To the Editor:
Re: Tell your story, published February, 2017
My family arrived in Balfron from Holland almost 30 years ago, on Friday, Aug. 10, 1987.
Adrian and I had bought the old Lenny Burris farm. At the time, our daughter, Andrea, was 12, and our son, Jake, was 10. None of us could speak a word of English, except for “thanks,” which relatives in Nova Scotia had taught us.
That very day, we started right away milking 40 Holstein milk cows and had to get used to different equipment than in Holland.
The next day, Saturday, neighbours from all around the farm came with bread and pickles and vegetables and cookies. All we could do was smile and say, “Thanks!” At that moment, we already felt welcome.
In the afternoon, I had to go to the grocery store, Foodland, without knowing any English. I wore my wooden shoes. Howard Elliott saw me walk in and asked, “Holland?” I said, “Yes! No English!” He told me to wait where I was. He brought me a fresh cookie and went shopping with me, pointing out everything. For three weeks he did this.
The staff at Fulton’s, Stedman’s, Scotiabank, post office and Home Hardware were so helpful to us when we didn’t know English.
In the month before school started, Andrea and Jake picked up a little English. Andrea had done Grade 6 in Holland but had to do Grade 6 here because of the language. Her teacher, Heather Ross (Forbes), got Grade 7 books from the high school and worked with Andrea so she could go into Grade 8 in high school. Jake started in Grade 5 and got lots of teacher help so he could stay in Grade 5.
Adrian knew some English agricultural terms because he had attended an agricultural school in Holland. He got lots of help from Mr. Mackenzie (NSAC) in Truro, about how the land is here, how to work it, and how to fill in papers. Mr. Mackenzie came every three weeks for the first two years. Adrian had more contacts than I did and learned more English words.
It took me a couple years before I could really speak English. In Tatamagouche, the Home Hardware girls called me Mrs. Eelman, but at the post office, I was Lottie. Finally, I could say in Home Hardware, “I’m Lottie. Not Mrs. Eelman.” They said, “Lottie, it is!”
Once Adrian sent me to the Co-op to buy a crowbar. If you translate the Dutch word to English, it is “cow foot.” So, I asked Eric Hasket for a cow foot. He told me, “No, Lottie. We don’t have a cow foot.” I told him, “Yes, because Adrian bought one here.” I went on my hands and knees through the store and found one. “Here is cow foot,” I told Eric. He said, “No. That’s a crowbar.”
At the library, Glen Hamilton always brought Dutch books from Truro for me. After two years, he said, “Now it is time to read English.” I started with children’s books. The Light was so helpful for community news. Ellen Millard was the reporter at the time.
After we had lived here for a while, Jane Burris gave me a recipe and told me, “You are Canadian now. You must make a Canadian apple pie.” I said okay. I telephoned her and said, “I have made a Canadian apple pie.” She laughed so hard. I had pronounced “pie” as “pee.” She still teases me about that.
People might have laughed at my mistakes, but it was kind laughter. They didn’t think I was stupid. It took me years to learn to say “immediately,” and I still have an accent.
We sold the farm 10 years ago and wanted to stay in the area, not move somewhere else. We bought a property in Bayhead and just love it.
How welcoming Tatamagouche has been to us!