Skip to the main content


Martin O. Kloet
October 28, 1953 – Groote Beer

The immigration for me, siblings and parents started shortly after the Second World War when the word immigration was used for the first time at the J.D.Kloet family in Zierikzee. In the year 1947 the first immigrants left Holland under the motto of "we need a better future for our children". The people in Holland had just come through a war and were trying to rebuild, but there was no housing and no money. At that time the governments of Canada and Holland and other countries as well, were setting up information meetings to promote immigration because Canada needed people and Holland had too many.

The J.D Kloet family, that is my dad, myself and some other siblings attended some of these meetings but I can’t remember that my mother ever came along, the evening meetings had a film about the U.S.A. or Canada and a question and answer period. Although we attended several promotion meetings and Oom Hannes and Tante Chris [Colyn] immigrated to Canada, I don’t think that we as a family would have left Holland because things were improving, the children were getting older and just as soon stayed in Holland and we did not promote immigration.

But everything changed 1 Feb 1953, we had storm and a flood, all livestock and possessions were lost and it appeared to be very difficult to start again. In April 1953 my dad informed the family that we would be immigrating to Canada, we as children were not asked what we thought or what our feelings were and immigration was never discussed, but not every one, including me was happy with this decision but no input was needed from the children and immigration was set in motion.

Application was made, Canada only needed healthy people and we had to be checked and rechecked by Dutch and Canadian Doctors, people were saying that we were an ideal family for immigrating because we had seven boys and two girls but I was not convinced about this. When the application to immigrate was approved a date was set and we learned that the 20 October 1953 would be the day to depart from Rotterdam on a ship called the Groote Beer.

Then for me came a difficult time be cause we had to say good-bye to friends and family but some how that also past, the packers brought a large crate on a stake truck and loaded our belongings. On the 19 Oct.1953 we left Zierikzee in a large station-wagon, most of the island of Schouwen en Duiveland was still flooded and a lot of detours had to be made on our way to Rotterdam where we stayed over-night in a hotel, it was a very noisy place in and outside and also knowing that this was the last night in Holland we didn’t sleep well but morning did arrive. Tuesday, 20 October was not cold but a cloudy day, we boarded the Groote Beer with many, many more people also leaving for Canada, people were hugging, crying and saying farewell to family and friends, thinking that we would never see each other again. When we came on board a newspaper called Elsevier took our picture because we were the largest family on the ship.

The Groote Beer was a very large ship with lots of places to roam and visit. My mom and the small children had a cabin but Dad and the grown boys had to sleep in a large ward with many bunks three or four high. On the journey we received excellent care by the ship’s crew, especially by the staff in the dining room, the food was unbelievable, all kinds of fruits, pastries and what have you, we had never seen any thing like it before and we had our own server looking after our table, it was a good thing that the trip only lasted eight days.

The weather on the trip was good, we had a few rough days and some people were seasick but it did not bother me very much, I went to dining room every day and enjoyed the food. We had a good time on the ship, time was our own, something which we were, not use to. Time was set aside to come together for devotions, ones in the morning and just before we went to bed at night, Pastor Remkes Kooistra was our ship-chaplain and I did appreciate him very much, he taught us to sing in English and one song that comes to mind is, "Holy, Holy, Holy", every time I sing this song it makes me think of Pastor Koostra in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. We also had the opportunity to watch movies, one movie that I can think of was called The Frog Men, it is a war movie, and we were never bored and did enjoy the eight days we were on the ship.

On the seventh day of our journey we saw seagulls flying around the ship and with great anticipation we started to look westward for any sign of land but it took another day to sight the coast of Canada and on Wednesday the 28 Oct. 1953 we came into the Halifax harbour, it was a dull fall-day and we were both excited and afraid of the unknown as the Groote Beer slowly came alongside Pier 21. It was around noon hour when we left the ship and walked the gangplank to enter Pier 21 on the second floor, the building was somewhat drab and not too appealing on the outside and when we entered inside, it was not much better.

Inside the building of Pier 21 the lights were not too bright, we saw wooden benches and what looked like wire gages and none of it was too appealing, but the people were friendly and gave us sandwiches, cookies and drinks and although we could not understand a word what they were saying, they were very pleasant. Pier 21 in Halifax was the point of entry into Canada and each one of us had to go through customs and because of the many immigrants it took all afternoon, I was asked a few questions through an interpreter: If I had a place to go and had enough money for the train fare, the man must have been happy with my answers because he stamped my passport and it said: IMMIGRANT- LANDED – Canada Immigration, Oct 28 1953, and I were able to step on Canadian soil.

From Pier 21 we were herded on a train, which was sitting next to the building, in front of the coaches was a large steam engine smoking and puffing away and the coaches were dirty and dusty, we left Halifax shortly after five o’clock we had no place to lay down other than the benches and the floor, us teenagers did not mind this all that much but it was not to comfortable for mom’s with little children, it was warm on the train and when we opened the windows the smoke from the steam-engine found its way in the train, it was hard to stay clean. We travelled on this train from Halifax, N.S to Toronto, ON. most people on the train when traveling through New Brunswick and Quebec were not happy with the farming land, there were to many stones, I remember my Dad saying, "if this is Canada than we are going back home".

We arrived in Toronto thirty-six hours later it was the 30 Oct. and six o’clock in the morning, we were tired and dirty and we had to transfer to a train going from Toronto to Smithville .it was called the T.H.&B line. Everything on this train was nice, clean and pleasant and when we left Toronto the sun was shining, there were no more stones in the fields and southern Ontario seemed like a good place, and Pa Kloet was saying: If this is Canada than we are staying.

We arrived in Smithville about ten o’clock in the morning, the sun was still shining and it was a beautiful fall day, Oom Hannes and Tante Chris and our sponsor VanMarrum, were waiting for us at the train station. It was a good feeling to see our family and after the welcome and hugs we were taken to the Colyn home, which was twenty minutes away just east of Bismarck, the house was not large but the twenty of us managed to eat and sleep together for two weeks.

Now we live in a new and different country and many things were new for us, the next day after we arrived on the 31 October when we went to town we saw all these strange creatures walking around and somehow it gave us a funny feeling, we were told that this is an American custom and is called Halloween. In the first week of November we received 15 of snow, this was unheard of in Holland, but after one week it was all gone again and the weather stayed warm until Christmas.

In the middle of November we moved to Stoney Creek where my dad and I did get a job at Harrison’s Greenhouses and this included a house. And in Stoney Creek is where the lives of the Kloet family started in Canada and I am thankful to God for the many blessing I have received.