Short Stories: Immigrants – Chapter 7 –  By Geoff Burrowes

 By Geoff Burrowes

Just when we figured we had made it as New Canadians fate threw us a curve!

I n my previous life I didn’t know what a curve was!  For all of you, who like me, come from a Cricket playing nation I’ll explain. In Baseball, like in cricket the pitcher (bowler) tries to get the ball past the batter (batsman) prevent him from making good contact. To do this the pitcher throws different pitches, fastball, straight and fast, changeup, same action as fastball but approximately 10 miles per hour slower, causing the batter to swing before the pitch arrives.     

Then there’s the curve which changes trajectory just before the ball arrives over the plate, again causing the batter to miss! This term has come into current usage as  an event that’s difficult to predict and therefore hard to deal with and leaves you gasping and discombobulated!

The curve in this case was a letter from the landlord, giving us notice that our apartment building was being converted to condominiums and we would have to leave in a couple of months! Eh, eh!

As you can imagine the prospect of finding a new apartment was daunting!  We immediately started looking at ads for vacant apartments in the newspaper. You say “What’s an ad in a newspaper?” This was before the days of the internet and multi-functional cell phones. Advertising was done in magazines, radio, newspapers and on TV, if you could afford the exorbitant rates that TV outlets charged.

Again we lucked out! We wrote down some of the addresses of houses and apartments that were in our price range and went looking.

One of these was in a town house development in North York North of Finch Avenue, We were very impressed with the layout, the space in the rooms and the general feel of the house. Fortunately,  when we were in the bedroom, a TTC bus passed on the road outside. The glass doors of the bedroom cabinets rattled and jumped as if they were alive and we immediately decided we didn’t want to live in a house so poorly constructed. (We drove by that house recently and years later it’s  still standing, so the construction couldn’t be all that bad!.) We had one last address on our list but it didn’t look too promising. It was way North of the city in a little town named Unionville. I had passed it by on Highway 7, just that week and looking at my Map of Toronto (yes, that was in the days when we navigated with the help of maps)  the village was called the ‘Police Village of Unionville’. I still don’t know what a police village is!

I was cold and tired and Unionville seemed an awful long way away from everyone we knew in Toronto and I was ready to pack the search up and sit in our warm apartment watch the hockey game and but my wife is made of sterner stuff than I am and in spite of the fact that it was now snowing, persuaded me to check out one last place.

We drove up in the darkness, through the snow, which was now much heavier, a long way up a country road with fields on either side. Our sons were now complaining from the back seats that they had had enough! We finally came  to some traffic lights at Highway 7. There was a bank on one corner of the crossroad and two gas stations on the other corners and a house, turned into a real estate office and beyond that we could see the houses of the village. The snow was settling giving the landscape a magical quality. Over the highway the bank and gas stations were replaced by gracious houses with spacious porches and gabled roofs, now white with snow. We crossed some railway lines and drove into the quaintest business street with buildings glowing with strings of Christmas lights. One of the stores was called the “Old Firehall” and the next “The Apothecary Shoppe”, enhancing the enchanted feel of the place. The housing development was past a village pond, covered in ice and snow and by now intrigued, we went into the sales office where we met a delightful gentleman named Darryl.

The second model home he showed us into was the home we were looking for! As soon as we walked in we knew this was it! We had been looking for a rental but this was for sale. We signed a conditional offer there and then, not having any idea how we were going to swing it. Darryl showed us a plan of the subdivision and the unit that we were putting in the offer for was on the North end of the subdivision with nothing but farmer’s fields out the Northern windows. I asked if anything was likely to be built and in typical Canadian salesman fashion he assured me that the area to the North was green belt and would never be built on. It was then that I had my first experience of “caveat emptor” which I believe is Latin for “buyer beware!”. The third week we were in our new home the builders bulldozers were turning the earth for the subdivision North of ours!

With my dad’s help we were able to arrange the financing and after a fairly traumatic period, which involved getting our crate from Guyana from a customs Bond in Vaughan and moving it home and unpacking it and setting our greenheart bed.    Norma’s dad’s bought us some living room furniture and  we installed it in place of our brightly coloured cushions.

When our new home was ready we rented a truck from a truck rental business in Scarborough and moved to Unionville. At that time it was a semi-rural village with friendly people who were very welcoming to our new family from Guyana.

Our townhouse was one in a row of four and the families in our row had recently moved in and were happy to make new friends.

Our new neighbours were a couple from Jamaica, Tony, gentle and friendly, was a Toronto policeman and his wife, Yvonne, was a nurse. Next to them were Wayne, big and fierce looking, also a Toronto policeman and his wife Barb, blonde, sweet and smart and their children, Paul, tall, brunette like his Dad and athletic, Karen, blonde and sweet like her mother and Mike, cherubic and blonde who would later become a professional hockey player, much feared and respected by his opponents. He would later become an AHL and then an NHL coach.

On the other side of us lived a trucker, Paul, who was studying to become a York Regional Policeman and his wife Kay, who was a nurse. Paul was tall, blonde and funny and Kay was petite and empathetic. They had two children, Kevin, tow headed, like Dennis the menace and Pauline, shy smile and short brown hair.

       Further down our court was a young couple who had recently moved to Toronto from Montreal, Gavin Webb and his wife Simone, who were about our age and who had two boys, Ian and Gavin. We sensed that they were kindred spirits and soon became great friends. I enjoyed getting together over a beer and so did Graham and we spent many a pleasant hour getting to know one another!

       Our move to Unionville had been unplanned but turned out to be a very happy one! However in our new lives in this far country we found that nothing is permanent!

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  • Francis Quamina Farrier  On 04/16/2021 at 5:26 pm

    Back in 1969, I attended a Summer Course at the Banff School of Fine Arts of the University of Alberta in Canada. My favourite Professor, a Norwegian-Canadian offered me a job at ANY of the CBC stations in Canada. At my request I took a one-month ATTACHMENT at the Toronto Studio for experience, then headed back to my Beautiful Guyana. I do not think that I have regretted my decision, even though I have a high regard for Canada, which I only just read that it is the only large developed country which has NO enemies. Bravo. Thanks for your article, Geoff.

    • Kman  On 04/17/2021 at 10:41 am

      When trump was in charge, Canada was a security threat, according to him and his cronies. China is now on Canada’s case.

  • detow  On 04/16/2021 at 6:32 pm

    Good for you Goff, I wish that my first attempt at finding a place to live in Toronto and area in1966 was as easy as things turned out for you during your early days in Canada. The only place that was prepared to accept a mixed couple (East Indian and African) was a house on Glenholme Avenue in Toronto that catered to people like us who no other landlord was prepared to accept. But as you said in your post, nothing is permanent. We moved on and thing got progressively better.

    I enjoy reading your posts.

  • Kman  On 04/17/2021 at 10:38 am

    Now you know why it is callled Police village, lol. Who is Graham?

    • geoffburrowes  On 04/20/2021 at 10:16 am

      Hi Kman!
      Graham was my first Canadian friend and we still enjoy friendship at a distance as he lives in another part of this huge province!!

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