Across the Pond, 1949

Editor/Daughter’s Note: My dad wrote up several journals of his memories. This story is about his decision to emigrate to Canada in 1949 and the wild crossing ‘across the pond’.

An advertisement in a newspaper caught my eye: farmers and tradesmen were wanted in Canada.

I responded and went to Copenhagen for an interview, and that spurred me on.

I had to go for a medical first, no problem as I was very healthy at the time. The Danish woman doctor employed by the Canadian Consulate gave me a clean bill of health, and talked as if she would not mind going along with me, probably taken in by this advertising as well.

The sailing was to be December 1st. I had already sold my Harley bike and given away all my worldly goods.

I was only allowed to bring 50 dollars and 100 English pounds* so the money that was left over went into the Svendborg Bank where it stayed for many years collecting interest and multiplying many times over by the time I cashed it in.

Come December 1st I was off, first the train to Esbjerg on the west coast of Jutland and then across the North Sea to London.

Dad's painting of a storm in the North Sea, 1949

There was such a storm that the ship rolled from side to side and it was easier to crawl than to walk.

I shared a cabin with Harold, another Dane, and an Englishman who was seasick from the beginning. I felt really sorry for him but Harold found him a nuisance because of his loud complaining.

We arrived in London where we waited for four days for a ship that was going from South Hampton to Halifax in Canada.

Harold and I went to the same hotel, and while Harold toured the city with a girl he knew I was left to find my own way around the city.

It was not all that easy as I did not speak more than a few words of English but I managed to see something new every day. I liked the museums, and especially the zoological museum with a big blue whale skeleton hanging beneath the ceiling. It must have been a couple of hundred feet in length.

From London we went by train to South Hampton to board the ship ‘Scythia’.

The trip across the Atlantic took six days and on the second day out a storm blew up and some 80% of the passengers became sick.

Strangely enough the one dozen or more Danes aboard did not get seasick and we gathered amidships every day to play bridge. One giant seaman and the diesel engineer attempted to teach those of us who did not know the game.

The time went well but Harold did not participate; he was busy reading English novels to practice his English.

In Halifax we were put aboard crowded trains full of Eastern Europe refugees whose passage had been paid for by the Canadian government.

Harold was supposed to go to a farm in Quebec but he didn’t think much of that idea. When we changed trains in Montreal an immigration officer came calling for him. Harold pulled his cap down and walked right by him so that he could say, if caught, that he missed him. Then he vanished into a crowd of people and that was the last I ever saw of I him.

*Just recently I told this story to a stranger in Denmark and we discussed the fact that these new immigrants to Canada were not allowed to bring anything with them. In view of what my dad later wrote we speculated that the Canadian government plan was to bring in cheap labour to replace the young Canadians that had been killed in the war. Without any money any new immigrants that were “taken in by this advertising” would have little option of exiting horrendous job situations.

As my dad wrote in his story about his first job on a farm in Saskatchewan: “Often I was as hungry as the animals I worked with. I supplemented my fare with milk and the occasional raw egg. But finally I decided it was downright silly to stay there for a whole year for only one dollar a day.”

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