Wednesday, April 14, 2010

story: lucky life

Memories of an anonymous female austrian immigrant...

It was a long boat ride to Montreal. My husband suggested we eat crackers and sip white wine so we wouldn't get seasick like everyone else - it worked! Then we got on the train. Most people got off in Winnipeg, but we kept going.

We arrived late to the Vancouver train station, it was midnight.

And of course we didn't speak English at that time. So we went outside for a taxi, and just said "Hotel!"

Hotel is Hotel in any language.

So the taxi took us down to Granville and Smithe... that place is still standing!

And the taxi driver said 'Yes that is an inexpensive place'.

So we got a room.

Gresham Rooms at Granville and Smithe 1933 - image courtesy of VPL

In the morning, we wanted to find the people who sponsored us, but we didn't have their phone number so we took a taxi to the Able Sawmill, now it is a bus depot there.

And so the secretary said the "Oh, the gentleman is already looking for you all over, he has been at the railway station, and they told him the train arrived last night! "

At that time our sponsor already had a phone in his car, can you imagine that? So the secretary called him and then said "Everything is ok, he will pick you up at the hotel."

So we had to take another taxi - we had enough money to pay the taxi back and forth - and by the time we arrived he was already waiting for us.

He said "Good that I found you."

View looking Northwest at 6400 block Fraser from E. 49th 1939 - image courtesy of VPL

So he took us up to 49th and Fraser, to a house. It belonged to Mennonites and of course they spoke German. The landlady stood there and she said "Welcome to Canada!"
And so, there we had a little suite where we lived for 4 years.

We used to walk from 49th down Main Street to Queen Elizabeth Park, because on Main Street you could pick all the blackberries you wanted. There were hardly any houses there.

The very first weekend that we walked to this park, we found out that you could sit on the grass! You can't do that in Europe!

A park is a park! You walk on the walk but not sit in the grass - you're not allowed to do that. There are too many people in Europe - if everyone would sit in the grass there wouldn't be any grass.

And so, here, there were not that many people so you could sit on the grass!

Queen Elizabeth Park circa 1965 - image courtesy of Riley Park archives

We learned how to do the shopping and in 10 days I found a job! So we had it easy. I was a furrier. Of course that was a real good business at that time. I made more money than any other male immigrant which came here. Then we bought our own house after 4 years!

I was lucky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

crackers and white wine against seasickness, what a wonderful idea.

There are so many wonderful stories about immigrants coming and not knowing anybody and not speaking english, but they make a good, productive and happy life for themselves and their family.