The Immigration Story of Grace Ferland (Geertje Moerman) (Dutch Immigrant)

Category: 
Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2017.826.1
Story Text: 

My family left Holland July 17, 1951 and came by airplane rather than by boat as most Dutch immigrants came in those days. Thus, we did not arrive at Pier 21.

I was almost 5 years old when we landed in Montreal on The Flying Dutchman.
My family included my dad, my mom, and my two older brothers, Andries (age almost 10 ) and Bram (age almost 7). I remember some of the flight as it was my first time on an airplane. I liked the neat cutlery and the fact that we could have gum. Apparently we landed in Glasgow, Scotland and were supposed to land in Gander, Nfld, but it was fogged in, so we stopped in Moncton, NB as we needed to refuel. At least that's what I was told.

We have a picture of us when we arrived at Dorval Airport. We took a train to Ottawa where we were met by by my uncle, Gerard Moerman, who owned a lumberyard in Aylmer.

Dad was supposed to work in a printing shop in Arnprior, but my uncle persuaded him to look for a job in Ottawa. He got a job as a linotype operator at Runge Press. Later on he worked as a printer at The Canadian Bank Note.

From July till the end of September 1951, we lived in a cottage on the Eardley Road just outside of Aylmer. Even though we did not have indoor plumbing, we as kids thought it was pure heaven as we had the river nearby in which to swim. However, it was not easy for my mom. I remember her crying a lot. She missed her family in Holland and she found everything in Canada so uncivilized.

In October, we moved into a ramshackle house on Brook Street in Aylmer. All of our belongings had arrived in a box about 8ft by 8ft. My parents did not dare put any furniture upstairs in this house because they thought it would come through the ceiling. Instead of using the outhouse, we had a pot put into one of the rooms. We actually only lived in two rooms in that house - the kitchen where someone had left gum stuck under the cupboards and another room where my parents' bed was separated from the kids' beds by a sheet. I slept in a crib whereas my brothers had a trundle bed.

Within the next year, my dad bought a lot farther up Brook Street for $52.50.
With the help of Eugene Miner, who lived across the street, he started digging the hole for the house foundation. It was shale! He eventually got an excavator. Then he decided to make his own bricks. Soon he found it was better to buy them ready-made. He built the basement, put a roof on it, and then we moved in. He would work on the house after work and on weekends, building it while we lived in the basement. Right until I moved out in 1963, the bedrooms were still in the basement. My parents lived in that house until
1983 when they moved into senior housing in Ottawa.

Why did my parents come to Canada? My uncle had told them that there would be much more opportunity in developing Canada than in a country recovering from the war. We were always told that it was the land of opportunity. They did it for us. They went back to Holland a number of times, with mixed feelings, but I think that hard as it was, they made the right decision.

My brothers and I have done well in our adopted country. We obtained our citizenship in 1958 so that my older brother could go into the army, but that did not pan out. He became a millwright and is living the good life in British Columbia. My other brother lives here in Ottawa and is still using his "Dutch legs" riding his bike, recently completing the Rideau Lakes Challenge Tour for the umpteenth time.

As for me, I went to teacher's college in Montreal when I was almost 17, where I met the love of my life, Yves. We celebrated our 50th anniversary last summer (July 16). We adopted our first child in 1972 and soon after produced a boy in 1973 and a daughter in 1977. That first child was killed in a car accident in 1994, when his daughter was 3 months old. That is the worst thing to have happened to our family!

Our son and daughter are now both police officers - one with the OPP and the other with Ottawa Police. Our son and daughter-in-law have two children whom we adore. Our adventurous daughter pursues experiences such as touring Australia, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, scuba diving in the Galapagos, playing a variety of sports and using her musical talents. We are very proud of our diverse family.

We look at the melding of two very distinct Canadians. My husband's family came to Canada from France in the 1600's. They were part of the original group to inhabit Ile d'Orleans at Quebec City. I am considered an Allophone.
We lived through the referendums in the Province of Quebec. I still remember the words from my 6 year-old son who was going to a French School in Aylmer at the time. "Mom, I'm NON and Yannick is OUI, but we're still friends". We moved to Ottawa in 1986 to be closer to work.

My husband and I are now retired from teaching in the elementary school system. We continue to enjoy life with our family and friends, travelling, and for the last 6 years, being Snowbirds in Florida. Much as we love our country, as we get older, we find the winters more difficult. However, on nice days, we cycle downtown and enjoy the NCC paths and all things Canadian.
In our Florida village, every year we display our pride in being Canadian by celebrating a special Canada Day. Last year I organized that event.