Posts Tagged ‘Scheyville’

It is Rack of Lamb time, with baby beetroots.

March 2, 2016
Table setting. Hand coloured etching.

Table setting. Hand coloured etching.

These times are a changing. As the years go by with reasonable health still following, caution gets thrown to the wind. They say carpe diem, don’t they? So, after the week before last having enjoyed a great rack of lamb, the temptation for a repeat has surfaced again. Out of nowhere too.

Lamb chops used to be cheap as chips. I remember the half cooked mutton chops at Scheyville migrant camp. The bluish stamp of the abattoir still visible on its skin,  skirmishing neck on neck with keen maggots. It was during a very hot summer in 1956.

Actually, mutton is very nice in an Indian Raan dish and preferable to young sheep. You have to let the mutton age in a mixture of spices, yoghurt and lemon juice. It was my dish at Christmas time. The grandkids used to dip their bread in the mixture before it was even cooked. Look up Raan on Julie Sahni excellent recipe book about Classical Indian cooking.

Right now and it is only 3.30 pm I will start up the Webber. The Webber is a round US invented barbeque device that needs charcoal or coal briquettes to fire up. We had it since our own kids were still all around. And that is forty years ago. It is enamelled  brown and as sturdy as an outside dunnee during a sand storm. The trick is not to put the rack of lamb on before the temperature is hot enough. Lamb mustn’t be overcooked. It is a matter of timing and getting experience.

During our morning’s walk I had picked up a handful of rosemary. The soft kind of rosemary. Our own has become very woody. Now we just steal it elsewhere. I more or less wrapped the lamb in it, together with lots of garlic and lemon juice.

We both sat outside watching the rosellas and pink galahs feasting on the special birdseed-mix that we leave out. Even that required a special way. The seeds just left in a terra cotta dish were discovered by a smart rat. He told his mates. The droppings left made us suspicious. Surely, the bird’s poop is not that big? We were told to put the dish with the seeds on top of an upside-down turned terra cotta bowl. The rats can’t overcome crawling on an upside down space like the gecko can. In Bali I noticed large geckos crawling upside down on smooth surfaces as well as bamboo or rattan type ceilings.

Scientists have for years wondered about the ability of creatures to move about upside down. It has to do with millions of tiny hairs able to cling to surfaces. A gecko can hang upside down and carry their full weight from just a single toe.

This really floored me.

This from Wiki; “Geckos use something called the Van der Waals force to cling to smooth surfaces. The Van der Waals force is a weak electrodynamic attraction that occurs over extremely small distances, but works with virtually any substance. The geckos’ toes carry millions of microscopic hairs at their tips; scientists call these hairs setae. These allow the creature to stick to a branch, rock or — as the researchers discovered — surfaces such as polished glass.” It would not surprise me that geckos know about fonts too. Perhaps they use the Dante type. Who knows?

It was around 5.15 when the coal in the Webber was deemed at maximum temperature for the rack of lamb to get done. It took about 20 minutes. It was lovely. One of the best. Helvi had made an even better side dish. Beetroot babies. They were cooked with garlic, some sour crème and our home grown herbs.

There is just nothing like sitting in the garden, knowing the birds safe from rats and H and I babbling away about nothing much, waiting for a simple glorious meal.

It is the only way.


Too many hyphens and inverted commas. An edit!

January 7, 2016

untitled Scheyville



The photo is not mine.

An unforgettable memory etched in my mind was the generosity of the Australian government run Camp in the availability of unlimited supplies of food. It was all free and copious in quantity. The first few days we ate in the very large food hall. You picked up the food by queuing at the kitchen counter with a large plate. You ate what was ladled out. It was mainly very large enormous mutton chops, still glistening in fat with peas and a mountain of mashed potatoes. Sometimes it was sausages and pumpkin. You then carried the full plate back to large tables that had knives and forks already spread out. You sat on benches. We would all tuck in with a vengeance.

You can imagine, most migrants were from post or still on-going war ravaged countries. Hungarians, Czechoslovakians and Bulgarians, many with university degrees. There were refugees who had escaped from German extermination camps that had already spent years roaming from camp to camp in Europe. They were true refugees. Many also from Holland and Germany, Italy and Greece, today classified as ‘economic’ refugees. All of whom were hungry and now in the Promised Land. This Scheyville food hall fed a hungry Europe as never seen before. Some straddled the benches with plates clutched between thighs instead of sitting at the table, so as to be closer to the plate or perhaps of fear the food would get stolen. One large Bulgarian man would chew on his mutton chops pulverising the chop- bone with bare teeth. I looked on in amazement. He did it to impress his country fellowmen much to their amusement and laughter. After the solid food was eaten, one could again tank up or take seconds in the form of a jelly. The jelly was aeroplane jelly. A favourite ad on the radio was ‘I love aeroplane jelly’.

I used to grab slices of bread for afters, scooped up large quantities of IXL jam available on every table in giant gallon jars. It had huge chunks of real fruit in it. It was lovely, fancy being able to take as much as you liked? Surely Australia so far was everything that it had promised and more!

The German shepherd with three legs and eating Cake.

May 5, 2015
Mum in Holland with electric vacuum cleaner.

Mum in Holland with electric vacuum cleaner.

The Dutch Friends’ house as previously mentioned was old and must have been a farm house before the  arrival of thousands of immigrants pushing further and further inland. Hill after hill were conquered with houses replacing trees and grazing cows with the sound of hammers, machinery and coarse  oaths renting the grey- blue smoky air. It was an era of every  migrant’s dream of achieving own home on own solid block of land come true. This old farm house was now the missing tooth amidst the sea of  many a migrants’ suburban prosperity.  In fact, the old house was now in the middle of a huge timber and building material yard supplying the frenetic race for building houses. Large stacks of different sized timber were balanced precariously hither and dither amongst stacks of baths, concrete laundry basins and other building materials. All this surrounded by a grey muddy clay that made getting to the house a slippery event. Bricks were placed here and there enabling one to hop from one to the other without risking wet feet or slipping down all together.

No doubt my parents could have done with, and experienced a less grim and more cheerful beginning but that’s how it was. Perhaps many might well have thought it a very cheerful beginning. However, our pioneering spirit was a bit lukewarm and run-down after Scheyville migrant camp. The timber yard was protected by a large German Shepherd. It was a very friendly and compassionate animal forever greeting those who entered the yard, foe or friend. It also had three legs. One of its hind leg was missing  in tandem with the old Chevy. He did not so much guard the timber yard from thieves as it did chasing rats that used to do ring-a ring- a- Rosie between the stacks of timber, scurrying like a flash when he arrived. The rats would scatter each time a crane moved a stack of timber to quickly scurry under the next lot of beams. The dog did his best but rats are clever and soon knew they had it over the dog. They used to dart out in full view, taunting him, only to quickly hide whenever he lifted his head. It was amusing to watch. There was a king rat almost the size of a cat who asserted  himself over his tribe. They would only follow if he made the first move. They would move in a specific, strictly disciplined and regimented order in a V shape behind the undisputed king-rat. No rat would come inside the house because of the two cats holding sentry near the entrances. The cats had all legs intact.

Whenever my dad could arouse himself from bed he would observe from the sunny veranda the bustle of cranes, trucks and the scuffles between the dog and rats. We knew things were improving with dad when mum caught him one night looking at the sky through a pair of binoculars. He had found the milky way!  A kind of peace came over him after his discovery of this Southern hemisphere’s heavenly night-sky. My job was progressing from cleaning the factory floor and getting the workers lunches to being initiated to use the machinery. The lunches for workers was the first sign of Australia being ‘paved with gold’ when apple- pies, Big Ben meat pies and bottles of Fanta were ordered as if it was normal. It was normal! Can you imagine? What we would look forward to once a year back in Holland on a birthday, was the norm daily here. Not only the norm. As proof of absolute opulence and belching richness, parts of the pies would be slung onto the floor as if it was nothing. I had the job of cleaning those carelessly flung out morsels, still warm and oozing. I was almost on my knees in admiration of a country so endowed with the splendour of excess.

Newspaper seller in Sydney.

Newspaper seller in Sydney in the 1960’s.

I have written before about the amazing antics of workers in factories whereby the proverb ‘Australia, where men are men but the sheep nervous,’ had more than a tinge of truth to it. The openly sexual meanderings  and ‘dating’ between men was somehow to be seen as proof of their heterosexual-ness. (Dating: the art of putting finger up the overall wearing co-worker’s bum when least expected) It was astonishing and puzzling. Perhaps with the sexes being so far apart and the not so distant years of convicts and penal camps that this cultural phenomenon had survived and was still being played out between factory workers. I did not join this dating and as a foreigner and migrant was somehow spared from these antics. The owner of the factory had a creaking leg and you always knew he was coming. I never asked and no one ever told me but I suppose he had lost a leg during the last war. Why was it that during those first few months things were missing, first the magic Chevy wheel, then the German Shepherd dog and now a factory owner?

My weekly wages I gave to my mother but I was to keep money earned by overtime. I had a small steel box in which I would save and keep my money. The more overtime the more would be deposited in this small safe of which I had a key. Overtime was paid time and a half and on Saturdays time and a half for morning and double after twelve o’clock,  and Sundays always double time. It was a time of enormous power by unions and  bosses had to comply or else! As the weeks went by dad finally roused himself and managed to get a job as well. He donned overalls and steel capped boots. We were on our way!

Our  Dutch friends’ only son had managed to buy a very small Renault in which the family would all pile in on a Sunday for church on top of the hill. The car was very small,  more like a jacket really. They sat in each others laps and when hurtling down home after the service would burst out and spread  on the sunny veranda. The wife (aunty) made a large pot of coffee and all would delve into eating big cake. This part of their accounts to us in Holland was absolutely true. The cake would be there each Sunday and it was clear they all enjoyed Australia at its best.

Cake eating each Sunday was factual and true. What was not true was that they had bought the old house! It was rented. The row of bricks that was supposed to be an extra room was abruptly halted when the owner of the timber yard and old house asked what the plan was. He did not want space taken up where he could put his building materials. He was a successful migrant himself.

The magic Car. A matter of opinion.

May 4, 2015
The old Chevy  ute.

The old Chevy ute.

Photo Google images.

All good things came to an end. We packed up from the Scheyville camp to move in with our Dutch friends who had written to us in Holland about their success in buying their own place within a few years after arrival in Australia. This sounded a dream come true. My mother was especially keen on getting a place with a bathroom. We used to get a coin to visit a public bathhouse in The Hague. The value of the coin would allow a certain time for taking a shower. Of course we could only afford the shortest of showers with the smallest coin, which meant that one had to undress and shower at the speed of lightning. A large angry man would bang on the door when your time had lapsed.

To have a house with a bathroom was a dream too far in Holland and with the glorious letters arriving in Holland from Australia it did not take long for mum to be convinced that our future laid there where a bathroom could be attained within a few years. Dad was more circumspect. However, the colour movie of postmen leaping fences with white toothed smiling owners on such sunny verdant lawns did impress. His wife could be pretty persuasive. While mum was the practical partner, dad was more of the celestial kind. He loved the heavens and stars. Rumors had it he met my mum one evening when he walked into a moving tram while staring at the sky. He had a bleeding fore-head which she wiped tenderly. They were married within a year. Of course indulging in star gazing together with his other passion- short-wave radios, it was a difficult task. Six children would run around the table while shouting, imitating Indians or cowboys, during those far too many rainy days in our upstairs apartment.

Mum became even more practical in later life when she saw the interview on TV of her son having had the knife put to his vas deferens when Helvi was pregnant with number three. “Oh Helvi, if I had my time over again today, I would have done the same.”   “For sure,” she added with gusto.” That was a rather big step for mum, seeing her religion urged all onto,  ‘let the little ones come.’  Still, it is reassuring that being number two in a line of six, at least I am here to tell the tale!  She told me later on she saw the advice of the doctor if he could not have done something with or to my father to prevent further pregnancies, she felt she had more than enough.  Poor dad, surely they  must have enjoyed  conjugal blessings  more than six times?

The move in our friends house I have no memories of. We would have taken the train to Granville followed by the bus to Woodville Road Guildford. I do remember dad asking for the train tickets to Granville but pronouncing it in French. The station master,   “wha’s that maid, sayj je it agin”? It took a while but we finally got the tickets. What I do remember when walking onto our Friends’ property seeing an old car that had a cabin behind the motor part and a tray behind that. They were the remnants of a utility or presently known as the ‘pick up’.  Was this the car that I had fantasized so much about? The car; half sedan that would morph into a truck by the push of a button?  It was that indeed. It still had three wheels and a stack of bricks where the fourth one would have been in better times. I never saw it being driven.

It might have been  ‘all that glitters isn’t gold’,  but this old Chevy ute was sure past magic.

The house that they had bought, or, what they said they had bought, was rambling old but did have a bathroom with a gas geyser at the back in a lean to. It was a bit like the Chevy, had seen better days. It had a rickety but charming veranda with some loose boards and nails sticking out, but facing the sun.  On one side it had a few rows of bricks in the shape of a room. It Holland they had written to us they were planning to put an extra room on so that we would be able to spread out a bit. It must have come to an abrupt end because weeds were growing over the bricks already!

Still in The Hague. My parents

Still in The Hague. My parents

We were overjoyed to be away from the camp and the routine of queuing for chops and peas. It was a great opportunity to get our life in order. Dad was to get a job and mum back to the household routine. She had her  washing machine shipped over from Holland and its arrival in Sydney in perfect timing with moving into the old friend’s house. We were grateful and happy for a number of days. It wasn’t till my father found out he would not be able to get a job within the Government that things turned a bit bleak again. Non British subjects (together with non-whites) were barred from Governmental jobs. He went to bed not to get up for another six weeks. Fortunately, I did get a job with special ticket of dispensation from the Government, allowing me to work even though I was still under age. I loved earning money from the first time I received my pay packet. It was real cash in a beige coloured envelope with my name and number of hours worked. It even contained paper money.

I kept counting it out over and over again.

Life in Scheyville Camp and my first Bush in 1956

May 3, 2015
Our Dutch friends and us in their home 1956.

Dutch friends and us in their home 1956.

The above photo after we had moved in with our Dutch friends/ From left: my mum, husband of Dutch friends, my dad in shorts, ( late) brother John, Lies, daughter of Dutch friend, the coal shed for Nr 2 Aunty and last, brother Adrian.

We soon must move away from Scheyville.  I can sense a Deja vu coming on. Just a few more Scheyville memories that have obsessively stuck through the decades… After the first few days eating in the communal food hall, we started taking our plates and chops to our own hut. Of course it was mid-summer and if anything, the food would get even hotter walking outside under the fiery sun.

The summing up of Scheyville Camp period.

1. It is a credit to the ingenuity of migrants that already some of them had obtained old groaning vehicles making them independent from the monopoly of the Polish taxi driver, buses or public trains. Some Dutch migrants had as proof of their lingering culture obtained bicycles to get around on. They would be seen cycling around the camp running messages or getting food. One day as were keenly tucking into the mutton in our huts, one of the Dutch cyclers was racing around the huts shouting in Dutch, ‘ maggots, maggots in the meat, maggots.’ He was like the town crier all red in the face too. What was lacking was the bell. It took us a few seconds to reflect upon his message but soon started to look downwards. Yes, there they were, not too obvious, but when prising open the juicy crevices of the chops, they were there, all wriggling away happily, waiting for their wings.

2.  As mentioned earlier a Pole had become a self proclaimed taxi-driver. In Holland this would never ever be allowed to happen. It was an example of how one could  become and have the freedom to initiate an independency without interference from higher up the Australian Bureaucracy. It was a heaven of freedom.However, on the way to the train I could hardly look the Polish taxi-driver in the face. I had observed his wife in the shower and seen her ‘bush’. The showers were sex separated but in the same block. I had already heard through the camp grapevine,. that if you took the last cubicle adjacent to the female section, one could get a peek. Soon after, I too became privilege to that peek and had obtained another level of attainment in sexual observations. At that time I was the envy and aspirations held by many boys in their early teens. It was such a specific goal in growing up…I could now hold my head high.

photo taken within a few months of landing 1956. Sister Dora and brothers Herman and Adrian in the middle of merry go round.

photo taken within a few months of landing 1956. Sister Dora and brothers Herman and Adrian in the middle of merry go round.

Of course, today those things are observed in all it’s plucked chicken wing minutia on the Internet well before 15 years of age. Different times now, but far more erotic then. It was afterwards and with some guilt (always on automatic)I recognised the woman walking along the mess-hall. I could not look her in the eye. One can imagine going to the Polish taxi-driver’s hut when she came out. It was his wife that I had been viewing through the opening of the flimsy shower partition. A deep shame must have coloured me red…But, I was fifteen.

3.  The train trip. We had all settled in he train. Mum was holding a small suitcase in her lap in which she had packed numerous sandwiches made from the free white bread and previously mentioned free fruit laden IXL jam. Those sandwiches would see us through the day and perhaps even on the trip back. Frugality would reign in this family through thick and thin but mainly thin. But, the rhythmic rocking of the train together with the pleasure of viewing the new passing landscape was interrupted (never to be forgotten) by the conductor wanting to clip a hole in all the passengers tickets.

There was something a bit odd about him. He had a dense smell and unfocussed eyes. ‘Show us your thickets or fickets’, he kept mumbling,  swaying along while holding onto mum’s seat. We could not understand what he was saying but knew he might want our tickets. Even so, dad wanted to know and  asked; ‘pardon?’ Pronouncing it in French. ‘Show us yer frucking thickest maid’, he persevered, now lurching dangerously towards my mum, suitcase held firmly in her lap. We were by this time getting very alarmed. Were we about to be robbed or worse, was our mum and sandwiches at risk? All of a sudden, the  conductor gave up all pretence of soberness and just fell on top of mum and her case with sandwiches. We were all dumb struck. What was this?  Someone said ‘ he’s been on the turps.’  We had never heard of this term, didn’t know even what ‘turps’ was. A man who understood our plight gave the hand to mouth gesture indicating drinking. We understood quickly. The passengers helped the man up who stumbled back to his locket. We were so scared. In Holland we had never ever observed a drunk. A drunken conductor on a train? What would be waiting for us in Sydney? Lucky, that was the only incident but it was a great shock to us.We made it back home and the kind Polish taxi driver was waiting at the station. This time I was more brazen and felt that after the shock of the drunken train conductor, a mere peek of his wife in a shower was now an honest well earned  bonus. We had survived some difficult times and I needed something to cheer me up.

4. So what to make of all this? The few weeks at Scheyville Migrant Camp were totally unexpected. The Nissen huts an extraordinary form of housing that we were totally unprepared for. Not a hint of that during the interview at the Australia Embassy in The Hague. If only there would have been more information right from the beginning. We might still have migrated but better prepared. I really thought that our Dutch friends living in Australia would also have given us better information. They had written the most glorious accounts, it was all paved with gold!  The isolation of the camp did not really allow us a glimpse of the ‘real’ Australia. Afterwards we understood why our friends thought it would be better for us to experience camp life first in order to more appreciate living with them. Was my scepticism of migration ‘we did it for the children’ born already then? Or, was it a mere dormant incurable curmudgeon gene coming out?

More of that in the next episode.

Europe on mutton chops at Scheyville camp.

May 1, 2015

Typical Nissen hut in most migrant camps.

The first night in the Nissen hut would have been spent in a deep slumber. It was all so much to take in. We must have been exhausted. The long hot bus drive along miles of car yards, huge  hoardings of Vincent’s APC’s headache powders, the beer stop-over, the unloading and dispersion of all into the low-slung huts of Scheyville Camp had all been bravely taken into our stride. An overload of emotions. My parents would perhaps have had some thoughts of Holland, life back then was so orderly. Life on-board a Dutch passenger liner was still a bit like being in Holland, but Scheyville was not. Today we might well have said, ‘far out.’

The following weeks I could not have taken any photos. Perhaps feelings of ambiguity about Australia were rising already then, or was I merely reflecting or responding to my dad’s visible distress? I am not sure. It was so long ago. I know that no photos were taken till we went to live with our Dutch war-time friends and ‘aunt’ of the nr 2’s coal shed notoriety.   Frank, John and I were too busy scanning the grounds and immediate surroundings. It was hot and very humid with regular torrential downpours on most afternoons.

The country-side was rain- flooded with  hills sticking up like islands, bleating cattle atop looking around for help. We noticed also in the distance, trees with oranges suspended from their branches. They looked inviting. Can one imagine, oranges hanging there just like in the garden of Eden?  With the camp isolated and marooned we were somewhat stuck and mud was everywhere, including on our shoes. Poor dad could not cope with this new experience of mud on shoes and flew into a fit of anger. Even though Holland was the country that had invented rain, mud on shoes was unheard of.  We were city kids.There was simply no mud in The Hague. (only Embassies giving generous tips) Dad was coping the best he could but mud on shoes was one step too far, especially then!

An unforgettable memory etched in my mind was the generosity of the Australian government run Camp in the availability of unlimited supplies of food. It was all free and copious in quantity. The first few days we ate in the very large food hall. You picked up the food by queuing at the kitchen counter with a large plate. You ate what was ladled out. It was mainly very large enormous mutton chops, still glistening in fat with peas and a mountain of mashed potatoes.  Sometimes it was sausages and pumpkin. You then carried the full plate back to large tables that had knifes and forks already spread out. You sat on benches. We would all tuck in with a vengeance.

You can imagine, most migrants were from post or still on-going, war ravaged countries. Hungarians, Czechoslovakians and Bulgarians, many with university degrees, not to mention refugees who had escaped from German extermination camps that had already spent years roaming from camp to camp in Europe. They were true refugees.  Many also from Holland and Germany, Italy and Greece, today classified as ‘economic’ refugees.. All of whom were hungry and now in the promised land.. This  Scheyville food hall fed a hungry Europe as never seen before. Some straddled the benches with plates clutched between thighs instead of sitting at the table, so as to be closer to the plate or perhaps of fear the food would get stolen. One large Bulgarian man would chew on his mutton chops pulverising the chop- bone with bare teeth. I looked on in amazement. He did it to impress his country fellowmen much to their amusement and laughter. After the solid food was eaten one could again tank up or take seconds in the form of a jelly. The jelly was aeroplane jelly. A favourite ad on the radio was ‘I love aeroplane jelly’. Here it is for musical readers.

I used to grab slices of bread for afters, scooped up large quantities of IXL jam available on every table in giant gallon jars.. It had huge chunks of real fruit in it.  It was lovely, fancy being able to take as much as you liked? Surely Australia so far was everything that it had promised and more!

Migrant camps were also the breeding grounds for the budding entrepreneur. Future giants and captains of industry in Australia were often fermented (or fomented depending on  views of capitalism versus socialism) in migrant camps. One Polish man had sat up a smart taxi service. He had managed to get one of those large ancient Ford V8 cars and had become a self proclaimed taxi driver. He knew the way out of the camp having found a route to circumvent the flooded roads. He was doing a good trade and was helpful in giving information about availability and time tables of the train to Sydney. It would take a few hours and if leaving early enough one could get back in one day. He would wait for us at the station on the way back from Sydney.

The taxi-driver's car.

The taxi-driver’s car.

We had him drive us to the rail- station which might have been ten or more miles away and caught the train to Sydney. What followed during our first trip on the train still lives on, the memories growing ever riper and maturing with the times. It gets retold at every Christmas.

But, that will have to wait till next time. Milo is forcing my hand from the keyboard.

Scheyville camp.

April 30, 2015
Disembarking from the boat.

Disembarking from the boat.

The above photo of my parents standing on one the quay’s of Sydney harbour. I have some doubt of when this photo was taken. Was it on the day of arrival? Why is that man at the front clapping his hands? My father (Bald head) seems to be a bit bewildered. The lady with handbag is my mum. In any case, all seem happy!

Soon we were all packed in a convoy of buses and heading towards our migrant camp, Scheyville. My milkshake and sandwiches bedded down, the adventure and first glimpses of Australia would now roll past. Those first images were vital and I hope the remembering is as truthful as possible. Did those fleeting images already  set in motion future opinions and possible prejudices of Australia? Was I seeing my first glimpses of future resentments?  I really can’t answer that. As a fifteen year old I would have been bursting with excitement in seeing a foreign country. There can’t be any doubt about that!

We had already seen Fremantle and Melbourne. Fremantle was on a Sunday during a period when Sundays were expected to be spent on reflections of mother England and caring for lawns. Melbourne did have people about and we took a train trip to the inner city. The train carriages were made of wood and so were many of the cars. I could not believe the age of cars, they seemed out of a world of my meccano set, given by my parents a couple of years before migration. Some of the cars in Melbourne had to be wound up by a large handle at the front.

My parents in Holland, earlier times.

My parents in Holland, earlier times.

Above photo of my parents still in Holland. A great picture of happy life, contentment. I don’t know what that board was in her lap. It could have been a crocheting work in progress. My mother was always doing something, rarely did nothing. Glad to see the grass was unkempt. Dad seems dreamily serious.

As our bus took off, it soon founds its way on a very busy road. I noticed large signs and many car sales yards with car bonnets open as if yawning or waiting to be fed. Later on I found out  the road was called Parramatta Rd. About an hour along the journey or so the bus stopped and the driver walked across the road and disappeared into a pub. He left us baking inside the bus, but so what, it just allowed the passengers to see more carefully of so much that was new and different and the driver to get a couple of schooners of beer. Within a few month I noticed that beer drinking was very popular, as long as it was done before 6PM. Pubs closed at 6, allowing husbands to get home and if possible hand over the pay-packet before it all got pissed up against the porcelain. It is a hot and harsh country and beer does alleviate it.

Mealtime at Scheyville.

Mealtime at Scheyville.

The photo above is compliments of Google and is not mine. Notice the prevalence of men. Some time later the shortage became acute and I remember a rail bridge in Sydney with a large hand-painted sign, “Australia a country of men but no women”.

When we arrived at Scheyville we were more or less abandoned. There was someone who gave us a number for our accommodation. We had no clue as what to expect. No film footage at The Hague Embassy ever showed us converted  metal corrugated Nissen Huts  to be for many migrants and refugees the first form of accommodation. We just saw coloured films of postmen jumping fences giving glad tidings to very happy home owners standing tall on the well manicured lawns, beaming with happy and wearing gleaming white teeth in total sympathy with white picket  fences. The same with newspapers being chucked onto same front lawns. It all seemed so very unregimented and free, so jolly and sunny.

Scheyville camp with Nissan huts.

Scheyville camp with Nissen huts.

Compliments Google.

As we found our accommodation corresponding with our given number it was a surprise to be shown ex-army huts. Nissen huts to be precise. This looked very regimented and was totally without smiles. Mum said: “Oh this must be for our bikes”, grabbing her first impression, hoping against all odds this wasn’t for sleeping in, surely not! Her Dutch-ness escaped into a desperate hope this hut was for our bikes, soon to be provided. Holland of course a bicycle is part of all life. Why not here as well? But why would bicycles have mattresses and chairs? Within a few minutes reality set in but my mum immediately accepted and got busy settling in. She was the hero of all migration and should have been given a Dame hood, surely? We had suitcases with  the basics and soon we had our bedding arrangement sorted out. The bedside drawers had some crusts of bread in them. Later on we met a Dutch couple who had been in exactly the same Hut just before us and  had abandoned the bread in the drawers. We laughed heartily about that for many years to come. ( It wasn’t all sad.)

The Arrival in Sydney; Dreams, Chevy Utility and Nightmares.

April 29, 2015
Me, Adrian and John after landing in Sydney 1956

Me, Adrian and John after landing in Sydney 1956

The photo above might be one of the first taken after arrival in Sydney. It looks as if we were still on the boat. Notice our Sunday best attire including ties and coats! It would have been hot in February, even so, a good impression on arrival was to be persevered with.  Mum told us to wet our hair and run a comb through it. I always did try to get a slight wave at the front of my too straight hair with the help of a generous blob of brilliantine. I had my own jar.

The on-shore stevedoring workers were dressed in blue singlets and shorts. They could well have thought, while looking up and rolling their ready rub ciggie; ‘here comes another bloody boatload of bloody reffos.’ Definition of ‘Reffo’  ‘a refugee.’  Strictly speaking we were not refugees, but we were all painted with the same brush. European history was complicated and Australians at that time kept things fairly simple. At least we were white.

After the ship’s berth in Sydney we were greeted by our Dutch friends. They had already gone through all those emotions and experiences that we were now bravely facing head-on. My father looked tense while greeting our friends.  Our war-time friends and previous neighbours from Rotterdam were seasoned and well adjusted migrants, who, according to the letters they sent us, were totally happy and content with having made that choice so may years earlier. There were also many others greeting the new arrivals holding up signs with ‘carpenters, painters, bricklayers’ wanted. It was as if one could already start earning money within minutes of landing. Was this a sign of  ‘In Australia, streets are paved with gold?’

Dad must have arranged for our trunks of belongings to be forwarded to Scheyville migrant camp that we were supposed to travel to. The original plan to stay and live with our friends were put on hold. The reason I heard was so that we could first knuckle down to camp life in order to appreciate the better living with our Dutch friends afterwards. I think that might have well been the reason for my dad’s previous mentioned furrowed tense look. Did he smell a rat?

Holland was now almost six weeks in the past, yet had not forgotten the item of a special car. The car was a major drawcard for at least having some interest in coming to Australia. Remember, I was fifteen! Fifteen year old boys are interested, apart from roseate breast, also in cars.  Our friends had written they bought a car that was both a sedan AND a truck. How could that be? I knew that America was a country were all was possible. Australia might well be a miniature version of that magical US. I could not let go of this vision of such a magic car that could be both. A kind of wonderful conjuring trick so unbelievable, so magical. It was all I could think off. Was a button pushed that would change the sedan morph into a truck? In my feverously overexcited mind, everything was possible. After all, did not American trucks drive into every school in Holland giving each child a bottle of Coca Cola? That was magic as well as part of the Marshall Plan to help Europe back on its feet…

Mum On left. Dutch friend on right. Girl Dutch friend's daughter, the rest brothers Frank, Adrian and Herman.

Mum On left. Dutch friend on right. Girl Dutch friend’s daughter, the rest brothers Frank, Adrian and Herman. On right also (late) brother John with Lies daughter of friend.

I remember taking this photo ( and developing). It would have been after our stay at the migrant camp. The woman with the perm was called aunty but wasn’t a real aunt at all, more like a dragon. She used to lock Frank and John up in the coal shed when they had done a number 2 in their pants during their Montesori kindergarten days. I had to walk both home to this ‘aunty’. Mum was in hospital giving birth or something. Doing number 2’s during war time wasn’t unusual. In fact, it was one of those things that at least gave some relief during times of  trauma and bombs.

Our friends had come to greet us not by traveling to the port by this special car but by train. A bit of a blow but it was just the first day. We walked around Sydney with them and that’s when I enjoyed my first milkshake. In Holland I drank milk and had never imagined one could better the taste of cow’s milk by shaking it and mixing it with an unguent such as strawberry or vanilla. But, there you have it. A country of milk and honey, the milkshake was just the beginning. The milk-bar had a strange name, probably ‘Stavros or even Mavros- Milkbar. It was in George Street but not anymore now.

At midday we had to say goodbye to our friends as the buses were now ready to take us well outside Sydney to Migrant Camp, Scheyville.

My first view of naked Woman.

May 6, 2013


Retrospection is the reward and pay off for getting old when past events outweigh future, at least in quantity if not quality as well. How did we fare is not an unreasonable question that might arise out of those people faced with the possibility of soon not even able to wonder anything anymore, let alone those questions pertaining to life’s achievements.

How do the scales weigh? Here is what happened during some earlier years; 1956 in fact. This could be seen as giving at least some background or grounding for the unfurling of some sort of life into the future.

After having been wined and dined on our boat (Johan Van OldenBarnevelt) for over 5 weeks or so, the bus trip from Sydney’s Circular Quay to our camp at Scheyville, interrupted by the driver’s ‘pub-stop’ at Home-bush’s Locomotive for a couple of schooners, having calmly left a busload of anxious and nervous European migrants in the sweltering February heat, our arrival at the camp’s Nissen Huts was somewhat of a difficult transition.

After all; the mellow sounds of the violin, piano, with twanging base and the brass instrument (was it a saxophone?) still reverberating from the luxury liner evening soirees ringing in our ears needed more time than just the 3 hour bus trip to our camp…The lingering and haunting tune of Dean Martin; ‘Was it on the Isle of Capri where I met you,’ clashed violently with the lurid car sales yards signage and yawning bonnets of Parramatta Rd, Sydney. Can you imagine?

My mum thought those Nissen huts were for the push-bikes. Yes, but why are there mattresses inside, my dad queried with his Dutch pragmatism coming strongly to the fore? Having to flick maggots of the mutton chops did it for my poor dad. He went on one of those mattresses for two weeks, utterly depressed. He finally got up and put on his polished fine shoes, laced them up and decided to at least move… We moved away from the camp and shared an old half demolished house in the middle of old Mr.Pyne’s timber yard on Woodville Rd, at Guildford, with another Dutch family.  The yard contained stacks of building timbers, baths, bricks and an old 1946 Chevy Ute on three wheels, a Sheppard dog on three legs and a generous abundance of very fast rats outrunning the dog.

They were old friends from the period of war torn bombed out Rotterdam and had migrated to Australia in 1951. No doubt they had experienced the Nissan Hut and maggot delights far more heroically than us, or actually my dad. My mum was made of sterner stuff.

I made the best of it. It was in the camp’s flimsily built shower partitions that I viewed for the very first time a woman’s pubic bush, having peeked through a slight gap between the partitions separating males from females. I was fifteen. I had already seen naked breast in a ‘native African’ news reel in The Hague, a year or so before migration and had lived of that ever since. Considering the daily inspection of food possibly laden with maggots, the very first view of something I was so curious about was a bonus. I leaped with joy. My teen years’ patience was rewarded and had come to full fruition. Well, not fully, that came later, all in good time though, I was still young.

That view of my first female pubic bush in Scheyville migrant camp made up a hell of a lot, considering all the misery that my parents experienced. The woman was a Polish mother of three children. I used to pass her briefly on the way to our huts to eat our meals, hopefully without any extras. I looked her in the eye deciding I would be honest with my little secret, at least by not avoiding her gaze. Was she suspecting something?

I am still gasping over my parents’ bravery. How did they do it with six children?

This Game this Life.( Maggots at Scheyville Camp)

October 14, 2012

Maggots at Scheyville Camp.

By gerard oosterman



If any more proof was needed to show the abundance of Australia, of course shown already on the day after arrival at Scheyville camp with all those oranges on trees, it would have to be the provisions in that huge communal dining room during breakfast, lunch and dinner of huge gallon drums of very chunky IXL melon and pineapple jam, with no control on how much one ladled out.

Real fruit jam in Holland was expensive and mother just used to give our sandwiches not much more than a slight hint of jam in order to save for our future. Imagine our joy with being able, and totally unshackled from any restrictions, to scoop unlimited ladles of jam out of those huge drums of fruit laden conserve on top of mountains of pre-sliced white bread. It was totally out of dad’s control but he managed to accept it for what it was.

A few days later our perception in all that abundance of goodness and sweetness was somewhat dented and damaged. We often just used to ladle our food on plates and walk to our hut, eat in private, away from the swills and spills of the food hall where everyone just used to eat sitting on large benches and wooden tables.  Well, eating was a bit of a euphemism, more as if the whole of Europe were on a trough and had been waiting for a good feed. Some of those hungry souls used to straddle the wooden seats horselike and eat with the food plate tucked between their legs. Perhaps they felt is was a more secure way of remaining in possession of the food.

It was when we had just arrived back to our hut with plates full, got seated and ready to fork into the lamb chops, when a man on a pushbike was riding fast from hut to hut shouting,  ” there are maggots in the meat.”  Now, we had experienced war and famine, head lice, tobacco shortages and indeed food shortages but no way would it have been even remotely possible to have had the experience of ‘maggots in meat’. There simply never was any meat during the 1940-45 second world war.

Peering onto our plates and deep into the crevices of the chops in particular, it only took a second to see what the pushbike man had heralded a minute earlier. Maggots indeed. This of course took the edge of our sojourn into this new country somewhat, if not those chops as well, but what the heck; we were told Australia needed people with pioneering spirit.