Posts Tagged ‘Fremantle’

A normal day.

May 14, 2018


Jan. 1956. Our arrival In Fremantle with dad (with bald head) and mum (white hand-bag) in the foreground.


Normal day are getting rarer. That’s why I am glad it is Monday. I have never taken to Sundays in Australia. They are boring. I know it was mother’s day last Sunday but that doesn’t mean an uplift  in the general mood of all Sundays. It is hard to put one’s finger on the reason for feeling this way. It might date back to our first arrival here. Has anyone ever been to WA Fremantle on a Sunday? We did. Back in 1956. It was our first contact with the mainland of Australia. It was empty. Well not really empty. It just felt like it. No people about except other passengers from the migrant ship. We were all prancing about in our Sunday’s best. We wanted to make a good impression as newly arrived migrants tend to do. It was difficult to make any impression as the locals were nowhere to be seen. We might as well have well walked around stark naked. Some desultory looking dogs were scratching their fleas. It was better than nothing.

Mother’s days of course are different. Our mother used to emotionally blackmail us in saying; ‘Mother doesn’t want any present this year’. ‘Just make your beds, lay the table, do the washing-up and… above all , behave yourself.’ It must have been a murderous job with six kids running around a third story apartment back in rainy Holland. Do kids make their beds now? Some say they are getting away with murder. It’s no wonder when I see those huge black SUV’s dropping off the spoiled kids at school. Make them walk, I would say! My mum had the right attitude!

Our mother’s day was good. We had my brother staying over and on Sunday the grandchildren and our daughter visited us. I tried to book a lunch but the pub was booked out and an upmarket place called ‘The Mills’ was full of mothers, nervous looking partners, prams full with babies and their primordial screams. I recoiled and got out quickly.

We ended up eating very nicely at home. Helvi said; ‘just get big steaks.’ I bought 5 huge Porterhouse steaks. We heated up some left over pasta and an even earlier dated, but still in perfect condition, potato-bake. Both dishes I had used generous quantities of anchovies. I now tend to use anchovies in almost every dish. It might well work as a preservative as well as giving a nice taste. As we sat down to eat, the boys hoed into the porterhouse steaks with great enthusiasm. It was exactly as Helvi had predicted. Our grandson, Max, gave the Bolt salute. We could not have been given a greater compliment.


It was a nice Sunday.



All aboard to sunny Australia.

April 27, 2015

‘Let’s now move forward to, or back to, depending on what you might have read so far, to our period of migrating to Australia. The first murmurs I heard involved Argentina followed by South Africa. Australia came about because some war-time friends had already taken the step in the very early fifties or perhaps even the late forties. It took them 9 days to fly to Australia, so I am inclined to think it was the late forties. Their choice had been Australia. Many letters were exchanged and they were of the most euphoric kind. The streets of Australia were paved in gold and all was possible, own cars, own homes, cake eating on Sunday with mountains of cream, you name it, Australia had it all. My mother was really taken in by it,  ‘own home’ was beckoning more than anything, and especially with a bathroom.

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

Here a quick look again at those earlier war time periods. I seem to be joking or having fun still… Thirteen years later and I would find myself in Australia. It took a while for ‘fun’ to surface again.

But getting back to migrating and those last few weeks. The planning stage evolved rapidly with a visit to the Australian embassy and inspection by Australian Doctor. X rays were taken and the basics of our health determined by standing around in underpants while chests were listened to and asked to turn this way and that way. We had to touch toes and stick our tongues out to the Doctor. All our vaccinations were always strictly adhered to. Soon we all were deemed to be fit for Australia. We were the perfect white family for migrating and as there were six of us, Australia must have been drooling licking its still very British oriented but recent Australian Federation lips. Not a hint of a brown colour or smidgeon of Dutch colonial imprint of any kind. Blond and fair, just what the Doctor ordered

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo onboard.

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo on-board.

Above photo shows the gate-way to five weeks on-board a luxury boat full of Dutch migrants. There was a little band that would play over and over, ‘t was on the isle of Capri that I found her, with ‘O’ sole mio’ after we left Genoa. All hell broke lose when the boat pulled away from Sicily’s Messina. Many of those sons of Italian families would never be seen back again in those ancient villages.  Their mothers would be milling together, shedding tears around the water-wells for many months yet. The journey away from shores and love, so sadly final and permanent. A return impossibly expensive and at the time would not have been contemplated. Luigi, the best cobbler in Palermo now gone so was Antonio the dressmaker’s son. When the boat pulled away from Amsterdam and harbour, my mum and dad must have felt that too, but with six of us needing to find our cabins, they soon kept busy.


Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Photo above; Bye, Bye Holland. I took this photo with my newly bought camera earned from delivering fruit and vegetables to Embassies in the many weeks before. (mainly from American Embassy tips, which were extraordinarily generous,and with hot soup as well)

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

Of this photo I remember the on-board film shop developer praising me. I think it might also have been a moon shot. I don’t see any sun, but…it was a long time ago now. The time on board was amazing, a holiday as never before. Can you imagine getting a new menu to chose from each time?  The decisions to make; pork or beef, chicken, and in morning, eggs boiled or fried? There was table tennis, a sweep stake which we always won some money with. And that little orchestra; It was on the Isle of Capri that I found you, forget about the walnuts! The Italians were still doe eyed, sad!

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

The two weeks after leaving Aden to Freemantle was mainly spent by my parents getting their luggage trunks from down the bowels of the ship on deck to make an inventory and make sure we would all be ready for Sydney. My parents wanted us to make a good impression in Australia and only Sunday best would do. The arrival in Freemantle was on a Sunday.  I have to go back a few months  now. A good friend told me; tell your parents to think twice before going to Australia. ‘It is a very boring country and on Sunday everything is closed’.

The arrival in Freemantle on a Sunday proved his warning and I remembered. The only people walking around were the passengers from the boat. It was something like out of the Neville Shute book and film ‘On the Beach’ that was yet to be made. All of us looking at each other, all of us dressed Sunday-best with proper coats and ties, cleanly scrubbed necks and underpants. But, what for?

Freemantle was empty or at least it looked empty. I did hear a cricket score filtering through the blinds, not that I knew a cricket score then, but do know now.




Arrival in Sydney.

Sydney's arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the 'quality'.

Sydney’s arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the ‘quality’.




Whoring by dad in Fremantle

September 8, 2009

Whoring in Fremantle and lamingtons.

By oosterman

Johan Van Oldenbarneveldt 

As hinted earlier, the first Australian Port of Call, Fremantle on a February Sunday, 1956 was somewhat of a surreal experience. I am not sure what the Italian Luigis or Greek Stavrosses thought about it all. Despite my fifteen years of age or because of it, I needed to see and meet new people, our first Australians to be precise. After the whole ship donned Sunday best with coats and ties, pre-pressed and creased pants and frocks, the twelve hundred passengers could not get off the boat quick enough.

 We all sauntered ‘en masse’ over a large steel bridge spanning acres of industrial rail-lines and rubble, walking for quite some distance when we finally found our way to Fremantle’s first row of houses. Perhaps because of the intense heat and distance we already encountered some passengers who were on the way back to the ship. One Dutchman who we knew from onboard proudly practised his English and said “kept left in Australia” to us, in a strong guttural accent, eyes sparkling. We of course still walked on the right hand side, but not him. He would definitely succeed in Australia! Our eight of us persevered but somewhat uncomfortable in the simmering heat and in all our finery.

Not a soul to be seen. Was this a practise run for a Neville Shute’s film set of ‘on the beach’? This might be the best way to describe what confronted our family walking through the deserted and weather board peppered street scapes, even though the ‘on the beach’ was not written till 1957 with its theme of an Australian town awaiting death from an atomic bomb.  Perhaps the feeling of a town without people being visible often acts as a catalyst for many a book or painting. Did Neville Shute visit Fremantle on a Sunday prior to writing his best seller, I wonder?  Apart from Neville Shute’s book and film with Ava Gardner, another example of the strange feeling of this typical Australian town on a Sunday, might well be in contemplating a painting by Jeffrey Smart. Of course at that time, those artists were totally unknown in Fremantle and no amount of clairvoyance of its people could have been responsible for the feeling of emptiness in those streets.

In fact, there were people there, with here and there a steady radio drone coming from within the cream painted weatherboards. Years later when I learned how to spot signs of life within those curtained and venetian blinded off houses, a cricket score then often betrayed life, even though the desire to be unseen and to remain private was strongly adhered to.

Bustling Fremantle 1956. 

My dad and kids bravely walked on determined to finally say something to someone, preferably a real Australian. We walked up a hill with on top some kind of monument and even the so longed for palm tree finally in sight. Diagonally across from the monument and palm park we spotted a shop with doors open. We made a surge towards this shop, thirsty for any quenching liquid and first contact. We entered the shop and expectations of an introduction and possible handshake were foremost in dad’s mind.

 A handshake was always done back home and as common as donning a hat to a passerby, or standing up for a lady in the bus or tram. Surely, anyone could sense that we were belonging to the just landed. The shopkeeper seemed totally unaware of our presence and did not even look around from where she was stacking a shelf with her back to us. The situation was not helped when the younger kids started to fidget and the thirst and promised quench was getting more urgent. We had no option though and surely with the noise and restlessness she would finally have to acknowledge us. Was she deaf or mute, possibly blind?

It was none of that, it was just that in that part of the world, customer service was still not to be given under any circumstance, a mere leftover from the days that it was common for people to disrespect authority and not to be seen grovelling to the gov’nr. A fair crack of the whip is all they could hope for and this shopkeeper and her ancestors had been taught and also learnt that the customer was now the person to be kept subservient and waiting. The shopkeeper was the Guv with the whip. Of course, my dad had no inkling at that time of those delicate cultural nuances brought out and exposed in those minutes of waiting for a response from this shopkeeper.

Lamington shop. ( Amsterdam) 

Yes love? Finally a response, but ‘yes love’, did he hear right? A question from female shopkeeper calling someone a’ love’, what was this now about? Dad and family went through war and hunger, changing and moving to other city, had a large family, took a boat to the end of the universe with a marriage and fine wife intact and so strong, and now, finally when on first walkabout in Australia and on a first meeting with an Australian and after a long and hot walk, he was called ‘love’ by a strange woman? This was too much to take in, he quickly pointed at some brown cakes sprinkled with some white flaky stuff, and two large bottles of a luridly coloured soft drink or lemonade. We all bolted as fast as we could. ‘Love’ indeed. It must have been a brothel. Those very first cakes were about twenty years later identified as ‘lamingtons’.

It was a slow walk back to the ship. There was a lot to think about and to digest. The lamingtons were eaten in silence and the soft drink shared amongst the eight of us. I remember being vaguely aware of my friends comments back home about Australia being closed up on a Sunday. I started to feel apprehensive as well as tired and mulled over the shop woman and her strange reluctance to serve us. It was way beyond my depth to accept the day as a rewarding experience in meeting our first friendly and welcoming Australian.  I missed my friends