2016 Writing Competition – honourable mention (adult)

How I came to live in Wellington County

by Elisabeth Easterbrook

It could have been 'fair dinkum'.

My story begins in England on June 2nd, 1967 with a phone call from a Canadian BBC colleague who I barely knew.  He had heard that I was heading off to Australia.  His sister was on her way home to Canada from Australia via London and he wondered if I would like to meet her at a gathering of some of his friends.  I don't remember what, if any, questions I asked her but in the course of the evening she was ready to return to her hotel and I took her there and instead of continuing home myself I went back to the party.  The following Friday my future husband took me on our first 'date' to a party given by one of his flat mates.  We danced, the one and only time apart from our daughter's wedding!  At the end of the evening he patiently accompanied me on a tour around London searching for a first edition of the next morning's newspaper in which my father's name appeared in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.  We found one in Fleet Street, long famous for the printing and publishing business and from where most major British newspapers operated - we would probably have saved a lot of time if we had gone there in the first place but we were having fun, at least I was!

Just eight weeks later we were engaged.  My first visit to Canada was later that year in September when I met my future Canadian family, saw Niagara Falls, of course, and we ended our trip with a visit to Expo'67.  We were married in January of 1968 and settled in a little flat in Ealing.  We both had good jobs but my husband was restless.  He had been away for four years and Canada was calling along with the job advertisements that, unbeknownst to me, his father was sending him.  In early July a likely position was available at, the then brand new, Fanshawe College in London, Ontario.  So without more ado we packed all his belongings and on the 15th, with the taxi almost dragging on the road from the weight of his trunk full of books we headed to the station for the train which would take him to Southampton to board the Polish liner 'Stefan Batory' and his homeward passage.

I remained in England to 'keep the wolf from the door' until he had sufficient income to support us in Canada. Time went by, communication was not easy, telephone calls were too expensive and there were, initially, few letters because of a mail strike which also delayed my application for landed immigrant status.  It didn't seem to matter at all that I was married to a Canadian.  There was always the 'diplomatic bag' but it apparently it hadn't been used for so long that nobody knew much about it.  In due course it was all sorted out; I had the necessary papers so it was a matter of waiting for him to get a job.

More time went by and at the end of September I decided that since we were married I would go and live with him as that is what married couples usually do.  I booked a passage on the Canadian Pacific ship The Empress of England, first class to accommodate my more than average amount of luggage.  My husband promised that by the time I got to Canada he would have a job.  I sailed from Liverpool on October 2nd.  It was a bittersweet voyage.  I was looking forward to starting my new life in Canada but leaving behind all my family, mother, father, brother and everything I had ever known.  The journey was calm.  I was seated in the dining room with interesting companions at the table hosted by the ship's doctor.  There was always something to do or somebody to talk to but for a twenty-six year old new bride with a husband she hadn't seen for several months waiting, as far as she knew, jobless, at the other end it was confusing to say the least.

I think I was the only person to accept the invitation to see the first light of Canada.  Buoyed up with tea, which was delivered to my cabin, I was on the bridge of the ship at 2:00am when the Belle Isle light hove into view.  We sailed up the St. Lawrence and on October 8th I 'landed' at Quebec City, which was the first port of call although my ultimate destination was Montreal.  Immigration was a bit traumatic as the Canadian Pacific Company had 'lost' my hard won papers.  I offered to retrieve my copy from my trunk in the hold but it was not considered an option.  1968 was still just close enough to the end of the war when hundreds of young women arrived apparently married to Canadian men but with scant documentation.  I was greeted with 'So you jumped the gun?'   I had to surrender my passport but by that time as long as I could get to Montreal I wasn't too worried about anything except the possibility that they would send me back!   It would be November 4th before my passport was stamped by Immigration and returned to me.

The next morning we docked in Montreal.  I can't remember how it came about but I was on the bridge for that too and, in fact, pushed the button which blew the ship's whistle as we passed under the Jacques Cartier bridge.  Before I knew it my husband was on board and we were having breakfast when the telegram, which should have arrived the night before, telling me that he had a job at the University of Guelph, was delivered to our table.  We settled in an apartment in Guelph followed by our first and second houses, also in Guelph.   In 1979 our third address was Alma, although the house was located on the 3rd Line of Peel Township between County Road 7 and the 14th Concession so actually closer to Drayton.   And that is how instead of going to Australia I came to live in Wellington County.

"Neat, eh!'