A New Experience

August 10, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Posted in Australia, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir | 5 Comments
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I am going back a little bit with this story, to when we first arrived in Australia.

 

Snowy moors of Oswaldtwistle, 1950s

Snowy moors of Oswaldtwistle, 1950s

We had left a cold, damp and soot-grimed Lancashire cotton town in January 1954, amid the snow of a cold winter. We arrived in east coast Australia, after a six-week sea voyage, in early March at the end of a warm summer. The last few weeks of that trip had given us an idea of the huge difference in climate we would be living in from then on.

Children on the beach, Australia 1950s

Children on the beach, Australia 1950s

At first, we lived with Dad’s sister, Mary, and her husband, Uncle Eric was eager to show us a bit of the country. We would all pile into his big black Buick – four adults, the four of us kids aged almost 4 to 8 years and our cousin, a toddler. There were no seat belts to keep us secure, and we could kneel on the seats to look through the windows.

A pre-WWII Buick similar to that my uncle owned in 1954.

A pre-WWII Buick similar to that my uncle owned in 1954.

On one occasion, he took us to the Wombeyan Caves, situated in the Blue Mountains that rose to the west of the coast area in which we were living. Much of the drive was along a rocky, winding, dirt, sometimes steep mountain road, through eucalyptus forest – country we had never even imagined.

In places, cliffs rose up just a foot or two from one side of the car, while on the other, great forested valleys swept down so close that you couldn’t even see the edge of the road beside you. In most places cars going in opposite directions could not even pass each other. If two cars did meet, one had to back up to a wider bit that had been cut into the hillside and allow the other to go by.

Tunnel on the Wombeyan Caves Road early 1900s and now

Tunnel on the Wombeyan Caves Road early 1900s and now

Mum was petrified the whole time – she had hardly ever been in a car before, and she didn’t have much confidence in my uncle’s driving anyway. She vowed never to go there again.

We had a flat tyre that day too, on the way home. Uncle Eric had no spare. Once he and Dad had taken the wheel off, removed the tube and repaired it, they had nothing to pump it up with. A man driving past stopped to see if he could help. As pumping up a large tyre to a decent pressure would take a long time, he left us his pump. All he asked was that my uncle get it back to him at his home near Wollongong the next day. That was one of the wonderful aspects of life in rural Australia at that time – the helpfulness, trust, honesty and helpfulness of strangers.

Have you had frightening new experiences that you don’t wish to repeat?

Have you been helped by the kindness of strangers?

© Linda Visman.

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