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Connie A.H. Uyterlinde
March 1953 - Groote Beer

At the age of nine I emigrated with my family (parents and 2 older brothers) from the Netherlands to PEI, Canada in March of 1953. The decision to immigrate was made by my parents in order to provide the opportunity for a better future for their children. It must have been a difficult decision for our parents to leave their homeland, family, and friends with the understanding at that time that they would never return. Subsequent to going through customs and having our footwear disinfected we boarded the Groote Beer.

We were assigned a cabin for 5 with two upper bunks and a single bunk. Being the kid of nine, I wanted to sleep in the upper bunk. However, once we reached the open waters it was quite rough and the upper bunk was no longer the attraction it had when we boarded. It became a white-knuckle experience when the boat started to rock with the waves and I had to hold on for dear life. I soon traded places with my father. The journey across the ocean was rough and we were encouraged daily by the staff to go on deck for fresh air to make us feel better, which was easier said than done because we were all very sea sick. As we got longer into the journey, we were starting to look for land. It was exciting to suddenly see the coastline. Arriving at Pier 21in Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 2nd, 1953 there was a large crowd to welcome us to Canada.

With the destination of PEI, we missed the train and were detained for the weekend in the detention facility. This was another experience whereby the men and the women were separated. I was with my mother while my brothers stayed with my father in separate quarters. The days spent in Halifax were with friends we had made on the boat. During our weekend stay we wandered through the Volunteer Annex where we were given ditty bags (toothpaste, soap, etc.) Our walks also took us up to Spring Garden Road where on the Sunday we went into Saint Mary’s Basilica, even though we were not Catholic and because it was Sunday we HAD to go to church. The following day (Monday) we boarded the train to PEI. The train went directly on to the ferry at Cape Tormentine-that was a long day.

Arriving at the train station in Charlottetown my dad’s new boss, Senator Walter Jones and his son Bus were there to meet us. My father and our luggage went with Bus to the farm in Bunbury while the Senator took the rest of us to a restaurant for a meal as he thought we must be hungry. However, not being able to speak or read English it was difficult to order. Therefore, the Senator ordered for us. Well, you can imagine when the plates of food arrived and were put in front of us we had no idea what it was or what we were eating. Because we didn’t know what it was, we were reluctant to eat it. At that time my eldest brother, Adrian, felt so embarrassed that he ate all of our meals. After that we drove to the farm, unfortunately due to the mild weather we could not drive into the lane that led directly up to the house because of the red mud. As a result, we had to park the vehicle at the road and walk in the dark to the house, through the red mud and my mother was wearing black, suede pumps, which were ruined. A house was made available to us, which had been partially furnished by the Jones’ for our arrival (until our crate of furniture and other goods arrived).

In addition to the ruined shoes, we had an outhouse and no running water (there was a water pump outside). It was a difficult time for my mother, she was home by her self most of the time because two of the kids attended school and my father and eldest brother were away at work. She was lonely and homesick and would have given anything to hop the first boat back to the Netherlands. It took a while to get adjusted and to make Canada our home. After spending five years in PEI, my folks moved to Nova Scotia and in 1959 bought a farm in Stewiacke where they lived until 1979. After 48 years, Canada is the land of milk and honey. The family grew, my brothers got married and between them had 5 children and 14 grandchildren. Halifax has been my home for the past 30 years and I am very proud of my parents for their initiative and insight in making the journey to Canada for the opportunity of a better life for their children.