Life in Australia
(Click on any photo for a larger version)
For the first few months we moved into the garage at my aunt's place. The garage was converted into a two bedroom and small kitchen-living space. An outdoor toilet and a half acre block. None of us could have ever imagined the open spaces we had suddenly arrived into. St Marys back then was a small town at the outer end of the Western Suburbs.
I started school immediately, in grade three, at Oxley Park Primary. The classroom size was increased from 37 to 43 pupils, probably due to the number of migrants moving into the area. It took me a while to adjust to the English language, but with the help of school friends and my two cousins at home, I was speaking fluent English in no time.
My parents had their eyes on a block half way up the street from where my aunty lived. This was great for Mum, who'd have company while Dad was at work. The half-acre block was purchased and it wasn't long before we had our own 3-bedroom home with a large bathroom and eat-in kitchen, something unheard of in The Hague. As kids we were fascinated with the bathroom which had a bath tub and a separate shower recess. The outdoor toilet was something Mum and Dad were a bit dubious about moving from having had full plumbing in Holland.
Independency was in my blood from a very early age and during the school holidays you could find me operating the elevators at Grace Bros in Parramatta, that was until I was told I was too young to do that type of work. Later I worked at Kingswood Station and would open and close the road gates and throw the switches when a train was due. I was under the supervision of the station master who loved having me around as it made his job nice and easy. The only time I had to be out of the signal room was when the inspectors train passed by. I would stand out on the platform as if waiting for a train. I worked happily with all the staff and in return they were grateful for my help. This job gave me a lifelong interest in trains as you will later see. All these jobs were of course on a voluntary basis as I was still too young to earn any money.
During this period, I became very interested in bookkeeping, still can't work out what had triggered it. I was only 11 and had my own budget set up, complete with an office ledger book and lots of office stamps. This was my way of keeping record on how my pocket money was earned and spent. We all had to do chores in those days, and the more chores we did the more pocket money Mum would give us. Mum saw my interest in office work and purchased a brand-new portable typewriter for my 12th birthday. I was ecstatic and could not stop typing all sorts of things, including my own TV roster. This was heaven, and I'm sure I was the only kid in my class, probable the whole school, that had a typewriter.
Mum had nominated me on a Sydney TV games show and to my surprise I had been accepted. Dad drove us to North Sydney where they were recording the show. Alas I didn't win a major prize but did come home with some minor prizes. That was one more tick off my list; had been half way around the world and had been on Australian Television. My school mates were very jealous when I got to school that Monday after the show had aired.
Dads work took him further and further away from home. He had his own house-painting firm and employed a few Dutch painters. This made it difficult for him to learn English and communicate with the building supervisors, which frustrated him to no end. Eventually he was given the painting contract for all the housing commission homes in Berkley near Wollongong.
This had him staying away for the week and only coming home on weekends. There were no fancy freeways or mayor roads back then and a trip to Wollongong would take about two and a half hours one way, making a daily commute out of the question. He felt more and more isolated and was contemplating what to do.
After four and a half years of living in Australia Dad thought it was time to return to his beloved Holland. He just could not get use to Australia and was very homesick for his large family and the Dutch pubs.
Our house in St Marys was sold and we rented temporary accommodation in Kingswood until it was time to board the Auralia for our voyage back to Holland.
A couple of nights at my Aunty Toos place and then it was off to Circular Quay. All our furniture had already been packed into a large crate.
Personally, I wanted nothing more than to stay in Australia but was way too young to make that decision. I did vow, however, that I would come back as soon as I was eighteen years old.