A New Life in Australia

February 2, 2015 at 11:54 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family History, History | 7 Comments
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When we arrived in Dapto, NSW [part of the Wollongong Council area], we stayed at 53 Yalunga St, with Aunty Mary and Uncle Eric. We travelled down from Sydney with Uncle Eric who had met us. However, our luggage was coming by a later (steam) train and didn’t arrive till late that night. When it did, Mum and Dad made up beds on the floor with our blankets, as there were no actual beds or matresses for us. Mum and Dad slept on a bed frame with no mattress and only newspaper and a blanket between them and the springs. My cousin Christine was a toddler at the time and we kids slept in her room.

I remember Uncle Eric taking us for a trip up to the Wombeyan Caves not long after our arrival. The road was dirt, very narrow and winding. [Even today, the road from the east is not good] There was room for only one vehicle to pass at a time, so, when a car came the other way, Uncle Eric or the other driver had to back up the car to where a wider section had been graded into the hillside. The road itself was rather scary too with steep drop-offs, which made Mum very frightened – she wasn’t used to roads like that; it made an interesting and enjoyable trip for us kids though.

When winter came, we didn’t feel the cold as we had come from a much colder climate, and when everyone else was rugged up, we were just wearing light dresses or shorts. It took a couple of winters before we needed warmer clothes in winter.

Pauline, Linda, Peter, Sheelagh at Aunty Mary's 1954

Pauline, Linda, Peter, Sheelagh at Aunty Mary’s 1954

We stayed with Aunty Mary and Uncle Eric for a couple of months. By that time things were getting a little strained ‘with two women in the kitchen’ as Dad put it, and Mary eventually suggested it would be a good idea if we were to find a place of our own.

Dad wouldn’t have us staying where we weren’t welcome, and he later told me that at 7.30 on the morning after she said this, he took Mum and us kids to the Catholic convent and left us there for the day while he went to Albion Park Rail, about five miles away, and arranged to rent a caravan from Bob Stevenson, who had a van dealership on the highway there.

Dad also got permission from a farmer to park the van on his land, which adjoined the football ground at Reed Park, on the western side of Dapto. By that evening all was arranged, with the van in place ready for us. Dad came to pick us up from the convent. The sisters had already given us an evening meal and asked Dad if he had eaten. As he hadn’t eaten all day, they insisted on feeding him too before he took us to the van, our new home.

 Reed Park in the 1950s. Photo taken from about where our caravan would have been located.

Reed Park in the 1950s. Photo taken from about where our caravan would have been located.

 

The caravan was parked in some trees beside the creek, and we had to go across the park grounds to the sports pavilion to get water, carrying it to the van in buckets. We used their toilets, but Mum and us children didn’t use the cold showers there. Instead, we washed in a bucket of water that Mum heated on the primus stove. It ran on methylated (white) spirit and had to be pumped up to pressure. Mum hated that stove! She always thought it would explode on her.

There was always a strong smell of pine all around us from the huge old trees that were planted along the roadside end of the park. It is a smell that has stayed with me through all the six decades since then.The three of us girls slept together on the bed in the caravan and Peter slept on a mattress on the floor. Mum and Dad slept on the fold-down table.

Linda&Pauline T abt 1954

Me and my older sister with our dolls at the door of our caravan. I was six years old.

Being so close to the creek had its dangers. There were big rains in 1955 all along the east coast of NSW:

A Memory: We are in the caravan next to the creek at Reed Park. It is the middle of the night and its very dark. It has been raining and raining for days. The creek is flooding and we have to get out of the caravan because the water will come in. It’s very scary. Uncle Eric has come in his car to help Mum and Dad carry us kids out of the caravan through the water to the road, and take us to his house for the night.

None of us kids remember how long we lived next to Reed Park, but, all up it must have been close to two years. Dad worked as a builders’ labourer for a company called Brooks and Wright. Dick Brooks and Ken Wright lived just across the creek from us in identical, small, three-roomed cottages. Dad mostly did the concreting work for them, but also helped build the wooden framed houses. He had never done that sort of work before, but he soon learned, and was always good at what he did.

 

© Linda Visman

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7 Comments »

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  1. What a hard start to your new life Linda. Such a pleasure to read your story in these little episodes. I look forward to Mondays more now in anticipation for the next instalment.

    • Thanks, Linda. I feel the same about yours too. 🙂 I need to get more of mine written so I can have a buffer.

  2. Those were hard times, weren’t they? It’s difficult to appreciate how much things have changed, whether or not emigration was part of the deal. I only remember being flooded once, but I did live in a caravan for several months and the privations of those days remain with me.

    • It’s a strange thing, Frederick, that I didn’t realise how different our lives were in those days until I began to write about it. We were always poor and trying to make ends meet, but I just accepted that as what life was.
      As a child, I didn’t think about how hard it must have been for Mum. Dad was always happy with the challenges, but Mum found it a struggle.

  3. Mum Dad and I used to go caravanning in the Sixties up to Surfers Paradise. The first night we would stay by the side of the road somewhere near Tumbi Umbi. The second night at Coffs Harbour at the old Sapphire Gardens and then on the third day we would arrive at Florida Car-O-Tel. I loved that place! It was enormous – two pools, tennis courts, hotel, motel, restaurant, takeaway, squash courts, private beach. Happy memories!

    • Caravanning for a holiday would have been an exciting adventure, Debbie. You were fortunate to have that.
      I suppose it wouldn’t have been such fun for a couple of years though.

      • No, it was the novelty of it, I think. Loved the old Surfers Paradise.


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