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Mary and Leonard Vermey
February 1953 - Groote Beer

We were married on February 5, 1953 and on the 20th we went to Rotterdam and boarded the Groote Beer to go to Canada and start our lives together.

The food was good on the ship, what I mostly remember are the fresh fruits that where for dessert and there was lots of it.

There where very big rooms with lots of bunk beds for sleeping, woman and children in one room and the man in a other, not very nice for newlyweds.

The weather was bad and ocean was rough, a lot of people got seasick, including us, sometimes it was so bad we could not get out of bed and we did not see each other for days. I remember one morning the stuart came and ordered all the woman to the top bunks and the children to the bottom ones and he put nets in front of them so they could not fall out. The stuart was not wearing his jacket or bow tie. I think he was not feeling good either.

Sometimes it was very foggy and the foghorn was almost going all the time. We where asked to conserve water. The voyage taking longer because of the weather and they where getting low.

When the ship got close to Halifax someone said they could see land and everyone went on deck, we were not sick anymore. A small boat came and tugged the Groote Beer in to the harbor. It was in the afternoon when we arrived and we had to stay on the ship until the next morning.

That evening the dining room was full again and we all felt good enough to eat. Across from me at the table was a young fellow, I had seen him the first night on the ship. Then he had rosy cheeks and a full face, now he looked pale and thin, he told us he could not eat all week.

Well morning came and we had breakfast, then everyone was getting ready to leave the ship and we were at Pier 21. There was the building, more like a barn or big shed. When we got in there where woman in grey habbits, some order of sisters I think. They helped us and told us everything was we needed.

We could have lunch. I don’t remember if it was provided or we had to pay for it. We had french fries and for the first time in my life saw and tasted ketchup, did not like, but like it now.

Then we had to go through security and open our suit cases, everything was taken apart with big tongs. They found nothing illegal but I had a heck of a time getting it all back in.

Then it was off to the waiting train, it took a long time before everyone was boarded and longer yet before it started to move, by that time it was evening so we could not see much.

There where no beds on the train so we had to sleep sitting and leaning on each other but at least we were together again.

The next day all we saw was snow, cars only the roofs showing and houses and barn roofs loaded heavy with snow.

I don’t remember how long we were on that train. We got to Brockville and got off. My husband’s brother and his wife where living there and we stayed with them for almost a week. I don’t think we have ever been as cold in all our lives as we were there. They brought us back to the train station and we were on the last part of our voyage. We had to transfer in Toronto, that was a bit of a hassle but finally we got on the right train to Chatham.

There was not much snow there and the closer we got to Chatham there was no snow at all. The grass and wheat fields where nice and green. Southern Ontario had had a very mild winter they told us.

We arrived in Chatham. My Aunt and Uncle who went to Canada several years before us where waiting there to meet us. They where taking us to meet the farmer we were going to work for, his name was Walter Clements and he had signed to give us work for a year. We stayed with my Aunt until the first of April, then the house we were going to live in came empty and we finally were on our own.

We did not have to pay rent for the house, we got free milk and Walter paid for the electricity. We felt really spoiled, we had running water, electric light and gas for heating and cooking, we had nothing like that in Holland.

My husband was paid $100 a month and I got 60 cents an hour working in the field. Now that was very good pay in those days. Walter and his wife Ruth were very good to us and helped us anyway they could. We stayed there for 10 years. The work was heavy but not as bad as in Holland.

We grew out of the house and we rented a big old farmhouse close by, we still grew tomatoes and cucumbers in shares for Walter. We lived in that old house for 16 years then in 1979 we bought the house we are still living in now. When my husband was 62 and he had to retire for health reasons.

We have never been sorry we came to Canada, life has been good to us and still is, we feel very blessed and thankful to be here. We have 5 beautiful daughters and 4 handsome sons. They all have a good education and hold well paying jobs, we have 13 grandchildren and almost 5 great grandchildren.

We love this country, thank you Canada for having us.