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Becoming Canadian

Becoming Canadian: Memoirs of an Invisible Immigrant

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 288
  • Book Info
    Becoming Canadian
    Book Description:

    Becoming Canadian reveals how Michiel Horn, a Dutch immigrant in Canada in the 1950's, adjusted to the process of cultural assimilation. Horn tries to make sense of the immigrant impulse to integrate socially while maintaining a respect for heritage.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7120-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-2)
    Michiel Horn

    The idea of writing this came to me on the evening of Friday, 26 September 1986, while my wife, Cornelia, and I were in Yorkminster Park Baptist Church to hear an organ recital. Among the pieces the young organist, Xaver Varnus, played was a movement taken from Widorʹs Fifth Symphony. This proved strongly evocative: the work was one of my fatherʹs favourites, and I was instantly reminded of him.

    My mind already wandering, I began to speculate about the audience. I had heard quite a few of them speak in a language I did not recognize but which I took...

  4. Prologue
    (pp. 3-4)

    Tuesday, 17 June 1952: the second front page of theVictoria Daily Timescarries a photograph of six boys. Squinting into the sun, they sit in front of a shipʹs railing. One holds a fishing rod, the youngest clutches an ABC book. The photo is well-composed: the boys are seen from a forty-five-degree angle, and two of them squat somewhat behind the other four so that the six together make up a question mark. (Was this by design? Or did Jack and I, separated in age by only thirteen months and almost like twins, consciously or unconsciously set ourselves apart?)...

  5. 1 War and Peace
    (pp. 5-46)

    So long as people remember the twentieth century, one date they are unlikely to forget is Sunday, 3 September 1939. The British ultimatum demanding that Germany withdraw from Poland expired at 11:00 a.m. Greenwich mean time; the French ultimatum ran out later that day. After listening to the five oʹclock news, Motherʹs sister, Phiet (Sophia), ran upstairs, where Mother was in labour. ʹFrankrijk heeft oorlog verklaardʹ (France has declared war), my aunt reported. ʹEn ik heb een zoon erbijʹ (And I have another son), Mother replied.

    So the story goes, as Mother used to tell it. When I once asked...

  6. 2 The Great Migration
    (pp. 47-82)

    When did our parents begin to think about emigration? I donʹt know, although it must have been sometime in 1951. Nor do I know with complete certainty why they decided to leave. Father used to say that Mother wanted to go, that he had been sceptical but had given in. Having come to the view that emigration had been a mistake – ʹde grootste stommiteit van mʹn levenʹ (the biggest blunder of my life), he said to me once – it may have suited him to hold her responsible. The only benefit of going to Canada, he added, was that...

  7. 3 Chartered Banking in Canada
    (pp. 83-100)

    On 3 July 1956, two months shy of my seventeenth birthday, I reported for duty at the Government Street branch of the Bank of Montreal. It stood at the foot of View Street, where it enjoyed a pleasing prominence. Constructed in 1896 to be the main office of the bank in Victoria, the building had been designed in the chateau style by Francis Mawson Rattenbury, a Yorkshireman who had arrived on the coast in 1892 to become one of the most popular architects in the British Columbia of his time.

    The courthouses in Nanaimo, Nelson, and Vancouver (now the art...

  8. 4 College Days
    (pp. 101-164)

    Victoria College occupied a small campus on Lansdowne Avenue at Richmond, a fifteen-minute bus ride northeast of the downtown core. The Young Building, formerly the Provincial Normal School, was a dignified but shabby edifice built early in the century and reminiscent of a once-prosperous pensioner fallen on hard times. Of more recent vintage was the Ewing Building, nondescript bordering on ugly, which housed the library and the administration. A crowded, smoke-filled hut served as cafeteria. The grounds were well kept, and from the upper storey of the Young Building the view south was spectacular. When the University of Victoria completed...

  9. 5 Canada and the United States
    (pp. 165-214)

    My introduction to Toronto took place on a warm, muggy, mid-September evening. A bus took me from the airport to the Royal York Hotel, a taxi to Massey College, where I arrived around 10:00. A porter let me in, gave me my keys, and pointed me to my quarters. ʹI have a large study–sitting room and an adjoining bedroom of generous proportions,ʹ I wrote in my diary: ʹIʹm pleased.ʹ I unpacked my bags, and then, my body on Pacific time, sank into a suede-upholstered chair and read until 2:30.

    When I woke up it was too late for breakfast,...

  10. 6 A Place of Liberty
    (pp. 215-282)

    On the way back to Toronto I stopped for several days in Victoria. Father had retired from the B.C. Forest Service a few days before I turned up and was mostly happy about doing so. His work did not challenge him, and he had repeatedly been refused the promotion his qualifications warranted. The rank of architect was out of the question, his supervisor had finally said, because he wouldnʹt be doing anything that he wasnʹt doing already but would have to be paid more.

    The explanation offended him. So did the process whereby his work was validated: an engineer put...

  11. 7 Whatʹs Past Is Prologue
    (pp. 283-308)

    More than twenty years have passed since that holiday in 1973. It doesnʹt seem that long. ʹTwintig worden duurt een eeuw,ʹ the saying goes: ʹZestig wordt men in een handomdraaiʹ (To reach the age of twenty takes a century. Turning sixty takes only a moment). And yet much has happened, the most important events being marriage, parenthood, and the death of my parents.

    After Kathie and I parted company in 1972 I went out with a number of women, but only one tempted me even briefly to end a bachelorhood in which I felt steadily more comfortable. Yet I didnʹt...

  12. Index
    (pp. 309-336)