What's Your Story

How a '50s hand mixer helped this Scottish family adjust to life in Canada

Pat Paterson was 11 when she immigrated to Canada with her family from Scotland. One of the many challenges of a new place? Angel food confetti cake.

'Coming from Scotland, baking was a really important part of our tradition.'

Pat Paterson saved up and bought this yellow hand mixer for her mother in the 1950s when she and her Scottish family were new in Canada. (Pat Paterson)

As part of CBC's What's Your Story campaign, we're asking Canadians to tell us about the one object they would submit to a collection of national treasures; objects that contain the strongest feelings, personal histories and vivid memories of our diverse population.

For Pat Paterson, of Dorchester, Ont., it's the mixer she bought for her mom in the '50s.


"It really was tough times," says Pat Paterson about her Scottish family's first years in Canada.

Pat Paterson and her mother arrived at Pier 21 from Scotland on the S.S. Lismoria, in 1956. (Pat Paterson)

She was 11-years-old when she and her mother arrived in 1956 from the small coastal town of Troon, Scotland, to join her father who had travelled to Canada a year before.

"We came over on the S.S. Lismoria ... and we landed in Halifax at Pier 21, but disembarked at Montreal."

From there, they travelled to Toronto. "We lived on the third floor of … one of those big old homes on Rusholme Road," she says. "What probably had been the attic — that's where we lived. And it was one bedroom, I slept in the hallway, and my brother was born then, a year after we came. He was the first Canadian!"

"There wasn't a lot," remembers Paterson. "Like most post-war immigrants, we didn't have a lot of money."  

Paterson's mother Shona, as a member of the British Women's Land Army, and father Robert, a marine engineer. (Pat Paterson)

The Scottish family felt ample culture shock, including at the grocery store. "When I came to Canada, and I walked into a Loblaw's ... I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I had never seen so much abundance, so much fruit."

Pat Paterson (centre) and her mother (behind her) photographed with family before leaving Scotland. (Pat Paterson)

But one new food reality posed a challenge: boxed cake mix.

"Coming from Scotland, baking was a really important part of our tradition," says Paterson. "Everything was made from scratch."

Paterson's mother bought a box of angel food confetti cake but struggled to mix it. "I watched her stand with the wooden spoon trying to mix this," but the resulting cake looked like a "sad pancake."

"That's when I decided to start saving!"

Paterson wanted to get her mom a mixer like the ones she used in her Home Economics class. "I was doing as much as I could and I'd get $0.25 here and I'd get $0.10 there and I saved for the whole year until I had enough."

The hand-mixer that's lasted 60+ years in the Paterson family. (Pat Paterson)

When Paterson walked into the hardware store, she had saved not only enough to surprise her mom with a brand new yellow-handled mixer, but also a matching pair of tin canisters.

Paterson's mother, now deceased, kept and used the mixer until she moved into a senior's centre, at which time she gave it Paterson. "I've always kept it. And to this day it's a great little beater."

That great little beater has endured as much as what it represents. 

"Thank you Canada for all that has been given to my family. My descendants and I continue to give back with gratitude."

Gratitude and great cakes, no doubt. 

What's your story?
What defines Canada for you? Is there a time that you were proud to be Canadian, or perhaps a time you felt disappointed? Is there a place, person, or event in your life that sums up what being Canadian is to you? Tell us at cbc.ca/ whatsyourstory.

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