Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Remember Whensday: Ocean Travel

Mom, Nathan and I leaving Canada on the Thorshope

I have started scanning some of my father’s thousands of colour slides which document our family’s history from the early 1950s and onward for about 30 years. Dad has meticulously labelled them with dates and names of people and has organized them in steel boxes under various categories. Many of the pictures are of events I do not remember at all. It seems that my retained memory begins around the age of five years old. Of course, stories have been told over the years and I am aware of them in a second hand way.

My parents travelled to South Africa in 1954 where they worked as lay missionaries. They returned to Canada a few years later with two children. Our family lived in the Pembrook and Lansdowne areas of Ontario and also spent time north of Toronto where both extended families lived. We journeyed again to South Africa in the late 1950’s and then returned to Canada for good in the 1960’s. Travel was always by ocean liner and each trip took about a month. I have crossed the Atlantic three times this way but remember only one journey. My parents packed furniture and other household belongings, including a car, and these came with us in the hold of the ship. The picture on the right is of our car being lowered into the cargo area. These were not luxurious cruise boats. Two trips were made on ships owned by a Scandinavian company, Christensen Canadian African Lines. The boat we took back to Canada the last time was a freighter and we were the only passengers. We were fed well and I do remember falling into a pool on deck, but that is where the perks ended.

Returning to Montreal, Canada a few years later. Mom and I
are wearing matching dresses and she is holding my brother Philip

When we arrived in Montreal my mother’s family was there to meet us. I remember my uncle arriving at the ship in a small boat to see Mom the day before we disembarked. There was a new toddler to introduce and my third brother was on the way.

Space Commanders

As children we travelled and moved many times. My brothers were my playmates and companions. The brother closest in age was Nathan and we were best friends in spite of occasional spats. I was shy and he was gregarious and I depended on him in social situations. The family’s love of travel has passed down through subsequent generations and we are currently scattered over the globe. We travel by air to visit, as days of ocean travel like this are a thing of the past.

Gaelyn introduced the Remember Whensday meme to me through her blog. She is travelling to South Africa in March 2010. It would be fun to go again and see this country which has seen many political and social changes in the past 50 years.


  1. Wonderful story. It was touching to see the skirt - I had forgotten about those.

  2. Ruth--before I even began reading--I was saying--ooo oooo, me too.
    Not the exact same details, of course, but the crossing the ocean by ship. So much more fun than flying--but slower.
    I always figured that was a good way for missionaries to decompress. Time to adjust.
    Love the costumes!

  3. I will still take care of you in social situations, although Tim has replaced me quite well.
    You are always my best friend.

  4. I remember crossing from England to the US at age 5 as well! We had horrible storms and woke up at night as the waves tossed us out of our bunks. Exciting, at least for the first day...then not so much.

  5. The old pictures are so fascinating.The flood of memories is an added bonus.Travel by ship,like that of years ago,doesn't appeal to me.I guess back then you did not have the choices we have today.

  6. I loved this story. What an interesting childhood you had.

  7. What a great story! You must be having a fantastic trip down memory lane. All your Dad's effort in keeping the pictures in order have certainly paid off and now we get to enjoy them too.

  8. Wonderful story and pictures. To cross the ocean that way and 3 times no less. It's great that the love of travel has continued among your family.

    You are very fortunate to have the slides and details available. I should dig out the slides I have from my dad.

    Thanks for sharing this and playing along in Remember Whensday this week!

  9. Ruth,

    Such an interesting post and the photos are real treasures. I have never been across the Atlantic and can only imagine what a trip like that would have been like.

    Enjoyed visiting with you again. If you have a chance, be sure to see the Chapel. It is open 7 days a week from now to September. You would love it there.


  10. These are delightful photos and I believe can help jog the memory, along with stories passed along. How cool that you traveled as a child.

    Thanks for the mention.

  11. Thanks for the comments. I knew you would relate, Donna and Laurie. I wish I could travel with you Gaelyn as you seem like an "off the beaten track" type of person.
    Nathan...always my BF!

  12. Mexico Mom7:47 pm GMT-4

    WOW!!!! (first English word learned by most Mexicans)
    What a wonderful surprise to open your blog this morning. Memories, tears from both of us and all the rest...
    ...Thinking of the traveling Tolman's and maybe something in our blood...

    Dad was so pleased that you mentioned his diligence in labelling and sorting all the pictures.

  13. Mexico Mom8:00 pm GMT-4

    Memories are wonderful and the pictures make them really come alive. We are so thankful for our personal choices through more than 56 years of marriage. Especially are we thankful for the 5 children who reciprocate our love, 14 wonderful grandchildren and 2 greats. We are blessed beyond measure.

  14. Ruth, it's so enjoyable to read about your interesting past. I love the idea that you are scanning all those slides. The more I see of your scanned slides inspires me to consider doing the same with ours. Thanks for sharing your past with all of us.

  15. How wonderful that you have those boxes and boxes of slides to remind you of that time Ruth. Compared to your life, mine has been rather landlocked and

  16. Anonymous9:33 am GMT-4

    I too have been in a rather nostalgic mood as of late. Glad to hear your story.

  17. My BIL was born in Nigeria and recently returned for a visit.

  18. What an interesting life you and your family have led. All the missionary families I have known have had amazing adventures in far-away countries. Your dad was a great family historian!

    I loved the photo of you and your brother in the robot-looking helmets.

  19. You certainly have travelled! I wasn't out of Scotland, never mind overseas, until I was almost 20, and that was to England!
    I won a newspaper competition about 1990 and the prize was 16 days in the Caribbean. What an experience--it was wonderful...but talk about "innocents abroad"!... I have since travelled a bit.
    Great to read your story.


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