A Young Scot Looks at Canada by Ruth T. Macdonald

Ruth was chosen in 1960 as one of five Scottish Girl Guides of the Senior Branch to visit Canada.

To me, this was the thrill of a lifetime. I had never been away from home for so long or so far.

When we docked at Montreal and finished all the excitement of going through the Customs, we split up. I stayed with a family in Beaconsfield, a suburb of Montreal.

The first thing that struck me, apart from the terrific heat, was the Canadian houses. They were so colourful and attractively laid out with tiled roofs of red, blue, purple or yellow. Also, there were no fences round their gardens and everybody simply walked where they liked. I can imagine the average British householder’s reaction if that were to happen here.

No sooner had I settled in than I was whisked off to the local swimming pool by my host’s twin daughters. I was soon surrounded by masses of their friends asking all sorts of questions. After saying that I came from “near Aberdeen” I was most amazed when someone asked: “Do you know my Uncle Bill from Glasgow, etc., etc.,” I tried to impress upon them how big Scotland really is.

From Montreal I went on a long day’s journey to London, Ontario, where I stayed with another family. My hostess was a Scot who had emigrated to Canada when she was twelve. She was born in Aberdeen so was very interested to hear about it. The houses in London were of a different type to those of Beaconsfield. They were much older, of course, and more of an English design.

From London, I went down to Sarnia, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron, the centre of the “Chemical Valley” of Canada. I stayed there for a week with a wonderful family in their cottage right on the beach. They had their own private stretch of sand with their own motor boat. Their daughter, who was the same age as myself, taught me to run a motor boat and also to attempt to water-ski.

In Sarnia, I realised just how good the social life is in Canada. The Canadians are a very hard-working people, but they also believe in playing hard. I went to an open-air dance one night down on the lake shore. To me, this was a great novelty. Another evening we had a barbecue and wiener roast. Yet another evening we went to an open-air swimming party followed by a dance. After being at those parties, it makes me wish that we in Scotland could have the summer weather that they have in Canada. They can arrange open-air activities weeks ahead and still manage to carry them out.

Before leaving Sarnia I was invited to the Girl Scout camp in Port Huron, USA. The difference in the people there was absolutely incredible. I did not particularly like the Americans. They spoke far too much about themselves and thought Scotland was a mere dot on the map.

After a wonderful week there I went up to Doe Lake in Northern Ontario, the headquarters of camping in Ontario and said to be the most beautiful camping site in Ontario. It reminded me very much of Scotland with its huge forests of pine trees coming right down to the lake shore. This was the only place where I had occasional pangs of home-sickness for Deeside.

The big difference here again was the weather, although, I must admit, we had some dreadful thunderstorms. Up at Doe Lake they have the largest mosquitoes I have ever seen in my life; I was literally eaten to bits.

One day we went by bus to Algonquin Park, a very interesting national park covering seven to eight hundred miles where some of the deer are so tame that they will eat out of one’s hand.

From camp I went by car to Collingwood, also on the shores of Lake Huron but very much further north than Sarnia. Here, I spent yet another hectic week swimming or boating during the day, then off to the ‘movies’ or to a dance in the evening.

One afternoon my host and hostess took me to an Indian Reserve. They warned me that I would be very disappointed, and so I was.

Instead of wigwams and real Red Indians as I had expected, there were only rows and rows of dirty shacks with dirty-looking people around them. The thing that surprised me most was that in spite of their dirt, they all had huge cars and television aerials which looked almost top-heavy on some of the smaller shacks. Evidently the Red Indians are still very much a people on their own and they have not yet learned how to look after money. They feel that, while they have it, they must spend it. They would never dream of spending it on a new house or a clean up. It all goes on washing machines, cars, televisions, etc.

My final stop in Ontario was at Niagara Falls where I stayed on a farm.

Finally I went back to Montreal via Toronto where I joined up with the others again, and we spent two days in Montreal rushing around doing our last-minute shopping before sailing for home.

My impression of Canadians on the whole is that they are a very kind, hospitable people. Everywhere I went I was shown the same kindness and hospitality. I was not too well impressed by the younger children. To me, they did not seem to show the same respect for their elders as British children do and they seem to be given far too much of their own way. As for the country, I think it is wonderful. It is a young country, full of opportunities for young people and I sincerely hope to go back one day.