The year was 1957, and while World War II was well behind us, surely another war wouldn’t break out over the Suez Crisis, would it?! Meanwhile – with the complicated political shenanigans proceeding and hotting up – queues at the petrol pumps were creating huge problems and racked tempers for drivers in the UK, more specifically, my dear husband! As he was a “door-to-door salesman,” he really needed his van to make a living! The situation grew so serious, Canada House became a target for would-be immigrants and the queues vied with those at petrol stations.
The potted history of the situation was as follows: The catalyst for the joint British-French-Israeli attack on Egypt was the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser in the July of 1956 but because of bad vibes between Russia and the USA and talk of a ‘nuclear’ situation, Eisenhower intervened and the troops were withdrawn. Canada was still large on my husband’s horizon, less so on mine. Here’s what happened!
‘Im indoors, having a very positive and persuasive manner, somehow or other convinced me it was a sensible and advantageous move to live in Canada, and so we joined the queue, even though I shed a few buckets-full of tears at the thought of leaving my beloved family behind. (Hardly the “Mayflower” type at the time! I changed.)
And so, with large trunk and suitcases packed, he and I, with several friends and family members in tow, and tears galore, bade goodbye at Waterloo station. ‘I’ll never see you again…’ wailed my dear, maternal grandma, my mother was beyond words… and then the tannoy system informed us that ‘Due to a dock strike in France, the “Il de France” sailing to Canada has been cancelled. Passengers due to sail on her will be transferred to “The Italia” which will be leaving in the morning and docking in New York.’ Surely an omen, I thought! Talk about an anti-climax… everyone went home, except us, and we spent the night in a flat due to be my eldest brother’s home in London when he married a few months later.
The next morning, my dad, bless him, came all the way to Southampton to see us off. Mum couldn’t face it. We were the last on board ship, as there was a delay locating our trunk! Another omen?
I saw sense and pulled myself together. (‘If we don’t like it, we can always return,’ my other half soft-talked.) Our fellow shipmates seemed a pleasant, varied bunch; we were allocated a first class, huge cabin, and thoughts of walking down Time Square and exploring The Big Apple suddenly appealed.
Our very first, longer sea voyage (the previous short one being to the island of Jersey) proved to be most enjoyable, except for the presence of a badly scarred and obviously hostile German steward who we avoided when we could… All was fine and dandy – until we hit deeper waters and an unusual swell emptied the breakfast crowd like Houdini – my husband being among their number. Luckily I seem to have a good “sea stomach.” Soon all was tranquil again and we floated/swam in the pool; did lots of fine dining and sunned ourselves on a steady deck.
In the passenger mix, were famous British singers Teddy Johnson and Pearl Carr, who serenaded us at the last-night party with their recorded and popular “Sing Little Birdie,” which was fun, and sailing past the famous Statue of Liberty looming out of an early morning heat-haze the next day was an exciting first. “Time Square” wasn’t and disappointed, but oh the delights of shops which never closed; supermarkets (?), air conditioning (?) and so much that was different in so many ways. It was June though and NY in June can be mighty hot for a Brit! We sizzled.
Generous, distant relatives: lovely, hospitable Bill and Mary Boyle, kindly accommodated us for three, action-packed, days when we ate our first pizza and hot dog (mixed reactions), visited Coney Island (a let-down but still a breeze – and we had the bruises to prove it! ) I bought a polka-dot dress in Macy’s, and we strolled in Central Park: an oasis of calm in a noisy, teeming city. The next day, we left – adrenaline flowing – for the land of the Maple Leaf and The Rockies.
After a comfortable journey, we arrived in Toronto in a near Hurricane – some Palm trees nearly bent double – disappointed our expected friends were not there to meet us (we’d telegrammed) and we felt like a couple of refugees. Oh dear. We telephoned another contact and a most generous couple met us, fed us and put up for the night! How lucky was that. The next day was a total turn-around.
Awaking to bird-song: we were near, huge, Lake Ontario, a bountiful sun beamed down and we were brim-full of optimism. We were spoilt by the choice of apartments to let, a temporary plan, and soon found a large, immaculately clean rooming house nearby which proved to fool us! The owners were German Canadians, seeming pleasant: the wife a “House-Frau” with knobs on… There were no locks on any doors, which should have been a clue. There being two, single men on the premises, made for an uncomfortable feeling. We didn’t plan staying long, which proved prophetic.
Our “missing friends” found us, so we invited them around for a meal and a game of cards the following week. We played the wireless quietly, aware there were two children asleep downstairs. Apart from dear H divesting himself of a tie, there was no strip polka or any other raucous goings-on, and our friends left at midnight. Oh, had we blotted our copy-book. The next morning, an irate Frau said:
‘You must leave next week. We don’t allow guests in our rooms.’ So that was that.
Roost No. 2 was something else… Imagine, if you will, the house in the film “Psycho” – innocent enough in daylight – but once dusk hovered, imagination came out to play. Nevertheless, it was solid, spacious, clean and had enough rooms to share with our friends, which worked well financially. It was near Castle Loma, Toronto’s only “Castle.” Again, there were no locks on any doors (?) The owners lived on the ground floor, we shared the first and a couple rented the floor above us. (Note: ‘He’ – we never met ‘them’ – played the organ every night from 11 pm to 12 pm. A noisy fact.)
Except for having to use the huge, creepy, claustrophobic cellar where the washing machine was housed (plus mysterious objects hidden and clothed), and where the sinister, gold-toothed lodger periodically appeared – quiet as a cat, making my heart pump – the arrangement with our friends worked well. We shared the housework, cooking and costs. Life was good.
End of Canadian capers – part one. Read Part two here
© Copyright Joy Lennick 2019
Joy, you’ve definitely had an eventful and adventurous life. How many countries have you lived in? See you —
Hi Neil, Yep, I guess so…Born in UK, lived briefly in Canada, back to UK and retired to Spain, but we have moved and travelled a lot…They say you’re happy where you heart/hearth is! That’s been true for me. Thanks for reading, All the best.
Well this is very interesting, you must of been quite brave to make this big move 💜💜
Appreciate your reading and commenting, Willow. I felt more apprehensive than brave at the time..but try and go with the flow! x.
Well you certainly did and did it so well ,😀😀💜
What an adventure! My first visit to New York was something I will never forget 🙂
Thanks for reading and commenting, Tandy. You can hardly ignore the Big Apple, can you?!
Ok, you had my Canadian ear here Joy. Lol, your life has certainly be colorful. Now funny you mention 1957 almost hurricane like. I remember my grandmother told me about Hurricane Hazel, our one and only ever hurricane. And I have to say, as a Toronto girl, we don’t have palm trees here, lol. Oh, and my grandparents lived around Casa Loma too, on Lyndhurst Court! 🙂 ❤
Hi Debby, A PS on the above. A work-colleague told me “Your apartment is near “Casa Loma” and my ears heard “Castle Loma.” If we had visited it, we’d have discovered our silly mistake! But we were evicted before we had the chance. Hey ho. Hugs xx
I enjoyed reading about your adventures in Canada. It must have been exciting and scary at the same time but so different from where you came from. I bet you thought it was like a science fiction movie. My first trip to the UK I felt like I had gone through a time warp and had ended up in the past. Your trip over sounded like our trip to live in Spain. Nothing but bad luck all around. It certainly seemed like an omen but we persevered, and are glad we did. I look forward to more.
Hi Darlene, ‘Windows’ decided to reconfigure my laptop for several hours….and I was in the middle of thanking someone…..If it was you, I apologise! The UK was a dreary place just after WW2 so you can imagine we were like kids in a large sweet-shop! Living in Canada is one of my cherished memories. Hugs x
Well Joy what an adventure you’ve had. I’ve never been to Toronto or NY but have been to Montreal. Love to visit and see more of Canada and NY too. One of the greatest Joys of life is the ability to travel. 🙂
Thanks for reading, Marje. Yes, Eric and I did quite a lot of travelling years ago. It’s more armchair now, but we have some great memories. Go for it, girl… Hugs x
I hope to one day Joy. Hugs. x
Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
Enjoy one of Joy Lennick’s entertaining memoir tales, this time the trip to Canada in 1957 in search of a better life…. and some interesting billets to begin with… more to come so get part one under your belt now… #recommended
Fabulous Joy.. we got hit coming the other way from Sri Lanka..or Ceylon as it was in those days and had to go the long way home.. My mother unable to enjoy the partying for some reason that turned out to be my brother born 6 months later! Look forward to part two… xx
Thanks once more, Sally. You’ve certainly done your share of travelling in your life too! Wow. I’ve read several of your ‘postcards home’,,, Each to their own… but I’m so glad we have such rich memories to look back on. Hugs xx
I agree Joy..and part of life’s rich tapistry..hugsx
Reblogged this on Campbells World.
What an adventure! Well, that’s probably an understatement. This was a delightful read, Joy. Keep those adventures coming.
My mother’s aunt went to Canada during this time period. They found life very hard. Nice post, Joy.
Living in a town, we both had jobs at the time, so – for us – life was sweet. I appreciate that many hit unfortunate times.Thanks for reading and commenting, Robbie. Hugs xx
I enjoyed reading your Canadian capers. Quite a cast of characters you encountered!
Thanks for reading and comments, Liz. Best wishes.
My pleasure, Joy!
This was fascinating. Such an incredible adventure.
That was fantastic, thank you. I’ve forwarded it on to my other half as she is a huge genealogy fan. One of her aunt’s moved to Canada during this time and I suspect for very similar reasons. I’ve no doubt she would have similar experiences. I’ve read part II as well, great stuff and I envy your memory 😉