Robert Jenkinson

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Robert Jenkinson Powered By Docstoc
					William ‘Bill’
Gouweleeuw Dutch
Kota Inten
April 18, 1947
My name is William (Bill) Gouweleeuw from Parry Sound, Ontario.
Recently my wife and I were on a bus trip (15 days) that ended up in
Halifax. We were told about Pier 21. Since I am an immigrant, I wanted
to try to co-operate by putting in my nickel’s worth as to ‘how, why, and
what for’ I wanted to come to Canada.

I worked for my father as a Market Gardener for eleven years. During
the war we had lots of damage done to our business. There were three
boys in our family and my younger brother was engaged to be married. I
am the oldest and I could see that there was no way of having a future in
Holland. During that time, I had my feelers out in different countries -
France, South Africa, Australia, and England, but I could not get the
satisfaction I was looking for. I remembered that after the war was over,
the Canadians were looking good to me. Then, two boys in my
neighbourhood invited me to their home one night and told me that they
were leaving Holland to immigrate to Canada. They also told me how to
go about it. They started in late 1946 and in 1947 they went away. The
place that they went to was Bradford, Ontario, called the ‘Holland
Marsh’. They had people there that sponsored them. Their luck was
better than mine because their church people, the Dutch Christian
Reformed, were their sponsors. In my case, it took about eleven months.
The Catholic Churches were not prepared for that kind of thing.

In the meantime, I found myself a beautiful girl and we fell in love. Her
name was Theodora Cornelia Maria Van Houdt. She was 20 years old. I
told her of my plan and she thought it was great to do. Even her parents
thought it was a great idea. Our plan was to get married before we left
Holland, but the closer it came to the day of getting married and leaving
the country for Canada, a sudden change came in. Her mother told us
that there was no way she would let her go to Canada. I was kicked out
of the house and her father was sent out after her to see where she was
going. We kept seeing each other in secret and we made a plan that I
would still go to Canada and when she turned 21, I would make a plan to
get her over to Canada. In the meantime, it was slowly going to the final

On the 9th of March, 1947, I was handed a visa. My sponsor was a
Canadian farmer. Mind you, I never worked on a farm before, but I felt
myself young enough to change jobs and still remain in agriculture. My
sponsor’s name was George Davidson. His address was RR #1
Blackwater, Ontario. I was ready to leave on April 6, 1948. That was the
day I boarded a ship called the Kota Inten, transported from the Holland
America Line, docked in Rotterdam Harbour. I shook hands with my
father and my stepmother (my own mother was killed on September 17,
1944, during the war). I kissed my darling girl goodbye and repeated my
promise to call for her in 1949. She would be 21. We all went to the pier
where the Kota Inten was docked. It was early afternoon and many
people were there to see their relatives off, hugging and kissing each
other. I waited until all my stuff was on board. The bow of that boat
would be my quarters for twelve long days. I went back to the upper
deck to wave at my company and with a feeling of pain I wondered when
I would see them again. Finally, the boat was untied and a whistle blew
three times, saying goodbye to Holland. With a sigh and a tear, I thought
it might be forever.

We entered the Hook of Holland in the early afternoon. In the meantime,
I went down to get organized for the trip across. It surprised me that all I
could find was a hammock. They were stacked three high. I was lucky
to be in a corner so I did not have to share one above and below me and
had enough room for the rest of my luggage. In the meantime they
announced that dinner was ready. The cook and his assistants joked
about the food - potatoes, veggies, and of all things, fried sole. They told
us make sure to put the fish back into the sea because they belonged
there! After that, we went back on deck. We waved goodbye to the
people gathered on the pier at the Hook of Holland. Most of us went
down in the bow. Later that night some of the officers came around and
distributed to all of us, a carton of American cigarettes, of all things,
Camel. We thought the world of this, but we smokers got a real surprise
once the officers were gone. The bellhops came down and wanted to
trade the smokes for English Virginia cigarettes. They offered us one for
one and the majority of the men traded and so did I. Later on, we found
out that they sold them for twice the price in Canada as soon as they

I spent that night getting to know some of the people. The air vent went
on the blink so when we woke up the next morning, the smell was
practically horrible. After breakfast, I went on the deck; it was a bright
morning. You could see the south coast of England and there was a light
breeze with some sun, but it was cool enough to dress warm around
midday. The families came together with their children on the top deck.
I also came to know a family with seven children; that was a man from
the southern province in Holland (Brabant). He was a miller (flour mill),
but during the war his windmill was completely destroyed, and with
tears in his eyes, he told me the story. When it came to rebuilding his
mill, the government told him if he had f75000 they would build it for
him. The mill was also his home and they were lucky to get out alive as
everything else burned.

I sure felt for this man. The best was that he and his family ended up in
the Blackwater area. We talked a lot on that ship. He had been in
Canada before, during the Depression, but he and his buddy were in
British Columbia and they could not make a go of it, so they both came
back to Holland. His name was Bouwman, his friend was Ben Van Treek
(both passed away some years ago). The trip across for me was very
boring - no entertainment, no bar, not even soft drinks. They were
twelve long, lousy days. The majority of the people were from the two
northerly provinces, Friesland and Groningen. The trouble was the
Frieslanders had short fuses. So many times we had the luck to see a
fist fight about an empty chair! On the third morning at 4:00 AM, I
heard a funny noise. The ship was kind of rolling sideways. I got out of
my hammock, went to the stairwell to go out and I walked right into a
wave that came through the door. It took two men to close that steel
door. That was the start of a three day storm under the coast of Ireland.
I waddled as best as possible to the breakfast room. I took the table at
the centre of the room, but with every bite I felt a bit of a grumble in my
stomach. Two men sat across from me. One stood up. "I never get
sick," he said and he sank back into his chair (I think he had porridge).
All of a sudden, the bow of the ship went straight up in the air and
slammed down to level. The guy that bragged flew off his chair . The
bowl ended up in his lap and he was sicker than a dog! But looking at
that man, it was also the end of my breakfast for the next three days. I
went back to my hammock until that night. Two young boys came and
asked if they could borrow my leather coat. I made a fast deal - bring me
a good size plate of food and coffee. Fifteen minutes later, they brought
me bread and a can of coffee and they had my coat for the night. I had
no problem eating in bed but could not stand up.

The next morning I was trying to go to the main deck. I found out that
the double steel doors were bashed in from outside. They yelled at me to
stay away from the doors because they were trying to cut them open with
a welding torch but the sea water kept dousing the flame. It lasted three
hours before we could get out. When the storm was over the next day it
was sunny and the weather was warmer. About three quarters of the
people on board were seasick. Of all things, a baby was born during the
worst part of the storm, but mother and baby were doing just fine. We
continued for days until we hit a part that became tropical. It was so hot
that we were not able to sit on the open deck - sunburn galore. That
lasted for a few days and then the temperature leveled off again. On the
16th we felt cool air crossing the water. I had never seen a dolphin and
five of them were shooting like jets beside the ship. They were a playful
bunch but later that afternoon, the captain came on the horn and told us
to go on deck to see a huge iceberg. What a sight that was, with the sun
shining on it, like a huge crystal column! Everybody was very excited
about that!

Two days later, we saw Halifax on the horizon. To me, it could not come
fast enough. The closer we came to the city, the darker the clouds and
the cold started, with wet snow, sleet, and hail. When we tied down on
the pier, all the people went on deck. The Frieslanders started singing
their Provincial Anthem (they had their own) and next, the Dutch
Anthem. After that, we had supper on board and were told in no
uncertain terms to stay aboard and not leave the ship. That was
Saturday night. In the meantime, the dock workers started to unload the
ship. We sure did not get very much sleep that night because of the
rattling of big chains and engines that goes with that job. The next
morning (Sunday) in alphabetical manner, we were called. Our papers
were checked. I said goodbye to a gentleman connected with the Holland
- America Line; a friend of my father’s. He took the trip with us. I gave
him my last letter to hand to my dad. I asked him how he liked it;
"lousy" was his answer.

After being processed on board, I went into the hall to have my baggage
checked. Besides my own stuff, I had also an order of vegetable seeds for
a neighbour of ours to take to the Holland Marsh in Ontario. The young
interpreter told me to open everything. I had to explain that it was
cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, beans, etc. in Dutch currency +f100. When
that was explained to the customs officer, he told the young fellow to tell
me that it was illegal to bring the seeds into the country. I was shocked
out of my socks! I told him that I did not want any trouble. In haste I
took the stuff, put it on the floor and told the boy to take it home with
him or do with it what he liked. I could not speak English or understand
it. The boy was ordered to pick up the bags and burn them in an active
incinerator. Ten minutes later, I left the shed shaking like a leaf! It
shook me so bad, I thought they were going to deport me, but later on
the boy told me it was not bad at all. That afternoon, I had my last meal
on board before boarding the train that would take me east to Ontario. I
went downtown to pick up some cigarettes, fruit and sweets to have on
the train. When I got back, I found my spot on the train. When I got
back, I found my spot on the train and waited until 6:00 p.m. to leave for
Ontario. Finally, they handed out the last orders and we were on our

We took our places and enjoyed the scenery. Going partially through a
mountain, we passed a small farm near the track. We even saw the odd
bear and even a deer grazing among a herd of cows. At dark, they would
turn the heat on. There was always frost in the mornings and a lot of
times we woke up with no heat. It did not bother me, but for families
with seven to ten kids, it was awful at times. My luck was that I had to
share my compartment with an older couple in their mid-40’s. I had no
intention of sleeping in between them, so I had to crawl up above them in
a wooden luggage compartment. I got on top and started coughing and
sneezing but it was dark up there and I could not see a thing until the
next morning. A loud noise woke me up. I found out they were taking
water in for the locomotives (three of them). I tried to have a bit of a
wash to clean up. I was wearing a white, sheep woolen sweater, but
when I looked in the mirror it looked like I had crawled out of a coal bin!
I had coal dust on ONE side of me. It looked to me like they had never
cleaned that train car in the last ten years (afterwards I made a general
complaint). Some people had put their small kids to sleep in the small
compartments (so much for CP of CN, thank you!) I tried to clean myself
up as best as I could and went to the next car to have some breakfast. I
met a man from Immigration and we shared a bit of a conversation. I
had a good breakfast of brown toast with ham and coffee ($.75 Cdn).
Later that day I had a steak dinner for $1.50. I had never had that in my

The next day we saw something that could never possibly happen today.
The railway track ran beside a highway. In the afternoon I could see five
motorcycles that seemed as though they were having a race with the
train. They were the type of motorcycles that were used during the war.
Each rider had a man behind him and they were waving at the train.
When we went over the first overpass, the train signals were put on for
them to stop, but they did not stop. The run started all over again. This
time, on the next overpass, they stopped and five boys got on the train.
What had happened was, at the last place where the train took water in,
the passengers were told they could leave the train for forty-five minutes.
The five boys forgot the time and arrived too late. How they ever got
those motorcycle men organized is still a mystery to me but they all got
to their destination.

By that Tuesday morning, I woke up to find a few of our train cars were
uncoupled and found myself on the end of the train. I looked to find the
Immigration man, of course, feeding his mouth. I had coffee with him
and asked what had happened. He told me that the train had stopped in
Montreal and one half of the train was left there. I hadn’t heard anything
about it. He told me with a little luck, we would be in Toronto the next
day at about 8:00 A.M. and there, he was also getting off the train. Well,
he was right. Between 8:00 A.M. and 9:00 A.M. we entered Toronto.
There were a lot of people at the station. It was really warm up there. All
these women came to the train, opened up the doors and of all things,
they spoke Dutch! Later, I found out they were Red Cross volunteers.
They gave out sandwiches, coffee, tea, cakes, etc. The press were there
also and that is where these women came in. One lady came to me and
asked if I did not mind to be interviewed by a Toronto newspaper. I told
her I couldn’t speak English. "No problem," she said, "I’ll ask in Dutch
and she would answer in English." I explained that my goal was to try to
become a Market Gardener; that I was single and my sweetheart was still
in Holland until I was able to get well established. But in the meantime,
I was going to work for a farmer because I could not get a market
gardener for a sponsor. My contract was for one year for anything in
agriculture in Canada. When the interview was over, I asked her if she
knew where I could get a haircut and a shave. She brought me to a
barber shop and in a half-hour my hair was cut, I was shaved, and sort
of cleaned up. They took me and another family to the area for a train to
Lindsay. I do not recall the name of the family but that man was to work
for a nursery (flowers, greenhouses).

At 11:30 A.M. I entered the Blackwater Station and I was delivered with a
rural mailman in a little old truck. He delivered on the steering wheel
side and I packed mail on the right. When I saw all the farmer’s homes
and barns, I knew this would be my country if they accepted me and
they sure did. When I finally came to the house I was met by my
sponsors George Davidson, his wife Eileen Davidson and their two boys
Larry and Morley. What the mailman and George talked about by seeing
me, I would not know. I finally was home for the next thirteen and a half
months. After lunch, he showed me the farm and the barn. He had two
mules, tall with big ears, and slow as Toby’s rear. It was a very simple
life and to make me understand we used hand signs, etc. It took me
about three months before I was really able to have a bit of conversation.
Eileen taught me, usually after supper. She would put a few sentences
in Dutch on a blackboard to try to make sense out of English.

About five weeks later, I helped about 35 neighbour farmers having a
barn raising. That farm was the Baker family who had had a very bad
fire. Apparently a wire had shorted out and totally burnt the barn down.
I have never seen such a helpful bunch of people. By the time the day
was over the whole frame was up. They invited me in for supper and I
could not believe my eyes. There was a 20 foot table with food on it, like
you would see at a wedding in Holland. You could not find what I found
here. I wrote a letter to my dad and told him how rich these Canadians
are, maybe not money-wise, but with food I have never seen in my life.
In general, I really found this country life great.

I used to listen to the radio, even though I did not understand. They
were very cooperative because I am Catholic and they were United
Church. They always made sure I could go to church on Sunday. One
Sunday, about the third month, I went with a neighbour farmer to
church with his five kids on the back of his truck to the Uxbridge Sacred
Heart Church. There I met Mr. Bouwman and his sons. It was a real
surprise as we were both on the Kota Inten. I went after church to his
home. It was my Sunday off from the farm and I had a pleasant day. I
had to walk about three miles to Greenbank to catch the bus home. In
the fall we went with young people to the Canadian National Exhibition
in Toronto. We met some war veterans, some who had been in Holland
and my English was slowly coming up to par. We had great times. To
my sweetheart in Holland, I wrote steady love letters. Sometimes, I sent
little things to her; once a silken shawl hidden in a newspaper, by
seamail. That took about two or three weeks, but she got it all. Summer
and Fall were over and we had our first snow.

I had saved up a bit of money and bought my very first car. You won’t
believe it, but it was a 1929 Model ! Ford 4-cylinder. In September,
George Davidson’s brother-in-law had asked me if I had any brothers. I
told him I had two of them but one was married. He also would like to
sponsor an immigrant so I wrote to my brother Pete and after a few ooh’s
and aah’, he agreed to come. He arrived in either late October or early

1948 seemed slowly to crawl to an end. It was getting near Christmas
and Pete and I were planning to celebrate with friends we had made in
the Uxbridge area, but when Christmas Eve came, a storm broke loose
with high winds and dumped three to four foot piles on those small
gravel roads. That was the loneliest Christmas in my life. We were stuck
around the house for four long days. Then New Year’s Eve came and
most of the snow was bulldozed away and Pete and I spent the New
Year’s with friends of ours. The winter of that year was not all that bad
except one Sunday we were on our way to church and we hit a steep hill.
It had been raining in the morning, but the highways were alright except
for that hill. My old Ford hit a four foot bank sideways. The engine did
not kick out so I tried to drive away. When my steering wheel did funny
wobbly things to my steering, I stopped it down the hill and both wheels,
one in front and one behind had bent their thin spokes so badly that I
had to buy new ones. George Davidson found two wheels for $5.00. He
laughed like the dickens when he saw me coming home and so did some
of the parishioners. Finally the time was getting closer for Dora to come
over here. At the end of March she turned 21 and started to get ready.
She was staying with my father and step-mother, who supplied her with
the money that was coming to me after my mother died during the battle
of Arnhem. After she had received her papers, she boarded a train to
Brussels, Belgium. From there to Paris, France and Paris to LeHabre
and boarded a ship from the Cunard White Star Line. Her landed date in
Quebec City was June 7, 1949. She ended her journey in the Blackwater
Station on June 9, 1949. I met her at the station. She was so excited
she nearly pushed the conductor off his seat! She got a warm welcome
from George and Eileen.

From that time on we started to get ready to get married. Arrangements
were made in the Sacred Heart Church in Uxbridge. The priest was an
Irishman, Father McCibney. We got our license and the date was set as
the 14th of June, 1949. There was only one in the church because the
government required us to be married in thirty days. It was a kind of a
disappointment because we had nothing by $300.00 and an old car.
When the day arrived, Dave (WWII vet) was going to take Dora to the
church. It was a sweltering hot day, 85-90 degrees F., but the sky was
clear. When I came to the church, I found nobody there. Apparently, my
brother Pete had held Dora and Dave for coffee in town and let me sweat
it out! Finally, they came in and there were only a few people in the
church. Between the two of us, we only had one relative, my brother,
and a friend of ours and his wife (Anna Denouden, who was the maid of
honour). When the ceremony was over, the papers were signed and there
was a blessing from the priest. We went then to the home of a farm
friend, the Bakers. They offered us a beautiful dinner. It was very
simple but they were great people. The same people that I had helped
raising their barn and when it was all done and over with, we went to our
friends and stayed overnight in Leaksdale. The next morning, we were
on our way to the Martyr’s shrine in Midland and stayed there a few
days. During the daytime, we also had an eclipse so I had to turn my car
lights on and it lasted for over one hour.

After four days we went south through King Township on our way to
Niagara Falls. We toured for three days, surprised at the beauty of this
country. There were huge orchards and grape vines, a rich area like I
had never seen in my life! When we finally reached the falls and the
mighty sound of nature, we spent a few days. After that, we drove back
home to the farm. We arrived at about 10:00 P.M. and everyone was
already in bed. We went to bed because we were very tired. The next
morning, I got up to help with the chores and after that we had
breakfast. George broke the news to us that he didn’t have room for
another couple so I would have to find another place and job. He paid
me what he owed me and we discussed what to do next. The Irish priest,
at that time, was getting immigrants by the dozens around the Uxbridge
area. We phoned him and he told us he had a farmer on a beef cattle
ranch south of Uxbridge who needed help. He told the priest to wait
until he had a place for us to live, but the house he had, had to be fixed
up. The result was, we were kept in the local hotel for one week and
stayed for two weeks with a neighbour. The hotel was fine, but the
neighbour was slightly different. His name was Douglas Hall, a pilot of a
bomber squadron in WWII. He tended some sheep and had some
chickens, a bunch of kids and an English War Bride, but somehow, we
made it work until the home was ready for us to move in. When we did
move in, there was some furniture, but very sparse - we did not have any
of our own. He paid me $100.00 a month, but Dora had to work in the
‘big’ house two days a week for $2.00 a day. He was what they called a
‘gentleman farmer’ and the place was called "The Sand Dune Farms
Scottish Short Hornes," all pure-bred stock. He had a business in
Toronto, a collection agency, and rumour went around that he took a
poor old man from the area’s last cow, to pay off a $45.00 debt.

In September, I ran into some bad luck. I was struck down by a light
touch of polio and a local doctor was called in who suggested I should go
to the hospital. I told him I did not have any money and Dora could not
speak English well enough to leave her alone. He must have seen my
position so what he did was, he went personally to all my friends and
told them not to come and visit me, so that he could keep me in
isolation. After two samples of stuff out of my spine, with no medication,
I slowly got to feel better. After the fourth week, I was back to work
again. He told me to absorb as much as I could of the summer heat and
that worked like a miracle. My boss docked me for those weeks off and
we had to live on $25.00 that month. It was a likeable job with those
animals and I was doing great again. In October, Dora gave me notice
that she was pregnant. We were very excited about that and it didn’t
even bother us that we had hardly any money. We were as happy as
little kids with a toy, but worse was yet to come.

Summer went, the fall weather came and went, then my brother Pete
came to board with us, but that only lasted until January. November
and December stayed very mild. At Christmas we went to the midnight
mass in the pouring rain. That weather lasted until the first week in
January and then the snowstorm came, non-stop. Within two weeks,
there were big banks four to six feet high and Dora was not able to go to
the ‘big’ house. One of the workers came down with a fever that lasted
for weeks. That January was horrendous; it never seemed to stop. The
worst part was, I went to town to buy some coal but I was told the mine
workers went on strike. I really panicked that time because I didn’t
know where to get fuel. I talked to my foreman and all I got from him
was, "Sorry man." My boss, when I told him, answered, "Sorry, but
there’s a big tree lying in the ditch beside your house and you can have
that." After I checked the tree out, it was really so full of water, it would
take four weeks of hot drying weather to make it burnable. In our
bedroom, the frost crystals were eight feet high on the walls and we slept
under a pile of blankets and a load of coats. The water and potatoes
froze over in the living room. I brought dead limbs out of the bush and
that went on until the end of February. Then the foreman handed me a
note from the boss that, as of the end of February, I was out of a job
(thank you very much!).
I was lucky though, my brother told me he wanted to quit his tannery job
and go back to the farm he used to be on. He did put a word in for me at
the tannery and lo and behold, the owner hired me at $.60 an hour. To
find a place to live was something else. They did not like to rent to
people who had kids or whose wives were pregnant. The only place I
found was a large house where there was only one room upstairs.
However, it was better than nothing. We borrowed some chairs, a bed,
and a table, and that lasted for a few weeks until after I started my job at
the tannery. In the meantime, I found a little apartment in town. A lady,
who was an invalid, rented it out to us for $18.00 a month. It was not
very big and after two months at the tannery, I had a chance to go to
General Motors in Oshawa. Within a week I was hired and started on a
maintenance gang. The pay was like a gold mine, $1.09 an hour! For
the first five weeks, I was never home on Sundays. With the lines down,
we were always very busy on Saturday and Sunday, but that started a
dream of buying a home for us. On July 21, 1950 our first daughter was
born and for the next ten years, we were blessed with nine more kids. A
son born in 1951; a daughter born in 1952, another daughter in 1953;
another daughter in 1954; a son in 1956; a daughter in 1957; a daughter
in 1958; a son in 1959 and the last one, a daughter in 1960, a happy
busy household!

Through the years, I was transferred to the car assembly line and this
took its toll on my health, bad enough that I quit my job at GM. In 1957,
I found a job in construction when they were building the St. John’s
Training School in Uxbridge. After it was finished, I got a job there as a
Maintenance Man and worked there for twenty years. With our kids
growing and married (seven kids found jobs in British Columbia), we
decided to move to Parry Sound, since we already had a cottage there. In
the 1960’s, we sold the place in Uxbridge and moved to the cottage for
four months. During this time, we bought a permanent home on the
same Mill Lake. Being semi-retired, I bid on a job with the Canadian
Coast Guard and my wife and I spent four summers as part-time
Lighthouse Keepers. The year I turned 65 all the lighthouses were

What I have left for us, the beautiful life we have lived here in this great
country I call my home. A land where our offspring can live in peace and