Posts Tagged ‘Agfa Clack’

The Story of a crestfallen Philatelist.

June 1, 2013


After the sad moving away of my first love ‘Marga’ to Utrecht, never to be seen again except in restless hand- fantasies, the days of touching and viewing of her roseate breasts were over. Little could I have known then it would be years before any girls would feature again, well after that fateful day in my V8 Ford to Woy Woy with devastation of Willy Willy storms, tempests and a very tough unyielding female friend.

I was terribly crestfallen, immensely sad and understood how Napoleon must have felt after being banned to Elba. When my parents were planning to migrate to Australia I almost wished for a change of heart. I was ready to embrace Siberia instead and totally related with the music of Schubert and his Lieder with his longings for a grave in the deepest and coldest of oceans. I just about ruined my father’s wind up record player with over and over again listening to music plumbing the depths of despair, tragedy and the morbidly supernatural.  My head was at a downward slope and acute angle to my chest, not unlike the swans featured in the songs of Schwanengesang D957. I relished it when I learned he had died at just 32.

My mother noticed my listless poking around at the mince and spuds. “What’s the matter Gerard?” “Oh, nothing mum, I am not hungry”. “Why don’t you read a good book?” This is of course one of the most damaging and maddening questions a mother can ask but she did love her kids. “I am sick of reading” I skulked, hoping she would not ask if my hands were kept above blankets at all times.

I did try, and had rigged up a small globe attached by some clever wiring to a square battery allowing me to read numerous Jules Verne books underneath the blankets. On some mornings the most magic of frozen patterns on the inside of the windows would greet me, totally symbiotic with my mood. Winters were never as cold as then. An icy wind would blast a wounded soul steeped in a ridiculous juvenile self-pity.

But, as often happens when young and down, another world opened up. It became the world of soaking postage stamps off envelopes and cards and sticking them in albums. It was the perfect hobby on cold winter evenings. It became a hobby that so enthralled me, I became manic, going around the neighbourhood asking for stamped envelopes.

I had started this some years before but with the advent of first sexual twinges and a twirling Marga I had thrown the album somewhere in a box together with my collection of leaden soldiers and horses. During imaginary games of war with friends, I rigged up my mother’s spring loaded wooden cloth pegs and with rubber bands had fashioned primitive cannons. Wet props of paper as cannon balls shot down opposing soldiers and their horses on our corridor’s wooden floor.

The time between adolescence and adulthood were turbulent and with migrating plans now well on their way, (We had seen numerous Australian Government promotional movies with postmen joyfully leaping over sun-drenched white picket fences with waving brilliantly white toothed gleaming happy neighbours intermittent with white crested surf and golden tanned girls on Bondi beaches) my parents decided I might as well leave high school and start work earn some money to help our start in Australia.

We would land with the clothes on our backs and traveling trunks filled with linen and pillows or with whatever could be shipped over (my dad’s only suit and neckties, with polished shoes). We would need beds and mattresses first, my mother declared somewhat teary. We can’t land in Australia on the 11th of Febr, 1956 and sleep on the floor somewhere. As it was we ended sleeping on kapok mattresses and proper beds but in Nissen huts. (I can hear readers sighing, not the bloody Nissan huts story again)

The boat trip was still some months away. I managed to get a job with a fruit and vegetable shop. They were high class and delivered to most embassies in The Hague. My job was to deliver whatever they ordered and did this on a heavy-duty push-bike. I pedaled as never before with a solid cane basket fastened above the front wheel and suspended from the handle bars.

I handed my wages over to parents (for 8 beds and mattresses.) but I kept tips which I decided I would save for a camera that I had spotted in the window of a nearby camera shop. It was an Agfa Clack.  Numerous times while cycling past, I would stop and stare at this camera.

I learned the cultural habits of those different countries that I delivered the fruit and veggies to by the size of their tips.  A limited perspective I know, but I had as yet not developed better criteria. The most outstandingly generous, and I am donning my cap here, was the US. I would get tips more than my entire weekly wages. My Agfa Clack was as good as in the bag within a couple of deliveries to the US embassy of Kipfler spuds and hot-house grown Muscatel grapes…

God bless America- Land that I love etc.

Not only tips, the staff in the kitchen gave me packets of Camel cigarettes (I was smoking) and fed me chicken soup, piping hot. “Sit down buddy”, “you’re shivering, here get this into you”. A most cheerful lot of people and I practiced my school English on them. I never forget their generosity and joviality.

The most miserly were the rich Dutch living in Wassenaar which still is a kind of snobbish enclave on the edge of The Hague with huge houses hidden between oak trees with pinched-up nosed inhabitants. After knocking on the door they would spy me through a little hole in the door first. “Just push the stuff through the opening” they would say in a peculiar ‘high-Dutch’ accent and the door would be opened just enough allowing the vegetables to be pushed through the gap. I must confess that a delivery to an address to Wassenaar involved me snitching grapes or an apple away from their delivery. Served them right, I can hear a chorus of approval from you, the readers.

Thank you for reading…

Agfa Clack

October 12, 2012

December 14, 2010

Agfa ClackPosted on December 15, 2010 by gerard oosterman

There must have been some spare money about but when about twelve or so I had a Kodak box camera given by my parents. It was a simple box and had two little mirrors in which to focus on the subject. The film was wound on an empty spool two and a half times and then inserted in the camera; the box would be closed ready for the 8 or 12 photos that it then could take. What a glorious gift it was. The photos took about a week to get developed and sleepless nights would be followed by euphoria when the big day would arrive to get the photos. Money for the development was earned by collecting old newspapers and rags after school.

After the go-a-head for migrating I had spotted a camera far advanced to the Kodak Box. It was an Agfa Clack. Forty five guilders.  A small fortune. Many times I stared at the shop window.  As I remember, it had two apertures and two shutter speeds and was flash capable. The approval to migrate coincided with parents taking me out of school in order to work to help and fatten the communal Oosterman wallet. Something at least for the totally unforseen and unfathomable future.

It was all a bit shaky and nervous during that time. Friends would be left. No more handball games on a Sunday with girls and budding breasts…. Eric Nanning, Anton Van Uden, Louis Gothe, all would disappear within a few months. The same for our street, the ice cream (between crusty wafers) shop, and hot ‘patat de frites’ as well, soon be gone. What need for a good camera, etched the good times in photos’ eh?

The job was delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to the very top of The Hague’s society and its burgers, Including royalty and most embassies. The delivery was done by carrying the goods in a huge wicker basket fastened above the front wheel of a sturdy and large steel framed bicycle.  I peddled like one possessed. There were lots of orders and the boss was strict. No loafing and it was winter.

The stingiest of tippers are The Hague’s wealthiest, the best tippers the staff of embassies. They all had jars of money to be tipped to deliverers of goods. The US embassy was unbelievably generous. My earnings were always tipped into the parental wallet, ‘for our future,’ I kept being assured. All tips were mine and at times they eclipsed earnings, especially after a delivery of imported black grapes to the Yank kitchen at the back of the Embassy, the tradesman entry… A ten guilder tip gave me almost a quarter of the Agfa Clack in one scoop. Not bad, considering I had filched a couple of those grapes from the delivery. Geez, they were those black ones as well.

I soon came to that glorious walk to the camera shop and bought my camera. A couple of weeks later, a leather case with carry strap. Soon after that a battery operated flash with 6 globes. Even sooner came the day, just after Christmas on a bleak and rainy day that it came about, that we all walked the dreadful walk up the gangplank and boarded our ship to Australia. Goodbye all. And that was that. My Agfa around my neck.

All On Board for five Weeks

May 27, 2012

The English bachelors were less forthcoming and seemed more at ease pondering uncertain futures by themselves, perhaps with a beer or two.

The Dutch, of which there were hundreds on that boat, were endlessly counting suitcases, heavy metal strapped trunks and forever pestering the stewards for access to the holds deep down in the bowels of the ship where enormous engines were thundering and roaring towards Australia, to re-check everything, just in case. Their humble possessions would be spread out on decks and inventories were written and re-written by the fathers and mothers. Huge numbers of parental progeny were stalking other kids along endless cream painted steel corridors and getting into checking out friendships or fights.

With spare money earned by delivering flower arrangements and vegetables to Embassies in The Hague, prior to departure, I was keenly betting on the ship’s sweepstake. This is a guessing competition between zero and number nine in the final tally of miles that the boat had covered in the previous twenty four hours, last numbers only. I was amazingly lucky, and it supplied me with enough money for reckless spending on cordials and for paying the on board photo developing. I had an Agfa Clack camera, also earned from those Embassy deliveries, with which I recorded our voyage.

The differences of those goodbyes from family and country between the English, Dutch and Southern Italians were startling and made me realize how difficult it must have been for all of them. Did the English finally end up sobbing as well, perhaps late at night, muffled and under blankets and alcohol? Or did they care less about family and friends than the Italians and Greeks. My dad cried leaving his brothers, sisters, and his parents, and so finally too. He never saw them again. We, kids and mum would have a family sobbing every now and then, and over many years.