Thursday, July 3, 2014

DP memories...

When my folks washed ashore at Pier 21 back in '56, we'd come to Canada for a reason.

The reason was that my dear Daddy correctly concluded that the chances of his children being drafted into some stupid war would be markedly diminished by coming to Canada instead of the US.

He was right.

He'd seen more than enough of war coming up in the thousand year reich.

While we had some connections in Canada, we had way more in the States. On my Mom's side we'd had folks making a bee-line for Ellis Island since well before the WW 2.

A certain great uncle who made it to Ellis Island back in the '20's found gainful employment as a tenement manager for some slumlord in New York City. Wanting to get away from all that, he soon found a country place in New Jersey, where he and his wife could raise chickens and pigs and rabbits
and re-create the old-country life-style.

They succeeded admirably. The New Jersey relations had achieved the American dream on a scale the poor Canadian cousins could barely fathom.

That semi-rural life-style is definitely a bye-gone era today. You raised chickens to get eggs, and when they stopped laying eggs they went in the stew-pot.

Rabbits could be raised up on a 10 by 10 patch of lawn in your back yard, once you got out of the tenement.

And pigs... well, anybody who lived through the Nazi era knows why they raised pigs instead of cattle.
The "Party" came round to pick up your surplus livestock for the greater good. If you had a cow or two they expect a calf or two. But if you had hogs, who would know if mama hog had a litter of seven or eight or eleven...

Which is why when we settled in on a little farm on a few acres just outside Elora back in the '50s, we had a cow or two for milk but a whole bunch of pigs for protein.

To get the protein to the table would require a "schweine schlacht" as I recall it. That involved seeing the menfolk of the clan chasing the designated protein provider around the barnyard with axes and sledgehammers and pick-axes until the target finally succumbed.

It wasn't pretty.

Then the prey would be hung up, gutted, and carved up behind Horst's welding shop, right there behind the house, entrails spilling onto the ground, just like they used to see it done in the old country.

But we ate well for the next year.

In those days my new clothes would arrive once a year in a big box from New Jersey. The New Jersey relations had by then advanced to a state where they bought their pork loins and their chops at the supermarket, but thanks to their kindness I'd have new clothes for the next school-year.

Those were tough times.

Those were tough and remarkably resilient people, all of them.

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