Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railroad Trilogy echoes in my mind as as I recall the rest of our Canadian Odyssey. As we began to ascend Kicking Horse Pass, Locomotives were added to assist pulling the train. It was all steam in 1946.The porter was again my teacher. We travelled through the Spiral Tunnels on to the Connaught. He told me that it was the longest tunnel in the world. He taught me how to look for the locomotives. I found them above or below us. They seemed to be pulling another train entirely. We came through the Kettle Valley stopping at Rock Creek and elsewhere to drop off more brides and families. In the Fraser Canyon the train clung to the mountainside. I looked out the window and could see straight down to the river. Sybil was afraid to look. I thought it would be strange if we survived the war only to have our train fall off the mountain. As we emerged into the Fraser Valley, everyone left knew the journey was almost over. Now, it was "Mummy's" turn to worry. Would Jim be there when we arrived in a place called Vancouver. He was, a stranger in civilian clothes.
Well, our journey wasn't over. It seemed that Victoria was on an Island and we had to board a CPR steamer for an overnight journey. I was dressed and ready the next morning when we entered Victoria harbour and tied up at the Francis Rattenbury designed CPR terminal. I was a sunny Spring day. The Empress Hotel and the Parliament Building where there for us to see. So, were the horse drawn Tally Ho wagons. We had arrived at a "Little bit of old England!"
Let me tell you, it isn't true. Victoria is not England. England to me is more than a place. There is something in my internal being that tells me I'm home. So, 45 years later when I returned to England by plane, for the first time, my internals stirred when I saw the landscape below. When we set foot on the ground. I was back. I have a similar feeling when I return to Victoria where I have spent most of my life. It is home too, but it is still not a "Little bit of old England!" It is Victoria.
In spite of the mighty efforts of British colonialism, It was not really possible to transplant, Britain and have it flourish throughout the world. The notion of the mother country and her loving offspring was more romantic myth than anything else. Victoria had been a British Naval base and coaling station towards the end of the nineteenth century. In 1946, there was British stuff and even some British people, but the voices the streets, the food, the plants, the animals, the entire ambience was Canadian not British and "Mummy" and I were foreigners living in the colonies. We didn't fit. Sybil never did.
From the CPR terminal, a taxi took us to 105 Gorge Road West. This was Hudson Graham's house where he lived with his wife Kay. Yes, it was the same Hud Graham mentioned before. We were to stay with the Graham's until we got a house of our own. Even to me this arrangement was awkward. Hudson had been discharged in 1942 due to damaged eyesight. Still, you will remember, he was the man who was living in the Biblical sense with "Mummy's" best friend Marjorie David. Again it was Aunty Marj and Hudson who introduced Sybil to Jim. Kay Graham apparently knew nothing of her husband's dalliance. I was sworn to silence on pain of death. You can imagine how Hudson wanted us out of his life. "Mummy" and her knowledge posed a clear and present threat. Hudson was a womanizer and Sybil was attractive to him. The man seemed to have a death wish. Kay did not bond with "Mummy". Instead, she smelled a rat.
I wandered into the back garden, known locally as the backyard. It was steep and led directly the Gorge waterway itself. Here, was a boathouse where Hudson had spent most of the war years building a splendid wooden pleasure craft for himself. No steel tables and V1s for him. 10 years later I would have my next encounter with Hudson's boat. The Graham's did show us parts of Victoria. But mostly we found our own way usually by streetcar. In England these conveyances were known as trams and they were often double deckers. Operated by the BCE (British Columbia Electric Railway Company), Victoria streetcars were old, worn and single decked but they went everywhere. Going beyond the city was handled by Vancouver Island Coach Lines from their old bus station complete with platforms. Being so close to wars end, few new cars had arrived yet. So, confusion over hood or bonnet; trunk or boot didn't come up.
With the help of the Grahams we discovered supermarkets. There were only two in Victoria at the time both Safeways. One was next to the Hudson's Bay Department store on Douglas Street and the other was at the Oak Bay Junction where Pandora Avenue, Fort Street and Oak Bay Avenue met. There were no supermarkets in England at the time. Instead, family businesses lined the high streets of the villages and towns. Victoria was much the same except that many of these stores known in England as shops were operated by Chinese families. I had never seen or tasted Chinese Food but people in Victoria seemed to love it. So, out we went for Fried Rice and Chow Mein. Ethnic Victoria stared us in the face. East Indians and Sikhs delivered firewood and sawdust and some of those folks we now call First Nations knitted Siwash sweaters to be sold at the Hudson's Bay Department store. There was a place, still there, called Thunderbird Park complete with a longhouse and totem poles. Still, many of these people worked in the fishing industry.
We did not stay long with the Graham's. But on our very first night in Victoria and air raid siren went at 9:30 p.m. It scared the shit out of "Mummy and I" but it was only a curfew signal and it was to continue for several years before it was quietened for good. Maude and Clarence, relatives of the Grahams took us by car for our first trip "Up Island" The road wound along the Gorge to Langford and then to the Malahat a torturous two lane road complete with a tunnel. Up Island was different then. The towns and villages were based on industry. They were largely grey and unappealing, not a tourist boutique among them. The forest on Vancouver Island was filled with towering trees certainly not a little bit of old England. Jim had been a logger and I believe he was trying to acquire work in the logging industry. It was on this trip that I first saw a devastating clear cut, The woods we drove through were towering and dark and then we came over this hill behind Shawnigan Lake and as far as I could see all the trees had been cut down. They were gone.
Back in Victoria, I discovered two things I liked and had never encountered before, milkshakes and hamburgers, needless to say they were considered too expensive most of the time. "Mummy" was surprised by the rules about "beer parlours". Everyone went into the local pubs in England there were no men's and women's sides and children were allowed in. Meals were also available. Pubs were the social centres of English towns, villages and neighbourhoods. Therefore, large halls with segregated areas (sides) where people sat at tables and mostly just drank beer were strange places to Sybil.