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Arrival in Canada

"I was just a toddler of about 2 years of age when we landed in Halifax. My parents long ago told me the story that when the ship landed in Halifax, I was fast asleep in my room (deck). Well, this ship sounded a foghorn and all went out on deck to see Canada. Everyone was so excited, they forgot I was alone and sleeping. With all the commotion, I woke up and I didn’t see anyone. It took about five or six minutes and my parents or one of my parents came back into the room and there I was screaming and crying, "I don’t like Canada, I am afraid of Canada. Canada eats children!" (Rosa Feldman / Vardit Zafri, 1951)

“We arrived in the evening of March, 1956 in Halifax Harbour. Everyone was on deck, passengers and crews to see what Canada looked like from our ship the Groote Beer. Then my name was called from the Dock. It was by boyfriend, Wiet, who came from Madoc, Ontario to see me arriving in Halifax. Words were going up and down from the ship to the wharf. We were not allowed from the ship, until the next morning. The Immigration Department had to establish that we were clear of diseases. In the meantime, a platform was put down from the ship to the Pier. Everyone was calling for the Captain to let me and Wiet meet. Then the Captain, gave Wiet and me permission to meet. Half way down the platform we embraced, and all the people on the ship started to clap and shout for us. There was so much happiness, after two years of waiting and writing.” (Diny Willemsen, 1956)

“We had a farmer in Tilbury to go to, but he had changed his mind by the time we arrived. So no place of address to go alone in this Big Land and nobody wanted us. But Mom and Dad had a address from a family in Chatham Ontario. They called them, and lucky enough they told us to take the train to Chatham and they would pick us up at the station. We stayed there for a few days, then a man of the Immigration came to pick us up and took us up to Windsor, Ont. We spent a whole week in a big hotel there. The Prince Edward Hotel. Finally the immigration man came again, but this time with a nice friendly man who came from Germany years before. He put his arms around Mom and said, "I’m taking you all home with me." And put us into a nice house. And that was the beginning of our new life in Canada.” (Lea van Muren, 1952)

“The Waterman arrived at its berth in Halifax harbour early in the afternoon on Saturday, May 16. Upon disembarking, all of the passengers were screened by Canadian immigration officials prior to boarding special immigrant trains which would taken them to their final destination. Although our family was among the first group of passengers to leave the ship, we were held up at immigration for several hours when the agent processing our papers was unable to find one of them. Since we were travelling as a family, all of us were told to wait in an area behind the security gate while other passengers were having their papers processed. As these passengers walked past us, several stared and asked what was wrong, or, perhaps by implication, what wrong had we done? Meanwhile the six o’clock departure time for our train drew closer and closer, and our level of anxiety and frustration continued to mount. Finally, at 5:30 p.m, after all of the other passengers had been looked after, the immigration officials turned to their attention once again to our delinquent family, which had had the audacity to attempt entry into Canada with only seven immigration forms for eight people. It was only then that they discovered, as much to their chagrin as to our relief, that two of the papers had temporarily stuck together, so that there had indeed been eight forms for eight people all the while. With only minutes to spare, we were able to board the train which was to take us across this great land as far as Edmonton.” (Kenneth Robert Vandenberg, 1953)

As a six year-old child, I travelled across the Atlantic in a boat that had just recently been used to transport troops and horses to the Indonesian war.There are quite a few memories of the ten day trip, but my most vivid memory is of arriving at Pier 21. We had all been issued sack lunches and each bag contained, along with other things to eat, an orange. Now to me, that was a delicacy. We usually had one orange per year- on our birthday. To have an orange on an ordinary, everyday day, was a treat indeed. However, the bags were of paper, the weather upon arriving was rainy, and the oranges were too heavy for the lunch sacks.As I walked down the gangplank with the rest of my family, I looked down to see hundreds of oranges bobbing about in the water. "What a shame," I remember thinking."If only there were some way of getting at them." (Dora Stroobosscher, 1950)

“The week during the 75th Anniversary of Dutch immigrants coming to Canada, I donated a rag doll to Pier 21 that I had received upon my arrival to Canada. My parents, Gerard & Wilhelmina Bouma and six children, left the Netherlands aboard the SS Maasdam in December of 1954 and arrived at Pier 21 about a week before Christmas. I remember the five youngest children (I was 10 at the time) each receiving a gift . My sister Jane (age 8) and I each received a rag doll, my brother Peter (age 11) a yellow dump truck, my older sister Elly (age 14) a coloring book & crayons and an other brother Hans (age 16) small Maacano set. I have since learned that not every child received a toy upon arrival in Canada, but since we arrived about a week before Christmas I suppose we were treated special. We also received some Christmas candy. One type of candy we received was the old fashion ribbon candy. Some of it tasted like root beer (very new to us) and to this day we still refer to that type of candy as "Halifax Candy". The gifts and the candies were given to us by the Nuns who met us at Pier 21.” (Wilhelmina Lafrance, 1954)

“We were processed through Pier 21 in a orderly fashion, but I don’t remember any friendly greeting from the staff. It was somewhat of a cattle round up. My parents were very nervous and this was a very stressful time. Once we left Pier 21, walked down a long incline walkway, we immediately boarded a CN Train bound for Montreal and eventually getting us to Calgary, Alberta. The train trip was a long ordeal, approximately fours days. I remember going for a short walk in Montreal and then boarding a different train going to Toronto. We arrived in Edmonton and then boarded a small train called a Dayliner to Calgary. We arrived late at night at the old CN station in Calgary and we were greeted by friends. We were so happy to have finally arrived at our new home.” (Hans Kowalski, 1957)

“I will never forget the Red Cross nurses that were there, taking the baby off our hands, so we could look after all the formalities and do a little grocery shopping for the rest of the trip. Those nurses were fantastic; they looked after the babies need with much love and tender care. The train trip took almost another week, and we had a day’s stop over in Montreal. The ladies at the station there were not half as nice as the Nurses in Halifax; they complained that our baby was crying too much. Come to think of it now, that baby was only 5 weeks old, and was nursed by a mother that had been sick, he was probably very hungry!” (Alec and Jerry Popma, 1952)

“We were the last passengers to leave the ship as Wally had come down with the German measles and we were put into quarantine. Wally was put in the sickbay of Pier 21, Dad and the three boys in the men’s dormitory and Mom and the two girls in the women’s dormitory. Our suitcases, passports and landing papers were confiscated. The doors to the dormitories were closed at 10pm. Locking the doors wasn’t necessary as there were no handles on the inside and the windows were barred. At night we washed our underwear in the bathroom sink for the next day because we didn’t get access to our suitcases. Meals were served cafeteria style and we’ll never forget Gerry’s face, when the lady who was serving, kept stabbing a potato to put it on his plate and it kept breaking up. She finally looked at the potato and at the fork, put the fork down and reached in and with her bare hand picked one up and put it on his plate. Gerry’s eyes almost fell out of his head. After the first 48 hours my Dad was given a paper that allowed us to play at being a tourist in Halifax. But before that we stood on the balcony of Pier 21 and in tears watched the Groote Beer leave again for Holland. For two cents we would have gone with her. On the fourth day our things were given back to us and we were put on a train for Saskatoon.” (Gysje Koenderink, 1953)

“We were going to Charlottetown, P.E.I. It was Saturday and the train had already left, there was no train going on Sunday. This was explained to us through a Dutch interpreter. They put us up, right there at the harbour overlooking the water. The building had bars over the windows. It may have been a prison at one time or a place where they kept stowaways. We were treated very well and were free to come and go as we pleased. Some people were not allowed to leave the building, they were probably illegal immigrants or stowaways, I really don’t know. We had our first corn flakes and potatoes with the skin on (my mother always peeled the potatoes). Bacon and eggs, Canadian style, went down very well. My mother insisted we eat all the food, to show our appreciation.” (Cathy Bos, 1953)

“We stood on the deck of the Zuiderkruis and craned our necks to see as much as possible of the harbour of Halifax. Finally after being on board for seven days we reached our destination Canada. Our trip had been really good, no bad storms. Our whole family shared one big cabin. It was the biggest step of my life. At the age of seventeen I left all my friends and many aunts and uncles and my dear grandmothers behind knowing that maybe I would never see them again. But here was Canada, the land of opportunity. My parents thought that they would be able to give us kids a better chance at life then we would have had in Holland. My first experience in Canada was seeing the dock-workers, with their strange looking green brooms, and after that of not being able to understand any body. Knowing that people looked at you and talked about you but not knowing what was being said. We stayed overnight in Halifax at some kind of Army barracks and in the morning I had my first taste of cornflakes. We were then put on the train to P.E.I. They put tags on our jackets with the name of our destination and off we went.” (Janette Vantveld, 1954)