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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (B)
Andrew Bairden


Part of my life story  by Andrew Bairden, California USA

I finished my apprenticeship on February 15th 1951 when I was 21 and I was a qualified Draughtsman. At that time becoming 21 meant that boys became men and girls became women. I had a trade. I was a man and I was engaged to be married.

 

However, the future for young married couples in Glasgow was bleak at that time. No new houses had been built during the war and many couples started off living with their in-laws in already small dwelling places. In the late 1940s and early 1950s there was a move on to get British trades people to emigrate to Canada and Australia. Billboards used to advertise "Fly to Canada for 55 pounds."

 

At that time a pound was worth about three dollars. I decided I would immigrate to Canada, after all I had nothing to lose. If I didn't like it, or things did not work out, I could always come back. I applied to immigrate to Canada, completed all the necessary papers and went to an interview somewhere in downtown Glasgow. Jean was not keen on the idea, but reluctantly agreed with me. We planned that I

would travel to Canada alone and I would send for her as soon as I could and we would get married in Canada. I was told that the best place for me was Montreal and, since I didn't know anything about Canada, I accepted this. I booked passage to sail on the SS Europa from Plymouth in England to Halifax Nova Scotia, the fare was 62 pounds 10 shillings. The Canadian government advanced me the money for the fare and I agreed to repay them at ten dollars a month. I received a train ticket from Halifax to Montreal and a few vouchers for meals on the train. On the train ticket were the words "Colonist Class."

 

On June 8th, 1951, late in the afternoon, I left my home in Polmadie Street. My father shook hands with me and said "Good Bye." My mother insisted in meeting me at the train station in downtown Glasgow. Off I went with an old used suitcase and a travel bag. Jean met me at the station and there was a sad, but reserved, farewell as the train headed south. Scottish people did not show their emotions in public In the same train carriage I met other young men who were also heading for Canada and three of us stayed together all the way to Montreal. We arrived in Plymouth on Saturday morning, June 9th, 1951.

 

The SS Europa sat at anchor out in the bay but we were not scheduled to board until the early evening. It was an old ship and not like the modern cruise ship. As far as I could gather most of the passengers were emigrants. The ship was registered in Panama and the crew was mixed. I shared a cabin with the three other young men I had met on the train. The furniture consisted of four cots, a small dresser and a tiny wash basin. It was an outside cabin on a lower deck and it did have a porthole. A large toilet facility with showers was located down a hallway.

 

There was not much to do on board except sit around and wait for the next meal. The trip was uneventful except when it got a bit rough about mid ocean when crew members put ropes on the stairways for passengers to grab.

 

We landed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada early on the morning of Saturday, June 16th 1951. Some of the Scottish passengers had bought duty-free Scotch whisky on board, but word got around that custom officers were charging duty on the whisky. Rather than pay duty, some of the Scots proceeded to stand on the dock passing the bottles and throwing the empties into the water.

 

At dockside I sent a telegram to Jean Emond to let her know I had arrived safe and sound in Canada.

 

We found the railway station and found that the train we had to catch for Montreal did not leave until that evening so we passed the day walking around Halifax. The train was old and broken down. The toilets did not work very well and there was water on the floor in some places.

 

In the long carriage I was on I met a newly-wed English couple, Mike and Doreen Osborne. I was destined to meet them again later. I also met a young Belgian man named Henri or something like that. We spent a long uncomfortable night on the train and arrived in Montreal about 9:00 p.m. on Sunday evening, June 17th.

 

Most of the immigration officials were French Canadians and I soon found out that French Canadians were not too friendly to non-French speaking people. Henri could speak French and he interpreted for me. Somehow we wound up at the YMCA in Montreal and we spent the night there.

 

Before I left Glasgow, I had applied for a job with the Dominion Bridge Company in Lachine near Montreal so on the Monday morning after our arrival Henri and I traveled to Lachine.

I accepted a job as a Draftsman at Dominion Bridge for $175 a month. That sounded quite good to me, I figured I would be getting about $40 a week or the equivalent of about 13 pounds a week. Since I had been getting only 6 pounds a week in Glasgow I had doubled my wages. However I soon realized I was not doing very well.

Henri got some kind of job in Lachine and we found a place to stay; The Mercroft Hotel by Lake St. Joseph near Dorval. Henri and I shared a room and I remember the hotel manager informing us that there were no screens on our windows. Since neither of us had seen screens on windows we did not mind. It was hot and humid on the first night we stayed at the hotel so we left the windows wide open went out for a walk by the lake. When we came back and switched on the light the whole place was full of just about every flying insect you can imagine. We closed the windows and tried to clean up.

We did not stay at the Mercroft Hotel very long, although the rates were reasonable it would take too much of our income. Henri found a boarding house nearby and we moved there. I did not care much for the place especially when no one would speak English although they could. Henri would translate for me but I missed most of any conversations.

At work my boss was a little man, an American, named Percy Stock; he looked like I had pictured Americans. He wore rimless glasses, wore a loud gaudy tie and two tone shoes. Percy chewed gum incessantly. He got me off to a bad start when he said to me, "We don't want no English drawings around here." In the first place I was not English and in the second place I was well aware of the difference in drawing conventions.

 

Before I left my job in Glasgow, one of the directors where I worked gave me the address of his uncle, Colonel Gordon Ogilvie at a place called Nitro near Montreal. I contacted the Colonel and he invited Henri and me to spend the weekend with them. He and his wife must have been in their late seventies at that time. They had a large house and were really hospitable to us.

The Colonel was fond of Scotch whisky and he poured it in large quantities. He never asked if I wanted a drink, he just assumed that all Scotsmen drank the same way as he did.

I soon learned that $175 a month was not a very good wage, especially after deductions. I could not live well on that at all so I went to see my boss. His answer to my request for more money was met with the reply "You Limeys come over here and think that money grows on trees." At that moment I decided to look for another job and after five weeks at that job I was gone.

I called a man in Montreal who represented Provincial Engineering at Niagara Falls in Ontario. He hired me as a draftsman for $50 a week and he gave me a First Class railway ticket from Montreal to Niagara Falls. I traveled on a Pullman coach that had "Redcaps" carriage attendants. I had my own compartment with a pull-down bed.

When I arrived at Niagara Falls It was hot and humid and I was wearing a heavy dark suit and (believe it or not) I was carrying a raincoat since there was no room for it in my suitcase.

I contacted Provincial Engineering and someone there told me about Mrs. Jones' boarding house at 927 Welland Avenue. She had a room that I could share with one of her other boarders and so I lived and worked at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

 

Fred Jones worked at the nearby Nabisco shredded wheat factory and Pretoria Jones ran the boarding house. Her father had been with the British army in Pretoria, South Africa, during the Boer War and, since she was born about that time, he gave her that name. She was a white-haired woman with a mature figure and large bosom. She always had a smile on her face and went about her work wearing a white apron.

The eight boarders, including myself, were all young men who worked locally as bank clerks, department store salesmen and engineers. At night around the dinner table there was much chattering and laughter. Everyone got along with everyone else and the boarding house was the next best thing to home. The large rambling house had been built long ago for a well-to-do doctor and his family. The floorboards were made of beautifully polished wood but they creaked with age.

The electrical system of the city at that time was only 25 cycles so the lights flickered. Heating was provided by a coal-fired furnace in the basement and hot water radiators in the rooms. When Fred and Pretoria bought the house they converted it to make living quarters for themselves and several individual bedrooms.

Not long after I arrived at Niagara Falls, I was walking down Queen Street, the main street, when I met Mike Oswald, the young married man I had met on the train from Halifax to Montreal. He said he was working as an electrician with the Hydro Electric Company and his wife, Doreen was working as a nurse in the maternity section of the local hospital. He invited me up to their apartment and I met Doreen again.

I wrote to Jean and said I would save the money to buy her a plane ticket to Canada and eventually we decided that she would travel in October, 1951. At the beginning of October I started to enquire about how to get married. Neither of us were church goers, but I found out that we could get married by a magistrate so I went down to the City Hall on Queen Street to see Magistrate John Hopkins.

 

At the front desk of City Hall I asked a woman where I would find the magistrate. Pointing to a group of men, including a couple of police officers, walking up a stairway, she said, "Just follow these men."

When I reached the next floor up I saw a sign above a door that read "Magistrate" and men sitting on a bench; none of them were talking. A police officer stood near the door and I asked if this was the place to wait to see the magistrate and he said "yes." I sat next to a man who looked as if he needed a shave.

Slowly the men moved up and since none of them came back I assumed there was another door out. Eventually I was the last man waiting and I heard a call “Next." When I entered the room the Magistrate was sitting behind a desk and near him was a policeman. Without looking up, the magistrate said "What's this man been charged with ?"

It turned out that the men had been arrested for minor crimes and were being tried by the magistrate. It took some explanation on my part to let everyone know that I was just trying to find out how to get married.

I arranged for Jean and me to be married on Saturday, October 27th, 1951 at the City Hall on Queen Street at Niagara Falls. I sent Jean her airline ticket and she was all set to arrive in Toronto a few days before the 27th. Mrs. Jones said she would find a room for Jean to stay until the wedding and she would arrange a reception for us in the living room of the boarding house.

One of the boarders said he would be in Toronto the day Jean arrived and he would drop me off at the airport and later bring Jean and I back to Niagara Falls. While I waited for Jean, I was sitting in at the counter of a coffee shop in the airport at Malton just outside of Toronto. I heard a Scottish voice coming from a young man sitting next to me. It turned out that his name was Jimmy Gardner from Glasgow and he was waiting for his wife who was due to arrive by plane from Scotland.

It turned out that we were both waiting for the same plane. In another coincidence his wife's name was Jean and I found out later that both Jeans had met each other on the plane and actually sat beside each other.

It was a long flight, about 15 hours, by a propeller driven plane and there was a stop at Gander in Newfoundland to refuel. After a reunion at the airport the Gardners left for Hamilton and Jean and I left for Niagara Falls. Later the Gardners moved to Niagara Falls and we became friends from then on. I took Jean over to meet Mike and Doreen Osborne and while we were there I asked the Osbornes to be the official witnesses at our wedding.

 

We were married on the afternoon of Saturday, October 27th, 1951 at the city hall by John Hopkins. A few of the young men from the boarding house came to witness the wedding. I had asked one of the men if I should give the magistrate any money. He said that the magistrate was paid for what he did, but I should slip him five dollars as a tip. That was when five dollars was worth a lot more than today. (A hamburger cost 25 cents then). After the brief ceremony I shook hands with John Hopkins and slipped him a five dollar bill. He glanced at the bill then whispered in my ear "I usually get ten." I'm sure my face got red as I found another five.

The Jones were really kind to us and gave us a reception in their large living room. We were surprised to receive gifts too. Since we owned very little, anything we received was welcome. A set of towels that someone gave us lasted us for a long time. After the reception we headed for Toronto. Two of the boarders were driving there so they took us along as passengers.

We stayed in a guest house for a week and came back to Niagara Falls by bus. When we were in Toronto we walked around sightseeing. When it came to ordering food, Jean got a few surprises. In one place she ordered a hot beef sandwich. Expecting a small sandwich, she was surprised when the waitress delivered a huge plate and on it was sliced roast beef piled on two slices of bread and a pile of mashed potatoes all covered with thick brown gravy. Another time, ordering a Chef's Salad, and expecting a small salad, she received a huge bowl of green vegetables that was more than enough for the two of us.

Back at Niagara Falls we rented an "apartment" for fifteen dollars a week. We shared the two storey home of people who had two daughters. We had one of three bedrooms on the second floor and we shared the one bathroom with the rest of the family. Our "living room" was the attic under a sloping roof and I had to stoop when I got near the corners to avoid hitting my head on the roof. Jean had to cook on a small one-burner electric stove. We bought an electric kettle, but the first time we used it we blew fuses and we could not use it again. We had the use of an ice box that was kept downstairs by the back door. I had to go from the attic downstairs to get milk then take it back later.

 

Winter weather started as soon as we got back to Niagara Falls and snow fell. I had to buy a coat so I bought a "Station Wagon coat." It had a warm lining and a fur collar. I also bought overboots and a hat.

It did not take us long to realize how inconvenient it was to live in our first apartment, but we only lived there for a few weeks. Mrs. Jones called and asked if we were interested in renting an apartment at her place for 65 dollars a month. We said sure and moved in without thinking that the apartment was barely furnished. There was a bed and a kitchen table with chairs, but not much else.

The apartment was on the ground floor and separated from the boarding house by large sliding doors. We had a bedroom, large living room, kitchen and our own bathroom. Our front door opened into a sun porch. We bought a couch for five dollars down and made payments on it and gradually added other furniture that included orange crates covered with plastic. We also had a small radio.

Always on the lookout for a better-paying job I changed jobs and went to work at the Herbert Morris crane company for seventy-five dollars a week. We could not afford a car and it took at least fifteen minutes walk to get there, but I was used to walking.

Jean and Jimmy Gardner moved to Niagara Falls and rented an apartment on Queen Street, about ten minutes walk from our place. By another coincidence, Jean Gardner and my Jean went to work for Rosbergs, a large department store on Queen Street. Jimmy was full of advice. He said to me "The women should work at least until we save up some money, so we don't want to have children for a while." He proceeded to tell me all the things he did to prevent having children. Shortly thereafter Jean Gardner announced that she was pregnant and Jean Bairden found out that she too was pregnant. Later, Jean Gardner had a son, Jim. That was the end of their working careers, at least for a long time.

 

The Gardners had other friends in Niagara Falls, Jack and Nan McFarlane and we all lived near each other and became good friends. On New Year's Eve, 31 December 1951, we all sat in the Gardner's apartment waiting to celebrate the New Year. Now New Year always was a special event in Scotland and it was not long before the girls started talking about how they missed their parents and old friends. It was not long before they were all crying and the party fell quite flat instead of being a celebration.

In the summer of 1952, my wife, Jean, was about seven months pregnant when we went to Crystal Beach to spend a Sunday. It was very warm and we both got sun burned. At night we had a thunderstorm and in the middle of the night Jean woke up complaining about feeling sick. I went to Mrs. Jones for help and she immediately called the doctor. In a short time Jean was on her way to hospital. The hospital was old and overcrowded and Jean had to lie in a bed in a hallway. Our doctor called in a specialist who said that surgery was necessary. He performed the surgery that evening and our first child, a daughter was born on June 16th, 1952, exactly one year after I landed in Canada. She only weighed four pounds twelve ounces and was immediately placed in an incubator.

Jean was moved to a private room and the rooms had names. Her room was named "Alice Louise" and we thought of using that name for our daughter, but we eventually decided that she would be called Carol Linda. Eventually she switched her name to Linda Carol. Linda had to reach a weight of five pounds before she was allowed to leave the hospital. Fortunately Doreen Osborne had been put in charge of the maternity section of the hospital so she made sure that Linda was given the best of care. When Linda was allowed to come home, Doreen came to our place to show us how to take care of the baby.

I used to sit down and lay Linda on my lap. With her feet at my waist, her head only reached my knees. I had to gently pinch her cheeks to get her to open her mouth to take her feeding bottle. She only took a few ounces of milk at a time and had to be fed every three hours.

The Gardners were the first to buy a television set. It was a small screen brown plastic Admiral set, but at that time it was almost like magic being able to watch television. Only one channel was available, WEBN Channel 4 from Buffalo, New York. In the winter of 1952 we would bundle Linda up in a woolen shawl and I would carry her through the snow to the Gardners where we sat and watched TV.

One Saturday in 1952 Jimmy Gardner invited me down to his place to meet Harry Dunlop, another man from Glasgow who lived in Toronto. The paths of the Bairdens and Dunlops were destined to cross often.

I always read the newspapers and the classified ads to keep up on what was happening and what opportunities were available. One day I read that representatives from A.V. Roe, an aircraft company in Toronto, would be coming to Niagara Falls to recruit Draftsmen. I went for an interview and accepted a job at eighty-five dollars a week. In June, 1954 we moved to Toronto and found an "apartment" somewhere in the west side of the city. Actually the apartment was the basement of a house, but it was clean and bright and cool.

At A.V. Roe I met another Scotsman, John Hunter and later Jean and I met his wife, Chris. They lived in Rexdale, a new housing tract close to A.V. Roe; the Dunlops lived in Rexdale too. At that time, the Dunlops had three boys, Harry, James, and David. Jean and I decided that we should look around Rexdale for a better place to live. With the few dollars we had saved and a loan and a second mortgage we were able to move into a brand new house on Islington Avenue in Rexdale. It was made of brick and had three bedrooms and a large basement.

Harry Dunlop decided to teach me how to drive. He had an old stick-shift car and one Sunday afternoon he took me in it to the large deserted parking lot of a shopping center that was closed. He told me the basics about operating the car and got me positioned behind the wheel. I drove into a puddle that was a small pond and the engine died. Harry mumbled something unprintable and had to climb over me and I had to slide under him to let him get to the driver's seat. He was able to restart the car and get us out of the mess, but he never offered to give me any more driving lessons.

At work there were many American "Job Shoppers" or contract workers. I met several men from California and they described its wonders. They said you could swim at the beach, play in the snow in the mountains and walk in the desert, all in the same day. They made it sound like a great place. The more I heard about USA, especially the standard of living there, the more I thought about moving there.

Jean always relied on my judgment and I started looking at job opportunities in America. Not long after I came across an ad in a Toronto newspaper that a company, Morgan Engineering, from Alliance, Ohio were coming to Toronto to look for designers and draftsmen. I applied for a job and was accepted; I think salary was about $500 a month. I told the personnel man from Morgan that we would need a furnished house because we did not want to move furniture. Since I had a job to go to, it was easy for us to legally apply to enter the United States and it did not take us long to get visas. Since we had not lived in the house for long, when we sold it we were lucky that we broke even. We had to sell most of our furniture and we lost money there. Since we did not have a car we went by train to Cleveland in the summer of 1956.

We stayed in Cleveland for a couple of years. I learned how to drive and I bought a brand new 1957 Chevrolet car. In the meantime the Dunlops had moved to California. In 1958 we left Ohio and drove down the old historic Route 66 to California. We settled near the Dunlops in Torrance in the Los Angeles are. After a few more job changes I settled down and worked for TRW for 28 years as an engineer in the aerospace business.

I turned 75 in February 2005, Jean and I celebrated our 54th anniversary on Thursday, October 27, 2005. We have 2 daughters, 3 granddaughters, a grandson and a great granddaughter.


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