Chapter 4 – Canada: Immigrants in Toronto – By Geoff Burrowes 

– By Geoff Burrowes

On arrival in Toronto my aunt and cousin Mike gave us a soft landing by generously giving us a comfortable place to live and coaching us in what to expect.

Believe me it helped. My aunt Dee lived in Willowdale, in a bungalow, on a pleasant treed lot. She and my cousin Mike had lived in apartment in Don Mills until they were in a position to move to a house. Mike was a life Insurance salesman who had a lot of contacts among the Guyanese community in Toronto, some of whom had been his clients when he sold insurance for Demerara Life in Guyana.     

Soon by dint of knowledge and hard work, he had developed a sizable clientele. It was evident, as we observed, that he had an excellent relationship with his clients all of whom he treated as valued friends.

Mike and Aunty Dee were also generous in introducing us to both Guyanese and Canadian friends.

Norma, my wife also had Canadian cousins, the Ramphal family, who stretched out welcoming hands and we soon felt very much at home in Toronto.

Norma’s mum and dad and grandmother, Greggie, had also recently resettled in Toronto and having them near was priceless.

A number of our friends and colleagues in Guyana had emigrated to Canada before we did. They also treated us to their hospitality, so our first weeks in Toronto were filled with entertainment, get togethers and reuniting with old friends.

One of our friends was a colleague from NCR in Guyana, Mike Gomes, who had recently moved to a new apartment in Scarborough and called to let us know that there were apartments available if we were interested. We obviously couldn’t impose on my aunt forever so we went to see the apartment and since it was within our budget and we already had friends in the building, we moved us and our crate from Guyana into the apartment (our first home in Canada.)

My dad, Tommy Burrowes, who was a man of foresight and imagination, on designing the crate in Guyana, had made the frame of Greenheart wood, a Guyanese hardwood, with dimensions that allowed us to cut the frame so that we had an indestructible double bed. It was our bed for years and when the kids were small we would all sit on the bed to watch the Maple Leafs with Darryl Sittler as captain and centre with Lanny Macdonald and Errol Thompson as wings play the other NHL teams in the fast, exciting game that we as immigrants called ice hockey. We quickly became fans of the game and of the Leafs now just called it hockey. We have all remained Leaf fans through the Ballard years and after through many years of heartbreak and periods of fleeting joy, until they finally put together a young, exciting team that are the greatest fun to watch.

Our kids went to the local school and started to absorb the Canadian culture, much quicker than we did and were soon talking with Canadian accents. They regrettably started listening to rock music, which I couldn’t stand. I felt and still do to some extent, that when music historians look back at the second half of the 20th century they will regard it as a musical wasteland!

I enjoyed Canadian beer and loved the few times that the guys from the office went to ‘The Brunnie’, which was not far, to have a few brews and get to know one another.  Our friends at this time were all from Guyana and we naturally gravitated towards people who understood what we were talking about without our having to explain.

Norma was better at making new friends than I was. Our boys said they fitted in well at school and since a lot of the kids in our area were West Indian they enjoyed getting to know about Trinidad, Jamaica and the small islands.

Then there was the fascinating, entrancing,beguiling novelty of television. But more of that later!

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  • kamtanblog  On 01/16/2021 at 4:41 am

    Cyril Could not access further reading on this one from Geoff Burrowes Techno hitch ?

    Help !


  • guyaneseonline  On 01/16/2021 at 11:24 am

    Thank you for pointing this glitch out to me.
    I have fixed it.
    Have a great weekend,

  • detow  On 01/16/2021 at 5:31 pm

    Cyril a good piece which I believe a lot of immigrants can relate to. I am thankful that like you I landed softly as I had a sister and lots of friends already in Canada when I arrived in 1968. Waiting to hear the rest of your story.


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