All aboard to sunny Australia.

‘Let’s now move forward to, or back to, depending on what you might have read so far, to our period of migrating to Australia. The first murmurs I heard involved Argentina followed by South Africa. Australia came about because some war-time friends had already taken the step in the very early fifties or perhaps even the late forties. It took them 9 days to fly to Australia, so I am inclined to think it was the late forties. Their choice had been Australia. Many letters were exchanged and they were of the most euphoric kind. The streets of Australia were paved in gold and all was possible, own cars, own homes, cake eating on Sunday with mountains of cream, you name it, Australia had it all. My mother was really taken in by it,  ‘own home’ was beckoning more than anything, and especially with a bathroom.

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

Here a quick look again at those earlier war time periods. I seem to be joking or having fun still… Thirteen years later and I would find myself in Australia. It took a while for ‘fun’ to surface again.

But getting back to migrating and those last few weeks. The planning stage evolved rapidly with a visit to the Australian embassy and inspection by Australian Doctor. X rays were taken and the basics of our health determined by standing around in underpants while chests were listened to and asked to turn this way and that way. We had to touch toes and stick our tongues out to the Doctor. All our vaccinations were always strictly adhered to. Soon we all were deemed to be fit for Australia. We were the perfect white family for migrating and as there were six of us, Australia must have been drooling licking its still very British oriented but recent Australian Federation lips. Not a hint of a brown colour or smidgeon of Dutch colonial imprint of any kind. Blond and fair, just what the Doctor ordered

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo onboard.

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo on-board.

Above photo shows the gate-way to five weeks on-board a luxury boat full of Dutch migrants. There was a little band that would play over and over, ‘t was on the isle of Capri that I found her, with ‘O’ sole mio’ after we left Genoa. All hell broke lose when the boat pulled away from Sicily’s Messina. Many of those sons of Italian families would never be seen back again in those ancient villages.  Their mothers would be milling together, shedding tears around the water-wells for many months yet. The journey away from shores and love, so sadly final and permanent. A return impossibly expensive and at the time would not have been contemplated. Luigi, the best cobbler in Palermo now gone so was Antonio the dressmaker’s son. When the boat pulled away from Amsterdam and harbour, my mum and dad must have felt that too, but with six of us needing to find our cabins, they soon kept busy.

 

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Photo above; Bye, Bye Holland. I took this photo with my newly bought camera earned from delivering fruit and vegetables to Embassies in the many weeks before. (mainly from American Embassy tips, which were extraordinarily generous,and with hot soup as well)

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

Of this photo I remember the on-board film shop developer praising me. I think it might also have been a moon shot. I don’t see any sun, but…it was a long time ago now. The time on board was amazing, a holiday as never before. Can you imagine getting a new menu to chose from each time?  The decisions to make; pork or beef, chicken, and in morning, eggs boiled or fried? There was table tennis, a sweep stake which we always won some money with. And that little orchestra; It was on the Isle of Capri that I found you, forget about the walnuts! The Italians were still doe eyed, sad!

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

The two weeks after leaving Aden to Freemantle was mainly spent by my parents getting their luggage trunks from down the bowels of the ship on deck to make an inventory and make sure we would all be ready for Sydney. My parents wanted us to make a good impression in Australia and only Sunday best would do. The arrival in Freemantle was on a Sunday.  I have to go back a few months  now. A good friend told me; tell your parents to think twice before going to Australia. ‘It is a very boring country and on Sunday everything is closed’.

The arrival in Freemantle on a Sunday proved his warning and I remembered. The only people walking around were the passengers from the boat. It was something like out of the Neville Shute book and film ‘On the Beach’ that was yet to be made. All of us looking at each other, all of us dressed Sunday-best with proper coats and ties, cleanly scrubbed necks and underpants. But, what for?

Freemantle was empty or at least it looked empty. I did hear a cricket score filtering through the blinds, not that I knew a cricket score then, but do know now.

FREMANTLE IN 1956 ON sUNDAY

FREEMANTLE IN 1956 ON sUNDAY

 

Arrival in Sydney.

Sydney's arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the 'quality'.

Sydney’s arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the ‘quality’.

 

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33 Responses to “All aboard to sunny Australia.”

  1. berlioz1935 Says:

    Our trip to Australia was very similar and we enjoyed the luxury of the P & O liner. Did you go on land anywhere? Aden was a step back into the middle-ages where they sold fake Parker fountain pens to unsuspecting greenhorns like me. Colombo was a multicultural wonderland. Fremantle was very disappointing and had nothing to do with the modern Australia we expected. Shops displays looked like they hadn’t been changed since before WW 1.

    I kept a diary or more like a journal. You displaying your sense of humour. We were more stoic as our first aim was to get as far away from Germany as possible.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The stop overs were at Genoa, Messina, Port Said and Aden. Fremantle, Melbourne and then Sydney. When Helvi and I arrived in Fremantle after Finland and marriage it was a Sunday too but I had already softened the blow to Helvi about what to expect on Australia’s dreaded Sundays. I think the churches at that time were very opposed to any activity, especially the Churches of England. The only life discernable were the blowing around of dead newspapers and dogs scratching friendly fleas.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. auntyuta Says:

    Great memories. A lot of it reminds me of our luxury voyage to Australia in 1959. Best holiday ever!🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Julia Lund Says:

    My parents considered emigrating from the UK to Australia in the 1950s. They were young and quite poor with few prospects. I remember being told I could have been born in Australia and, growing up, I often wondered how life might have been different. In the end, my grandmother’s potential heartbreak put an end to my parents’ Australian dreams. Neither of them are still alive for me to ask if they ever regretted not going.

    Your reminicences and photos of what happened to you are glimpses of what might-have-beens …

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, what might have been. I often think what ‘might have been’ if my parents had not taken that step to wrench all of us out of schools and go to a country so far away. My brother Frank who soon after arrival showed very disturbing signs of being mentally ill had a dreadful time under barbaric ‘bedlam’ conditions in Sydney. He finally made it back to Holland and had good care ever since. He is still alive today. That is a story on its own, Julia.
      “It is not all gold that glitters”.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. rod Says:

    Truly fascinating. Well worth assembling all this for your memoir, provisionally entitled Going Dutch.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    How astute you were as a youngster Gerard to have the foresight to take and keep these wonderful photos. Memory is one thing, but to have photographic evidence of how things were in that long ago time is great. Did you learn to develop your photos in Holland or after you came to Australia? I wish someone in my family had taken photos of life here in the Great Depression. I suppose they were too depressed. I don’;t remember seeing a camera during those years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, there must be a lot of photos I have to go through and I’ll post them as I find them. Fortunately, many are in albums which Helvi organised some years back.
      I learnt developing my own photos from the daughter of those Dutch friends who migrated to Australia many years before us. It was done in a back room that could be made reasonably dark.
      My Agfa Clack camera was a real beauty and had it for many years.

      Like

  6. Apollonia Says:

    Wat een heftige tijd! Don,t be sorry for the “rope” geeft juist diepte!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Andrew Says:

    Wonderful photos, Gerard. It is good that they have been preserved as a social history. You narrate it in such a captivating style but you do need to work a few more dogs in. The best bloggers always include dogs, just like the old masters :-))

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Milo is waiting under my computer table. He will get to star in my memoir. Don’t worry. Thank you for your kind remarks. How is the house going, getting a grip on it all? Love the time of blue-bells and moths.

      Like

  8. petspeopleandlife Says:

    This tale of immigration fascinating. I would have been devastated had I been in your shoes and had to leave my home country. But it seems that it all worked out very well for you and Australia is totally your home.

    I’m with Andrew on his thoughts about writing something about a dog. My only hope is that you did not have to leave one behind in Holland.

    Like

  9. sedwith Says:

    Good read Gerard as usual. You had such an eye for a photo frame I love your shots! That trip to oz is always laced with so much hope when you’re young…then reality steps in…… I was 11. Determined to have a pogo stick to jump with the kangaroos!

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I was fifteen, Lesley, and was curious to see a car they had written much about. It was both a sedan and a truck which our Dutch friends had bought after they had already been living here in Australia for some years. I thought that somehow a button would be pushed that tranformed the sedan into a truck.
      It was an old rusty Chevy 1945 utility on three wheels that I never even saw being driven. (The fourth wheel was replaced by a stack of bricks).
      The Dutch friends gilded the lily about many other things as well.
      Much still to come about that episode of much deceipt but much cake eating.

      Liked by 2 people

      • sedwith Says:

        Our first car here was a huge 51 black Plymouth (we arrived in 64) damn thing was a barge that kept stalling at the lights…felt like I was in a hearse think it cost £30

        Like

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, that would have been some car. Buicks and Humbers were also big. My dad was the expert at stalling his car at green lights. I think Mr McGoo took lessons from Dad.

        Like

  10. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I was carried back in history, Gerard, a couple of centuries before my time, when similar letters from America caused my Scotch Irish ancestors to pack up and leave Ireland. They were off to the ‘land of milk and honey,’ but how terribly difficult it must have been to leave behind what they had always known. And how scary. BTW you commented on my blog about bridges and I did something that sent you comment scurrying. I assume the bridge you referred to is the same iconic bridge in your last photo. It is beautiful. And I still remember it from my visit to Sydney in the 70s. –Curt

    Like

  11. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    It is so difficult for a stay-at-home to imagine the wrench of leaving your country and travelling to another continent so far away that you cannot imagine ever coming back. Nevile Shute always makes Australia sound like Utopia.

    Like

  12. Patti Kuche Says:

    What great captures of time and place in your photos Gerard. Australia is still such a long way from everywhere but how much further away it was back then . . . a brilliant read!

    Like

  13. bkpyett Says:

    Another interesting read Gerard, and loved the photo of the backs of your siblings.

    Like

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