“Please don’t ever let me get used to this glorious view,” our Dad fervently said as we entered Deep River for the first time via the gravel road (now Deep River Road).
The mountains, the bright clear Ottawa River and the majestic white pines were symbols of peace and freedom after five years of war in The Netherlands.
The Heringa family: Joy, Case and we two young sisters, Marianna and Regiena, arrived from The Hague to Québec City on The Volendam in April 1951.
Throughout the war, Dad had been a double agent and an officer with the Koninklijke Marechaussee (The Dutch Royal Military Constabulary).
During the liberation of The Netherlands, he befriended an RCMP officer who was there on active duty.
This Canadian gentleman and friend lived in Pembroke and encouraged us to emigrate. He would even sponsor us. What a precious opportunity!
So we began a new life in Pembroke and, from there, thanks to our parents obtaining jobs in Deep River, settled down here.
A few years later we celebrated our Canadian citizenship.
Because his teaching diplomas were not recognized in Canada, our Dad worked as a gardener for the township and then became a desk clerk for the Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL) staff hotels.
Thanks to his various life experiences and fluency in several languages (including Esperanto) he became the hotel manager for AECL.
“What? No Dewey (Decimal) System?” That was our mom’s vivacious comment in taking on the position of librarian in Deep River.
With her work experience at the Philips Library in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and under the guidance and friendship of Dr. WB Lewis, Joy enthusiastically dedicated more than 20 years of her life as the town’s librarian.
An interesting note: Dr. Lewis, gentle, quiet and brilliant man that he was, respectfully declined the invitation to have the new library named in his honour.
Finally, a board member came to see Joy and said, “You are the only person who can persuade Dr. Lewis.” And that is what she did.
And how did yogurt originate in Deep River? Well, back to super mom.
In the early 1950’s yogurt was not known in the area, but well known in Europe. And Joy missed her yogurt.
So, thanks to the enterprising spirit of the Blimkies, owners of the Laurentian View Diary, yogurt culture was brought in from Toronto and experiments began.
One of the Blimkie family members would regularly come down to our house with a sample for mom to try.
After several tastings, the perfect yogurt was produced and a chorus of “yums” ran around the table!
Aaah, the blissful memories of growing up in Deep: Flying like kites on our bikes, frantically playing hide-and-go-seek on our street until the strident evening 8 o’clock whistle would blow us home.
Licking from dripping popsicles bought at the log canteen down on “the beach” (now the Lamure Beach) while surreptitiously glancing at the latest selection of AECL and Forestry summer students.
The smell of popcorn lingering on buttery fingers after a double feature at the Strand Theatre.
The DDT spray truck visiting the streets in the mosquito-filled evenings as one of us doggedly followed behind it by bike, breathing in the excitement and the other running upstairs to close the windows.
And music. Singing folksongs, playing the guitar and dancing at the Yacht Club.
And pure, glimmering snow with cobalt skies above. The magnificent white and wild expanse of the frozen Ottawa River in January when we would hear wolves calling from the Québec side and imagine that even Mount Martin shivered a little.
Our parents have left this paradise now for another but we sisters still carry the fine imprint of Deep River in our hearts.
So this summer we decided to meet once again in Deep, the perfect resting point between British Columbia and Québec.
We wanted to celebrate our reunion, our memories and most importantly to express our gratitude.
What good fortune we have to savour a country of freedom and generosity and a town of such natural beauty and resourcefulness.
Dad was right. (So was mom).
By Marianna Heringa (now living in Nelson, BC) and Regiena Heringa (now living in Ste-Cécile-de-Masham, Québec).
During Canada’s 150th year, it is a good time to share the aspects of Canadian life that we all enjoy. What do you love about living here? The Deep River 150th Celebrations Committee is asking you to share your experiences through the North Renfrew Times.
The project, named “Why I Love Canada” welcomes personal stories, whether you are an immigrant or Canadian-born. Please submit stories to NRT@magma.ca.