Friday, March 9, 2018 / by Ruth Ballantyne
Happy Canada Day!!!
In 1965, I stepped onto a boat
And I was only 5 days on the ocean afloat,
And then we saw first sight, of Canada by night,
And yes we thank the Lord for that glorious site.
Lyrics by Bobby Finlay.
I am a Canadian, a Forty Dollar Canadian. I am Canadian by choice not by birth and I wouldn't have it any other way.
This is My Immigrant Story
I came to Canada in 1965 with my Mum. My Dad was already here for three months by the time we arrived, getting us started, as many immigrants still do today. He was lucky enough to find a job the week after he arrived at Caterpillar of Canada. He came here with no job but as luck would have it, he saw a job in the newspaper at Caterpillar the same company he had just left in Glasgow.
I don't remember much about when he was gone, just one night. I remember sitting in my pram, (stroller) my mum must have had it out to give to someone and I was singing “Someday my dad will come, Someday my dad will come”... you know the song (Someday my Prince Will Come) from the movie Snow White. To cheer me up my mum said we were going to have a going away party so I ran outside and told the kids up the close (in the neighbourhood) that they were all invited to a party. We were all so excited and my mum made a cake. (Turns out the party was supposed to be for my mum, Nana and Aunts but how did I know. They weren't going away I was,so I should have my friends to the party. Isn't that how it works)?
A day or two later we went to the train station. I was so excited. As the train pulled away, all the relatives where there and they were waving and crying, my mum too, and I wondered what was there to cry about? I am going to see my dad.
Well we boarded the Empress of Canada and we came across the ocean. I went to the movies and came out feeling seasick. Another day my mum had me all dressed up for a party and I ran down the hall and jumped to avoid where someone else was sick but slipped and fell into it.
Another day, there was a Costume Party for Kids. My mum had met a nurse and they dressed me up as a nurse with a real cap and nurses watch. It was sooooo much fun until I had to go to the bathroom and nearly made it even though the line was long. I had wet my pants a bit and was so embarrassed I locked myself in the toilet and then all the other kids who were waiting for me and bursting (needing to go) wet themselves too. I think they were in sympathy.
We arrived in Montreal in the afternoon on June 1, 1965. We went through customs. The nice man asked my mum if she had any cigarettes or alcohol. She said no. I told the nice man she was lying. She was smoking and drinking on the boat. As a result he searched our bags. My mum was not pleased with me.
We were supposed to get the train in the morning but we managed to get on one right away. We arrived at Union Station in the middle of the night. We got a taxi to my Aunt Dinah's (my dad was living at her house and so would we until we got on our feet). The taxi driver had never heard of Strathaven Road in Rexdale but he got a map and took us out to the new subdivision. So when we did find the street the taxi driver stopped in front of the house. My mum was a bit unsure of the house, it looked so grand and since she was not sure she asked the taxi driver for a flashlight. She approached the door, turned the knob and walked in. Still not sure, she went to the bedrooms. In the first room was a wee girl my mum thought it looked like Janice but she had been away for a year and grown so much. Still not sure she opened the next bedroom door and shone the light in my Aunty Dinah's eyes. Now she knew she was in the right place so she woke her in the dark and said “Surprise, we’re here”. My dad was on night shift and was not expecting us until the next day. He got a big surprise when he got home from work. Can you imagine if someone did that today?
Well we lived here for a few months. I went to kindergarten for a few weeks and by summer holiday I had lost my Scottish accent completely. Thanks to Janice, Walter and Alec who teased me mercilessly. We moved out to a basement apartment and lived there for two years. My mum and dad wanted to buy a house so they borrowed $3000 from the Royal Bank and put it in the Bank of Nova Scotia. Then we drove out to Bramalea, Canada's First Satellite City. I can still see the sign that announced the population on a weekly basis.
The subdivision was all sold out but there were two homes that the people had failed to obtain their mortgage. My parents bought one using the borrowed funds from one bank as the down payment on a house. (Who said you couldn't buy with Zero down in 1968? Banks didn’t have computers then).
So, we were moving to a house in Bramalea. I was so excited I couldn't wait to tell my friend Debbie who lived directly above us. She said she was moving too. I asked where? She said Bramalea. I told her I was too, I was moving to Fidelia! Can you believe her parents bought a home on Forsythia? What good fortune moving to Bramalea and I already had a friend in the neighbourhood.
When we got to Fidelia, there were some girls playing skipping. I went out and one of then called me to play. They said I could skip with them and we started to play, “On the Mountain, stands a lady, who she is I do not know. All she wears is gold and silver all she needs is a fine young man. So I call in” and I pointed to this girl with long brown hair. She said RUTH. I said no not my name yours and she said Ruth. Turns out her name was Ruth Marie Ann and mine was Ruth Anne Marie (I really don't have a middle name but this is the one I had made up for myself when I came to Canada and everyone else had one). Her birthday was the day before mine and we lived right across the street from each other. Bramalea was great!!!
Letting you know this little tidbit about me reminds me of what a great place Canada is. I bet you did not know that I am an immigrant or at least that I am a boat person. I am sure you will hear similar stories all over Canada. It doesn't matter that is was 45 years ago. We came and we made the best of it. For some it was easier than others. (At least I spoke the language. Well many would say Scottish is not English and tell me often that they cannot understand a word my Dundonian husband Rick says). One thing is sure. (Lyrics from another song by Bob Rae). We are all in the same boat now!
I am a Forty Dollar Canadian and I became a Canadian by choice, not by birth, and I still wouldn't have it any other way. I always considered myself Canadian... you know walk like a duck, talk like a duck, so I must be a duck. I could vote (I was British) and then one day the Government decided you would no longer be able to vote if you were not a Canadian Citizen. So the rush was on. I had to get my Citizenship right away so I could continue to vote. To tell you the truth it was a bit embarrassing, something I really always meant to do, just didn’t. My parents were Citizens. They became Citizens when I was 14 but for some reason decided to let me make the decision myself when I was 18. I just floated along until the threat of not being able to vote and the responsibility of a Canadian child made me take the plunge.
I became a Citizen on the last day before the cut off. I went by myself to my Canadian Citizenship Oath. Well not really, Natalie was in her car seat. She was 3 months old. I was so proud, I cried at the ceremony and I enjoyed tea and cake with the other Immigrants. Rick took me out to dinner with my parents and Natalie to celebrate Canada’s newest Canadian. It is an honour. (I am teary eyed just thinking about it).
This is how I came to Canada and became a Citizen. I still thank the Lord for that glorious site.
Please share your stories with us by leaving a comment on this blog. I am sure there are loads and this is a great time to celebrate them.
Cheers! Happy Canada Day!
Natalie and I in Ottawa for Canada Day last year. You can see Parliament Hill and Chris’s flag tattoo in the background. The city was one big sea of red and white. It was priceless.