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Saturday, 24 February 2018

Welcome To My World


Not much one can do about memories.  They come unbidden and they are more often scattered than linear.

The following link will take you to a Video of Dean Martin singing "Welcome To My World".

Recently I’ve been meandering through the time when I’d recently arrived as a new immigrant to Canada.   
To set the stage:  It was very early March – I know that because in all the excitement our wedding anniversary had been completely forgotten, we had much more important matters to attend to.  It was snowing.  It may not have been a blizzard by Canadian standards but it certainly was one by mine.  

The wooden sidewalks on Yonge Street were extremely slushy, and in case you’re thinking of those wooden sidewalks and questioning whether the time frame is the eighteen hundreds, I should perhaps mention that the Yonge Street subway was still being built – ergo- in some places the wooden sidewalks and roadways.

There's gotta be a reason for those pants?
The main casualties that day were my beautiful leather high heeled shoes, newly purchased for my entry into Canada – they made it through the day – but only just!

We had no one to meet us in Toronto.  But we had our youth, our determination, and fifty pounds sterling to help us on our way.  At the time this was probably worth about $150.00.

First order of the day was to find somewhere to sleep, and it had to be cheap, because even though milk was about 10 cents a quart that $150.00 was still not going to last long.  Hotels were too expensive and the cheapest parts of town are always, well, the cheapest parts of town.  So that’s where we found a room.

The room was dry and warm and we stayed for less than a week, but we needed to find something more permanent in order to retrieve our luggage from customs whereby I could get a change of shoes.  We found a lovely little furnished bedroom plus kitchen at Dupont and Davenport that was totally within our budget.

Now that I had dry feet it was time for us to look for employment.  That $150.00 was disappearing fast.  According to what Canada House in London told us, employers were waiting with open arms for British immigrants – they lied!  

David’s employment skills were pretty limited to office work and his reference from British Aluminium didn’t seem to interest any employers. 
Nevertheless, the immigration department did manage to find a labouring job for him at the Massey Harris Ferguson factory on King Street.  

Looks a lot different there now.  I think that's where Liberty Village is??
However, it didn’t last long – he gave it up after two weeks, he didn’t like being dirty travelling on the streetcar!

As for my skills as a bookkeeper, well they presented a bit of a problem.  All of the prospective employers that I approached regretted that I had “no Canadian experience”.  That’s an impossible hurdle to jump when you have no Canadian experience! 

Bear in mind that this was a time of no computers and generally offices only had a very basic hand cranked adding machine. 

Most bookkeepers (me included) were quite capable of adding up a page of figures with the aid of a pencil, paper and standard math skills.  But as it was explained to me: Canadian experience was important because they feared I would have trouble with the decimal system!

This irrational logic made me want to stamp my feet and tear out my hair. A bookkeeper from Canada might possibly have had a bit of a learning curve if moving from Canada to Britain, but not the other way around.  The monetary pounds, shillings and pence system in Britain at that time required three different calculation methods:  The pence being the lowest value were added in twelves; the shillings were added in twenties and finally the last column was always the easiest to calculate: pounds were decimal!

Eventually, I found a job well below my abilities at the Toronto University. It required that I spend all day listing and adding up very small amounts (usually less than $5.00) received by cash and cheques from students for text books and other sundry items they had ordered.  Each afternoon, I was driven to the bank by a security guard with the monies in a case that was chained to my wrist. I felt like an international diplomat or a spy!

It wasn’t well paid and it wasn’t very interesting but I had gained the magical attribute of having “Canadian Experience”.  Time to move on.

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