SF: And he, your grandparents were also from London?
AV: Well my great grandmother was from Wales but they moved to London, so then she was put into service to a Dutch Sephardic family and lived in Amsterdam. She was put into service when she was twelve years old and the cook taught her to read and write. It was a thoroughly Orthodox Jewish home, a Sephardic home and so she had the same pronunciation that we have in our congregation which is Sephardic, and so when I found Jews and they had the Ashkenazi pronunciation it was like different languages and I didn’t understand it. But she had taught me some Ladino that I had learned too but that wasn’t until shortly before she died and we came to Canada the year after when I was 18.
SF: And that was in what year?
SF: And you went to?
AV: Halifax, the infamous Pier 21 [laughs], and I’d love to go back and see how they’ve made it into a museum. So we came across by train and even though we’d paid for first class tickets we were put onto a special immigrant train, and we didn’t know we had any choice, we could have stayed overnight and got into Calgary a day earlier than we did because the porters, the staff, all these nice young black fellows that you know, we weren’t used to speaking with—there had been some black people in Wembley where I grew up but they weren’t close, you know, they weren’t part of our life—and they were saying that they had never seen a train so old and weren’t they lucky, “ha ha,” to be given that job! [Laughs]. So they were only on for a day and then they deadheaded back or they got a train back and so they didn’t do the whole trip and we kept getting new people as porters and people.
SF: And you made your way to Calgary?
SF: Why Calgary?
AV: Well we had to be sponsored and my father had come from a family where his father’s generation had spread out across the Commonwealth. Well, the thing is that my mother and I thought we were going to go to New Zealand so we spent two and a half years studying New Zealand, we went to illustrated lectures, we had library books and whatever we could find out about New Zealand we were studying. And then immigration was cut off to families because there was a housing crunch and they said only single men can come and my father refused to go on his own because he had left us during the war with no choice and he didn’t like the way my mother was independent when he wasn’t around so he wasn’t let that happen again so my mother said, “Find us another country.” And he went around Trafalgar Square to all the colonial houses and Canada was the best option, but we had contacts—Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, so he wrote to all of these uncles and aunts that he found out where they were and my aunt, his aunt Frances in Calgary...
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