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Single Men and Women

N. Peerboom
June 6, 1952 – Waterman

I well remember the day that I disembarked from the MS Waterman in Halifax NS on June 6, 1952 and passed through the now famous Pier 21 shed. The Customs and Immigration officials processed the 900 Dutch arrivals smoothly, after which we proceeded to the train that would take us on our trans Canada journey. I remember the customs officer kindly but quizzically looking at the three large steamer trunks I dragged down the gangplank and across the quay to his stand, and quickly examining them. He must have wondered about all the dry goods, sheets and towels, blankets, curtains that my mother had insisted I take with me together with my own prize possessions.

The train voyage was entertaining in that when the train stopped either to take on coal and water or to let some of our fellow immigrants off at strange sounding stations, we often lost passengers who’d wandered off and failed to return when at the appointed time the train would pull out after a few clangs of the bell and some whist blowing. The train’s staff must have been amazed about the antics of that particular trainload, as well as feelings of dismay at the delays. In addition, the summer’s heat made the train into a travelling incubator and soon chicken pox cases had to be quarantined on board as well.

The train was separated into a family section and a bachelors’ car up front, where we, that is some fifteen single males would open the leather strapped windows to let some fresh air into our quarters plus a generous amount of soot, so that we were a sight upon arrival at the Vancouver terminal CN station with the remaining 120 ‘Dutch’. Since the bachelors had been consigned to an old passenger car, we had experienced sitting on these coach type wooden slatted benches for the six-day journey; and upon disembarking from the train you could recognize the young single men by the slat imprints on the seats and backs of their clothes. In fact, even after a few days I could still feel the slat imprints on my body. I have often wondered what happened to my bachelor friends and others, after we dispersed on Terminal Avenue in Vancouver.