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Home > Stories > Peggy (nee Bord) Pittman Nijenhuis

Click for larger image. Peggy (Bord) Pittman and her first husband on their wedding day in Putney.
Click for larger image. Peggy (Bord) Pittman and her first husband on their wedding day in Putney.
Click for larger image. Picture of group of war brides with their children in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Click for larger image. Picture of group of war brides with their children in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Click for larger image. Peggy (Bord) Pittman Nijenhuis and her husband.
Click for larger image. Peggy (Bord) Pittman Nijenhuis and her husband.

As a war bride travelling to Canada in l946 from England, I have a story to tell about my experiences in a new land.

My story begins in l945 when I married a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The war was over and he was waiting for his repatriation papers to return to his home in St. John’s, Newfoundland. We were living with my parents in Putney, south London so when he received word to leave I was not alone.

We had a lovely wedding at the centuries old church in Putney. There was a church on either side of Putney Bridge and depending on which side you lived, there you were married. Our reception with friends and family was in Odenenos in the West End of London.

We spent our wedding night in London and the following day travelled to Winchester where we spent our honeymoon. Now he was gone and my waiting time began.

I had many papers to fill about my travel to Newfoundland, which at that time was still a colony of Great Britain. Eventually my travel documents arrived and I was to sail on the Queen Mary in July l946 from Southampton to Halifax. That night, together with other war brides, stayed at a hostel close by Big Ben. As a result, I spent the night counting the chimes making for a sleepless night.

The next day we were taken to the station for travel to Southampton. I can hardly remember the details as combined with sleepless nights and leaving my parents behind, I seem to have been in a bit of a daze.

The Queen Mary was an experience in itself, what a beautiful ship. The shopping area was called Piccadilly Circus. The dining room was massive accommodating a hundred at least. The Captain introduced himself and warned us not to eat too much butter as we had not been used to it due to rationing. At the end of our evening meal, one of the officers asked if someone would like to come to the stage and sing. Having a love of singing since an early age, I learned many of Deanna Durbin’s songs. I don’t know what prompted me, but I made my way to the stage and not ever having sung publicly before sang “Waltzing in the Clouds”. This was the beginning of my singing career.

We arrived in Halifax to brass bands and a new land. I was amazed to see all the Christmas trees in such abundance. There was only one girl beside myself travelling to Newfoundland. It was July l946 and passage to Newfoundland was fully booked. We cabled our husbands to say we were unable to travel. Meantime, we explored the shops without having to worry about coupons and enjoyed the freedom.

I remember my first breakfast consisted of the largest sundae I could find with lots of whipped cream. After that I settled down to normal eating. After three days we received word that we could travel by boat to the Island. We were unable to obtain a cabin, so had to make do with a lounge chair overnight. The following day we arrived in Newfoundland and then had to travel by train on the “BULLET” so called because of its slowness. Finally our arrival in St. John’s where we were joyfully reunited with our husbands.

My first impression of Nfld. Was that of stepping back to a bygone era. Cobblestones and street cars made up the shopping area and quaint wooden houses lined the hills running up from the waterfront. We arrived at my husband’s parents home where I was shyly received. From then on I needed to meet people and make new friends. Because of my singing I joined the local church choir. The organist took an interest in my singing and soon I was singing selections from the Messiah. Then followed invitations, afternoon teas, weddings, etc.

Meantime I heard of a group meeting weekly of overseas war brides. This seemed interesting so off I went to the Y.M.C.A, to investigate. It was great to talk over the aspects of life in our new land. I became President and formed a group to broadcast to war brides living in the out ports. CJON generously gave us time for a programme once a month. I wrote a script for this and we also sang requests. All this took me to a solo half hour programme of songs and also a programme on TV.

On one memorable occasion when answering the door what should I see but a man holding a string with meat dripping blood. Not a pretty sight. Running back to my mother-in-law I explained what I’d see and after investigating with a puzzled look at my explanation, laughingly told me they were seal flippers, a meal I eventually enjoyed when I learned how to prepare the famous “flipper pie”.

My two sons were born in St. John’s, but the youngest is now in Brampton and owns an import shoe company. The oldest is working a second year as principal of a Canadian school in Japan.

Being in my 8oth year hasn’t stopped me too much as I am president of a singing group in our Senior Centre. We put on shows for elderly people and are now rehearsing a Christmas programme. Line dancing and afternoon tea dances keep me on the move.

I remarried 26 years ago to a Dutchman and we are now happily living in St. Catharines, in our own house. He is proud to have become a Canadian and as I think back over the years, I have to chuckle when I think of my first impression of Nfld, which is now a very picturesque tourist attraction. A tree and plaque in memory of the war brides who have died since coming to Nfld., stands outside St. John’s City Hall. A wreath is placed at the time of each reunion.

Peggy (nee Bord) Pittman Nijenhuis

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