Home at Last

It took time, hard work and per­se­ver­ance, but the prom­ise of a bet­ter life in Canada was ful­filled

More of Our Canada - - Coming To Canada - by Lor­raine Brown, Cal­gary

I won­der how the fam­i­lies of my fa­ther-in-law Ernie and moth­erin-law Grace re­acted back in 1949 when they heard the words, “We are com­ing to Canada.”

One of Ernie’s sisters, Ger­tie, lived in Dun­can, B.C., with her hus­band, Birt, and their young fam­ily. Ger­tie was home­sick and desperate for fam­ily to come over. Ernie said, “If you can find me a job and a place to live, we’ll come.”

Ernie and Grace soon re­ceived word that a job and place to live were in­deed wait­ing for them upon their ar­rival in Dun­can, so they im­me­di­ately started the process of ap­ply­ing to em­i­grate.

Ernie was from a long line of ship­builders in Sun­der­land, Eng­land, the Thomp- sons, who had lived around that area for hun­dreds of years. He and Grace were the busy par­ents of four young boys when they re­ceived word that their name had come up for im­mi­gra­tion to Canada.

Ernie was a few short months away from re­ceiv­ing his char­tered ac­coun­tant pa­pers, but if they said no to this op­por­tu­nity to im­mi­grate to Canada, their turn might not come again for a long time. Eng­land was still suf­fer­ing from the ef­fects of the war; many items were still ra­tioned and sev­eral oth­ers were in short sup­ply. It was a dif­fi­cult time.

Ev­ery­one knew Canada was a land of great op­por­tu­nity— the streets were paved with gold and a for­tune was yours for the mak­ing. So on

Au­gust 3, 1949, Ernie and Grace, who was six months preg­nant, along with seven-yearold Ge­off, five-year-old Eric, and two-year-old twins David and Don­nie, set sail from Southamp­ton to Canada on the R.M.S. Aqui­tania. The long jour­ney took six days, and keep­ing four young boys oc­cu­pied and safe couldn’t have been an easy task.

The fam­ily landed in Hal­i­fax on Au­gust 9, 1949. The next leg of their trip was to take a Cana­dian Na­tional train from Mon­treal for a long, long ride west to Van­cou­ver, where they were met by Ger­tie and Birt. Next, the whole fam­ily boarded a ferry boat for the fi­nal por­tion of their jour­ney to Dun­can.

Imag­ine their dis­ap­point­ment, af­ter leav­ing the only home they had known and tak­ing this long, ar­du­ous jour­ney, when they found out that the promised “house” was ac­tu­ally a garage, com­plete with a dirt floor, and there was no job to be had? How ever were they go­ing to pro­vide for their grow­ing fam­ily?

Ernie soon di­vided the garage into four small rooms, mak­ing the ac­com­mo­da­tions feel more like a home. There was, how­ever, no bath­room, and Ernie was sim­ply not go­ing use an out­house. So, when na­ture called, he made the mile walk into town each time. They spent a win­ter in the garage; their fifth son, Ken, was born in Novem­ber, but by then the fam­ily de­cided to head back to Eng­land, as work was hard to find. They started to make their way back east, as funds would al­low. This took them first to Chilli­wack, B.C., where they spent a few years, and then to Cal­gary in 1956. They dis­cov­ered the air here was favourable for Ernie’s asthma and, by this time, they de­cided to stay and call Cal­gary home. It was in Cal­gary where their only daugh­ter, Su­san, was born. The boys soon be­came in­volved in sports (in­clud­ing cricket!), Scouts and other ac­tiv­i­ties. Ernie worked in ac­count­ing, but never at­tained his char­tered ac­coun­tant pa­pers, dif­fi­cult to do while rais­ing six chil­dren.

While Grace and Ernie have since passed on, the fam­ily to­day num­bers close to 40, and we are spread out across this great land from Kelowna to Lon­don, Ont., and many spots in be­tween. Ernie and Grace’s dream of a bet­ter life for their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren has be­come a re­al­ity. Canada cer­tainly didn’t have roads paved in gold, but in the end Ernie and Grace were glad they came to Canada and thank­ful for the op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded to them and their fam­ily. Eng­land is a won­der­ful place to visit, and we still have fam­ily there, but Canada is def­i­nitely home. ■

From left: Grace’s im­mi­gra­tion card; Grace and Ernie while court­ing; Grace, Ger­tie and kids on the ferry to Dun­can, B.C.

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