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A New Life at a Very Steep Price

Jim Dauphinee, Marguerite Day and George LaRue

Jim Dauphinee, Marguerite Day and George LaRue were customs officers at Pier 21 for many years. They all enjoyed lengthy careers with Canada Customs and continued to work as customs officers following the closure of Pier 21 in 1971. Jim Dauphinee worked in customs from 1955 to 1995, Marguerite Day from 1951 to 1978 and George LaRue from 1942 to 1976.

Click below to hear former Canada Customs employees Jim Dauphinee, Marguerite Day, and George LaRue recall how some unscrupulous individuals would seek to profit from an immigrant’s unfamiliarity with Canadian culture.


Marguerite: Most people, of course, you know, they — a lot of them had — they didn't realize the value of the Canadian dollars because, with the Italian lira, it's so much paper money and not worth much value — not much value in it. And so, when they were handling what little Canadian money they had —

Jim: I hate to say it but – in some cases, some of the people, other people, used to take advantage of it, you know? If they had to tip somebody to — maybe a railway fellow to take his luggage one hundred feet up to the railway car, gees, he'd be handing the fellow one hundred dollars and wouldn't know — thinking that was reasonable.

Now, most of them would not take, you know, take the four or five dollars, whatever they would give them and even that was a lot in those days.

But some of the poor immigrants, I think, were half cleaned out of a lot of their money, the poor people that didn't know the difference, because they thought this was expected and they'd be tipping huge and didn't even realize — didn't even realize what they were giving away.

So, a lot of them were kind of fleeced in some ways but that was only a very few at least because most of the people, I must say, when they seen this going on, would say, "Oh, no, no, no, don't do that." And then would try to tell them, you know, in the future, all you need is a small amount.

Marguerite: You didn't need to pay.

Jim: But coming to a new world and not knowing the money or the language. Very difficult.

George: It must have been really scary for them, you know?


Oral History with Jim Dauphinee, Marguerite Day and George LaRue, 16 April 1998 (98.04.16JDMDGL)