The Immigration Story of Wolfgang Schlotterbeck (German immigrant)

Category: 
Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Port of Arrival: 
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2014.566.1
Story Text: 

October 21, 2007

Dear Sirs,

I came to Canada on the S.S. Homeland in early February, 1952 when I was 8 ~ years
old. I cannot recall the entire trip that started south of Frankfurt, Germany, only some
short vignettes.
Making the trip with me were my mother Charlotte and my older brother Manfred. He
was eleven then. As many families had already done, my father had preceded us by 4
months, having sailed from the port of Genoa aboard the Saturnia. He had been an
American prisoner of war , and some time after his release, he obtained employment with
the U.S. Army. Perhaps that is where my parents got their information and idea to
emigrate.
We were taking a different route than my father, sailing from Hamburg. The train, from
Frankfurt, was an adventure in itself, and I spent hours looking at the tracks from the rear
of the train, wondering if I would ever come that way again. I was not particularly sad to
go, since we had no relatives in that part of Germany and belongings we had few. I felt no
attachment to anything. Once in Hamburg, we had to overnight near the docks, and the
following morning I prowled around the area and the ship as we waited for boarding and
departure. The ship was the biggest thing I had ever seen, even though it was relatively
small as such liners went.
Once on board and under way exploration, and the effort to become"lost", was the first
priority. There was a slight delay, however, as the North Sea was rough and everyone
became seasick. My brother and I, and any other children, recovered in a couple of hours
and suddenly found the ship all to ourselves. For the rest of the voyage, the dining room
stayed fairly empty and the decks were deserted; and this in spite of the fact that our
voyage was the smoothest that anyone of the Homeland crew could remember. Off the
rear deck, the ship's wake could be seen extending far into the distance.
We arrived in Halifax on February 16th. It was a bit foggy but the sun was trying to come
through. The ship was covered with a thick coating of ice.
The processing building (that I know now to be Pier 21) I recall was warehouse-like, with
a high ceiling, bare walls and much space. There were some tables with people sitting
behind them, some benches and a lot of luggage piled about, and, of course, people like
us. It was not heated and quite cold, but I remember getting some hot soup. After much
waiting, we were issued our yellow"Landed Immigrant" cards and we walked a short
distance to a covered railway platform with a waiting train. We were headed for Toronto.
It took many hours of more waiting before the train started on its way. My mother waited
on board in a cubicle with our belongings, while my brother and I were constantly on and
off the train for some exploring. Presently, I noticed a woman on the platfonn standing by
a small table. She had boxes of coloured pencils and a stack of thin books to draw in.
Evidently they were free for the asking as I noticed her handing a set to a young boy.
What a prize that would be, I thought, since I had never owned something like that.
Fearing that the train would leave soon, I raced on board to my mother to explain the
situation. For the next several minutes my mother taught me how to ask for a book and
pencils, in English. I didn't speak a word, but my mother had learned in high school and
was fluent. With the words fresh in my memory, I walked slowly up to the woman and
asked. She smiled and gave me my prize. The trip to Toronto was suddenly a great deal
less trying!
When I visited Halifax last September for the first time since then, I never suspected that
the brick building would still be there. Most waterfronts are eventually reclaimed for
other uses, and I was quite surprised to find it had survived. I had been for a walk and had
poked my head inside out of curiosity; the passenger railway car outside having given me
the thought,"I wonder if ...".