Running the Joists

March 16, 2015 at 5:50 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Health, Memoir | 6 Comments
Tags: , ,

monday-memoir-badge

When Dad had finished the framework for the two extra bedrooms, we would walk out of the kitchen door – the only external door at the time – and across the floor joists. Dad had laid boards across the top of the joists, to the side of the house next to the garage where our uncle’s family lived. If we wanted to go out the back to the pan toilet, we could go that way. Or we could go the shorter way, which involved stepping from joist to joist, to the back of the frame, then jumping down to the ground. You can guess which way we kids preferred to go. Before long, we were racing across them as if they were a solid floor.

Wooden floor joists

Wooden floor joists

One day, having been cooped up for hours by incessant rain, I was eager to get outside to play. The joists were still wet, but that didn’t stop me from skipping across them at top speed on my way to the back yard. I was almost there when my foot slipped off the second-last joist. I couldn’t save myself and my legs crashed between the joists. But my momentum carried me forward, and my upper body landed fair on top of the two-inch wide hardwood timber frame. The air rushed out of my lungs and I was left gasping. I flopped across the joist, staring down at the bits of rubble, scraps of wood and dark wet earth, scared and disoriented, the pain in my chest making it almost impossible to breathe.

I must have groaned or called out, or Dad heard me when I fell, because suddenly he was there. He asked if I could speak and I dazedly shook my head. He carefully picked me up and carried me inside. By the time he’d placed me on the bed I was breathing again, but my chest hurt. After a quick conference with Mum, Dad took me out to his work truck and we were on our way to the doctor’s surgery. Dr Needham didn’t think any of my ribs were broken, just badly bruised, but he said I should be strapped up, just in case. I wondered what kind of strap would go around my chest. Was it like a big leather belt? Would I be able to move?

The strapping turned out to be a wide strip of sticking plaster, just like Mum or Dad used to cut from a roll to keep the lint in place when we’d cut or grazed ourselves (there were no Band Aids then). However this plaster was much wider. Dad helped Dr Needham stick it in place right around my skinny chest. It covered me from my armpits almost to my waist and was very uncomfortable, pulling on my skin whenever I moved – which I tried not to do anyway, because it hurt my ribs.

Strapped ribs

Strapped ribs

I had to keep the plaster on for several weeks, and it soon became very grubby. Underneath, my skin became irritated and itched like crazy. I wanted to scratch but couldn’t. The edges of the plaster frayed and bits of fabric tickled me as well. How I hated it! My ribs soon felt fine, and I kept asking Dad when it could come off. Finally the day came when Dad could remove that hated plaster. Slowly, inch by inch, he peeled it off. My skin was red and tender, and felt strangely cold without its covering. But at last it was gone and I was very thankful.

While I’d been strapped up, Dad worked hard to get the room finished. He got the corrugated iron roof on and the floorboards laid in quick time. Now nobody could slip on those joists again. And when the building was all done, we had two more bedrooms.

(c) Linda Visman

Advertisements

Building Rooms as the Family Grows

March 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, Family, Family History, Gratitude, History, Memoir, Migration | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

I have been away, and set this post to be published on Monday the 9th March. It didn’t work for some reason. Now I am back home, here it is.

 

 

monday-memoir-badge

 

By the end of 1957, we’d been out of our four-berth caravan for about a year, and were living in the tiny three-roomed cottage Dad had bought and set up on our block of land. He had also built an extra room onto the back of it during that time, a bedroom for us four kids. At last Mum and Dad could have their own bedroom. But it was to be for only for a short time.

Mum’s brother and family had come from England to Adelaide in South Australia . My uncle visited us from there about 1957, and decided there was plenty of work for him in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and that he would leave his job in Adelaide and bring his family there. They would move in with us until they had a place of their own.

So Dad again had to get busy building a small two-roomed ‘garage’ next to our little cottage. Its front room served as a very basic kitchen, the back one as a bedroom, into which Aunty and Uncle moved with their young daughter. Their older son joined us four kids in the new bedroom. By that time, our total household amounted to ten people – and Mum was pregnant with twins.

This sharing of limited resources with extended family was not an unusual situation for the times. In the late 1940s and especially in the 1950s, Australia’s population grew very quickly, due to both post-war immigration and the baby boom. A great many migrants began their lives (once they had left the migrant camps to which many had come) with the purchase of a block of land and very little else. From there, they would build their own ‘garage’ that would house their family until they earned enough to build their own house.

When I say ‘build their own garage/house’, I mean that literally – many, if not most, did indeed build with their own hands. They couldn’t afford the cost of having it built by someone else. The 1950s was a time of great energy and enthusiasm, a reaction to the horrors of six years of war, a grasping of the freedom European migrants were offered in a new land. It was a time of economic growth, when most people were willing to put up with hard work, long hours and difficult living conditions in order to make a better life for themselves and their family than they would have had in post-war Europe.

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

In mid-1958, after a difficult birth where Mum came close to losing her life, our baby brother joined the family. His twin sister had, unfortunately, died at birth. It was about then, with their only two children in Australia, that Mum’s parents decided they would come too. When Grandma and Granddad arrived in late 1958, Mum and Dad moved out of their newly regained bedroom so her parents could have it, and went back to the night-and-day in the lounge room.

Dad was busy building rooms again. The kitchen, which in 2014 still had its original small cupboards, would be extended to a new outer door, and the little L-shaped cottage would become a rectangle, with two more bedrooms filling in the space. 1958 was a year of high rainfall in New South Wales and Dad was often rained off the building projects he worked on as builder’s labourer and concreter. During those down times, Dad worked on our house. He says he did more work on our house in those days than he did on his regular work, even in the rain.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Granddad had never helped my parents with a penny the whole time they were with us. Grandma slipped a few pounds to Mum from time to time when she could. She also gave us grandkids a shilling a week pocket money. We thought it a fortune, as we’d never had our own money before. In 1959 I think it was, my uncle bought a block of land close to the railway station with finance from Granddad. Granddad also helped to finance the building of a house there. Once it was completed, my uncle, aunt and cousins, and my grandparents too, moved in. At last, our family of seven had our home to ourselves.

For us kids, life was pretty good back then. We didn’t have much in the way of toys and possessions, but we had fresh air, plenty of room to play, lots of interesting places to investigate, and few worries, apart from our schooling and household chores. However, when I see the burdens my parents carried, I realise how difficult it must have been for them. I also believe it made us all stronger, both individually and as a family. Our parents gave us five kids a good start in many ways and we had much to be grateful for.

(c) Linda Visman

A House to Live in

March 2, 2015 at 12:09 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family History, History, Memoir | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

monday-memoir-badge

Sheelagh, Linda and Pauline, collecting wood to burn our rubbish. About 1956

Sheelagh, Linda and Pauline, collecting wood to burn our rubbish. About 1956

In 1956 Dad managed to buy a tiny three-room cottage from Dick Brooks, the builder he was working for. Mr Brooks had built the cottage in 1948 when he had arrived in Australia from England. He was now becoming more prosperous and had built himself a larger house to replace the cottage. [Years later, I saw the second house he’d built and was surprised at how small and basic it was.]

Dad had to cut down the big tree in the middle of the block to make room for the little cottage. He used only an axe and ropes. I am sure I have seen a photo of him standing on the big fallen trunk, cutting off a branch, but either the photo is lost, or it is just in my imagination. He did have some help from a couple of men when he needed it, but did most of the work himself. Once the tree was removed, Dad leveled the ground, dug foundations and put up brick pillars for the house to sit on. Again, he used only hand tools.

The cottage came on the back of a truck. We kids thought that moving a whole house was an amazing thing to do. I don’t remember it actually being put in place – we were probably at school on the day. Dad connected the water to the kitchen sink and when it was all set up we moved in.

After living for so long – about two years – in the caravan, we thought the cottage was huge. All it had were one bedroom, a lounge room, kitchen and front verandah. All of them were really tiny. You can still see the outline of the old place in the original ceiling beams today, and I wonder now how we could ever have thought the place was big. But to us then it was our castle.

We four kids slept in the bedroom, all together in a double bed. My brother and sisters slept side by side at the top and I slept across the bottom. Mum and Dad bought a folding divan for the lounge room, and every night had to make it up into a bed for themselves. Of course, it had to be stripped and the bedding packed away again every morning, but they were used to doing that in the caravan.

There were two little shops on the Princes Highway (a narrow strip of tarred road that melted in summer) less than half a mile (one km) away. One was owned by the Moanes and the other by the Packhams (I think Packham’s was also the Post Office). Mr Packham was also an electrician and Dad arranged for him to connect power to the house. At that time nobody ever locked their houses. One day, while Mum was out doing the shopping, Mr Packham came and wired up the cottage. Before Mum came home, Mrs Reid from the house across the street came over and turned all the lights on so that Mum would have a lovely surprise when she returned and found the power connected.

On the Highway at Albion Park Rail. 1951: the Post Office and Moane's shop (From Illawarra Images)

On the Highway at Albion Park Rail. 1951: the Post Office and Moane’s shop (From Illawarra Images)

I can imagine how wonderful it would have been for Mum to have a house at last, no matter how small; to have power and water and an electric stove (a ‘cooker’ as she called it). She no longer had to fight with that horrid and scary little pump-up burner every time she had to cook. Now she had an electric jug to heat water for a cup of tea, for washing up and for ablutions. There were electric lights instead of the kerosene lamp. We all had a solid roof to sleep under. What heaven!

One day, not long after we’d moved into the house, there was a fire farther down the street from our house. Along the lake shore to the south of us blackberry bushes grew in profusion, and the fire took a fierce hold. The breeze drove it towards our new cottage. The only person with a telephone was Mr Rogan, who lived across the street next to Mrs Reid. Someone went to ask him to ring for the fire engine. He refused – the fire wasn’t threatening him!

Someone then had to race round to Moane’s shop and call from there. The fire was getting closer and closer and we were very worried. The fire engine soon arrived, but their water tank was empty and they couldn’t find a hydrant. Luckily, Dad knew there was one across the street, and the fire was eventually put out just before it reached us. Those blackberries never grew back; I think people made sure of that after that fire. It was a pity though, because we kids loved to collect those fresh juicy berries. We had to go farther afield to find any after that.

Out the front of 73 Koona St. About 1957. Left to right: Aunty Mary with Jean; Dad and Mum behind us children: Linda, Sheelagh, Pauline and Peter. Cousin Christine is in front. Dad is very brown from working outdoors. Behind us is the Reids’ house, across the street. Mum made the summer dresses we three girls are wearing.

Out the front of 73 Koona St. About 1957. Left to right: Aunty Mary with cousin Jean; Dad and Mum behind us children: Linda, Sheelagh, Pauline and Peter. Cousin Christine is in front. Dad is very brown from working outdoors. Behind us is the Reids’ house, across the street. Mum made the summer dresses we three girls are wearing.

(c) Linda Visman

Finding a Place of Our Own

February 22, 2015 at 11:10 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family History, History | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

monday-memoir-badge

We lived up at Avondale until the bridge job was finished, then went back to Reid Park. Mr A, the farmer who owned the property next to which we’d been living at Avondale, had taken a liking to Mum (she was quite beautiful). After we moved away, he started to come around to the caravan and pester her. We’d only been back at the park for about a month, but Dad immediately decided it was time to find a permanent and safe place for us to live. I think this was late 1955 or early 1956.

One day he drove off in his work truck to Albion Park Rail, about five miles south of Dapto. Albion Park Rail was then a little village on the Princes Highway, with the main town of Albion Park a couple of miles to the west in dairy country. It was so named because the railway station was there and had been for about sixty years at that stage. Tommy Totten, the real estate agent, had several blocks of land available, but most were too expensive for us. However he did have three blocks by the lake on Koona Bay, each priced at ninety pounds. Dad checked them out, decided on one and put down a ten pound deposit then and there. It was Lot 8 (later #73) on Koona St, Albion Park Rail.

   Koona Bay on Lake Illawarra

Koona Bay on Lake Illawarra

The block of land backed onto the western shore of Lake Illawarra, south of Wollongong. That evening, with the purchase sorted out, Dad took us in his work truck to see it. When we arrived, the full moon was just rising out of the lake to the east. As we admired the view, a fisherman standing in his clinker-built boat, rowed right in front of the face of the moon. The scene couldn’t have been choreographed any better.

Dad asked Mum what she thought of the place. “Oh Ernie, it’s magic!” she said. He hadn’t told her about buying it. When he said, “This is ours”, Mum cried.

Windang St

Windang St

Wingang St is the road from the highway that we came down towards the lake. The gates are on the lake side of the railway line that we have to cross. Turn right at the end, where the truck is heading, on to Koona Street and a couple of hundred yards further along was our land, by the lake. That wooden cottage on the right-hand corner is still there, over sixty years later.

Within a day or two Dad moved the caravan to the block of land that had one huge tree about one-third the way down the block, with scrub to where bulrushes grew along the lake shore. Two houses stood side-by-side directly across the street from us, but there were hardly any other houses nearby. On our side of the street, there were none on both sides for quite a way along the lake shore. I have no photos of our caravan, or of the early years we were there.

The street was a wide, unsealed, rutted and pot-holed track. We had no electricity and just one water tap outside – but at least mains water was connected. We had the caravan, with the same equipment as before – a kerosene lamp and the spirit pressure cooker that Dad usually pumped up because Mum was scared of it. Mum still did all the cooking for the six of us on that little two-burner stove.

Dad also erected a heavy army disposal canvas tent so that we had more living room. The kids slept in the van and Mum and Dad out in the tent. As well as his day job, Dad began working out a way to get us a proper house to live in. However, the essentials had to be dealt with first.

There was no sewerage in the area, and it was far too expensive to put in a septic tank. So Dad did what everyone else did there. He built a little outhouse in the back yard, where we could go to use the tar-coated can. The “dunny-can man”, also known as the “sanno man”, came in a truck every week and exchanged the full can for an empty one. You didn’t want to be in there doing your business when he arrived! However, primitive as it was, that was the only facility of its kind we were to have for the next twenty years.

        

An old back yard toilet

An old back yard toilet

A ‘sanno man’ carries a full can to his truck

A ‘sanno man’ carries a full can to his truck

Washing clothes was always a hard job. Dad built a stand for concrete double wash tubs and set up a wood-burning copper. All our water had to be carted in galvanised buckets from the tap up near the road and poured into the copper. The fire under the copper heated the water to boiling, and all our clothes (they were cotton) apart from the woollens got a good wash.

Once ready, the clothes were fished out with a stick – usually part of a wooden broom handle – and dumped into the concrete rubs that we’d filled with cold water to be rinsed. Attached to the divider between the tubs was a hand wringer. The clothes would be swished around in the water to get rid of as much soap as possible, then squeezed between the rollers to remove that water and fed into the second tub.

There would be a second rinse and wring, then the clothes, sheets, towels, etc, would be carried out in a large cane basket and hung on the rope line Dad had strung between a tree and a post in the back yard. A long wooden prop held up the middle of the line to prevent the washing from dragging on the ground. After the washing was done, it was the kids’ job – just the girls of course – to scoop out the cold, jellified washing water from the copper. That was a job we hated!

We still used a bowl or bucket when washing ourselves. There was no shower until Dad could build a bathroom, and that took about a year. Mum had a hard job all through those early years, but hardly ever complained. And now, at last, she was happy we had a home base.

There was an ice chest in the caravan, for which we bought a big block of ice from the ice man every week. It kept our milk and meat cool. We didn’t get our milk in bottles or cartons then. The milk cost a penny-ha’penny for a pint and we had a quart (two pint / one litre) billy-can. The baker also used to deliver, but he had a truck (later on, the milkman did too). He would place the uncut and unwrapped loaves (no sliced bread then) into a basket, which was covered by a clean cloth, and bring them down to the van.

An old milk cart

An old milk cart

A Memory:

The milkman comes around on the dirt road past our place every day. His cart has only two wheels, and is pulled by a horse. The milkman has a seat up at the front of the cart, but he doesn’t sit up there much. He walks along, and makes clicking sounds to the horse when he wants it to move along. Usually the horse just keeps walking along slowly and stops when the milkman walks round the back of the cart to fill up our billycans with milk. The cart has a big tank on it, with a tap where the milkman gets the milk out. We all like to take the billycan out to get it filled up with nice creamy milk, and give the milkman the pennies to pay for it (1955/6).

© Linda Visman

Our Caravan in the Bush (1955)

February 8, 2015 at 5:44 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family History, Memoir | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

monday-memoir-badge

 

This post was supposed to go out last Monday, the 16th February. For some reason, it didn’t respond to my trying to post it via my tablet whilst I was away from home.

 

Me and my younger sister Sheelagh

Me and my younger sister Sheelagh

 

About a year after we arrived in Australia, we were still living in the caravan at Reed Park. Dad and Mum had been saving money so we could eventually get something better. Mum was always very good at cost saving, and there was nothing left over for treats. I remember one day when I was still five, Mum came home with some groceries and unpacked them from the brown paper bags onto the table.

“I’ve brought some crackers,” she said.

I was really excited, because I thought she meant fire crackers but it was only Sao biscuits. She called them ‘cream crackers’ because that’s what they were in England. It was a real let-down! However, we rarely had biscuits of any kind, so Saos were a treat we had spread with butter and jam.

  Sao biscuits

Sao biscuits

Dad’s employers got a contract to do some work for Huntley Colliery, one of the many coal mines around the Illawarra area where we lived. It was to replace an old wooden bridge that had been damaged by the coal trucks with a concrete one. Dad had become their main concreter by then, so he was part of the work force to do the job.

Dad was asked if he would take the caravan and live in it there as caretaker of the job site. It would take several weeks to complete the project. So, we moved, with the van, to a spot just beside a dairy farm fence, a hundred yards or so from the bridge.

We were a few miles from Dapto, on a little back road in the foothills of the mountain range. Apart from the mine and a few small dairy farms, we were surrounded by bushland. The sandstone escarpment rose only a mile or so to the west. There was no bus service and Mum couldn’t drive. Dad worked from sun-up to sun-down.Sheelagh was five by then and went to school with the rest of us. It was too far for us four kids to walk to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Dapto.  A way was worked out for us to get there.

A Memory:  There is a big lemon tree near our caravan, with huge yellow lemons on it. The coal trucks go up and down from the mine and take the coal to the power house at Tallawarra. They are big and dirty and noisy on the dirt road not far from where the caravan is.

One of the truck drivers takes all four of us kids into Dapto every day so we can go to school, and he brings us back in the afternoon. We all sit up in the huge front seat of the truck next to the driver. The cabin smells of oil and coal and leather. I like it. We can see everything from way up here. He drops us off on the main street and we walk up the hill to the school. I bet nobody else gets a lift to school in a big coal truck!

 A coal truck similar to the one we rode in.

A coal truck similar to the one we rode in.

One day, when we got to Dapto, my brother Peter who was the eldest and had just turned ten, told us we didn’t have to walk all the way up to school – we could have a holiday instead. So we walked around the shops and played on the swings and slippery-dip in the park. The shop keeper who delivered groceries to Mum told her we had been playing truant from school.

A Memory:  Mum is very angry with us when we get home from Dapto in the truck, because the shop man told her we didn’t go to school. She gets out her wide green leather belt and gives us all a hiding. When we go back to school the next day, Sister Jude gives me the strap on my legs in front of the whole class.

Living was very basic while we were at Avondale. We had to carry water in buckets to the caravan from the creek that ran nearby. It was cool and clear because it came down from the mountains, and we got it before the dairy cattle messed it up. We used it for everything – drinking, washing, doing the dishes, cleaning. We didn’t have a bath of course, but washed at a basin of warm water with a flannel and soap. Mum washed all our clothes by hand. I look back and wonder how she coped at times. There hadn’t been much available money back in England, but she’d at least had hot running water.

Me with my bow and arrow - plus my two sisters, Dad’s work truck (left) & caravan (right).

Me with my bow and arrow – plus my two sisters, Dad’s work truck (left) & caravan (right).

Girls weren’t allowed to do many of the things boys could do, and my brother Peter had much more freedom than we three girls did. I don’t think my sisters worried about it, but I was a tomboy, and jealous because I couldn’t do the things he did.

A Memory: In the afternoons and on weekends, Peter takes his dog out into the bush. The dog is called Patch because he is white with a black patch on his eye like a pirate. He was a stray until Peter found him at Reed Park. Now Patch belongs to Peter. They go out exploring in the bush and sometimes find snakes. Peter scares Mum when he puts a dead snake on the ground in front of the caravan door. I sometimes think Mum doesn’t like living up here in the bush.

My brother Peter with his dog, Patch. (Caravan behind).

My brother Peter with his dog, Patch. (Caravan behind).

Did you have any experience living basic as a child? What was the situation? Did you have adventures like my brother?

© Linda Visman

A New Life in Australia

February 2, 2015 at 11:54 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family History, History | 7 Comments
Tags: , ,

monday-memoir-badge

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

Share Your World – 2015 Week #4

January 28, 2015 at 11:36 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family History, Gratitude, Memoir | 6 Comments
Tags: , ,

Share Your World blog badge

How quickly week 4 of this year has come along! Here are my responses to Cee’s week 4 questions on Share Your World.

Where did you live at age five? Is it the same place or town you live now?

Hey, you’re taking over my Memoir Monday topic here!! LOL!

When I turned five, I lived in the Lancashire country town of Oswaldtwistle. Our home was a three-up-three-down, in a row of stone terrace houses that had been built in the 1890s for the workers at the cotton mill across the back alley. Oswaldtwistle was an old cotton town, and so had lots of big mills. However it was quite a small place, and we were close to the surrounding moors.

When I was five and a half, we emigrated to Australia. At first, we (six of us) lived in a fibro migrant cottage with my aunt, uncle and baby cousin. This was in a small rural town in NSW called Dapto.

A couple of months before I turned six, we moved into a small (4-berth) caravan that Dad parked on the edge of Dapto, between a creek and the football ground called Reed Park. Later, we spent a couple of months parked in the foothills of the ranges, next to a dairy farm.

I have lived in many places in several states since then, always in country areas. I now live on the western shores of Lake Macquarie, a 4-hour train ride north of where I grew up. It is another lakeside village.

You are invited to a party that will be attended by many fascinating people you never met. Would you attend this party if you were to go by yourself?

Probably not. If it were just a couple of fascinating people, then I might.

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

Part of my story is in my answer to question 1. When I was about six or seven, Dad bought a block of land south of Dapto, on the shore of Lake Illawarra. It was a rural area, with dairying the main industry, apart from the steelworks at Port Kemble, across the lake. We lived there in the caravan at first, then Dad built the house we all grew up in.

I loved it there. We had open paddocks and bushland, and the lake. Being a girl, I wasn’t allowed to do the things my older brother could, so I was jealous of that. But it was a great place for kids to grow up in. Unfortunately it is no longer the same, having succumbed to the cancer of urban development. Where there were farms, paddocks and bushland, there is now a sea of roofs.

I couldn’t live in a small city, let alone a big one

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a young kid, I didn’t think of the future. As a teenager approaching the end of my schooling, I had a few preferences. I wanted to join the RAAF and be a pilot, like my dad had been during the war. I wanted to be a journalist too. However, being a girl in the early 1960s severely limited career options. Girls were only expected to work until they married, so they had few choices: shop assistant, hairdresser, office assistant, nursing or teaching. I ended up being a teacher.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week, we had coffee with good friends at an outdoor kiosk by the lake. Last Saturday, I had coffee with another friend, a fellow writer, and we talked books and writing. Both of these were wonderful, and I always enjoy and am grateful for the company of good people.

On Saturday this week, we will be attending the 90th birthday celebrations of another lovely friend.

Linda Visman

Emigration to Australia (2)

January 26, 2015 at 7:03 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, England, Family History, History, Memoir, Migration | 6 Comments
Tags: , , ,

monday-memoir-badge

 

Today is Australia Day in my adopted country, where I am a citizen. How appropriate is seems that it is the day to post the Memoir entry about my family’s first arrival here.

The ship New Australia was a rebuilt and re-named steamship originally called the Monarch of Bermuda, owned by the Shaw-Saville Line. After WWII, it became both a migrant ship and a troop ship, carrying British migrants from England to Australia, and then transporting troops to the Malayan Emergency and to the Korean War. It then returned to England to pick up more migrants.

S.S. NewAustralia Harbour Bridge 1955

Dad told me that on the ship, most families were split up, with boys staying with their fathers, while girls and all babies stayed with their mothers. Two families often had to share a cabin. However, our family had one of only two six-berth cabins on the ship to ourselves. It was situated on the poop deck, at the rear above the main passenger decks. Its location meant we had good ventilation in the hot tropical latitudes, whereas those on lower decks often suffered from the heat. Mum, Dad and Peter (8) slept on the three top bunks, and Pauline (almost 7), Sheelagh (almost 4) and I (5) slept on the lower bunks.

Children were expected to eat at a separate sitting to the adults, but Mum and Dad wanted us all to stay together, so they simply brought us to the adult dining sessions. We were all well behaved and nothing was ever said about making us eat with the other children. Dad told me that, though there were play areas for the children and most children played there, although we did go there once or twice, we all preferred to stay with our parents. They entertained us with books, stories and games.

All except Dad were very seasick as we sailed through the Bay of Biscay, which is on the western side of France, and Dad became our nursemaid. Otherwise we were well.

On our voyage from England, we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. I don’t know if we stopped at Malta or not, but from the Med, we passed  through the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea. My brother Peter reminded me that, as the ship passed along the deep canal, our deck was at ground level, and we saw Arabs travelling along beside us on their camels – that would have been really exotic to the sheltered and inexperienced children that we were.

Ship sailing through the Suez Canal

Ship sailing through the Suez Canal

At the end of the Red Sea, the port of Aden was the ship’s last stop before we sailed out into the Indian Ocean towards Colombo in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

A memory: We are on a big ship on the way to Australia. We are in a port (Port Said) and there are little boats crowding all around the ship. There are brown people in the boats wearing funny clothes, and they are selling things to the passengers. I can see all different kinds of fruit and other things I don’t recognise. They haul them up in baskets to the ship by long ropes. The passengers send down the money to pay for them. It is very strange, but bright and colourful and noisy.

Port Said "bum boats" selling to passengers.

Port Said “bum boats” selling to passengers.

We reached Fremantle in Western Australia first, and were allowed to land and go for a walk. The bunting that had been put up everywhere for the new Queen’s visit shortly before we arrived was still flying. I remember many years ago Mum saying that they spoke to several people who had come from England years earlier and who thought Australia was a good country to live in. We all got tired on our long walk, as for many weeks we had only the decks to walk around on.

From there, we carried on towards Adelaide and Melbourne, sailing along the southern coast of Australia and the Great Australian Bight, where we could see the great sandstone cliffs far to the north of us. We had been told the Bight could be very rough and Mum dreaded the thought of being sick again, but the weather and the sea remained lovely and calm.

After Melbourne, we rounded Cape Howe and were in the Tasman Sea, sailing north towards Sydney along the east coast of the continent, where we could occasionally see land and sometimes smoke from bushfires. My older sister Pauline had her seventh birthday on that final leg of our voyage.

Everyone was excited when the ship arrived in Sydney and went under the Harbour Bridge, but it was night time so we had to stay on board until morning. We disembarked on the 10th of March, 1954. It was six weeks since we had left England in deep snow. When we arrived in Australia, the temperature was in the nineties, fahrenheit.

SS 'New Australia' sails under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

SS ‘New Australia’ sails under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Most other immigrants went to various hostels, but we never had to set foot in one. Dad’s sister Mary and her husband Eric had sponsored us and were giving us somewhere to live until we found a place of our own. I can’t remember it, but I know that, after six weeks aboard a ship, we had to find our land legs again.

We also had to go through the process of immigration, but I remember nothing of that. Like the details of the new life ahead of us, it was Mum and Dad who had to worry about that. Like my brother and sisters, I was looking forward to getting to Aunty Mary’s house at last.

© Linda Visman

Emigration to Australia (1)

January 19, 2015 at 11:51 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, England, Family History, Migration | 7 Comments
Tags: , ,

monday-memoir-badge

Dad had first applied to migrate to Australia in 1947, a year after he left the R.A.F. He had joined up in mid-1941, and had trained as a fighter pilot in Canada. He served in the Defence of Britain, in fighters and fighter-bombers around the coastal seas. The only time he was on duty overseas was when he joined a special operation just before D-Day, dropping spies into France. Whilst in the RAF, Dad met many Australian pilots, and liked their carefree approach to life. He learned a lot about the country from them, and decided that Australia was where he wanted to raise the family he knew he and Mum would have.

 

Mum & Dad with eldest son Peter, about Oct. 1946.

Mum & Dad with eldest son Peter, about Oct. 1946.

 

From that first application, it took almost seven years before he was accepted. At first, Australia was only taking single men for particular industries, like coal mining. Dad talked with a friend of his younger sister, Mary, about the opportunities available to anyone who was willing to work. The friend applied, and emigrated soon after.

Then the conditions were relaxed to allow married men with no children. That’s when, sponsored by the friend who was now living and working there, Mary and her husband, Eric, also applied to emigrate. By the time they left England in 1952, Mary was pregnant with their first child, though they didn’t tell Australian Immigration that.

It seemed that everyone Dad spoke to went off to the “Land of Opportunity”. However, with four children, he was still ineligible.

Linda,Peter, Pauline,Sheelagh 1952

 

Then in 1953, the conditions were relaxed even more, and families were at last allowed to emigrate, as long as they had a sponsor or a job to go to. Dad re-applied with Mary and Eric as sponsors. As an ex-RAF fighter pilot, Dad was eligible for free passage, so we were not the “ten pound Poms”  that many people talk about.

In January 1954, Dad received a telegram advising him that our family had been successful in our application and that there was a six-berth cabin available to us if we could be in Southampton the following week.

Dad ‘sold’ our house to Mum’s brother, lock, stock and barrel (my uncle just took over the payments and Dad put the house in his name). Dad gave notice at his place of work and he and Mum packed up whatever they could take with us. We caught the train from home in Oswaldtwistle on a cold and snowy January day in 1954. After staying the night in London we caught another train to Southampton, where we boarded the steam liner the S.S. New Australia.

S.S. New Australia

S.S. New Australia

 

We were off on a voyage half way around the world to a country we kids knew little about, and leaving everything and everyone we did know behind us.

 

© Linda Visman

 

Memories of England (1)

January 12, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Posted in 1940s, 1950s, England, Family, Memoir, Oswaldtwistle | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

This is the first of my entries for Monday Memoir. I am using the Monday Memoir logo from my friend Queasy Peasy’s blog. Thanks to her inspiration, I intend to post entries in this category each Monday.

monday-memoir-badge

 

My Early Childhood

I was born in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England in 1948, and lived there until my family migrated to Australia in February 1954. The Lancashire climate is humid, and the cotton industry flourished there in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When I say the climate is humid, I mean that it rains a lot there!

Remains of Rhyddings Mill, Oswaldtwistle

Remains of Rhyddings Mill, Oswaldtwistle

There were many huge red-brick cotton mills in and around the town, carding, spinning and weaving cotton products for domestic and overseas markets. There were also all the support industries, such as dyeing and maintenance. Streets of terrace houses had been built by mill owners for their workers. It was in such a terrace house, a “three-up-three-down built of stone, that I and my older brother and my two sisters were born.

By the 1950s, the cotton industry had been killed off by cheap imports from places such as India, and engineering had taken over as the major industry of our district. My father had been a moulder before World War II, but joined the R.A.F. in 1941. When he returned home after he was demobilized in June 1946, he hated being in a foundry and worked outdoors whenever he could.

Mum & Dad with my older brother, 1945.

Mum & Dad with my older brother, 1945.

I have very few concrete memories of my life in England, even though I was old enough to begin school there after the summer holidays until we left in mid-winter. I attended St Mary’s Catholic School with my older brother and sister. We walked over a mile there and back each day in sun and wind, rain and snow and sleet. The only memory I have of school is sitting next to a girl who had head lice; I didn’t like her.

Mum, me & my older sister, about 1950

Mum, me & my older sister, about 1950

Here are a couple of earlier memories that I do have:

Hospital – I was in isolation at Blackburn Infirmary, suffering from glandular fever; aged about 2-3 years.

I’m in a cot. I don’t like being in a cot. I’m standing in the cot and holding the bars, and looking at the door. There is a smell. I don’t like the smell and I don’t like being here. Mummy and Daddy are coming. I can see them. Maybe they will take me home today.

Me and my siblings 1953

Me and my siblings 1953

Toy HorseI am about 2-3 years old

I’m on my horse outside the front of the house. The house is on Roe Greave Road. It is made of stone and is big and solid and dark from all the smoke. All the houses are joined together and there is a whole street of them with doors opening onto the footpath. The footpath outside the house runs between the front wall and the cobbled street. My horse is made of wood and has wheels. I push it along with my feet, but every time it comes to a nick in the footpath it stops, and I have to lift the front wheels over it. It is a bit heavy, but it’s good fun.

 My brother and I playing on the footpath in front of our house c.1950

My brother and I playing on the footpath in front of our house c.1950

Leggings – I am about 3-4 years old

We are going for a walk. It is winter and here is snow on the ground. Mummy is putting on my leggings for me so my legs won’t get cold. I have a coat on over my dress. My leggings are made of thin leather and they are soft and brown. They cover my legs from my shoes to my knees. There are lots and lots of little buttons down the sides and Mummy has to do them all up. I love my leggings and all the little buttons, but I can’t do them up myself.

 

 

Buttercups and Bluebells

We’re all going for a walk up to the Top Reservoir, my Mum and Dad, my two sisters and my brother and me – Sheelagh is in her pram. Buttercups cover the ground, bright and golden and cheerful. When I pick one I hold it up to my face. When you hold them up to your face the gold shines on you. Little bits of yellow powder fall off the flower and cover my nose. We come to a glade. Farther on there are trees around, and under them are carpets of bluebells. The whole ground is blue.

When we get to the moors near the water, we have a picnic. Dad cooks baked beans and bacon on a fire. I feel good.

Buttercups – looking over Oswaldtwistle in 2010

Buttercups – looking over Oswaldtwistle in 2010

© Linda Visman

« Previous Page

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

Rosella Room

Socio-cultural comment on a range of issues, including literature, music and mental health

Myricopia

Exploring the Past to Improve the Future

Foxgloves and Bumblebees

A Nature Journal

L.T. Garvin

Eclectic blog: short fiction, poetry, humor, occasional dreams and wild book schemes.

Echidna Tracks

Australian Haiku

irevuo

art. popular since 10,000 BC

The Faery Writer

Colleen M. Chesebro ~ Novelist, Prose Metrist, & Word Witch

sketchings

Thel's Sketchings: Art, Photography, Musings & Short Stories

Learn Fun Facts

An Archive of Curious Facts for the Curious

backstorypress.com

A blog about writing and reading

roughwighting

Life in a flash - a weekly writing blog

Half Baked In Paradise

Searching, settling, sauteeing and spritzing

The Curry Apple Orchard

A blog designed to remember the past and celebrate the present.

barsetshirediaries

A site for the Barsetshire Diaries Books and others

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.

Leigh Warren :: Country Music Outlaw

The ramblings of Leigh Warren about himself, country music and maybe... well who knows

Diane Tibert

~ writer -

Looking Back

With Mick Roberts. Est. Online 2000