Monday, 27 August 2012


Why did people come to Nipigon?

From 2006 Interviews , Nipigon Historical Museum Archives:


T.M.:  "I was born in Thessalon, Ontario. I was about 16, so I thought if I could get five dollars I'd leave."

"So I went to see this old fella and he didn't say anything for a while, because five dollars was five dollars I'm telling you.  So he said yes, you can go, so I went."

"I went on the freight, but you weren't supposed to go on the freight, so when we got to Nipigon they threw us all off."


G. (B) N. :  "So when I came here on a boat, on the S.S. Italia, it was filled with was just like a party boat and we just had a real ball on there. The people on the boat, instead of going to Nipigon, went to Toronto first, and there were some people that I met along the way and then I took a train from Toronto this way.There were trees on either side of the railway track and I thought it was just like Europe where in behind the trees there would be big buildings and citizens living all along."

"I couldn't imagine that there was that much of an expanse between places and there was nothing there."

"So I just thought that there were cities in behind all those trees and along the railroad tracks where people lived but then I found out there was actually nothing there and it was a horrible shock and I hated it."

"So when I arrived in Nipigon I was supposed to be met off the train - and there was nobody there - and it was like, eleven o'clock at night and I stood in the dark on main street."

"People in Toronto, who heard I was coming here told me that there were six bars on the main street here and that there were Indian teepees and that's all there was here."

A.C. :  "We were married in Montreal. During the end of the War the aircraft factory where we both worked, there were about 16,000 people working and when I left there was around 1200 people left, I think something like that. I could have stayed right until the end, but her mother and father said, well, the mill in Red Rock is starting up and I can get you a job right away. So I came on the CPR train ahead of her. And when we got to Nipigon and the conductor was there wanting to help me off the train...I said, "What the heck, somebody messed up your washroom?"

"The conductor just laughed his head off. "That's the mill!"

"Right away, I wanted on the next train out. But we got a house for $25 rent a month, three bedrooms and that included electricity."


E.W. :  "My father was working for the Abitibi Pulp and Paper Company and he sold our place in Saskatchewan and we moved out with them and we arrived in Nipigon on July 4th, 1951. It was one of the nicest summers we ever had here and, I thought, Oh, Boy, what nice weather they have around here!"

"There wasn't another summer like that through fifty years!"


Mrs. K.:  "I came here on July 8th, 1957., from Hungary because of the '56 Revolution that was happening there.  I lost my first husband and my second youngest son died so I had no relatives left.  They were killed in the Revolution. So, I said to myself, well, I have to go someplace across the Atlantic Ocean. I was looking for peace and freedom and that was my main target."

"We had to start out by taking the train to the Hungarian border and then to Germany and pick up people with the ambulance to take them over the border and then , not long, we went and landed. I'm not sure what part of Germany but then we had to go and change our clothes and all of the identification was burnt and then people were all put on different trains and every window as dark and we never stopped in any place in the French country."

"I was in that place we ended up for three and a half weeks and it was all boarded up and I never saw anything and then they took over five hundred of us and I remember there were five big buses for us and the windows were all black. They shipped us somewhere else and then they showed us that there was a city coming up that we were to go out of and so we landed at a Red Cross station which was where we got some clothes and things like that."

"When we did that, then we went on the big boat that we came over on and we got to have a shower and things and it was such a good feeling."

"The boat was the Columbia and it sank later on. It was all made up of wood and it was really old. I fished off that boat too, and talked to the captain as best I could but would need a translator to talk to him. I told the captain that I liked to fish and i asked him if I could, and do you know what happened? I saw a big poker with about five pounds of meat on it and a big rope was attached to it and the sailor who worked on the boat would throw those things way out into the water. The sailor told me that it was his job to do that so I tried to speak English to him as best I could but I didn't understand him too much but I just watched him and waited. He said he had to call the captain because he caught a big whale and it was bigger than the boat! So all I could hear was this big cracking sound on the side of the boat and, so, there comes the captain with an axe and chopped the rope! So he said, "Now it's safe. Everything is safe!" That was a big experience for me. I never saw anything like that before. I never knew the ocean had such big fish. I saw pictures of some different types of fish but they told us in school that those big whales weren't around any more."

"I was never able to sleep in the cabins on that boat. I didn't like the smell of the rooms because the ship was old and so I slept on the back of the boat all the time. I told the captain he say whatever he wanted but that I wasn't going to sleep in my cabin."

"I remember we arrived in St. John's, Newfoundland,  on January the first and we left Hungary sometime, maybe, the end of November. It took a long time because right in the middle of the ocean we had to stop once in a while and we had to anchor out there. Everything was covered with ice and the captain said that he couldn't promise us anything but reassured us that we had enough food to last us and lifesavers if there was any trouble.  There wasn't any trouble though, but it was an awful feeling, you know, but I was happy when we got to dry land."

"We couldn't talk to anyone and we had to go through all kinds of check-ups and vaccinations when we arrived and that took us fourteen days. When we finished we had to go to the immigration office in Winnipeg, and then they started to send people where they wanted to go."

"I didn't know anything about the country and I was all alone and so I landed in Fort William on the train. I was in Fort William and I asked a person I saw when I arrived there, if there was anyone who could speak Hungarian and he said that there was one man that he knew who ran a store there in town. So he took me to that man and his name was Joseph Barlow. I asked him if there was any place that I could go where there is a small town around the area that would have lots of lakes and rivers around and mountains and forests because that was what I liked."

"So he got the map and said, "Sure there is, Nipigon, its not very far away."

"So that is how I got here to Nipigon."

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