Those first two years of hard Yakka.

Fibro garage. Our first 'temporary' home.

Fibro garage. Our first ‘temporary’ home.

The above photo taken after moving in own first home. Brother John (deceased) at front, mum and dad with glasses together (single bed), sister Dora on floor.  Smiling Frank on top right and Herman and Adrian on left top and bottom right. The mattress at front was ‘temporary’ vacated by me taking the picture.

The garage was 8 by 4 metres.

The move from the old house to our own block of land with garage (Temporary Dwelling) was achieved after much searching by my mother scanning the  ‘Blocks of Land” for sale in Newspapers. Enough money had been saved and even though my Mum’s English was very poor, that was no hindrance. She would just speak Dutch with a few English sounding vowels thrown in. Through week-end meetings with other migrants, the fever of achieving this first goal had bedded down. Inquiries of deposits and how getting a loan was made ‘easy’ by building societies was now well understood by our mother. Estate agents were taken on who would drive her around to the different blocks for sale and her appraisal. She would be quick to measure distance to nearest railway station and distance from the city. The closest to city and station, the more desirable and also more costly.

Sydney already then was spread out over an area almost the size of Holland and with everyone feverishly seeking own house on own block it doesn’t take a genius to understand why suburbia reigns in Australian cities like nowhere else. Ownership of a car then becomes as essential as sleeping on a mattress. Selling blocks of land and cars was a main ingredient and driving force for a future prosperous Australia. It still is.

We were totally swept into having to buy/build our house after arriving in Australia. To be able for most to achieve this, housing was made from as cheap a material as possible, hence the thin sheeting to  clad the houses both inside and outside making them not much more than windbreaks. The asbestos cement sheeting was at the forefront of  those cheap building materials. It had and still has dire consequences. In Australia there are hundreds of thousands of ageing homes clad with that material.

The day of moving in our first dwelling is still etched into my mind like nothing else (apart from my first juvenile experiences of ‘ female bush and breasts). All our belongings were piled on a truck with driver. They must have been hired for the day. It was much more than we thought. The four steel trunks, all our bedding and washing machine, the ice box and six children’s clothes and bits and pieces that we had acquired during the six months or so we had stayed with our friends.  All were piled on the truck including Dad who had to try and prevent our belongings from getting blown off during the trip to our new place. He was spreadeagled on top of the truck with  arms and legs flailing trying to keep all on the truck. The truck drove off and I can still see my dad thrashing about on his back.

We moved in and mum and dad must have been busy to prepare all the bedding. Us kids were so proud and would walk backwards and forwards over the own block of land like eighteenth century barons inspecting a newly inherited farm in Bavaria. There were no more rats, no three legged dogs and we were on our own. Dad had even survived the trip on the back of the truck.

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21 Responses to “Those first two years of hard Yakka.”

  1. petspeopleandlife Says:

    I can see why the scene of moving is etched in your mind. After all, it was a monumental occasion. It must have been immense relief to move from the friend’s house even if it mean that everyone would be sleeping in one room. I like how your parents figured out the sleeping arrangements.

    I’m enjoying reading about your early life and exploits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, those first moments were triumphant and to think we ‘owned’ the ground that we stood on. The soil was ours to grow things on, Dad planted a small tree near the garage and lots of Marigolds. The sleeping had to be in tandem. If one turned around we all would. 😉
      The toilet was outside but inside was a shower with hot water that worked if you put the hot on trickle and be prepared to just wash the important bits by bending forwards and then backwards to let the trickle of water wet them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • petspeopleandlife Says:

        There is nothing so wonderful as one’s independence, no matter the hardship. I’m sure that trickle of hot water was the like a warm spring rain to your family.

        I grew up taking a bath in a wash tub in the same water as two other people. A cramped wash tub was better than no tub at all. 🙂


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, many a tub would be taken on a Friday or Saturday. A family affair. Those galvanised tubs are now keenly sought by many to put geraniums in.( or pelargoniums).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. rod Says:

    Your writing is very good, bringing home what these experiences were like, but I think the photographs you took at the time are really going to make this work when it comes to publication.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Yvonne Says:

    Like everyone else, I am so pleased to read this recounting of one family’s immigration to Australia. Your parents were made of strong stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    I immigrated all by myself, it’s an adventure isn’t it?


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      That sounds very intriguing. Why ‘all by yourself’ and how did that come about? I am curious. (as an ex-smoker friend)

      Liked by 1 person

      • nonsmokingladybug Says:

        I was born and raised in Europe, right on the border between Austria and Italy. My Grandmother, who raised me, passed away just a few days after my 18 birthday. So it was just me and the rest of the world. Then I fell in love with an American and moved 3000 miles across the world to the US.


  5. Curt Mekemson Says:

    That’s an incredible photo, Gerard. I was put out because I had to share a bedroom with my brother. Our house, on the other hand, was constructed from materials that had been left over from World War II army barracks. It was built 4 or 5 years after the war. It is still standing today. Great story telling. –Curt


  6. Andrew Says:

    An absorbing and moving story, Gerard.


  7. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    When my father was at sea, I always slept with my mother. Now and then slept in a large chair with footstool when grandma rented the room out. Interesting experiences to look back on. Love your ongoing posts Gerard/


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      My dad had his own chair in the evenings but during the day it was mum’s. She always had a nap in the afternoon, without fail. The stacks of sandwiches she used to make in the morning for all of us! A book on its own!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Silver in the Barn Says:

    There is nothing like owning your first real estate but after all you went through as a family, the triumph must have been sweet. Gerard, did you all speak English at the time?


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      We had some English, at least my eldest brother, dad and me. John would have had some as well. Most schools in Holland start teaching languages at primary and all high schools teach at least two or three other languages.
      However the Australian slang was something else. My sister and younger brothers picked up English very quickly. I still have a Dutch accent but in Holland people reckon my Dutch has an English accent!

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Julia Lund Says:

    The image of your dad anchoring your possessions to the removal van is quite a picture 🙂 It made me remember that old song “My old man said, ‘follow the van and don’t dilly-dally on the way’ ” …

    It must be so precious to have the photos from those times to accompany your memories.


  10. Charles Franklin Says:

    That is a small place to live in there. nice story Gerard. You are a good story teller.


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