Coming to Canada

Mary, Mar­i­lyn and Miriam ar­rived here in 1967 to travel and work. Mak­ing a new home here wasn’t part of the plan, but...

More of Our Canada - - Contents - by Miriam Roberts, Dray­ton Val­ley, Alta.

We called our­selves the “Three Ms”—mary, Mar­i­lyn and me, Miriam. I am orig­i­nally from Wales and, al­though both Mary and Mar­i­lyn grew up in Eng­land, their moth­ers were from Wales, too, so we have that her­itage in com­mon. The three of us first met at the Liver­pool Royal In­fir­mary, where we trained to be nurses. Af­ter the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of our train­ing and with a clear ca­reer path ahead of us, we de­cided to travel and work abroad for a while. And so, on Au­gust 11, 1967, we landed at the Mon­treal– Dor­val In­ter­na­tional Air­port, trav­el­ling from Manch­ester, Eng­land. Mary’s sis­ter, Ifôn, who was an anaes­thetist at Mon­treal’s Royal Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal, picked us up, and she ap­par­ently wanted to see our eyes pop in amaze­ment, as she met us in a stretch limo!

Our first few days were spent at Expo ’67, which was a very fun time for the three of us. Our real aim, how­ever, was to work as reg­is­tered nurses at the Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal in Lon­don, Ont., so off we went. Mar­i­lyn and I be­gan work soon af­ter we ar­rived there, in the newly con­structed in­ten­sive care unit, where we at­tended open-heart surgery pa­tients. Mary was hired not long af­ter­wards to work in an orthopaedic unit. A high­light of our oneyear term there was a visit from Dr. Chris­ti­aan Barnard—fa­mous for suc­cess­fully com­plet­ing the first hu­man heart trans­plant—who had come to con­fer with one of his col­leagues.

We had orig­i­nally planned to stay in Canada for one year, how­ever, we soon re­al­ized it would be im­pos­si­ble to see much of Canada in such a short time span. As a re­sult, Mar­i­lyn and I bought a car from a friend and were soon on the road again, with Mary vow­ing to catch up to us at some point.

Our ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion this time was Cal­gary and the new Foothills Hos­pi­tal that Mar­i­lyn had heard about. In ad­di­tion to a large swath of Canada, our me­an­der­ing route took us 4,000 miles through the United States. When we even­tu­ally made it to the Foothills Hos­pi­tal, we both worked in a coro­nary care unit and Mary, true to her word, joined us later.


While I was work­ing in Cal­gary, I met my hus­band-to-be, Ed, through a friend. At the time, Ed had been work­ing in oil field con­struc­tion. We got mar­ried in Dray­ton Val­ley, Alta., in 1970 and our two sons, Sean and Ken­neth, were born shortly there­after.

When Ken was 18 months old, I re­turned to work full-time as a reg­is­tered nurse at the lo­cal hos­pi­tal in Dray­ton, and I re- mained em­ployed there for three years. Dur­ing that time, Ed and I saved enough money to put a sub­stan­tial down pay­ment on a house des­tined to be built on one of two quar­ter sec­tions of land we were de­vel­op­ing from homestead sales. We sold one quar­ter sec­tion, so that we could con­cen­trate on de­vel­op­ing the 110 acres on the home quar­ter.

As our boys got older, they worked along­side us, clear­ing roots and rocks; some­how, they seemed to find the big­gest rocks to move! I re­mem­ber one day Ken ac­ci­den­tally dropped a rock on Sean’s fin­ger, and a scuf­fle broke out. It was a good thing I was there to break it up or else my nurs­ing skills

might have been called into ser­vice! But usu­ally the boys got along just fine, and many wiener roasts were en­joyed when we burned the root piles and as­sorted brush we had cleared. We de­vel­oped a tra­di­tion of hav­ing a bon­fire on or close to Guy Fawkes’ Day on Novem­ber 5th, invit­ing our neigh­bours to join us in a chili cook­out fol­lowed by sweet treats. It was our big re­ward af­ter all the dirty work of root and rock pick­ing.

Our com­bined clear­ing ef­forts al­lowed us to use the land for a cow-calf op­er­a­tion, and Ed also worked in the Pem­bina oil field as a bat­tery op­er­a­tor.

While Ed and I both grew up on farms, farm­ing was not des­tined to be the ca­reer path for Sean or Ken. They both at­tended the Univer­sity of Al­berta. Sean grad­u­ated in 1994 with a Bach­e­lor of Science de­gree in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, and Ken grad­u­ated in 1995 with a Bach­e­lor of Com­merce de­gree. Now, they are both part­ners in their re­spec­tive busi­nesses. Sean is based in Cal­gary and Ken is a char­tered ac­coun­tant in his home­town; each is stretched to the limit in terms of work­load. Sean and Ken are both mar­ried, and Ken has made us grand­par­ents to Saman­tha and Dakota. We have en­joyed see­ing them grow up to be am­bi­tious young ladies. I re­tired from nurs­ing in 1997 and Ed re­tired in 2004; since then we have en­joyed be­com­ing world trav­ellers! When Saman­tha grad­u­ated from high school, she an­nounced to my sur­prise that she wanted to be­come a reg­is­tered nurse. The day Dakota grad­u­ated from high school, she said she aimed to be a char­tered ac­coun­tant and to have her own firm! So, at 17 years of age, she plans on fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s foot­steps and at­tend the Univer­sity of Al­berta. Saman­tha grad­u­ated from Red Deer Col­lege with a Bach­e­lor of Science de­gree in nurs­ing in 2017—my 50th year of be­ing in Canada. What a way to cel­e­brate 50 years of be­ing in my cho­sen coun­try of Canada!

As for the two other “Ms,” Mar­i­lyn re­turned to Eng­land around 1969. Mary, in a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to my own, met and mar­ried her hus­band in Cal­gary. He was orig­i­nally from France, and they de­cided to move there in 1972.

De­spite be­ing sep­a­rated from my two long-time friends, I have re­mained in con­tact with both of them, and have even been able to meet up with Mar­i­lyn a few times in Eng­land. Mary comes to visit her sis­ter in Van­cou­ver quite of­ten and has come to visit me at least three times over the years; we’ve also met up half­way be­tween Dray­ton Val­ley and Van­cou­ver to spend time to­gether in beau­ti­ful British Columbia.

So, even when dis­tance keeps us apart, the “Three Ms” are al­ways to­gether in spirit. ■

Mov­ing from top to bot­tom: Miriam, Mary and Mar­i­lyn (from left to right) upon ar­rival in Mon­treal; the "three Ms” at Expo 67; Miriam and her grand­daugh­ter Saman­tha in 2016; Miriam in 1964, prior to coming to Canada.

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