Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Voyage of the Spammed

It has been some time since posting, but the last several months were very hectic and life-changing.  I am going to take a detour from the usual format for a while to tell the tale of what was a pivotal moment for myself and the family.  But it does have to do with ships...

The recent passing of my Mum has kept me busy on the personal level dealing with the estate and the associated headaches and frustrations with the legal machine.  So in sifting through the immense amount of photos, (my Mum saved everything!),  I came across a very interesting stash of memorabilia, all to do with the time we said good bye to the homeland, and emigrated to Canada. 

Basically, it was all my father's idea.  (He passed away four years ago)  One day out of the blue, I was told he just outright said, "We are moving to Canada.  You can come with me if you like..."  At the time we were living in the quaint village of Lichfield, West Midlands, UK.  Lichfield's claim to fame is a very large and impressive 800 year old medieval cathedral.  Dad had done his National Service as a Senior Aircraft Man in the RAF (air frame mechanic on Meteors and Vampires and the like), and was now running an off-licence known as "Whitalls Wines"


Although the company still seems to exist, I can find no history prior to 2011.  Here he is in his "uniform" ready to keep the locals happy.  I have been unable to identify any brands on these shelves, but it was not just wines sold, there were other spirits and beers.  Here is the shop on Tamworth Street taken in 1963!


The early family (Mum, Dad, and sister "A") lived above the shop.  With another sibling on the way (me!) my parents bought a bungalow which overlooked a cricket pitch and had a beautiful view of the railway, where steam trains ran by many times.  Sister "M" arrived 16 months later.  Despite running the shop, Dad would also have to make deliveries and pick up stock.  The family "car" was also the work van:


A Morries J2 Commercial.  Right had drive and standard transmission of course, but only two seats.  So it wasn't like we would pile the family in and go for a drive or a picnic, but in the times I got to ride along, an improvised car seat....


No worries; I am firmly secured in the pram!  Amazing what was done in those days and yet we are all still alive today!  But Dad was not a merchant; he liked to work with his hands.  Before the shop and the service, he apprenticed (as you did back then in the trades) as a trim carpenter.  Dad was also a master modeller, who encouraged and taught me along the way.  He had heard from someone that skilled trades were needed Canada; I suspect my Auntie who was here already after marrying a Canadian soldier must have told him.  Calling Liverpool...


So the house is up for sale, personal belongings sorted and sold, the family dog and cat adopted, and the trip across the ocean booked.  Kids are getting immunized but only "A" is having to leave school.  I would have started next year.  But Dad is back from the west coast with a bright yellow 4" x 8" ticket.  It's a done deal.  On June 2, 1964, we leave Liverpool to Montreal for a seven day Atlantic "cruise" on a new Canadian Pacific ocean liner, the "Empress of Canada".  Bon Voyage!



That's it for Part One of "The Voyage of the Spammed"  (and yes, we did eat spam!)  Future installments will deal with the ship, pictures of the crossing, menus, entertainment, logs and other various memorabilia.  In researching for this blog I was curious about how the old shop on Tamworth Street looked today, as I have not been back since 1982.  In reality, not much different.  It never ceases to amaze me how much history is preserved in the UK.  Although I don't know why the pavement was up in front of the store....






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