Saturday, August 4:
I awoke this morning to the sounds of traffic and bouncing bumping movement. Massey was headed for Tim’s, withZorro and me still nestled under the blankets in Shoestring. Once stopped, the next thing I heard was Massey talkingto someone about the trailer. It was a trucker who had seen Shoestring and followed us into the parking lot. Isurreptitiously emerged from the other door and joined in the conversation. Again, the camera. He said that Shoestring was just what he needed and that we’d made his day at the early hour of 7 am. A little later in the morning,we had another fellow follow us into a parking lot with questions. We’ve certainly given out the WeeKender emailaddress enough times, so hopefully Doug will hear from some of these people.
Now that we were in the light (albeit foggy) of day, we proceeded to find a campsite for the next two nights. We located Shubie Campground in Dartmouth, plugged the address into Gertie, and off we went, crossing the toll bridgefrom Halifax to Dartmouth. But Gertie seemed to have some problems, and before we knew it, we were on the tollbridge going back into Halifax again. So we paid the toll, re-entered the address, and soon we were back on the tollbridge again. The woman at the booth looked at us and said, “Are you guys lost? We’ve noticed you going back andforth on the bridge”.Obviously Shoestring goes nowhere undetected! So the next thing we know, the Bridge PoliceCar has pulled out and is guiding us to the Shubie Campground – as if we don’t already draw enough attention toourselves. It was very kind of them; however, they still took us to the wrong place. There is a park and a campground,and you can’t get to the campground directly from the park. So it seems that Gertie wasn’t wrong after all – she hadtaken us to the park, and we were just too stupid to figure it out!
After settling into the campground, having a shower and doing some laundry, we decided our afternoon’s entertainment would be Pier 21, a National Historic Site recently named in the CBC contest as one of Canada’s 7Wonders. We spent an enjoyable afternoon wandering through the exhibits that tell the stories of more than a millionimmigrants, refugees, war brides and soldiers that passed through this entry point to Canada between 1928 and 1971.What impressed us most, beyond the physical artifacts and documents, were the human stories told in an excellent film and in audio clips that were interspersed throughout the exhibits. One display that was particularly effective wasthe inside of a passenger train, with screens set up to be the windows and scenes from every part of Canada flying byas if one were watching the scenery as the train took you to your new home. Passenger cars in the train were set upfor viewing clips of individuals telling their stories of how they came to Canada. Almost invariably, people talkedabout the kindness and helpful attitudes of the immigration officials, customs officers, and volunteers fromorganizations such as the Red Cross and churches, all of whom did their very best to make the immigration experienceas stress-free as possible. This section was set up by the CBC, and the final car in the train invited people to tell theirown stories. Thus, the oral history of this period of Canada’s history is still being preserved.
For me, the most emotional part of Pier 21 was the gallery dedicated to the stories of soldiers from WWII which is located right on the harbourfront. I remembered visiting Pier 21 a number of years ago, standing in the same spot,phoning my Dad saying “Dad, guess where I’m standing” and hearing his response: “I was there. I left on the LouisPasteur to go overseas. That was a long time ago.” On my last visit, I had gone to the Archives and ordered a photoof the Pasteur for him and had it framed for Christmas.
There was also a special exhibit of photos and stories dedicated to immigrant women and to grandmothers inparticular. There was one of a Haitian grandmother that particularly impressed me. It read:
“I have lived too long
I have seen too much,
To be indifferent”
And to this, her granddaughter had added:
“I have been given too much
I have given too little,
To be indifferent”.
I thought this was a powerful message indeed, and certainly one that encapsulates the”soul” of Pier 21.
And one final quote:
“All Canadians are simply immigrants with seniority”.
posted Sunday August 2007