WHO: Mavis Johnson

RESIDENT OF: Guelph, Ontario Canada

WHAT: English Tea Set


WHEN: 1955

I started my journey to Canada in June 1955 on board the Cunard line Queen Elizabeth 1 sailing from Southampton, at this time there were labour conflicts in England which affected the port of Southampton resulting in a situation where for two weeks no ships had been able to sail from Southampton. A short while before the Q.E.1 was due to sail, the captain of the Queen Elizabeth had the ship pulled away from dockside - thus preventing the crew from walking away from the ship. Thus, being the first ship to sail from Southampton in two weeks. On board this was announced by loudspeaker and everyone cheered.

The Queen Elizabeth arrived in New York just one day late due to bad weather in the Atlantic.

My husband met me at the dockside and we toured the city of New York making a sidewalk café a place to rest and have a cup of tea. In my luggage from England among other treasures was a Minton bone china tea service manufactured in my home city. This appeared in sharp contrast to the heavy pottery used at the sidewalk cafe and the tea quite different from the usual English tea.

Another difference I noted watching the passers-by was that the ladies in New York wore hats with a feather on the front, while my hat had a feather on the back. I was in a new world - we continued on by train to Toronto Canada where we settled.

62 years later in a Canada 150 celebration we sat down to an afternoon tea in my dining room using the same tea service which I had brought from England to Canada. Family and friends were present to enjoy sandwiches, scones with cream, English cheese, shortbread and fancy cakes.

I still have fond memories of the time when I lived in England and helping with the preparation of a tea at a table filled with relatives having lots of interesting conversation.

And while daily afternoon tea is no longer a common practice in my new homeland, any occasion or reason for a traditional tea time is very much welcome because it takes me back to a time when life was harder and yet so meaningful.


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