The throwing of a geographical Dart in Sydney.

IMG_20150503_0002This photo taken after the house was built on our own block. Mother’s sister ‘Agnes’ on a visit, then  Frank, my father, Herman with cat, my mother. Seated are sister Dora with cat and Adrian with a dog. 1960 perhaps!

 

While the distance to rail-station and shops were all important as well as owning own block with having a temporary dwelling (garage) for living in, the social aspects of a particular area were totally unknown. I don’t think this was at all considered. It was all to do with practical objectives and affordability. Comparisons with other Dutch migrants generally were about price, distance from infrastructure and size of the own block. Driving around it all looked rather the same with well kempt lawns and nodding petunias being prominent. Liking or disliking a certain area because of a ‘milieu’  or making a choice between any social and cultural  differences, if any, did not feature between migrated people that were lucky enough to have at least made it to getting a place to move into, no matter how humble or culturally isolated it might be.

Within a few weeks after moving in our own garage, a lean- to was built between our garage and next door fence which increased the liveable space with an extra 50%. A huge difference.  The corrugated asbestos sheeting  had not been pushed under the existing roof sheeting far enough. Each time it rained heavily the water would bank up and run back and into the lean to and above the bunks. Herman and I slept on the lower beds but John and Frank were not so lucky.

Rain (etching)

Rain (etching)

 

Dad who wasn’t very handy, had pinned  plastic sheeting above the bunks and underneath the corrugated roof sheeting against the wooden rafters. He was hoping the water would just run down the inside of the plastic sheeting and somehow flow outside again between the gap of the fibro wall sheets and the top timber plate. However, the slope of the roof and plastic sheeting wasn’t acute or steep enough and water would well up in  frighteningly large bubbles, inches above the peacefully sleeping bodies. In winter with the outside just four millimetres away, it wasn’t very nice when this bubble would spill and flood the unsuspected  sleepers. Of course during day-time rain, mum would relieve the water bubble by pushing it upwards and out. In time we all took  responsibility by waking in turns to relieve this water flood emergency above the two bunks. During heavy rain I could not be bothered and just sat in a chair all night, watch the water bubbles swell up and then relieve the threat giving the others a reasonable sleep. It was a good time for melancholia to thrive  and ponder reflections of past and possible futures..

Hand coloured etching.

Hand coloured etching.

If you look at the previous article photo where we are all in beds and on the floor you might have noticed a curtain. This curtain would be drawn with all the floor mattresses tucked in between the beds at the back of the garage and out of sight. This would then create a small lounge/dining / kitchen area. At night four boys slept in the lean-to which also kept the trunks with our clothing. At the other end of the garage opposite my parents bedding (and Dora and Adrian’s) there was a small electric stove with one hot-plate and underneath a minuscule oven. My mother cooked the most amazing meals on this miniature electric stove/ oven. We were hungry. Above this little stove was the electric hot water for the trickle shower. Next to the sink was the shower cubicle. My father (who wasn’t very handy) had jammed a round stick between the rickety shower walls to hold up a plastic shower sheet strung from plastic rings. It wasn’t unusual for someone to take a shower while mum was working above the stove creating a magic meal, for the shower curtain to collapse spontaneously.  This would be met with howls of laughter from all of us but not  the hapless victim standing in the nude just a metre or so away from our steaming meal.

In the evenings, the boys had to do home-work but as a reward would listen to a radio play, ‘ The adventures of Smokey Dawson’. They were the events of the week over the whole of Australia syndicated over more than a hundred radio stations.  Isn’t it amazing how we were spellbound by  voices telling a story over the radio?

Table setting. Hand coloured etching.

Table setting. Hand coloured etching.

We met the neighbours within a few weeks. Again it was our mother who made the move. She was fearless and despite speaking mainly in Dutch she would knock on the door. It has to remembered that houses in Australia are rather private. Dad wondered why the houses had windows! The whole street’s housing was uniformly barred from the inside and outside by sternly refusing anyone to get an inkling of what might be going on inside. Not a movement would ever escape to the outside. At night one could sometimes detect a sliver of faint light escaping through obstinate Venetian blinds, double backed up by layers of white lacy material and for extra security and more darkness, heavy curtains. It wasn’t easy to break through but our mum wasn’t to be deterred. She made friends. Years later after my parents moved back for good to Holland and on a trip back to Australia and their former home, the neighbours organised a surprise party for them. They remembered her efforts in bringing not only the neighbours together but also together in the sense that some would live with open  curtains and have  proper sit-downs with cups of tea.

She made a difference.

 

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39 Responses to “The throwing of a geographical Dart in Sydney.”

  1. M-R Says:

    Crikey, you immigrants had it tough alright ! You had to be as brave as brave to start with, and then you were faced with all the above kind of thing …
    I simply can’t imagine how it worked. We locals were spoiled.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia Lund Says:

    Your family’s living arrangements sound suspiciously like camping, and although I have very fond memories of my own childhood under-canvas holidays, I am guessing your experiences didn’t always feel much like a vacation.

    From what you’ve shared about your mum here, she reminds me of mine. We moved a lot and she slways quickly made new friends. A real gift.

    I love your etchings. Thank you for shsring them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. sedwith Says:

    Rain! I remember loving the sound on the roof but then …..all the times it would be time to get buckets for leaks and fix roofing and fix drainage in the pelting rain. It became a time of anxious frantic activity. Now I’m in the tropics with a fine tin roof…I love the sound of the rain. All relative eh?
    By the way thanks so much for your ‘likes’ I just got my hundredth and it was YOU! 😃

    Like

  4. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    Always interesting, Gerard to hear the immigrants story. Can I ask why your parents decided to return to Holland for good?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      My brother Frank ( photo above) became very ill with chronic schizophrenia and his treatment here was barbaric. My parents became upset and distraught how a country could be so callous and cruel to mentally ill people. Frank went back in 1974 and so did my parents. He has excellent care and is still alive today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Forestwoodfolkart Says:

        Oh, the care, or lack thereof, for mental illness in Austr
        alia years ago, was barbaric and still seems so at times today. It is good to hear other places have better systems in place. There is still I feel much more research to be done in terms of treatments. Lucky for your brother your parents were so dedicated to helping him.

        Like

  5. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    And well done to your mum for breaking down the venetian barriers!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      She was truly a social creature, making friends wherever she went. First just standing up in the neighbours’ kitchens but after a while she would try and get everybody to sit down and even suggest putting on the kettle for a cup- o- tea. I am talking about the period of the late fifties.
      It has changed now totally and social intercourse is everywhere.

      Like

  6. Carrie Rubin Says:

    A collapsing shower curtain could bring a lot of angst to kids going through their tumultuous teenage years! Talk about too close for comfort.🙂

    You’re mom is becoming my new hero. She sounds amazing.

    Like

  7. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I really like your Picasso-like etchings Gerard. Your Mom was obviously the mainstay of the family, a strong woman. Your night time roof duty reminds me of the times I have stayed awake at night in a wilderness tent, worrying about rain or snow gathering on the top. –Curt

    Like

  8. Andrew Says:

    Your art work is excellent Gerard. The narratives are good but the art complements them superbly.

    Like

  9. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I would have liked your mum Gerard. She was brave and didn’t let setbacks deter her. Your family was fortunate to have such an inspirational leader. Yes, you certainly had the camping experience right in your own home. But it made you all stronger.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, dad was the dreamer and mum the doer. Both equal in the partnership but when shifting countries, the doer become more important. Dreaming doesn’t bring bread on the table. However, dreaming brings sustenance of a different kind.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. rod Says:

    Like others, I am incrediubly impressed by your mother.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I sometimes think back how it was during those two years we lived all 8 of us in that garage. The area between my parents sleeping quarters and the kitchen sink would not have been more than 20sq metres. That would have held the dining table and 8 chairs. Home-work had to be done by those at school, my mum cooking, dad smoking and radio listening. Perhaps we shared chairs or took turns. I don’t know.
      My brother Frank was increasingly showing disturbing signs that not all was well. He kept losing jobs as a result of unpredictable violent outbursts.

      Like

      • rod Says:

        Was there any sign of this in the family or was he alone with this problem? It sounds as if your father had down periods, but that is far from schizophrenia.

        Like

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes Rod;
        There were early signs when still in Holland. Frank found it difficult to keep up with his class at school. He would concentrate obsessively on his running writing skill and yet neglect other subjects. As he grew older the signs became worse and a break in routine was often met with extreme anger.
        My father was a serious man but not often deeply down and apart from the six weeks in bed after landing here and finding he could not get the security of a government job, I have not known him to be deeply down. He did have a sense of humour which mum did not have. Oddly enough, my mum was the happy optimistic parent but yet did not often see the joke.

        There will be more of my brother to come. It was hard!

        Like

  11. Silver in the Barn Says:

    Every neighborhood is lucky to have that “one”. The one who makes fellowship happen, who organizes coffees, who brings people together. Your mum was a remarkable lady, Gerard, all the more when you consider she did not have the example of her own mother to follow. I hope the nuns were kind to her in the orphanage.

    Like

  12. gerard oosterman Says:

    Thanks Barbara,

    The orphanage was run by strict nuns but my mother never complained even though she told me it was an unheated building and for punishment they had to scrub a marble floor at 4 am.
    Here is a badly translated page of the orphanage called ; ‘house of virgins’ Maagdenhuis. (She had her own sister for company)
    “Caring for orphans

    Two Amsterdam in 1570, the women took care themselves for some girl being. Thus began the history of the Roman Catholijk Maagdenhuis. The city had in the sixteenth century by being the low life expectancy (35 to 40 years) and relatively large families.
    Catholic orphanage for girls grew rapidly and after several moves, it was established in 1628 at the Spui. In the period until 1750 expanded Maagdenhuis, thanks to the generosity of the Amsterdam merchants. In 1780 it was decided to replace the ancient complex by new buildings. By architect Abraham van der Hart rose a particular listed building, which many now know as Maagdenhuis at the Spui. In the first decades offered the new building accommodate nearly 400 children and thirteen nurses.

    Be Girls in the courtyard

    Since 1840, the housing and care of the children was entrusted to the Sisters of Charity. The sisters gave himself teaching and Christian education and paid much attention to the formation of needle boxes. The sisters have performed this task for more than a century. The improved economic and health situation in the 20th century, the number fell orphan girls. The views changed about caregiving. In 1953 Maagdenhuis closed when the orphanage gates; the property is now owned by the University of Amsterdam.”

    Like

  13. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    I love rain, the sound of it, not so much the puddles or the muddy paw prints that come with it. I didn’t know your parents moved back to Holland. Why didn’t they stay if I may ask?

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you for asking and I’ll give the same answer I gave above to Forestwood Folkart

      My brother Frank ( photo above) became very ill with chronic schizophrenia and his treatment here was barbaric. My parents became upset and distraught how a country could be so callous and cruel to mentally ill people. Frank went back in 1974 and so did my parents. He has excellent care and is still alive today.

      But more of that to come!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. petspeopleandlife Says:

    An interesting accounting of your early days in Australia. Those were tough times but I believe all those experiences made all of you stronger along with the “forge ahead no matter what comes along” attitude of your mother. I think her determination to succeed was rooted in her past as an orphan and her childhood experiences enabled her to see beyond present circumstances.

    My mother could have been your mom’s kin. My mother’s, mother died when she was about 5 years old and her dad “farmed out” my mother to an abusive Danish family. It is a very sad tale and that is something that my mother often spoke about. However, my mother was the driving force of our family of four, living a hard scrabble life on a cotton farm, working to toward paying for the land.

    Like

  15. bkpyett Says:

    Love your Chagall like etchings, Gerard!

    Like

  16. greenwritingroom.com Says:

    Your mother sounds amazing. We used to go abroad camping in the 1950s/1960s and our whole family set up resembles your description above… but for us it was temporary and summer only, I can hardly imagine how it must have been with two more children, homework, and earning a living on top.

    Like

  17. Charles Franklin Says:

    Your mother is amazing Gerard.

    Like

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