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.

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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