Journey of the Immigrants

Old letters recount adventures of strangers in a strange land.

Peter Warland

Recently I received a parcel of photographs and my old letters that had belonged to a deceased old friend. I hope my readers find them as interesting as I am doing. They were written with a fountain pen; that sure dates them.

EMIGRATION, 1955.

Going to British Columbia. August 17th ‘Jimmy’ and I left Liverpool on the Invernia and arrived Montreal 24th. Bit of a hurricane en route but we didn’t get sick. Our waiter did.

Stayed with my sister Pamela in Montreal where we sweltered in the muggy heat then took a train to Detroit on the 27th. We had learned of a company that wanted drivers to take vehicles across the States and so applied. A good friend studying at U.B.C. at the time wrote a reference for me. Herewith: TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: Mr and Mrs Warland, who are trying to cadge a free ride to B.C., have been known to me for only too long. I assure anyone that they should not be trusted any further than they can be seen and that they are a lazy pair of so-and-sos. Any car entrusted to them stands only a fifty-fifty chance of finishing up in Alaska or Mexico.  Harry Rastus, PhD.

Naturally, I got the contract and so filled in forms for a while at the car company then took over delivery of a massive brand-new Miami Blue Plymouth (almost the size of the ship we’d recently left) and managed (on the wrong side of the road) to drive via Chicago (regretting that we were unable to get to the beach anywhere and have a swim), Joliet, Aurora, Clinton (temperature around 99 degrees), Cedar Rapids and across the plains and prairies to Cheyenne, where we saw the Rockies at last.

We found the Americans very accommodating and agreeable. ‘You bet’ country.

Crossed over an 8835 foot pass into Laramie. Followed the Oregon Trail and got into Pocatello, where we met a gun-slinging cow-poke with bags of Western stories that he probably made up. Passed some reservations with appalling-looking shacks and then to Portland. We delivered the car (without a scratch on it but some tar on the sides) as arranged.

Took a bus to Vancouver (the one in British Columbia) where we stayed with Harry and Janet, near U.B.C. We went to look at  the Pacific but were not impressed with Vancouver. On Saturday, the 3rd of September we took a bus up the Fraser (scary) Canyon and arrived at Prince George at 1:30 on Sunday morning. Drunks everywhere and our room at the hotel had been let go because we were late. ‘Jimmy’ slept on a sofa in the foyer but I sat up all night talking to the night clerk until a logger left at dawn and we flopped in his still-warm bed.

Eventually, after meeting the school board, we stayed for a couple of nights in a motel then were told that we could stay for free at a Dutch doctor’s house while he went back to Europe to get married. I did some outside painting for him (the paint blending nicely with the dust off the side street) and, in the evenings, Jimmy and I sat for hours watching the dish-washer work. We’re moving next to a downstairs apartment ($75 a month fully furnished.)

(‘Jimmy’ started work at the local junior high school and I at an elementary school where, because I was the only male teacher, I had to act as the principal when the real guy was off doing whatever it is that principals do at other schools.)

Before we left Britain, we saw the picture (movie) Blackboard Jungle but the children in Prince George are nothing like that. We went ice-skating at an arena where ‘Jimmy’ was scooped up by a gaggle of girls who whipped her around making sure she didn’t fall. I had no such luck.

We’re going to need a car to get about. That is going to be interesting as our money (such as it is) hasn’t arrived yet from Britain.

More later. Cheers from us both.