us it was a job to pay for the immediate necessities to survive. We knew we would find better jobs in the near future. When we arrived in Canada we spoke a broken school English. I knew that it was very important to work on this shortcoming. We were lucky that the other residents in our house were all Canadian born and they helped us a lot to improve our English. Much reading and movie viewing also helped.

Shortly after our arrival we attended a Sunday service at the German St. Georg Lutheran Church on College Street. We were told that they had a small youth group that met occasionally in the basement of the church. Checking further we learned that this old group had just been dissolved. However, a few young members were interested to continue. We were glad to join, and soon the group grew by word of mouth to a very sizeable club. We met every Sunday evening in the church basement and had lots of fun singing, playing games and socializing. For all of us it was a nice break from our daily routines and work or school.

I can remember that Toronto the Good was closed on Sundays for all activities, no stores were open, no movies or theater, no sports. So these youth group meetings were a nice change. Another main draw to this group were the trips that we made on all long weekends to various destinations in the north: Baysville, Collingwood, Bobcaygeon, Lake Simcoe, Algonquin Park, Dagmar and several other places. This gave us the opportunity to see the beautiful scenery in Ontario with the many lakes, farmland, bush, and smaller typical Canadian towns and villages.

When I arrived in Toronto I noticed some distinct differences to German cities. I found Toronto to be very green with lots of trees and lawns in parks, along the roads and in the many gardens and back yards. The house roofs in various different colors was also unusual for me. I could remember only clay shingles being used in Germany. On the negative side many of us noticed the ugly big posts with the overhead hydro and telephone cables, which were present on most streets, even on the main roads downtown. After a few months in Canada my brother and I decided to stay indefinitely. We even suggested to our parents in Germany to let our brother Hartwig immigrate, because there was talk that he would be drafted into the newly established German armed forces.

Very soon my brothers and I got used to the Canadian way of life, and we integrated as best we could.