Both my parents came from large families, Dad was the second-eldest of thirteen and Mum was the youngest of eleven children. They had both endured quite a bit during the Second World War. Dad was a prisoner of war and put to work in a German labour camp for about four years. Mum managed a grocery store in The Hague and had to cope with the German occupation. She had to manage the food coupons needed by the Dutch to purchase food. The Germans made regular checks on the coupons and if the tally was out, she could have been shot on the spot. Mum recalls the Germans randomly picking people off the street, lining them against a wall and shooting them there and then, this was done in retaliation for something the Dutch had done against the Germans.
Married in The Hague in 1947, they moved into an apartment on the second floor with an elderly couple living on the floor below them. After the war there was an enormous shortage of housing in Holland as a lot of it had been destroyed during the war. Rotterdam had been bombed worse and whole parts of The Hague laid in ruins. A couple without children were not given any housing priority and were at the compassion of other Dutch people who had unoccupied rooms. The elderly couple had a two-storey home in a very narrow street and converted the upstairs rooms into an apartment they could rent out. They were a very kind couple and opened their home and hearts to the newlyweds.
In late 1950 I was born, followed by my brother Rob in 1952. When my younger brother Dick was born in 1953 things started to become a bit cramp on the second floor and the poor couple living below were beside themselves with three little screaming kids above them.
Mum put her name down for a council home, however that would still take a while due to the housing shortage.
Being the little devil in the family, Mum had her hands full, not just with my younger siblings, but with me disappearing all the time.
A friend and myself were about 4 years old when we ran away with some gipsy music organ players. They went from street to street playing the Dutch Street Organ collecting money while they entertained the public. We just started walking along with them and it wasn't until the police caught up with us a few suburbs down that we realised we were in big trouble.
Another time I got on the tram that ran through our street and changed onto another tram that went to Delft, about 12km from home. In those days that was quite a distance as few people had cars and everything in life happened within a few streets’ radius. Mum had to contact the police again and they contacted the police in Delft. I was taken back home by tram and Mum was very annoyed at me.
Dad couldn't get work in his house painting profession and was forced to become a delivery person for a bakery firm. During this time, we always had free bread and cakes at home. Sometimes Dad would take me on his rounds and that was a great adventure for me.
When I was about 5 years old, we moved to a second-storey apartment in the Jasmijnstraat. Only about a kilometer away from our old home. It was a much larger area than where we had lived before, we basically moved from a two large room apartment to a three-bedroom home with a small balcony. I had my own bedroom, which I kept throughout my life whilst living with my parents. My younger brothers shared a bedroom. Dad's bakery firm was just across the street, which was very convenient for him.
It was then that I started school just around the corner. I stayed there through grades one, two and had just started grade 3 when my parents made plans to migrate to Australia. My mother had a sister living in St Marys, one of the outer western suburbs of Sydney, who told them there were still lots of cheap blocks available in her street and lots of painting work for Dad.
There was a large housing boom in Australia due to the migrant intake from European countries.