With its closeness to public transportation, High Park and the school in walking distance, not to forget a Swiss deli just around the corner to keep my mother happy, the Indian Road area was ideal to start our new life in Canada. We also found a place there for Heinz’s sister, Lotte, and her family when their arrival in the following spring concluded the Altendorf-Bischoff exodus. They, too, arrived by ship, a way of travelling soon to be replaced by the more convenient way of flying. I still think, however, that coming to Canada by ship gave us a better chance to grasp the immense distance between the two continents, between the old and the new country.
During our first year in Canada, we were introduced by family and friends to the Ontario Lakeland with which we instantly fell in love. Though we were also taken to Niagara Falls and other attractions, it was the Lakeland where we would spend many vacations in the future, often close to the place where Heinz had spent four years during the war.
After not much more than a year, however, our little group of new-comers became restless – there were so many chances and opportunities – and things started to change. My sister and her fiancé decided to get married and had a big city wedding and my brother Rudy – ever the adventurer – found his dream job and moved to Montreal after amicably divorcing from a marriage that did not work out. Gunther, my brother-in-law and an engineer by profession, had started to work for CN/CP and soon moved with his family to Newfoundland for four years to help install a T.V. network. We, ourselves, moved to a larger and more modern apartment in Mimico, a part of Toronto predominantly populated by Italian immigrants. My mother moved with us and looked after the girls while we were working and the weekends were reserved for trips to nearby nature parks such as “Heart Lake” and “Albion Hills”.
We bought a second-hand Chevy big enough to accommodate our family and any girlfriends who wanted to come along. We also were introduced to such delights as “pizzas” by Italian neighbours and I still remember an older Italian neighbour starting every morning – come rain or shine – by singing “O Sole Mio” on the balcony. The biggest event during those years was the birth of our son, Eric, and not to miss anything, my mother-in-law came for her first extended visit. We had a very good time in Mimico and when we, after another three years, moved to our new house in Bramalea (now Brampton) it was not without a tearful farewell!
Like many other things, to buy a house in those days was relatively easy. We had followed the plan to build a satellite city – Bramalea – for some time and when we visited the grand opening of the first section it all fell into place. With a small down payment and a mortgage not much higher than the rent we paid for the apartment, it was an easy decision. The semi-detached split level on Alton Court was ideal for us and our growing family and we lived there for 16 years. All three children graduated from high school there and often, during the summer, our daughters hosted their cousins from Germany.
When Heinz and I retired from the same two companies we had started to work for one week after coming to Canada, we sold the house and moved to Waterloo for the next six years. Not only did this help our son to get through university, but also allowed us to explore another region of Ontario. However, when our son decided to go for his doctorate at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, it was the last straw for us to follow, especially since our daughters had made the move already a number of years ago. We bought a house in Harrison Hot Springs and, as they say: “the rest is history!” But, I often remember all those family dinners we had here and Heinz looking around the table declaring: “Just imagine, if we would not have done all the things we did, none of us would be here!”
Which again, is true in more than one way!
Ruth Altendorf is an occasional columnist in The Agassiz-Harrison Observer. Here, she shares a slice of her own history instead of her usual tales of Harrison folks and happenings. This is part five of a six-column series to appear in The Observer over the coming weeks.