Reverse Parking and Dancing

The above photos were taken within a week or so of our arrival In Australia 1956 January. It was during a heat wave. I took them with my Agfa Clack that I bought from money earned delivering fruit to Embassies in The Hague.

The photo on the left shows our living quarters in an unlined Nissan Hut. Unbearably hot and not at all like the films we were shown about Australia. The other photo is after disembarking from our boat. My mother clutching her handbag and dad looking around.

It was within a few years after that I decided to buy a car and combine it with taking dancing lessons at the same time. I was around 17 years and liked the look of cars and girls. It was already well known that owning a car would be looked upon favorably by girls and would make up for going out with a boy with a strange guttural accent.   It did not take me long after a few driving lessons to get my license and soon after a large car; a clapped out Ford V 8 with leather seats, an ashtray, cigarette lighter and a blue smoke spewing engine. My dancing lessons were alright too but not so with getting a date. The dancing school was in Sydney above a milk bar called Stavros. I bought a booklet of twenty tickets on ‘special’, giving me twenty dancing lessons on a wooden floor with the required dancing steps painted in green.

The female teachers were soft and moved with some grace. One had to dance ‘chest to chest’ with a book held firmly in between in order to gently with suppled grace yet firmly, swirl and dance around without dropping the book. I only dropped the book once. It was a large book with the title ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham. It was a very popular book at the time but a solid tome of over hundreds of pages. Of course the softness of the teacher was well protected by this heavy book and so it should have. It was a Phyllis Bates Dance academy and had a good name to behold and protect.

At the same time I had a good friend named Otto whose family was on the same boat as ours. He too took driving and dancing lessons at the same time. He was not so good with both of them and failed his drivers test on numerous occasions. He did not want to give up and decided to travel back to Holland to take both driving and dancing lessons. That’s just how Otto was. I can’t explain, but he was a good but somewhat unorthodox man. He passed away two years ago, well in his eighties but never been in conjugal bondage/married. He did get his driver’s license though!

During those years at one stage my mother rented out our previous living quarters, a humble converted fibro sheeted garage to a single divorced Dutch woman in her forties.  Otto watched her reverse parking her car. That was it! Otto became smitten. He would accept all sorts of blemishes, both mental or physical but if a woman could reverse park she would be his queen forever. Unfortunately for Otto, the woman had a boyfriend, a Dutch bricklayer with concrete and cement encrusted boots which he would kick off as soon as he arrived at the woman’s place from work and; according to Otto, most likely leap into her bed. Otto was that sort of generous man.

Here you have it; reverse parking was the overriding quality Otto looked for in a woman. As for my dating efforts? I’ll tell you next time.

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27 Responses to “Reverse Parking and Dancing”

  1. janesmudgeegarden Says:

    I enjoyed reading this! You have a lot of memories of your life, Gerard, and they make for interesting reading. I wonder if the Greek café was in Stanmore?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, they were all of the ‘formative years’ of life. I am not sure what sort of ‘formative’ resulted during those tumultuous years.
      The dancing school was in Pitt Street, Sydney, not in Stanmore. I am sure there would have been a Greek Café in Stanmore. They were very good in running cafes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael Jones Says:

    Hiya Gez. Seem to be having trouble accessing your latest post. Is it me ?

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rangewriter Says:

    Haha! This is great. I love those old photos. My, you did a good job with that old camera during the chaos of landing. Otto sounds like almost as much of a character as you are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Ys, Otto remained a life-long friend. As good natured as they come. Very funny without malice. A good man.
      Yes, those first few weeks after landing in Australia were chaotic. My dad became so depressed and went to bed for 6 weeks while mum took us around getting me and my older brother jobs to bring in some money.
      It was so hard.

      Like

  4. freefall852 Says:

    Gerard..learning to dance was a radical step in Oz in those days, because the resident culture in those days demanded that the young Aust’ male show NO interest in obliging the women in matters of the “light fantastic”..and instead were compelled to hang around the entrance to the halls, drinking and giving cheek to their favourite girls as they danced with each other…or those bloody wogs and dagos..who had a cheek stealing their thunder!

    You have read my story of just such a couple..he of German extraction, She; English and the parent’s animosity after the war ..a bit of self promo here..; https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/ted-and-edie-dance-the-rumba/

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Welcome to the self promo, Jo The more the merrier.
      Yes, in those days dancing with the opposite sex was starting to take off. Blokes were checked for any breath of alcohol and one was refused entrée to any dance venue.
      I used to go to Trocadero and the strongest drink one could get was an orange cordial.
      Í used to try and improve my chances of a ‘yes’ for a dance by using generous dollops of brylcreme in my hair. Most times to no avail. I could not shake off my foreign accent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • freefall852 Says:

        My Italian cousin, Ron th’ brickie had a similar problem..here’s how he solved it..BTW..I copied this conversation down almost verbatim from the smoko site :

        ” I’ll tell you something” Ron continued….” I’ll tell you what it was like when I was young and hungry for a girlfriend..now listen a sec..I’ll tell you..” he shouted them into silence and they listened.

        “You had to be cunning, I tell you…Once, I decided to go to this dance at the Burnside Town Hall, they had it there.. full to the doors with ‘lazzeroni’ lawyers and doctors sons…and here was me ; a bricklayer…So I thought ; ” bugger it, I’m as good as them” and I’d ask a girl to dance…I was young, healthy and strong with good muscles from the hard work…and yes…; handsome…you can laugh, you can laugh!…but…well, they’d look at me and ; “yes” they’d love to dance…ta!…and we’d go to the floor and start like this”..and he made the hand motions of waltzing around the floor..; “la, ti, ta..lovely..”

        “I like your haaiiir” …I’d say..

        “Oh do you ?.. Why thank you!” she’d reply..

        ….you know..like that…but then they’d feel the callouses on my hands and they’d frown and say ; “Oh your hands…they’re so rough..what sort of work do you do?”…an’ I’d tell ’em I was a bricklayer and they’d say ; ” Oh..can’t you get a better job?”..and they wouldn’t want to dance with me any more…they wanted a lawyer or a doctor, you see, not a bloody bricklayer!”

        Ron tapped his forehead with his finger..” But I got cunning, you see, I thought to myself ; “They like my body but not my wallet and they feel they can measure my worth through my callouses”…so before the dance , when I came home from work, I soaked my hands for an hour in a basin of hot water and olive oil and then I rubbed them with “vaseline” to soften them up a bit more so they couldn’t feel the roughness…eh?…eh?, up here for thinking..eh?…anyway, that night I danced with a lovely girl and I told her I was a law student…and though it was wrong to lie to her, on the strength of that lie I stole some loving….Ron chuckled at the memory…” But then, the fox has to be cunning or the chicken gets away!”

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Curt Mekemson Says:

    A car and dancing? The girls should have been flocking to see you, Gerard. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • freefall852 Says:

      Hello, Curt..I went meandering through your blog, reading bits and pieces of your adventures and observations…your writing has a nice, easy-reading style and..if you’ll excuse my saying..it reminds me of a cross between Mark Twain and O’Henry…that long drawl of the open plainsman mixed with the savvy of the astute observer of the curiosities of life..with that quirky twist there among the burrs and poison oak….thanks for the journey…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Curt Mekemson Says:

        I’m honored to be included in such company. Thanks so much for your comment. Quirkiness is good! 🙂 –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

      • freefall852 Says:

        Well, Curt…indeed, such company would make for good conversation I should think…and I do not try to flatter, for much of a writer’s turn of phrase is an influence of their growing years tempered with an enthusiasm of reading material at hand in those years…and while you hail from those country parts of America..if I am not mistaken..and so I suspect you could draw your lingua franca from those many colourful authors that seemed to have frequented the plains, rivers and mountains of that vast country…Myself, being of a mixed race descent of European / Australian have drawn my words from the many writers of both those ethnicities..and I can proudly point to Henry Lawson for the feeling of the open spaces of a largely flat countryside, to the closeted intamacy of Guy De Maupassant in his whispered exposures of personal secrets in those private parlours of the suburbs of Paris…at least, I try to adopt such genius…the difference in imitating or echoing is the difference between the artist striving to improve their personal style and the plagarist merely copying a style…I like to believe I more “reflect” some of those wonderful authors I have read as a wandering journeyman carpenter..but, of course, THAT is for the reader to decide.

        Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      No Curt , they didn’t. The girls were mainly out for good times and any hint of seriousness in those years was fatally flawed.
      It was in faraway Finland that I found a really nice girl.

      Like

  6. shoreacres Says:

    I so enjoyed this, Gerard. I’m in the midst of my annual “let’s check everything out before the hurricanes come” sorting, and I happened across my parents’ membership cards for the Arthur Murray Dance Club. They signed up in November of 1953. I would have been seven years old, which explains why I had no idea what they were up to. Their certificates indicate that they completed ten hours each in the Fox Trot, Waltz, and Eastern Swing. Perhaps that explains why my father was such a good dancer.

    He was the one who taught me. Nearly every Friday night we’d go up to the Masonic Lodge for their ‘family nights.’ There would be a steak dinner (or hamburgers for the kids), and then dancing to a live band. My favorite was swing, and by the time I got to high school, a fellow I’d met at the lodge had taken my father’s place as my partner. Our sophomore year, we won the Homecoming dance contest — dancing to this very song. We weren’t quite so athletic, but we had the basic moves down. Good times!

    Liked by 1 person

    • shoreacres Says:

      Somewhere I have a photo of my dad and I during one of my driving lessons. I admire Otto, but I’d never be the girl for him. I can parallel park, but backing into a parking space is beyond me. Why I can back out of a parking space but not in is a great mystery.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, Otto and his undivided adoration for women able to reverse park that still makes me laugh. He too found it impossible to learn and always looked for at least fifty meters of space to park his car parallel.
        I laugh how you too find it baffling you can’t back in but can get back OUT of a parking situation.

        Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, in those years we did a lot of maneuvering to try and get a date. There used to be a TV series; was it ‘Seventy Seven Sunset Strip featuring a young man Çookie’ ? I tried very hard to imitate him by his method of flicking his hair back and acting nonchalant.. .

      It did not work for me. The Nerd in me came through all the time.
      Yes, the Foxtrot was the main one to get under my belt and Samba for a wilder dance. It was normal to take dancing lessons and it was before the Stomp broke the boundaries and then Twist etc.

      I don’t know what sort of dancing is still being done. I suspect it is swirling through texts and internet maneuverings where young people make contact.

      Like

  7. Klausbernd Says:

    Interesting reading your post. I grew up in Scandinavia, what a different world it has been there. But in a way, sex and cars were important too but that wasn’t such a problem. Dancing lessons were horrible, all the boys and quite some of the girls hated them.
    We met our friends at school and enjoyed our wild life on boat outings.
    Thanks for sharing
    Klausbernd 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      You are welcome, Klausbernd.
      Actually I have some knowledge of your part of the world and spent some time In Finland. My late wife came from Finland.

      I loved Finland and even now I still sometimes think of having a small wooden house somewhere in Finland along the shores of a lake and surrounded by forests.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. freefall852 Says:

    That “Nissan Hut” pictured there, Gerard, could have been one of the so many that ended their days being bought and transported to the Mallee where they were cobbled together either end to end or in a “T” formation to supply an improved housing situation for the remnants of soldier settlers out in the donga.

    I remember being sent to the deep Mallee country in Sth East SA. to do renovations to this farmhouse that the builder I worked for in those days used as his country getaway…I was sent there on my own and told that, Don, his share-cropper farmer, who lived with wife Mary and four children in the next property, would let me have a meal there over the several days the job was expected to take.

    Don was of one of those soldier settler families, as was his wife, Mary…now..a more friendly, giving and congenial family you could never meet…wonderful folk..but they live very frugally, the money being tight, Mary doubled as mother and shift nurse to a local hospital, so that she was sometimes quite weary…and I felt for the family in such a situation..

    The first night I was there for dinner..a well-cooked meal of home killed and butchered mutton w/3veg…went well…after a long day’s work (I wanted to get home to MY family asap) I greedly consumed the meal while the family sat in quiet deliberation of what I could see was the coming night’s entertainment of going to the local hall to play table-tennis..

    So I didn’t want to linger and upon finishing my meal and mopping the gravy with bread, I stood to take my plate to the sink around the U-shaped litchen benches on the other side of the dining area…I stood with the intention and immediately, as upon a cue the entire family..including to the youngest child of six or so years jumped to their feet to offer to take my plate..but NO..NO..I insisted..it was the least I could do in appreciation and I had already moved in the direction…I went around the bench and there..in that U-space between sink and serving bench was stacked in three stacks piled to just under the height of the benches..what looked like every plate, dish, bowl, saucepan or cooking utensil of whatever use it could be put to…

    Of course..I was amazed!…absolutely flabergasted!…But to my credit and disciplined mannerisms, I continued with the light chatter I was giving (THEY sat in stunned silence) and nonchalantly and cautiously, lest I tipple the lot..placed my plate and utensils atop the nearest pile and went back to my place at the table, giving an Oscar-winning performance of blithe spirit if ever there was one!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, migration to Australia would not have been possible without those Nissan huts.
    They were pretty bare and basic and for those from bombed out European cities it provided shelter and safety.
    You are telling a nice story there Jo, Perhaps they did not have water to wash those dishes. A bit of a mystery.

    Like

    • freefall852 Says:

      Ah…that poor woman…her van also was the local “school taxi” for many kids from a wide area…she was just so tired I think that she let the dishes build up..

      Like

  10. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    Such a wonderful read, Gerard! Thank you for sharing Otto with us. 🙂 And for when you share your own history/life with us. Your stories/memories always bring sparks of memories from my own life to me.
    Hope you are doing well this week!
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

    Like

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