by Jacquie Huntington from Vancouver, BC
Nova Scotia has always been a special place for me. I was born there, and I lived there until I was three – which is when my family moved to Toronto. Although my parents lived in Toronto for over fifty years, it was never “home” to them. Nova Scotia was home. I retained some of that feeling, even though after my grandmother died in 1963, I had been back only once. And I had never been there with my husband, and children.
So, in April 2006, when my son’s band was nominated for “Best New Group” and “Song of the Year” at the Juno Awards, and the awards were to be held in Halifax, there was just no question that we should all go back. It was time for them to see where I was from.
On the Saturday after we arrived my husband & I went over to “Fan Fare”, which was an autograph session for young fans. The event was being held in the immigrant shed of Pier 21. We found ourselves amidst a mob of overly excited teenage girls and after a frantic hour, realized it was not where we wanted to be. Since Pier 21 was on my list of “Things to see in Halifax”, we decided to get out of the chaos and check out the exhibit next door.
We were the only people there. As we paid our entrance fee, the clerk looked at our Visa card with unusual interest. . He asked my husband, whose name is Polish, when he had come to Canada. Somewhat taken aback, he said that he was born here. The clerk persisted. “When did your parents come to Canada,” he asked. ”Did they land in Halifax? ”
Wally had no idea where they had landed, but he thought they must have arrived in the late 20s.
The clerk smiled . “You may be in luck,” he said. “We’ve just compiled all the data for immigrants arriving before 1935”. He invited us to bypass the exhibit and head upstairs, to the archives.
This was something we hadn’t expected. But up we went, and after the very helpful staff had rooted through the drawers of microfiche, we were presented with a printout of the record of Wally’s father’s arrival: Joseph Malinowski, 24 years old, single, traveling alone, carrying , $35.00.
As we read those words, we felt a thrill of emotion. It was as though we were channelling the complex stew of feelings that Wally’s father must have experienced as he came out of the confines of the ship into the vastness of the immigrant shed to be processed, and then to sign his name so that he could begin his new life in Canada. Fear, excitement, uncertainty, joy: it must have been an overwhelming jumble. One thing he knew for certain: he had come to Canada to find a better life for himself, and the family he one day hoped to have.
What he could never have imagined, was that 80 years later, at the exactly the same age, his grandson, and namesake, 24 year old Jay Joseph Malinowski, would find himself in the same building, also signing his name, but for entirely different reasons.
The building was largely the same, and this time, like the last time, there was a clamouring mob of people. Joseph had been alone, in a sea of strangers who were speaking languages he could not understand. Jay was with friends, surrounded by people who had lined up in the hope of meeting him, to take his picture and to get his autograph. They may have been people he didn’t know, but they were people who wanted to know him.
Joseph had dreamed of a better life. His grandson was the living proof .
So Halifax was not, as we had thought, just special for me. Halifax, it turned out, was the beginning for us all.
PS: My son’s band is called Bedouin Soundclash. The next night, they won the Juno for New Group of the Year.