The photo above might be one of the first taken after arrival in Sydney. It looks as if we were still on the boat. Notice our Sunday best attire including ties and coats! It would have been hot in February, even so, a good impression on arrival was to be persevered with. Mum told us to wet our hair and run a comb through it. I always did try to get a slight wave at the front of my too straight hair with the help of a generous blob of brilliantine. I had my own jar.
The on-shore stevedoring workers were dressed in blue singlets and shorts. They could well have thought, while looking up and rolling their ready rub ciggie; ‘here comes another bloody boatload of bloody reffos.’ Definition of ‘Reffo’ ‘a refugee.’ Strictly speaking we were not refugees, but we were all painted with the same brush. European history was complicated and Australians at that time kept things fairly simple. At least we were white.
After the ship’s berth in Sydney we were greeted by our Dutch friends. They had already gone through all those emotions and experiences that we were now bravely facing head-on. My father looked tense while greeting our friends. Our war-time friends and previous neighbours from Rotterdam were seasoned and well adjusted migrants, who, according to the letters they sent us, were totally happy and content with having made that choice so may years earlier. There were also many others greeting the new arrivals holding up signs with ‘carpenters, painters, bricklayers’ wanted. It was as if one could already start earning money within minutes of landing. Was this a sign of ‘In Australia, streets are paved with gold?’
Dad must have arranged for our trunks of belongings to be forwarded to Scheyville migrant camp that we were supposed to travel to. The original plan to stay and live with our friends were put on hold. The reason I heard was so that we could first knuckle down to camp life in order to appreciate the better living with our Dutch friends afterwards. I think that might have well been the reason for my dad’s previous mentioned furrowed tense look. Did he smell a rat?
Holland was now almost six weeks in the past, yet had not forgotten the item of a special car. The car was a major drawcard for at least having some interest in coming to Australia. Remember, I was fifteen! Fifteen year old boys are interested, apart from roseate breast, also in cars. Our friends had written they bought a car that was both a sedan AND a truck. How could that be? I knew that America was a country were all was possible. Australia might well be a miniature version of that magical US. I could not let go of this vision of such a magic car that could be both. A kind of wonderful conjuring trick so unbelievable, so magical. It was all I could think off. Was a button pushed that would change the sedan morph into a truck? In my feverously overexcited mind, everything was possible. After all, did not American trucks drive into every school in Holland giving each child a bottle of Coca Cola? That was magic as well as part of the Marshall Plan to help Europe back on its feet…
I remember taking this photo ( and developing). It would have been after our stay at the migrant camp. The woman with the perm was called aunty but wasn’t a real aunt at all, more like a dragon. She used to lock Frank and John up in the coal shed when they had done a number 2 in their pants during their Montesori kindergarten days. I had to walk both home to this ‘aunty’. Mum was in hospital giving birth or something. Doing number 2’s during war time wasn’t unusual. In fact, it was one of those things that at least gave some relief during times of trauma and bombs.
Our friends had come to greet us not by traveling to the port by this special car but by train. A bit of a blow but it was just the first day. We walked around Sydney with them and that’s when I enjoyed my first milkshake. In Holland I drank milk and had never imagined one could better the taste of cow’s milk by shaking it and mixing it with an unguent such as strawberry or vanilla. But, there you have it. A country of milk and honey, the milkshake was just the beginning. The milk-bar had a strange name, probably ‘Stavros or even Mavros- Milkbar. It was in George Street but not anymore now.
At midday we had to say goodbye to our friends as the buses were now ready to take us well outside Sydney to Migrant Camp, Scheyville.