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Barbara (English)Dr. Alexander Freund
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Unedited audio of the interview (in English)


Interviewee: Barbara B.

Interviewer: Dr. Alexander Freund

Date of interview: 22/Sep/1993

Place of interview: Richmond, B.C.

Language: English

Copyright information: Oral History Centre (UWinnipeg)

The edited transcript below is sourced from the original in English.

Part 1: Reasons for Leaving and First Steps in Canada
Part 1: Reasons for Leaving and First Steps in Canada
1.1. Life in Europe and Decision to Migrate
1.1. Life in Europe and Decision to Migrate


Barbara: Why I went to Canada is because I was given the opportunity by the Canadian government to immigrate to Canada. The motive was that I wanted to have my own pottery and I knew in Germany without funds in my situation as a refugee I would never have the funds, the money to have my own equipment, to make pottery independently. And that is why I went here.

And also, to scout for my family. They wanted to know how it would be here.

And I came actually with the intention to go for two years to western Canada, to learn the English language and then I thought I could go to eastern Canada, to Quebec, and learn French there. Because I also, I thought, “If I don’t stay in--, if I don’t get my pottery, I could go into journalism and use the languages.” That was part of-- that was also on the agenda for me. But it didn’t work. Because I came here and I started out with a debt to the government and so I felt I had a nail through my foot financially. I had debts because I had to pay back my fare to Canada, to the government and my income was very, very low and I was doing all these jobs that paid very little money, but that didn’t matter, it was just uh -- it was just a matter of just coming to Canada and being there and I didn’t feel I wanted to ever go home. Actually, that happened very soon. As soon as I left Vancouver and came to a small place, I came to like Canada so very much better, and so it never even occurred to me that I wanted to go back to Germany.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: How did you feel about leaving home, leaving your family?

Barbara: Okay: That was a very interesting thing, because I felt that once you are uprooted -- and I was uprooted, because we were evacuated in 1946, we were evacuated en masse from Silesia to East Germany, and that was never my home anymore and I didn’t put down roots and then when I left with my youngest siblings to join my elder ones in West Germany, there again, I went into my training, finished, but I felt always I was a transient person and so I thought, “Where does it matter at this stage of my life, what does it matter where I put down roots? Canada is just as fine as Germany, because the part of Germany where I was wasn’t my home either, so what’s the difference?” I didn’t see any difference in geography. It’s just a matter of making a home.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Barbara: My mother then had already died and my father was of course not very happy. But my father was living in East Germany and I was living in West Germany. What happened was that when we were evacuated in 1946 to East Germany, my father got a job as a teacher and my mother died during the same year, and he always thought, “I’m going to stay here, I will never go away, because I’ll be right there when Germany becomes open again, when I can go home.” He wanted to go home to Silesia. In the meantime, there was nothing to eat, my mother died and I was the eldest of five, and there was just no way for us to survive, so my eldest sisters helped us with actually a phony Schein, a permit, they buttered somebody up, here an American officer [laughs] and they helped us with that to come across the border to West Germany. So, we five children went, you know, traveled and got through all these refugee camps and all that and we arrived and we dispersed over my two sisters’ families, my sisters were living here as refugees as well, and so there we stayed for a while. And then I went into training and then my, -- my youngest siblings had to go back eventually, because my father had to assume responsibility for them and things were getting better, they had more food.


Yeah, okay, all right. So, there you are, we were refugees, we were just quite dislocated and dispersed and didn’t have any contact with school friends or relatives or anything and um, so I decided: anywhere is fine.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: Did you ever have any doubts about leaving Germany or going to Canada? 

Barbara: No. None at all. For some reason, I don’t know why. But it was like a release actually. 

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


1.2. The Ship and Train Journey
1.2. The Ship and Train Journey


Alexander: What did it feel like to be on that boat to Canada? Maybe you can describe what the journey was like, what the people on the boat were like?
Barbara: Oh, well, I met a very interesting man who cared for me a lot, because I was sick in my bed most days [laughs]. The people I met on board ship — I didn’t find any companionship. Nor did I find any companionship on the train. The train was filled with all of us from the boat and they were mostly young men who were destined to go to Vancouver Island for the logging industry. And there were three or four married couples who were immigrating, and I was quite isolated, because I didn’t think to get into any rapport with anybody, really. I didn’t connect very well. But I don’t know, maybe that was because I was a little homesick. I wrote diary all the way across Canada, that’s what I did, because it kept me company; I learned that’s a wonderful thing to do.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


1.3. The First Steps in Canada
1.3. First Steps in Canada


Alexander:  Do you remember the first day that you actually arrived in Vancouver--? 


Barbara: Yes, that was the most dreary, drizzly day. It took three weeks for me to know there were mountains here. It was a typical December day in Vancouver. But it wasn’t sad, it was okay, because there was this man from the Immigration Department and he said, “Okay, who are you, who are you?” And he said, “Okay, all these young men are going in that group, here are the married couples,” and he said, “And you!?” [laughs] and he didn’t know what to do with me! So, he decided eventually to put me with the married couples. And the young men all went into a dormitory kind of building near the Immigration Department down on Burrard Inlet, that building is now gone. But that’s where they all put up, in little cages, in little rooms or whatever; they were not very happy there. But I was… we were fine. We were two married couples and one single girl. And that was fine. 

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


Part 2: Being a German Woman in Canada
Part 2: Being a German Woman in Canada After World War II
2.1. What Was It Like To Be German in Canada?
2.1. What Was It Like To Be German in Canada?


Barbara: [I lived in] one of those typical East Vancouver houses. Very nice, very friendly, very comfortable, a very nice house. [...] But I was unexpected, and so I was put into an old kitchen, a little storage room. And that was bleak. That was bleak.


And then Christmas appeared and then that was when I was really feeling bleak. I had forgotten that, that’s true. Christmas came and I was appalled at the way Christmas was being done here. Because they had all these gaudy coloured light bulbs [laughs] and those plastic Santa Claus things. And you know German Christmas -- it’s so different. So that was difficult a little bit. And here I was sitting in that kitchen with the little, little bare bulb up there; it was bluish, it was all very cold, and naked, and bare. And they were storing a stove in there and stuff like that and I had a bed in there and-- that was bleak. So, I would go-- we would go walking and I would discover. For very little money they had these big bags of cookies. Nowadays you look at them, those chocolate with vanilla cream and vanilla cookies with chocolate cream in it, and I would buy those, and I would eat those cookies and feel very fine [laughs]. That first Christmas that was mighty strange here that Christmas.

But it was okay, it was all part of the experience. 

Alexander: Who did you spend Christmas with?

Barbara: No-one really, because Heiligabend [Christmas Eve], that was always terribly important to all of us, and-- But what happened was that in that house the hostess of the house had a son or nephew, he was a young man, and he went out on the twenty-fourth of December, Heiligabend [Christmas Eve], and he said: ”I’m going to visit friends, would you like to come with me?” And I said, “Okay.” Thinking that I would be back before Christmas Eve would begin. Because I had made lovely things, cut-outs for these two couples. I had for Christmas, I was going to give them Scherenschnitte [silhouettes] those little pieces of rice paper and then you put a candle behind it, these lovely things; I had made these very nice-- and I was intending to spend that evening with them. And so, this young man took me in his car to friends and relatives and they were having hilarious fun. But nothing like the Christmas Eve that I had in mind. But he didn’t go home, he didn’t go home. And I was so anxious to get home to these two couples to have Christmas Eve and he didn’t go home. And I was depending on his -- I didn’t know where I was, I had no transportation. So, I get home, around ten o’clock, or eleven o’clock. And by the time we came home, that was really quite sad, because by the time we came home those two couples had gone to bed. And so, I sneaked into their room and they were sleeping, the rooms were open, I sneaked in, put my little gift on their thing and sneaked out again. And the next morning was Christmas Day and they didn’t speak to me, they were cross with me. And that was Christmas. They were miffed, I guess, that I hadn’t come back. I guess, they had had the same idea, that we should spend our Christmas Eve together, which had been planned in a way, I think, if I remember correctly.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Barbara: And so, it went on, but I couldn’t speak English, I could har[dly]-- I just spoke a few phrases. And I went to night school to learn to speak English. I observed the customs in Canada. It was interesting to see. And Friday evening, I observed with regularity, they all went out and they would go to a party or whatever or party in the house. Saturday and Sunday, they would stay home. Sunday I would sometimes be free to go and walk in Stanley Park with the other two people. And Thursday I had a day off. And I ate in the kitchen and I would have to -- that was nerve-wracking, because there was a little table, I was having my meal here, and there was a little bell up there. And when they had their dinner, then as I was having mine, the bell would ring and I would have to jump up and go in there and I felt very uncomfortable, because I didn’t feel very well trained for the job, to go in there. They were very formal. And I felt I had wooden legs and five hands wouldn’t--I felt so clumsy and didn’t know which side to serve. So, I bumbled my way through and I don’t think they liked me very much for that. But it was not easy for them and it wasn’t easy for me. And so, I lasted for two months, and then this German couple, that cook and waitress, they went to Squamish, and that’s when they said, “Come, we have a job for you.”


Alexander: What did it feel like for you, having to work in a factory or as a domestic servant while you were trained as a potter?


Barbara: Not bad at all, that was fine, because again I was so focused and so busy doing what I was doing, that I didn’t miss my pottery at all, because I knew, I KNEW — one day I would have it. And in the meantime, my attitude was this, that in the meantime, as I knew that I would have my own pottery one day, in the meantime I was willing to do anything that was asked of me and that was necessary for me to get there. I actually looked at everything I was doing as a means to the end to get there. 

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Barbara: When I came from Squamish to Vancouver I was sharing accommodation with this one friend. I met -- this is how my love affair with the Dutch people developed. Because I came back from Squamish, came back to David Lambert’s pottery and there was this Dutch woman, Trude, and she was so fabulously wonderful, so helpful, so different. So, we are still friends today. And through her I met Jack, because I thought, “If the Dutch people are like this, I like Dutch people.” So, through her I got into a whole Dutch circle of people and I never had any connection with Germans. I just, I think I was sort of turned off from German companionship because of the people with whom I came across Canada. I didn’t like any, I didn’t have any rapport with anybody. 


In fact, I came here to get away from Germanness. [...] Well, I came here actually to get away from people in a way, because my dream was to be totally independent and live by myself and have my pottery and make my living and don’t have any connection to people, because people were-- it had been difficult human relationships maybe? I don’t know. But-- One of the typical things you know, you think, “Oh, I feel so hurt, I can’t bear it anymore.” Just maybe this attitude was self-- I don’t know. But anyway, I had no desire to be with anybody. And I discovered when I came to Squamish, I discovered, it doesn’t work. Other people are nice. You know, I was running away from people, because…

Alexander: In Germany?

Barbara: Yeah, they were telling me what to do all the time. My family. [...] But my father was in East Germany, I mean we were only with my siblings and everybody was struggling after the war. It was a very dreary time. So, I was glad to shake the dust off my feet, so to speak. Get away from it. I have never actually ever been sorry.


So, I turned and switched and that is when I mean I think my Germanness… I was trying to get away from it for a little while after I came here. Because only here I learned what had actually been happening outside Germany during the war, because I didn’t know much during that time. So, by meeting the Dutch, and I became acquainted through the pottery with a Norwegian girl, Danish people, I met so many different nationalities. And I would ask for their stories, I would be so interested in what had been happening. And for the first time I found out what actually had happened outside Germany during the war. And so little by little I became quiet about being German. And I think that happened also in Germany. It is the same thing. So, it affected me here too. Nobody would accuse me of anything, but it was just… When I heard of the courage and the tolerance and the bravery of the Dutch people during the German occupation I was just flabbergasted. This mother of this friend Trude in the pottery, she would have, a German officer visited upstairs in the house and she would be hiding a Jewish family in the basement. And Jack was an underground worker in the Dutch underground [resistance] and his mother was hiding Jewish children, a Jewish child, and they were all doing their best to help--


I just thought it was so marvelous to be-- to be-- it was so different to be from Germany. And then I learned it wasn’t such a big deal, because number one of what I learned, but also because there were so many Germans here. That’s I think more in the beginning that was because I learned only later about the history and all that. But there were so many immigrants here. Vancouver-- you meet somebody and they are either from Poland or from Croatia or from Denmark or Norway. It’s no big deal. It’s nothing unique to be from Germany, I found. And so, I thought, “Well, fine, wonderful. It’s nothing special to be German, it’s just very ordinary to be German.” I guess I always felt it was very special to come from Germany, these wonderful-- The Canadians should be so thrilled to meet this extraordinary unique person who comes from Germany, sort of thing. That was my attitude.

Alexander: Did you ever feel uncomfortable or uneasy as a German?

Barbara: No. No, I felt sad. I felt sad toward the people. If I learned those stories I felt-- not, no, not, I cannot say uncomfortable, but I was sad that the people had experienced at the hands of the Germans, what they had experienced. But eventually, as history is unfolding and as we are watching what’s going on, I’m asking myself, “What makes the German situation so different from the rest of the nasty things people are doing? And as Vietnam came along,” can you see any much difference. It’s humans, it’s not nations who do it, it is the human individual who does it. So, that is what I learned. I differentiated. So, I never felt uncomfortable, guilty, that much as I felt sorry and sad that this can happen.

Alexander: Was there ever any like attack on you, whatever, being German?

Barbara: No, no, never. But there was an interesting little difficulty when Jack and I met. And Jack wrote to his parents he met this German woman and the parents were having a very difficult time accepting that, because the parents had suffered emotionally from the Germans and couldn’t imagine that one of their sons would even dream of loving a German person. And so, for Jack’s parents it was a big thing to overcome. But then I had Jack on my side and it didn’t bother me. And his parents came here to live with us for two weeks, they stayed for nine months, so they accepted me [laughs]. When we were just married. So, there was no problem, I had no problem on that. 

Because, you see, when you feel okay about yourself, whether you’re German or Polish or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t have any harmful ingredients in me, you know, I wouldn’t harm anybody. But I guess a little bit of guilt I suppose every German has been carrying around to some degree. But that’s gone, that’s past. 

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: What did you find the biggest difference between German society and German culture and Canadian society and culture? 

Barbara: The friendliness, the trusting, and a certain innocence. I found the people here to be so open and so very helpful and they would be spontaneously helpful in any situation I ever encountered. And I found them to be far more relaxed. And when I went back to Germany on a couple of visits I would notice the scowl that the German people wear, so serious. And here the people are much friendlier and much lighter and it is no wonder, because the living conditions here are not to be compared to the German living conditions. So, to me it appears that circumstances and events do form peoples’ expression, at least part of it. 

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


2.2. What Was It Like To Be a Woman in Canada?
2.2. What Was It Like To Be a Woman in Canada?


Alexander: Were you the only single woman on the trip [from Germany to Canada]? [...] What did that feel like?

Barbara: Yes. I wasn’t even really so conscious of that. Funny thing, because these young men would make these crude jokes together with those married couples, and I think that is why I didn’t really connect an awful lot, because they were just silly jokes and kidding around, and that wasn’t my bag, so I just kept to myself. Didn’t really occur to-- I can’t remember that it really mattered a lot, you know. I guess I was so busy doing what I was doing, it didn’t even occur to me. And having been independent and, you know, taking all my siblings across from East Germany to West Germany, which was a major job, too, a responsibility, I think I’d become a little bit used to doing those things, you know you get used to step by step. 

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: What was the first time you would say that you actually met a friend?

Barbara: In Squamish, when I was doing the waitressing and slopping the coffee around [laughs] and the local RCMP constable with his colleague, two RCMP officers would come regularly as coffee drinkers. And so, one day he asked me, “What are you doing here?” And I told him, “I want to have my pottery, I’m earning money,” and so on and he said, “Well, you shouldn’t be here,” because there was a big logging outfit there, you see, Squamish -- logging. And there were people using some language and he said, “You shouldn’t be here because there are people here talking about you in a way.” And I said, “I don’t understand it, so it doesn’t matter to me.” But he didn’t like it, so he said, “I’ll take you home to my wife.” So that were my first friends. 

Alexander: What were those people talking about?

Barbara: I have no idea. He was too much of a gentleman to tell me that. He said they were making remarks about me.

Alexander: Was it because you were German or because you were a single woman or?

Barbara: I have no idea, I have no idea. One incident which is-- I always find so funny was, when I did this waitressing job there were these young people coming in, girls and young boys and there was this great big table full of all these people and for me it was a real job to take these orders, because again I wasn’t trained in that job. And it was hard, for me, I was so nervous [laughs] to do it wrong. So, there were about ten people and I go from person to person, “What do you want?” “Coke,” this and that. Then one guy said, “I want a date.” And I said, “A date.” And I thought, “What is a date?” So, I went — there was another girl — and I went to the counter there and I said, “What is a date?” And she looked at me as though she wasn’t believing that I was-- That’s how I learned the word “date” [laughs]. So, I had to field those things.

Alexander: What did you tell him when you went back?

Barbara: I just got so embarrassed and I went back and said, “Well, you can’t have a date.” And they were very good-natured about that. He wasn’t… So, I don’t know why he, this friend of mine, felt that way. Because I found some of the logging people, there was one man, the Anderson logging company, he was the president of the company, he came there for breakfast and then he asked me my story one day and he gave me a tip of ten dollars. He said, “This is not to be used except for your pottery.” So, it was a mixed bag. What the people said about me, I don’t know. Because he never told me.

Alexander: Can you describe the friendship you had with the RCMP officer and his wife?

Barbara: The friendship? I developed a tremendous crush on him, but that was totally secret [laughs].

Alexander Did he know about that?

Barbara: I don’t know, it was a rapport. He was twenty years older, he was finely married and his wife was my very best friend and it was just one of those things. I had a very connection to that man and he had it for me too. But in a lovely way, it was never-- But it did cause a little bit consternation to his wife, I suppose. Maybe she sensed something. But he-- They both took me into their home and until I moved out to rent my own place, because things were becoming very uncomfortable, because of the way I developed these feelings. So that was, no, we stayed friends till the very end, till they moved away. And I just found the other day, I found my diary, writing about it, and I had forgotten how I had felt so strongly. But it was a very nice friendship. They both felt very protective toward me and his wife undertook to teach me by correspondence course from Victoria to teach me English and she taught me the proper use of English. I have much to thank her. And in spite of all that we were-- no, it was a friendship of two older people helping a younger one.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: What about the attitudes towards women?

Barbara: There was no problem. I always felt respected and welcome wherever I went. Strange, because I never felt any other way, I never was conscious of being a woman. That there was a difference. It’s maybe because I never was in the workforce where that mattered. If I had been in the workforce, where it matters to be a woman, when a woman feels underpaid compared to a man’s wages, etcetera, maybe I would have noticed. But I never noticed in my life. No. And in my marriage neither. There is total equality. So, I’ve never actually felt it necessary to be a feminist. Never I felt. And I feel that I think-- well, it definitely has to do with my circumstances, I suppose. Maybe my attitude as well. But I couldn’t tell you. I never was conscious of being an underprivileged or mistreated or not well treated or an exploited woman. Never. Isn’t that funny? [laughs]

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


Part 3: Gender Dynamics in Marriage and Family
3.1. Family Dynamics: Parents, Sibling, and Extended Family
Part 3: Gender Dynamics in Marriage and Family
3.1. Family Dynamics


Barbara: [My family chose me as a pioneer to move to Canada because] I was the only single one old enough to go. My elder-- my brother-in-law who helped me with the information, who really boosted me to come and to do this, he had two children; and my eldest sister had also two children; and they did apply and they were refused. And at the same time circumstances at home in Germany were such within our family that they felt very torn between coming and leaving for good. But mainly -- I learned that many years later, I didn’t know that. They had applied to come and the government turned them down, because they were interested in single people. And I fitted the bill, my age was right and my status was right.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: How were your relationships to your brothers and sisters? [...] Did you miss them?

Barbara: Fine, lovely. Beautiful family. No. Yes and no. I was so busy living — I still am — so busy living that I didn’t-- per se I didn’t cry for them, I was homesick, of course for a little while, but I was fine. No, I didn’t miss them that much, because I was so very busy making a life for myself here. And we are all in our-- the S. family are all poor writers, but it doesn’t matter, when we get together it doesn’t matter if we haven’t written for ten years. But the connection is very close and fine. So that doesn’t matter, we forgive each other [laughs]. Yeah.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


3.2. Marriage Dynamics and Family Structure: Husband, Children, In-Laws
3.2. Marriage Dynamics and Family Structure


Alexander: What was the first time you met Jack?

Barbara: In 1954, he needed a date for New Year’s Eve [laughs]. My friend Trude, she said, “Oh, I have this friend, you know. Maybe you go.” We didn’t have the date. He came to ask for a date, he never had a chance to ask me for that date. So, then we met. He was just adding to his experience by going to the Vancouver College, to learn specific wood work and he needed practicing and I had bought my first little car. My car -- that kept me in debt too. A little Morris Miner Convertible I bought. It just gave me such a sense of independence. And I had needed a little garage, it needed a roof. And so, where I was living-- Where I was living was very, very unique too. In the meantime, I had moved away from my woman companions and moved into the back shed of the pottery, of my weekend pottery, David Lambert’s pottery. He had a warehouse in the back, and it was totally unfinished and he lived with holes in the wall that big, it was cold, no heat. But he said, “This is a space where you can live if you want to.” And I took him up on that and I paid very little money for the rent and that is the place where I met… where Jack met me, in that place.      

And I had just become independent, the first time in my life I had place of my own. So, my little car needed this garage and David Lambert said, “Yes, there is this big heap, I have ten years worth of garbage there, you know, junk, if you want” -- I asked permission, “Could we have a little lean to on this for the car,” and he said, “Yes, you can, if you move all that garbage away.” So, Jack came about half a year later, no, couple of months later or so he came. And he said, “yes, okay, you want to build a garage?” And I had my plans ready for the garage and I presented my plans and he said, “They aren’t any good, this is how it should be done.” And I just instantly disliked him for that, because I thought: “What a-- how can be like this?” So sure, and I said, “After all, it’s my garage and I was going to pay for it and all that, then he should do it my way.” And so anyway, this is how our friendship began.

Alexander: What way was it done?

Barbara: His way. [laughs] First of all he had to clean out that garbage and that was a huge pile, and he had just gone for the doctor, had some horrible thing excised here and his arm was bandaged and he was, we were both shovelling the heaps of garbage and getting rid of it. And then we went and shopped for the wood together and that’s when our acquaintance really began and I came to like him in spite of all this. And then we were married; about half a year later we got married.

Alexander: That seems like it was going against your plans to stay independent and have your own pottery? 

Barbara: That’s right, yes. And I changed my mind about five times. I wasn’t wanting to be married in a way. On the other hand, I felt a very close relationship with Jack. So, it was a difficult decision for me, because I had just become independent. And we did start our marriage plan by my saying, “Okay.” In those days we had fifty-cent-pieces, I said, “Every fifty-cent-piece that comes my way goes into a pot, which I keep for a divorce. I want to have the trap door open.” That was the idea. And I could speak with Jack about it. It didn’t make him feel insecure in any way. So, it was a very nice thought, in a way. Because I always needed to have a-- I was at that time twenty-eight and I didn’t-- I thought it was good to be independent. At the same time, it was also good to be in the company of this particular person. So, it was difficult.

Alexander: Did you feel ready for that?

Barbara: Yes, yes, yes. It was just another one of those adventures. I had a very adventurous life, so it was just — what else is new? so-to-speak. And also, I did not have the feeling that I was binding myself for life. I didn’t. I didn’t look upon that, I thought it was, “If I want to stay with this man it was a necessary evil to be married.” Sort of. It was not even a necessary evil, it was a nice companionship. And Jack was thirty-six at the time, I was twenty-eight. So, at the time, it isn’t-- My passionate loves, they had happened in Germany [laughs], so that was-- But you know, this one it lasted. We are now married thirty-eight years and we are doing fine.

Alexander: Do you still have that jar with the fifty-cent-pieces?

Barbara: No. Number one: the fifty-cent-pieces went out of style. Number two: it disappeared. The need for that disappeared. Yeah exactly, there was no more need for it. It sort of melted away. It took five years for me to realize that I’m going to stay. But after the five years I felt, “This is my decision, too. This is it. It’s okay.”

Alexander: Was it easy from the beginning to be married?

Barbara:  No, no. Yes and no. This is something you might come across when your time comes. It’s never easy, because-- Well, I think the majority-- it was easy, because two people put together their efforts, their energy and their money together, and in that way, you have like a company, you form a company and you form this partnership. And you both are working from an equal basis of cooperation. And when you have this total sense of relying on the other and trusting the other, there is just no problem. So, there was no difficulty.

The difficulty is that you have to put up with some of the quirks your partner has. Jack has to put up with the way I sometimes behave or sometimes the things he says, but that, you know, when you don’t always like what the other one says. But that is a common thing among people. But the underlying connection between two people is actually -- it has to be quite strong, and it just seems to have been strong from the very beginning, so no problem there.

Alexander: Were there any troubles in the first few years?

Barbara: No, no. They were just by my own having to get used to the idea that my husband wasn’t saying the things I expected him to say and all that kind of stuff. But I mean that is--

Alexander: Like?

Barbara: you know, you know, I’d think sometimes I thought he put his foot in his mouth or so, but then he would -- In our social life I think he put his foot in his mouth and I thought, “I wish he wouldn’t say that” or something. And he would not--

Alexander: What would that be, like?

Barbara: Well, when you are-- We were spending our first five years in a very isolated place on an island and there were only the families of the Forest Service and so his immediate boss and the second boss and all, we were all living together and so you all have to get together and live very tactfully and Jack sometimes was not being tactful, because he was used to speaking his mind very loud and clear. And so, I noticed a difference between the Dutch and the German or-- because I liked his honesty. I always would say, “If you want to have someone who is straightforward and is honest with you and who will not flatter you, it’s Jack.” I’m the flatterer. And at the same time, it was not very comfortable for him to exercise this straightforwardness, because I would find it embarrassing. [to her husband:] Remember when I would go on sulks? [laughs] [Jack: About what?] Oh, about the things you would say and I found it oh so tactless remarks and all that. And anyways. But so, it is — one has to get used to the other person’s personality. Anyway.

Barbara B., Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Richmond, B.C., 22 Sept. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


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