We arrived in October, a gorgeous fall month, with colors I had not recalled being in Germany! But in those years we had more snow than we have nowadays. November and December brought much colder temperatures and even blizzards. It was not an easy start in this new country. These cold, did I say cold, winter months always brought with them days or even weeks of unemployment for our dad. He would often sit at the front window and simply stare out. He could not find other work in the meantime but knew that as soon as the weather turned nice he had his job with the construction crew. Sometimes it would be 8-12 weeks before they could work again. Dad and his crew were conscientious workers and performed their work with pride and excellence.
To help with the family finances, and pay off the travel expenses, Mom got a job as a cleaning lady in some very beautiful homes. The women who hired her took a personal interest in our family. Often these wealthy ladies would send home hand-me downs from their older children! It seemed strange to me that a lot of items still had labels on them or even part of the price ticket and hardly seemed worn! Oh, the women would explain that they had bought this for their daughter; it didn’t fit after all but would probably still fit mom’s girls! Mom would want to buy it from them but they made it seem like mom would be doing them a huge favor accepting it as a gift! We were not too proud and Mom accepted graciously. Mom was a great housekeeper, a good cook and took good care of us as children. I remember that mom was proud to have an income - $5.00 per 8 hr. workday plus bus fare and a free lunch! Later on mom got a nighttime cleaning job at a large downtown office tower for $.65/hour salary. She always did the best with what she had.
We children walked about 8 long city blocks to school. No, it wasn’t uphill both ways, lol! These were the prairies – flat land! The teachers were wonderful! I had been in fourth grade in Germany, but now had to go back to grade one to learn English. It was a little hard for a big and tall, strapping 4th grader to be put back with the 1st graders, but I survived the ridicule! I was a quick study and in six weeks I was at my appropriate grade. These teachers were very dedicated and even helped us after school – on their own time.
In many instances my parents relied on my knowledge of the language – it was much harder for them. It didn’t help that they worshiped, socialized, worked and even shopped in only German circles. Eventually they would read, write and comprehend the language very well, but always spoke with a distinct accent and never did get the grammar quite right – which made for some funny conversations! (After 5 years in the country we were allowed to apply for citizenship and finally became Canadians.)
For us children there was even German School on Saturday mornings, sponsored by the church, so that we wouldn’t forget our language and our heritage. My uncle, the pastor, also coordinated this program. Mom taught for many years and when I turned 16, I taught the younger children too! Not only were we taught German, but we also received Religion/Faith classes. We did learn a lot - even if we didn't always pay attention! I loved going mainly because it meant that we could be with other children!
We had a sense of extended family and built many wonderful friendships!