This is my Fathers story....
My Father has ten siblings,
My Grandparents met just after the war in England. My Grandmother at the time had three children and was unable to take care of them and the decision was to place them into foster care. Those children were Pat, Joan and David.
I never met Pat or Joan, however I did meet my Uncle David once. Just before I was a teenager. I never even knew what had really happened to Pat, Joan and David until this very day.
My Father was born in London, England in 1951. Close to the river Thames, which is alongside the docks of London, in a place called Boddys Bridge. His family lived in south east London which was considered to be the slums. This was a place where ships from all over the world unloaded their cargo and with that came rats and mice. Infestations of mice and rats were prevalent in the area. My father remembers that you could often hear them in the cupboards and inside the walls, squabbling and fighting. They would run around the house looking to eat food and garbage and whatever they could find.
After living at Boddys Bridge a few years his family moved to 16 Ralph street. It was still the slums of London but a much better place to live. Unfortunately they still had to deal with the rats and mice. They lived in a council house (something we would call Edmonton housing). They had 4 boys sleeping in one bed, 2 in another and their eldest sister in her own room.
Their toilet was located outside of their home and my Father said they had to use a piss bucket in the hallway which in turn meant someone had to empty that bucket to the toilet in the backyard.
This is where the saying comes in "Didnt have a pot to piss in" or "piss poor".
My Father often talked about Christmas time when they would walk to a Charity Church on Tower Bridge Road some 2 to 3 miles from home. Their Christmas was nothing like the ones I grew up to know. They would walk to this church to get their presents. They were given used toys and most were partly broken or missing something. Still, to them it was Christmas! I remember hearing this story and I asked for it often. To me, I could never imagine a Christmas without a tree full of presents. However my Father talked about the happiness they all had upon receiving these toys and the joy it brought them. Hearing that always made me happy and still does even writing it.
In 1961 my Grandfathers sister flew from Canada to London and the purpose of the trip was to talk to him about moving back to Canada. He is a Canadian and ended up in England during the 2nd World War where he met my Grandmother. I am sure after much consideration and much hardship and tired of living in the slums my Grandfather made the choice in 1962 to move his family to Canada. My Grandfather flew to Canada ahead of the family and than called for the rest of them to come.
My Father was 11 when they left London in October of 1962. Taking a train from London to Liverpool they boarded a ship "The Empress of England". My Grandmother with 7 kids in tow embarked on a journey i can not even imagine. They hit the tail end of a hurricane and everyone was sea sick due to the rough seas.
After the time they were on the farm the family moved to Saskatoon where my Grandfather rented a house for $90 a month. My Father recalls when they arrived at the house there was nothing in it. Not one piece of furniture. My Grandfather managed to get a couple bales of hay and spread it on the floor. They lay their coats on the hay for blankets. Remembering back he said that when his mom stepped into the house she had brought a steamer trunk with her from England. It contained all of her wordly possessions, which was not much. She looked around the house and sat down on that trunk and cried. My Father and his brothers would walk the back alleys gathering scrap wood with my Grandfather and bed upon gathering that wood my Grandfather built my Grandmother a kitchen table. The Salvation Army donated beds and used furniture to them.
My father always donated to the Salvation Army. I remember him saying they helped him. I never knew to what extent.
My Grandfather started work in a janitor business in Saskatoon. They stayed working that business for some years and when my father was about 17 or 18 my Grandparents moved without their children to Cassiar, a small mining town in Northern B.C.
Now when my Grandparents left England to come to Canada my fathers older brother Terry was in the Navy. He was away in service when they left. He was 19 years old.... I can only imagine the day he came home to 16 Ralph street to be told my neighbors his whole family moved to Canada. There was no way to tell where or how to contact them.
I can not tell you how this news has affected me upon hearing it.
I ever knew my Uncle Terry. I had never seen a picture of him until the day I wrote this blog. All I know of him is the heartache I feel inside knowing what has happened to him while he was away. Upon hearing this news I had a million questions. Unfortunately I do not have answers to them. It seems it was a subject not spoken about much and not knowing the news until much after my Grandparents have passed, I have never been able to ask.
I often think about my Uncle Terry whom I have never met. I believe I think about him so often because I hurt knowing how he was essentially left behind.
My Uncle Terry went on to have children I still do not know how many. I know of his son Martin who we found via Facebook. It is amazing that after this many years we can connect with lost family members in such a way. There is a lot of family in England whom I have never had the pleasure of knowing. You see them through their pictures and their posts but you do not really know them as I know my family in Canada. I wish it could have been different. I wish that we were all together.
I hope my Uncle Terry led a wonderful life. I will be forever heartbroken for a man I never knew. We missed out on knowing him and he missed out on his whole family. It is unimaginably tragic and horribly sad.
I can not imagine the struggle my Grandparents had raising 8 children in the slums of London. I know they wanted a better life for their children and they achieved that for them.
I would not be here if it was not for that choice. My children would not be here...
My father and the rest of his brothers and his sister worked very hard to make their lives for their children better than what they had. I wholeheartedly believe they did. My life has been wonderful. I never once struggled to eat the way my father and his siblings did. I never worried about that because my father made it that way and that is a direct result of my Grandparents decision.
I asked my father what his thoughts were about his brother Terry.
"Absolutely terrible what happened to Terry. We could not understand leaving Terry behind. We often wondered what he thought when he came home and found his family not there. I have thought of my brother Terry lots over the years. He was someone we looked up to as he was in the Navy and all of us boys were excited to see him come home after being away at sea"
I asked my father what his thoughts were about his family moving to Canada.
"As kids of course we did not have a choice. However my dad had the foresight to see that his family would not have a good future growing up in England and wanted to give us more of an opportunity than what we could have experienced in England. His decision to move us here has greatly benefited all of us in so many ways, it is something we say thank you for every year".
This picture was taken in 1984, but this is us.
This is my Uncle Terry. May he rest in peace
Every family has a story. Do you know yours?
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