Moving About.

IMG_1100Moving

Our daughter ‘moving.’

I still remember the day we left Holland to sail to Australia. We went on-board with a bewildering number of suitcases and four trunks in which my parents stashed the most essentials. Some items were posted separately, destined to arrive  after arrival in Sydney. These included my father’s ‘comfy chair,’ mother’s ‘Singer’ foot pedal sewing machine, our electric  Westinghouse wooden barrelled (oak) washing machine with other odds and ends. I remember mother being quite snobby about having an electric washing machine. It might well have been the first electric washing machine in the whole of  The Hague if not in the street. It weighed a tonne with an enormous motor which made the lights dim when switched on. The wringer too was electric with rubber rollers grabbing anything in-sight. My mother came close to being strangled on several occasions when a loose fitting garment or her dangling necklace were mercilessly grabbed by these revengeful rollers. One had to quickly push a roller-release lever after which the rollers reluctantly released the hapless victim.

My father’s easy chair facilitated smoking more than repose or rest, or at least that is what I had surmised in my toddler’s years. “Gerard, leave your father at rest, don’t disturb him”, was my mother’s oft repeated refrain. For some reason Dad needed a lot of rest. At that early age I associated resting with blowing curls of smoke. My mother could never have been that tired, at least I never noticed smoke escaping from her mouth. Yet, when dad was at work, she would often sleep in his chair, especially after recovering from doing mountainous loads of washing with an occasional escape from attempted wringer strangulation.

My father’s smoking was a ritual which involved a packet of Douwe-Egberts  tobacco, some cigarette papers, and a lighter that contained a wick infused with petrol. To light the wick one had to push down a little lever that would grind a small wheel against a flint stone which in return would then ignite a spark thus flaming the protruding wick.  This device had me intrigued for years. Later on in his life his choice of tobacco inexplicably changed over to Rotterdam Shag tobacco.

During the war, especially towards the end, no tobacco was available. The only people still smoking were those that risked life in clandestine smuggling or by those that had swapped and changed national loyalty with the German soldiers. My father’s forced rehab from smoking made life unbearable for my mother. At times, I would be urged to go out and scan the footpath for any cigarette butts which my dad would gratefully receive and somehow unpick and re-roll to relieve his nicotine addiction by a few puffs. Oh, Gertie ( that was my dreadful given name during the war) can you go out and find some butts for your father. The problem was that other boys were sent on similar errands. I remember a bigger boy from the same street ‘Anton van Uden’ who stole three butts that I had spent 2 hours in finding around the bombed out streets. Oddly enough, later on we became the best of friends. After migrating to Australia I visited this friend back in Holland and found him to be in a very sad state. He was unhappily married with two young children. In great confidence he told me “never get married, Gerard.”  We went out that night to a dance-nightclub whereby another man was threatening me with a surly drunkenness out on revenge, urging me to fight him. My unhappily married friend got up and sorted him out in seconds. The friend was a military policeman.

My daughter is now moving closer to the city, ‘where all the action is.’ It reminded me of our move back in 1956 to Australia ‘where all the action was also much in vogue’. My parents left with suitcases and four trunks, six children. My daughter with two teen-age boys has enough stuff to fill an entire boat. It is not as simple as it used to be. It will take days. We are helping her move and she will hire a ‘Truck with two men.’ Good luck.

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18 Responses to “Moving About.”

  1. Big M Says:

    Those wringers terrified me. Every few months there was a newspaper story about some poor kid having every bone in his arms broken like a cartoon character.

    Yes, with some folk it is ‘all action’ when moving. I hope you didn’t get lumbered with the washing machine, or Americana styled fridge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, now washing is spun and no risk to limbs. We had that machine in our suburb of Revesby for many years, Big M. It made a grumbling noise as if it was eating all those garments. My mother used the wringers for larger items, the rest would be hung on the Hill’s Hoist.
      I believe this washing machine is now exhibited at the National Museum in Canberra together with a Hill’s Hoist and an early Victa lawn mower.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    I had some near misses with those darn wringers too. Good luck with the move.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, at least with hand wringing your arms were safe. What a job though. During those years people were still slim. No wonder, with all that wringing and hanging washing.
      Much wringing is done now watching teenagers grow up.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Forestwoodfolkart Says:

        Ha that is very true. The teens don’t know what wringing is, much less do it. Only the parents!

        Like

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        There would not be many under the age of fifty who would know what a ‘wringer’ looks like, nor understand the saying ‘the needle is stuck’ when referring to someone repeating himself ad nausea. Music now is locked up into electronic strips. Do people still whistle?

        Like

  3. Patti Fogarty Says:

    Gosh, a good reminder why I never want to move again!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. leggypeggy Says:

    Lovely memories. I was talking about wringer washers earlier today for no particular reason. Must have been channelling you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    We did not have a washing machine while I was growing up. We used “elbow grease”. Auntie sent her laundry out, which came back folded neatly and ready to wear or put away. At Grandma’s we scrubbed and hung on a line. This continued until I married in 1946, at which time I scrubbed on a washboard and hung on a line. My goodness how things have changed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Being married in 1946? That is an amazing piece of information. I can vaguely remember mother scrubbing us and clothing. It was left to my aunt Agnus, to check our nails.
      Very early we would be sent shopping where biscuits were bought per ounce and put in a brown paper bag.
      Sometimes, a shopkeeper would give a lolly. They were cunning because it would make us ask our mother if any shopping had to be done. We would walk half a mile for a lolly.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I remember an old round tub washing machine that lived out on our back porch and had roller wringers up on top to get the water out of clothes before they were hung out to dry. A common phrase of the day was “Don’t get your tits caught in the wringer.” Ouch. I think it meant ‘calm down.’ A fun post, Gerard. And I am reminded that moving is never easy. Quite amazing about being sent out to gather up cigarette butts. That really captures the desperation of the time— and the addiction related to tobacco. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, We don’t move easy when getting ‘on.’
      We have an AGM coming up at our compound. The item of bullying and cyclamen thefts is being brought on the agenda by us. Should make the meeting bearable!

      Like

      • Curt Mekemson Says:

        I got on the Board of our Condo Association for a while because I was I wanted to have some input into how the organization was run, which wasn’t very well. I was glad to sell our place and move on. 🙂 –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, but to get on Board needs fifty % of votes, Curt.
        Our Condo has eight votes of which four are disinterested and never turn up at AGMs. Of the other four, three are committee members who are doing the feather nesting and bullying and would never allow us on Board.
        The overseeing body of the ‘Government Fair Trading’ is the only way to solve it or…move on. But we like this place and all the kerfuffle is enough for an entire volume of future pieces or articles.

        Like

  7. shoreacres Says:

    I remember those wringer washers. Ours was in the basement, and I had a healthy respect for the wringers. I can’t quite remember my grandmother’s set-up. I know that laundry was done outdoors, and that it involved a pair of galvanized tubs, so it wasn’t automatic in any sense, but she might have had one of the manual wringers that were about during that time.

    The worst move I ever was involved in was the move my mother made from her long-time home in Iowa to her sister’s place in Kansas City. She didn’t want to move, and when Mom didn’t want to do something, she became the very definition of passive-aggressiveness. Speaking of things that would make a good tale! But I probably won’t write about that. When I began blogging, Mom swore that if I wrote about her, she’d come back from the grave and haunt me, and I’m not entirely certain she wouldn’t!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Linda. There were manual wringers that used to be able to get clamped on tubs. The electric machine ( Westinghouse) my parents bought during The Hague period was a revolution. Neighbours used to come over to admire it, peering into the wooden barrel which had steel hoops around it.

      It was to be kept wet at all times to prevent the oak slats from shrinking. The machine was shipped over from Holland to Australia on a commercial freight ship together with other items, mainly pieces of furniture.

      I suppose this was paid for by the Government. Who knows?

      Imagine today, shipping over a washing machine?

      Like

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