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Families

Everina Pieternella Hoogerdyk
April 1, 1953 - Waterman

Times were hard in Holland then and although Pete worked hard to make a living for us, it was hard to provide us with a comfortable existence. In the years between 1945 to the early 1960’s a lot of people emigrated to other countries and stories started to go around about the success or misfortunes of former citizens of Geldermalsen. Nearly everybody had some family or friend who had emigrated. For me that started the dreams of going too. Starting a whole new life with more possibilities for ourselves and especially for our children. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to go, not only for a better life, but also for the adventure, the challenge our emigration would bring, the travelling, and the sights of other countries. In two words – unlimited possibilities – and I carefully started to bring the subject up to Pete who immediately vetoed the whole idea. He was not going to uproot his family and that was that.

About one year later my brother and his family came from Venezuela for a visit. He advised Pete to emigrate. He had great admiration for Pete’s abilities with tools and his willingness to work hard. After my brother’s visit Pete thought about it for a few days and decided that we should go. It took over one year before all the formalities-visas, health insurance, funds, and somebody who would employ Pete-were in order. We had between all of us decided that we should go to Canada after looking at books of different countries. What attracted us most within Canada were Prince Edward Island and British Columbia. However, the sponsor who would employ Pete lived in Ontario.

Our date for departure was set for March 24th, 1953 so we had about six weeks to get ready. In all the excitement over the move to another country we had not been concerned how to get ready in time. A lot of our stuff had to be sold or given away. Only the basic necessities could be packed (ie the beds, linen, dishes, pots and pans, warm clothes and shoes, and some toys and books). We all had to have one blanket for the trip and the clothes we wore were fumigated before boarding the ship. The last week we spent with my parents, and then at last it hit me that I might never see them again. It was a difficult week. I had a lump in my throat and my eyes were sore, just like sand had gone into them. Well, I had an urging desire to cancel the far-advanced plans and stay in Holland. On the morning of the 24th of March we had to say our farewells to my parents. They not only saw Pete and I go, but also all their grandchildren who lived in Holland at that time, which was hard for they loved them so much. A delegation of family and friends from Geldermalsen, Buurmalsen, and Tricht were on the docks to say good-bye and wave us off. In the afternoon of the 24th of March we left Holland on a ship of the Holland- American line named the Waterman. The kids and I shared a cabin with bunk beds and one washbasin and Pete shared a cabin with men. The toilets and showers were further in the hall.

At that time I thought that everything was very luxurious with great dinners. We got three hot meals a day, which for Dutch people is unusual. For entertainment they showed a movie, but since it was everyday we soon tired of the same movie. On the third day a lot of passengers were seasick-all our girls and I for one, and Pete half the day. He was too busy taking the seasick bags out and throwing them in the water. Martin was not sick, which was not without danger for him. Once a recognized him by his shoes and the rest of him was hanging overboard. For the first time in my life we had time on our hands-our meals were prepared and our beds were made-so I made the best of those nine days and had good conversations with a lot of emigrants who all had the same anxieties as we. There was an older couple with sixteen children who were going to a farm. Pete got talking to a photographer, who had been in Canada for one year, had just gone back to collect his wife and six children, and was now getting back to Canada. He told Pete that he would not like to work for a farmer, and if Pete did not want to stay with the farmer to come to Whitby where there would be plenty of job opportunities. Nearing Labrador we had some rough and very cold weather and we had to stay inside most of the day. We reached Halifax on the 31st of March, and landed on the 1st of April. After some hassle we could board the train to Toronto, but first bought some food to eat on the train.

We bought bread, butter, a sausage, some cookies, and jam. In the morning Pete got us some tea, and if I remember, milk for the kids. For the rest of the day we had to drink water. We arrived in Toronto on the 3rd of April, which happened to be on Good Friday, and another train was not leaving until 6 o’clock p.m. At the station we met a Dutch man, Arnold Van Pypen, who took us to his home, where his wife was so kind to let us have a bath. We were so dirty from the long train ride. After that she fed us a hot meal of pork and beans. In the train I had already decided that we would not stay in Canada. The mile of bush and the sparse population was for me frightful, for Holland is so densely populated and cozy also, with the well kept houses, where all the windows had lace edged glass curtains, and the window sills full of plants. I thought Quebec was beautiful and wild, but hated the houses and streets in the villages we passed-unpaved streets and unpainted houses, wild running creeks with water the colour of mud. As soon as we reached Ontario I got more hope. It looked a bit better kept and more populated, and not as mountainous as in Quebec, but certainly not a country where we would feels at home. In the late afternoon Arnold Van Pypen took us to the train station where a train stood ready for Thornbury, where we arrived in the dark and where we were collected by the Dutch farmhand who took us to Pete’s employer, whose wife received us warmly. She had the evening meal ready but the children were tired and cranky. Soon after the meal Kees (farmhand) took us to the house where we had to live. It was a big house and used to be the Parsonage. The church people had put up beds for us and there were dishes and some pots and pans. Also we found milk, eggs and pies, bread and butter for us. We appreciated that.

We all went to bed, our first night in Ravenna. The next morning was one of exploring. We found that there was no running water-only a pump outside. The bathroom they had written to us about was not a real bathroom at all. It held a pail with a stovepipe in it, which went through the ceiling. I guess that was for the smell. Outside was an outhouse with two holes in the seat and could be used by two people at the same time. It was all so strange and disappointing to me, but not to the kids who were having a great time trying it out. After two days in which we got a bit of order in place, Pete had to go to the farm to work there. He left at 5:30 a.m. and returned at 8:30 p.m. a very long long day for him, but also for us.

I took the kids to the one room school nearby and registered them. Only Nellie stayed with me. She was too young to go to school. I was so thankful for that. My number one enemy was the cookstove. It was of an enormous size with a water tank, an upstairs (for pots), and a big oven. The trouble was that the wood would not burn. I could not even boil water for tea in the morning, and the stove was the only heat we would have, had it burned. The house was like an icetank. Pete chopped wood as well as he could and had time. To be up early in the morning he could not afford to be up late. The children hated school. They did not speak English and the village children were hostile and mean to them. The second enemy I had was the phone. Every time it rang I answered and was told to hang up, it’s not for you. I had never heard of a party line.

After a week I went to see the manager of the only store Ravenna had and asked him to let the phone company know that we wanted the phone disconnected, which greatly amazed the storekeeper, who was a very nice man. His wife helped us in any way she could. One day she took us to Collingwood and treated us to ice cream cones, and while there I bought a little hot plate so I could have tea made before the kids had to go to school. Two days a week Nellie and I went to the farm where Pete worked and helped the farmer’s wife with house cleaning. I worked from 9 a.m. till 3 p.m. earning all of $2 for it. However, it made a difference. For $1 I bought four dozen eggs and the other $1 I spent at the store for the most necessary things.

Martin was the first to have a birthday in Canada. He turned 7. We celebrated as well as we could. We did not have much to do it with, but he was not hard to please. Nel and I were very homesick. After the four kids left for school we both had a good cry and set out for our daily walk. The Collingwood hills are very beautiful, but at that time I hated every inch of it. Also the house was no pleasure, too big and, to our eyes, too strange. It had an earthen basement with a huge furnace. We could hear rats running around there and the rest of the house was creaking and cracking. No wonder the minister would not live there.

Pete kind of liked his job at the farm, though the days were long. He was well fed and well treated. The farmer, Mr. Armstrong, had had a heart attack before we arrived and was in bed. His son and the farmhand were happy with Pete’s help. Every other week he had a day off. We went to church and visited with other Dutch people. We treasured his days off.

Soon I was down to our last dollar, and spent that on oatmeal, bread, peas, and sauerkraut. Our potatoes and milk came from the farm, and I earned the eggs. We had another week to go without money and had to make our meals with what was there, oatmeal for breakfast, every other day peas and sauerkraut with the few potatoes we got, and for lunch bread and butter. You can understand how much I was longing for that first paycheck that Pete was bringing home after a month’s work. He only received $53. The farmer had deducted $22 from his wage for wood and milk, and broke thereby the contract that Pete had with him for two years.

After some talking about it, Pete and I decided that he should look around for another job, and tell the farmer that we would not live on the wage he paid Pete. The farmer was most understanding, but since he was ill he saw no chance to up his wages and was agreeable that Pete should look for another job. Now, when we were on the boat, Pete had met a Dutchman who told him that a farmhand was not a good job and said that if Pete wanted he should come to Whitby where for sure he could find suitable employment at the mental hospital. We had to make it, so Pete went off to Whitby, which was an adventure for him with buses changing at different stations and he not speaking English, but he got there all right. With the help of John Van Boxtel he went to the hospital and applied for a job as attendant, got a physical, and was hired a day later, for they were always short on staff.

In the meantime I was alone with the kids and coped as well as possible. The children were a big help and good company. The nights were terrible and full of sounds, knocking and creaking, and sighing from the wind did not help either. I was relieved once the dawn came when I could sleep. Pete left on Friday and came back on Monday, I don’t remember the date. He came with a Mr. George Hamers, who had been in Canada a long time and had a small truck. The farmer’s son, Bob, came also with a truck to help us move. In a few hours everything was packed and we were ready to go to Whitby for our new adventure. We stopped to say good-bye to Mr. And Mrs. Lorne Walters who had the general store. Those kind, good people. I shall never forget them.

We arrived late in the evening in Whitby. John and his wife, Tina, offered us a part of their house, where we could live for a reasonable rent until we found our own accommodation, which we did a few months later. On the 1st of September 1953 we moved into a duplex at 222 Green Street. The house was later broken down and is now a small shopping plaza. The rent was $80 a month, which was really more than we could afford, but we took a chance on it. Where we lived with the Van Boxtels it was intolerable; between the Van Boxtels and us there were 11 children. Our kitchen was in the basement, and our small living room and one bedroom were on the top floor. The kids were mixed in with the Van Boxtel’s kids so far as bedrooms were concerned.

The house in Green Street was no palace, and was left by the people that lived there before us in a deplorable state, but all of us worked hard, and at least it was clean when we moved in. We had very little furniture, no refrigerator, no stove, and no radio or TV. Of course we needed a stove so we bought one second hand. Pete made some kitchen cupboards and a counter around the sink. In the meantime we met two Dutch boys who had a room in Oshawa. They were not very domesticated and soon we agreed that they should live with us and pay room and board, for which I would look after their food, rooms, and laundry. Those boys were Klaas Zwiers and Jacob VanderEnde, the latter stayed with us for I think about a year, then he went back to Holland. Klaas stayed with us and was one and still is one of our family and loved by all, more about that later.

The winter of 1953-54 was a very hard one. We had so little money, and jobs were hard to get. For Klaas and Jacob especially it was hard for they had no job that first winter. However, together we made it, and I tell you all, I have an endless admiration for our children, and I tell you why. They started a paper route for the Globe and Mail. Joyce (13), Gerrie (11), Mary (10), and Martin (8), he only when one of his sisters was sick, delivered papers 6 days a week, starting at 6 o’clock a.m. It was a bitter cold winter with lots of snow. I felt very uneasy about it, and made sure that they had a good breakfast before they set out for school. What brave kids we had. So they earned their own pocket money, and there was enough for school supplies, and maybe for other things as well. At an auction sale I bought an old couch, two wing chairs, a table, and a big radio. They stole the table, but the rest gave us years of pleasure. The radio was of much service to me to learn more English. Reading from the Bible was for me easiest to understand for it was well known words I heard. Our children mastered the English language long before us. Martin and Nel went half days to school for Whitby had many immigrant children and not enough schools. I think they all did well enough in school though their report cards were a puzzle, and very different from the Dutch school system.

That first winter was a difficult one. Ontario did not have a health system like they have now and we had not any insurance, and all through the winter we needed a doctor. Dr. Hodgins lived on Green Street and we called on him when needed. As good as we could we explained to him that we had no money to pay him but if he was willing to wait till summer we would pay for his services. He told us not to worry and call him when needed. He was called on often, and he came, always friendly, and also a heartening word when we were discouraged, trying to help us as much as he could. A better man you could not find. He helped many people like us. On the end of the summer of 1954 we finally could pay him. He wrote out a bill for $40. Dr. Hodgins is long gone, but what good memories he has left for us and many others.