Poetry2 Pt1 My Way Tour – Toowoomba

“MY  WAY”   TOUR,   JUNE, 1988  –    

TO   DARWIN   AND   BACK  –  

Jim Foxon’s  Meanderings.

—————–

The worst night of my life I spent ‘

Twas on the eighth of June

‘Twas worse by far than when I went

Upon my honeymoon

~

The wife was up and down all night.

(It wasn’t what you think).

The waterworks were quite all right.

We’d never had a drink.

~

Upon that morn at half past five

We had to catch a bus.

So mother stayed awake all night.

What a bloody fuss!

~

For SHE kept ME awake as well –

Nearly drove me barmy!

Brought back all those awful years

That I’d spent in the army.

~

And when we got out in the cold

Of morn – stars in the sky!

‘Twas cold enough to freeze ’em off!

Oh my, oh my, oh my!

~

But when we climbed aboard the bus

So mis-er-ab-le still,

We both thawed out a little bit.

We met a Ted called Hill.

~

The red-rimmed dawn came up and Ted

Unfurled the Aussie flag.

“Sing loud the National Anthem chaps –

No one’s allowed to lag!”

~

“Just sing, and don’t salute,” Ted said,

“The bus is rather jerky.

If you stand up and then salute,

You’ll fall head over turkey.”

~

That night up in Toowoomba

We all sat down to dine.

We’d had a session in the pu

With Fosters, Scotch and wine.

~

Thus while we exercised the fang,

No one was really stinking.

Yet still and all there’d been a bit

Of fairly serious drinking.

~

So when the girl who was in charge

Told jokes of love and lust,

We all sat back and held our sides

And laughed out fit to bust.

~

Toowoomba – Garden City    

Of Aussie’s Sunshine State!

To say it’s merely pretty

Would greatly under-rate.

~

The neat, attractive gardens

The eye continually meets,

The bright and lovely houses,

The wide and sweeping streets.

~

Then on to Miles, a well kept town,

With Pioneer Museum. 

Were all such things so well concealed,

Most folk would never see ‘em.

~  

In central Queensland Roma is

Where boab trees abound.

They line its dusty, faded streets,

Misshapen, portly, round.

~

At Charleville straw hats appeared, 

Fitted by Baz and Ted.

The fitting was a trifle weird,

But each lid found its head.

~

Yet there’s a price we have to pay

For anti-sun protection.

Our hats are marked with “Tours My-way”

Er…….”Myway Tours.” (Correction).

~

We saw the Stockman’s Hall of Fame –

Queen Liz was at this spot.

From miles around the people came;

The sun was flamin’ hot!

~

When she was asked just how she felt

The Queen said, “Well, of course,

My anal pain recalls the taim

When I fell orf my horse!”

~

In central Queensland towns, you know,

All people far and near

Will only wash in water, but –

They drink the Fourex beer!

~

In Winton’s pub I said: “Now mate –

Your water’s rather strong.

You pump, I guess, outside the town,

From some old billabong?”

~

“This water, mate,” says he, “don’t come

From any billabong. 

It comes from DEEP BELOW, and hence –

The bloody awful pong.”

~

“I must confess,” said I, “that beer

Is better…Even stout.”

“Good-oh,” he said. “I’ll order two!

And don’t forget…Your shout!”

~

We’re taking off for Darwin now.

Say, just how does that seize ya?

Darwin! – Lovely northern jewel!

The next stop…Indonesia!

~

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Ch13 Epilogue and poetry.

This is not the end of the history of the Foxon Family. Hopefully it is only the beginning of our story in Australia. The rest lies in the future, and is unknowable to me. All I can do is to wish those future generations good luck.

I am pleased about one important thing. Although our ancestors, through no fault of their own, knew hard times, we have escaped. We have escaped from the back-breaking toil, the telltale blue scars, the lifelong slavery of Yorkshire company coal mines. We have escaped from the squalor of the East End of London and from the contemptible isolation of the European ghetto. We have escaped from the physical poverty engendered by lack of money. And we have escaped from the spiritual poverty of ignorance. In Australia, the slate has been wiped clean. What we now write on that slate is up to us. If we go back to poverty or regress to ignorance, the fault is our own.          

The next generation, provided we can be blessed with peace, has the opportunity of a better life than any before it. What they make of that opportunity lies within their hands.

Progress depends partly on ability, partly on work, and partly on luck. But luck, after all, is when opportunity meets preparation and preparation involves perseverance. So above all, one’s success depends on perseverance and preparation.

The world becomes ever more crowded and complex. How can one make sense of the pullulating human ant-heap?

Once I had a goldfish pond in the front garden. The algae, nourished by sunlight, provided ample food, and the happy fishy residents bred up from half a dozen to over a hundred. It was interesting to see how the awkward, exotic fantails decreased in number and reverted to more basic forms – survival of the fittest! There must be a lesson in that!                             

One day, fifty yards down the road, a Council workman sprayed some weeds with poison. A zephyr of wind deposited a few droplets of hormone spray in the pond. Over a period of a week the fish slowly succumbed and floated white and lifeless to the surface. 

So it is with humankind. A nuclear holocaust, a melting of the ice caps, a tilting of the earth’s axis, a collision with a lump of matter from outer space, the explosion, or the collapse of the sun ………..One day our planet Earth will become the communal “Vernichtungslager” of us all, and it won’t matter a rap whether we are Christian, Jew or Muslim, white, black or brindle, fish, fowl or reptile. As more of us realise this, the Theatre of the Absurd gains added significance. But it does not supply any of the answers.

Actually, nothing has changed. All men are cousins. That is biologically demonstrable. We all live, and we all die. We must survive as long as we can because that is our inborn nature. And we must live together and seek happiness, for happiness is the ultimate goal.

But first we must have sufficient food and shelter ………For who can be happy in the cold with an empty belly? These things we must obtain for ourselves and our families. And that means continuous effort and the acceptance of responsibility.

My Yorkshire father and my Cockney mother believed that all should work and do the right thing by each other as far as possible, remembering that in the last analysis one has a sacred and primal duty to look after one’s own family. 

In this connection my father said to me many times, “If a man has children with a woman, he should never leave her, or them.” I believed him, and I still believe him. I might add that in my view the same strictures apply to a woman, and the only possible excuse to break the union in her case might be extreme and unbearable cruelty. Many of the modern generation would disagree, I know. It is easy for articulate moderns to juggle with words and show that licence and self-indulgence are permissible and even intelligent, while duty and responsibility are unnecessary. It only worries me that in sowing the wind, they may in later years reap a whirlwind in a delinquent and unstable society.

Did I say that we should seek happiness? Of course we should. But true happiness and an integrated society can only come from the acceptance of duty and responsibility by all of us.

One could now enter into a lengthy and extremely boring dissertation on religious morals and political philosophies and hypocrisies, but enough is enough. My descendants will decide of their own accord whether they wish to be socialists, Marxists, capitalists or opportunists, Catholics, Shmatholics, Protestants, Jews or Callathumpians. All that has no importance, provided they are good people.

I have one regret in my life. I wish I had spent more time with my children when they were young. But, too often, I was working overtime, or was too upset or worried to be able to give more generously of my time. Children are our greatest treasure, and we have them for such a short while. I hope that my own children learn from my mistakes. 

Oscar Wilde said somewhere: “As they grow older, children judge their parents. Sometimes they forgive them.”

I wish this for my grandchildren and great grandchildren all down the years – that each one of them may become what Irene’s mother, in Yiddish, would have called a “Mensch”!  A Mensch is a courageous, well-balanced person, able to control every situation with intelligence and strength of character.

If I were ever elevated to the English House of Lords (a very remote possibility!) and had to look for a family motto, I would have emblazoned on a scroll the words of Edith Piaf, the French nightclub singer. She had known great poverty, being literally born on a Parisian sidewalk. 

With typical Gallic economy of phrase, she said: “C’est pas une honte d’etre pauvre, mais c’en est une de vouloir rester dans la crasse!” – It is not a disgrace to be poor…But it certainly becomes one if you are prepared to remain in the shit!”. 

…Now there was a Mensch!!!

When Irene and I came to Australia in 1949, I looked from Caringbah towards Sydney one night, and was inspired to make one of my rare, mostly disastrous, and always incautious incursions into verse.

I might finish off this memoir with those lines.

Before doing so, I should explain that in those days “Displaced Persons” was a euphemism for a refugee from a camp in war-torn Europe. “New Australian” was a term coined by the Department of Immigration to distinguish those Pommies and Reffos who had only recently arrived from the other Pommies and Reffos, (now dinky-di Aussies), who had been in this country for at least one generation. The term “New Australian” had an honoured currency for many years, and in some fashion might even have helped to weld together those of different ethnic origins into one Australian amalgam.

Well ……………here comes the poetry.

                          Silent suburban Sydney, softly folded in the star-shot fog of night…

                          What other being of some far-off time gazed upon a similar sight?

                          Perhaps some dark-skinned hunter on his nocturnal way,

                          Perhaps some exiled convict stared as I across the black of Botany Bay.

                          I too am exiled from the land where I was born,

                          And my heart too is by a sweet nostalgia torn.

                          Yet this is pure illusion, I suspect…

                          Because all things – the good and bad – are good…in retrospect.

                          The squalor, slums and class distinction one forgets.

                          Time heals the festering wounds…then one regrets.

                          Yet this Australia – just another land for me – 

                          Shall for my children and their children “Homeland” be.

                          Here Displaced Persons, once denied the right to live,

                          Their strength, their talents and their sons, shall to Australia give.

                          The dreaming, red-tipped bushland gums shall start

                          Then to the muted thunder of a nation’s heart.

                          And we will build within this southern space —

                          We Britons, Greeks, Italians, Poles – a new Australian race.

To survive, my children, that is the object, to survive without hurting the other fellow any more than you have to. Perhaps, with luck, in this new country, we may do a little better than survive.

So good luck to you all – family, friends and readers of my tale – and very much love.

Ch10 Pt3 Owning our first car

With the commencement of the New Year (1950), whilst we were still living in the garage, I had commenced a course of instruction for my certificate of town clerk. The course lasted ideally for three years, but few people finished in that time. I found the accountancy and law extremely difficult to absorb after so many years away from school. I would go to the Sydney Technical College three nights a week direct from work. I walked from the College back to Central Station reaching it just before eleven o’clock. At this time, having had no tea, a packet of “Zac-a-Bag” chips from the stall that used to stand in the big square was very welcome. I would then hurry through the subway to board the eleven o’clock train, after which it was an hour’s run to Caringbah. Getting off there at midnight, with the last bus long gone, I would briskly walk the mile and a half back to Want Street. With the need to get up early in the morning to go to work, this timetable was strenuous and made one tired at times. Certainly I kept fit. I invariably walked to Caringbah station and back to save the bus fare, and at weekends, there was plenty of work in the garden. At Hurstville I worked for the most part at the counter, and was always dashing back and forth for rate accounts, subdivision maps, or valuation books. In the evenings, when not going to Tech, I sat in the garage and studied. This was all right in the summer. However, the garage was unlined and the eaves were not boxed in. I had filled the interstices with rolled up newspaper, but this was inadequate to prevent the draught coming in. Thus I got very cold, even though I sat with a heavy overcoat on that I had brought from England. On these occasions, Irene retired to bed to keep warm. When we got into the house, of course, the situation improved.

At this stage, we made further material progress. We threw out the old ice-box which we had been using to keep things cool and bought an STC refrigerator. It was the first refrigerator we had ever owned, and I wrote back home to England rather smugly to tell them about our acquisition. It cost us sixty-three pounds, which was about two months’ wages, and I bought it over three years on hire-purchase. We thought that now, with a house, a refrigerator, a carpet square, and a lounge suite, we were really making progress.

I passed the first part of the course, comprising various abstruse arithmetical calculations, commercial law, business methods and organisation, and commercial accountancy up to the dissolution of partnerships. (What good that would be in local government I never could fathom). I now commenced local government law and accountancy, which were far more demanding, and gave me a lot of trouble. My job as cashier at Hurstville offered me no insight whatsoever into accounting matters. Thus, everything I learned was theory, and I could not relate it to practice. Having reached a certain stage, and despite study on a regular basis, I seemed to get stuck. I realised that I would not have been allowed to undertake such a course of study in England due to what was deemed there to be insufficient basic education. Therefore, I had to see the thing through to the end, if only to prove to myself that I did indeed have the capability. 

I was thirty years old. I found the task tremendously hard. But despite some setbacks in examinations and many disappointments, I slowly edged forward. I told myself that if I persevered, I would beat other people who did not have the same constancy of purpose. But I wished with all my heart that I had had the opportunity of studying these subjects twelve years earlier. By this time, I would already have been well ensconced as a clerk to my own council, and the world would have been at my feet. My time in England and the war had taken from me those precious years, and I would never be able to regain them. I had no alternative but to keep on and do my best.

Despite our worries, Irene and I really liked the Caringbah district where we lived. Even though it started to fill up rapidly with houses and the shopping centre down the road began to mushroom, there was still a country atmosphere about our area.

Mary, our neighbour across the road was a typical country woman, wide-hipped, motherly, always in a calico apron. She was slow of movement, broad of speech, but always very kind and considerate. It was she who first taught Irene and me how to bathe young Patricia when she came home from hospital. For the inexperienced, bathing a young baby is rather like washing a large piece of blancmange. They slip and they slither. You know you must control them, but you are afraid of hurting them or dropping them. Mary knelt beside the basin we had placed on the floor, carefully soaped and sluiced our little bundle of joy, dried her gently but firmly, then played with her for a few moments before putting her to bed. 

She was an expert, having had innumerable children of her own. In fact, Mary had forced her husband to take up sleeping quarters in an old shed at the bottom of their garden thus espousing the simplest birth control system of all which says: “Out of sight, out of mind.” He was a ginger haired man, slow moving and with a sly grin. He worked on the Council, camping out on road jobs and only coming home at weekends. But when work finished and pleasure began, he was apparently a hundred per cent macho man, for Mary swore that she only had to look at him to fall pregnant. Her youngest child was a sandy haired boy of two or three years who was already the spitting image of his father. Before his birth, they had apparently sworn to have no more children. But one weekend Mary’s husband, feeling the pangs of loneliness, cunningly brought home in the pocket of his large overcoat a bottle of sweet wine to which Mary was particularly partial. She allowed a few glasses of the delectable stuff to seduce her, and before you could say “Jack Robinson”, they had popped into bed together, and another addition to their extensive family was on the way. They were friendly, uncomplicated and very kind people.

Just down from the Mary lived a woman of about thirty who made all the other ladies in the street jealous. This was because her husband used to do all the house cleaning and washing before he left for work, telling the neighbours that his wife was sick and not very robust. However, the moment he had gone, she would be up and about, dressed up to the nines, strolling around like a Hollywood film star. All the girls were jealous because there was no way that they could make their own husbands do likewise.

Next door to us but one lived old Jim and his wife. She was a strong, black-haired woman, and he a retired schoolteacher. He had gone back to do a bit of additional teaching, and also worked in the bush, coming home only at weekends. Old Jim wasn’t averse to a few glasses of plonk in the pub at weekends after the long, lonely week at work, and I often met him coming down Cook Street, merry of eye and garrulous of speech, carrying with him the faint aroma of fermented grape juice. He had two huge blocks of land with a small creek running through the middle, and the place was a mass of fruit trees, tree ferns and Christmas Bush. It was a sprawling, natural garden paradise where you could lose yourself. The big city seemed a thousand miles away. Their old weatherboard house had stood there for many years, but it was very comfortable. They were kindly, friendly Australians of the old school, not yet tainted by the fast buck philosophy of the twentieth century. When old Jim’s wife died, he married a widow from Wingham, where I had the pleasure of meeting him many years later, still firm and sprightly, though he must have been in his eighties.

I continued to work in local government at this time by choice.

I might actually have had a job in a real estate office in Caringbah at a period when there were only two or three shops in the main street. On another occasion, I actually obtained a job in the personnel department of Ampol Petroleum, but turned it down at the last moment to stay with local government, even though things seemed static and unpromising at the time. My reason for not leaving local government was that after seeing so much poverty in London during the depression, security of income and employment were of tremendous importance to me. This was more especially so since I was in a strange country, and there was absolutely nobody to turn to for support should I fall out of work and be unable to look after my family. I knew from experience that when an economic recession hits, private enterprise jobs can be sudden death for a worker who has reached a certain age, whom his bosses are looking for an excuse to replace.

By the same token, if Irene was to stay at home and look after the children in the way that both she and I thought was essential for their well-being, then I had to earn not just a wage, but a better than average wage. To do this, and to have security too, I had to obtain promotion within the local government service. This I could only do by first passing my examinations, then be willing to travel around to different Councils. However, there was a time restriction. I could only do this when the children were young. Otherwise, their schooling and general upbringing would be disturbed.

There was another thing. The old dictum, (and it is true), says, “A rolling stone gathers no moss…….”. 

So, I had chosen professionalism. But I still had to become a professional, then slot myself in somewhere within five or six years, and certainly before I attained the age of forty. This, then, was the way I had tried to rationalise our future in Australia, and was the plan I tried to follow for the benefit of the Foxon family.

I stayed at Hurstville Council for four years, and during that time applied on several occasions for a rise. Each time I was knocked back on the grounds of inadequate finance. I then began to apply for jobs elsewhere, but not too far from home. (Local government jobs were advertised on a weekly basis in The Sydney Morning Herald.) I was finally offered a job one grade higher at Sutherland Shire Council, headquarters of the local government area in which we lived. I accepted, and when I put in my resignation, my boss offered to lift me two grades if I would stay at Hurstville. I thought that I would gain more experience at Sutherland Shire, so I thanked him and refused. I have often wondered whether I did the right thing, because many changes took place at Hurstville over the next dozen years. However, it also gave me a secret pleasure to tell my boss, who had refused me a well-earned rise, that I now no longer needed his job. In addition, there is no doubt that by starting to move around, I was to enlarge my job experience in a way that I could not otherwise have done. Nevertheless, it was to give me some traumatic experiences as we went from one place to the other.

When I left Hurstville, I took my holiday pay and started straight away with Sutherland Shire. With the money thus saved, we bought our first car, a 1928 Austin Seven, with wire brakes and gravity feed of petrol to the carburettor. It cost us sixty pounds.                                           

In four years we had seen nothing of New South Wales except a limited amount of the City of Sydney. Now, in the Austin 7, already a vintage car, even in those days, and with a top speed with safety of about twenty five miles an hour, we travelled as far as Gosford in the north and Wollongong in the south. Any one of these trips took us all day.  

But our new mobility widened vastly our outlook and understanding of the area in which we lived. We began to appreciate the sandstone and gum tree beauty of the Sydney region, the extent of the New South Wales beaches, and the beauty of vast seascapes.

Ch10 Pt2 Our brick and fibro castle at Want Street

Alack and alas! We had barely been in it a week when there came a sudden downpour of rain – one of those tropical downpours which are so common in southern latitudes, but which we did not seem to experience in England. The rain came through the roof of our garage in buckets. It fell on the second hand chairs and dining room table we had bought. It soaked the second hand bed with its second hand mattress, spotted the second hand wardrobe and kitchen cabinet dividing the living area from the sleeping area, and gathered in pools on our new if somewhat cheap quality lino. Irene sat down and wept. I was at first filled with despair, and then with a blinding rage. After all this effort, was a leaking roof now about to defeat us? We ran around placing pots and pans in strategic positions. I swore that as soon as the rain abated I would fix up that roof so well that not a drop of rain would come in for the next hundred years.

The next day was Saturday and I climbed up to have a look at the corrugated iron close-up. It was second hand, and there were numerous small holes from where it had been previously fixed on some other roof. I walked the mile and a half to Caringbah and bought some bituminous mixture. When I got back, I first plugged every hole with bitumen. I then tore up small strips of tent canvas and put them on top of the holes. Each piece of canvass received a further coat of bitumen and then a coat of paint. When the paint dried, I placed more bitumen on the spot, another piece of canvass, another covering of bitumen, and a further coat of paint. Every nail that held the iron sheeting to the timber rafters was similarly treated. The roof never leaked again while we were there, and I will guarantee that it does not leak to this day.

My job at the Department of Local Government had proved a very present help in trouble. However, I was earning only a labourer’s wage. Indeed, a labourer might have earned more with overtime and odd jobs on the side. Since the Department had the oversight of all the local government Councils in New South Wales, I began to wonder if there might be some future for me in this direction. I therefore composed and had typed something to the order of two hundred letters of application, which I sent to every municipal, shire and county council in the State. I might have received at the most half a dozen replies, which I thought then and still think today was a very poor reflection on local government. However, one of them was from Hurstville Municipal Council, half way between Sydney and Caringbah. They were looking for a clerical assistant, and offered me an interview. I rang up George, the Town Clerk, thanked him for his consideration, and asked when he would like to see me. We arranged an unlikely rendezvous the next Sunday morning at the bus stop just outside Kogarah railway station.                                                

George was a tall, bespectacled, black haired, lantern jawed man of fifty. His accent was aggressively Australian. He chain smoked cigarettes through a long holder. His brown, spaniel-like eyes hid a shrewd and pragmatic mind. He thought before making a statement. But when the statement was made, you could rest assured that it was authoritative and was backed up by a lifetime of experience in guiding the affairs of a local government council. He was the first of a long line of town clerks that I came to know, whom you could recognise almost as you would instinctively recognise schoolmasters, doctors, policemen and bookmakers.

After he got out of his car at Kogarah, we had an impromptu interview on the street corner. He seemed to be satisfied, and invited me back into the car beside him, saying he would take me to look over the Council Chambers at Hurstville. We went into the neat brick and tile building (now regrettably demolished), and after I had looked through the tidy offices with polished lino floors, he asked me if I liked what I saw. I said I did. He explained to me that in this job I would gain a good knowledge of New South Wales local government in a substantial Council and that they would “train me up” so that I would have a steady job in a good atmosphere and something to back me if I went elsewhere. I took all this with a pinch of salt, but on reflection in later years, I began to think that George was probably sincere. We left with the understanding that I should give a week’s notice to the Department of Local Government, then start at Hurstville. I would be a “D” Grade Clerk, and would earn one pound a week more than I was then getting. Moreover, since Hurstville was closer to Caringbah than Central Sydney, my travelling time as well as my fare would be halved. I went home and conveyed the news to Irene with jubilation. Thus, although I did not realise it at the time, I took one of the most important decisions of my life. I decided how I was to earn the money to pay off the mortgage and enable Irene and me to raise our children. The field of endeavour in which I had arrived more or less haphazardly was to take us up and down the coast of New South Wales over half a lifetime, and thus have a decisive influence on the lives of our children.

After we had raised the money to build our garage, Irene had commenced work in the Coles store just down from St. James’ Station. She served behind the sweet counter and finally finished up in charge of the lemonade counter. I think she had the distinction of selling more drinks with less lemonade essence than any other sales assistant within living memory, thus contributing considerably to Coles’ large profit that financial year. Irene worked in Coles for about nine months, and during this time we paid off the mortgage on our garage at a record rate and also bought a very nice lounge suite and an Axminster carpet square from Bebarfeld’s the large furniture store opposite the Sydney Town Hall, in George Street, now occupied by Woolworth’s. It is necessary to realise that in England we had never been able to afford a lounge suite of similar quality to the one that now graced our garage, whilst Axminster carpet was something to which the working man simply did not aspire. We lived on the smell of an oil rag, got up very early, and worked very hard. One week, we had no money after paying debts, and existed on tomatoes grown in the garden and bread and milk bought on credit. But with Irene’s wages and mine we were paying off our commitments at the rate of ten pounds a week. After so many wasted years we were at long last getting ahead.

If we were solving difficulties regarding work and accommodation, on another plane Irene and I were having problems. I had always thought that no man was complete without a wife. Certainly I had found that Irene and I had been of tremendous help to each other during those first lonely and difficult days in Australia. But by extension, no marriage is complete without children. We had been married for three and a half years, and there were no children. Indeed, we had been led to believe in England that there was a strong chance that we should never have any. For me, this was a matter of great sadness, as I am quite sure it was for Irene also. I suppose that you see in your partner desirable qualities you hope may be transmitted to your children. Also there is a natural desire to be related by indissoluble bonds of flesh and blood. This, of course, is the mere beginning of things. What follows after is the serious business of raising the children, and this is what life is really all about. Life may be financially easier without children, but it becomes very empty. Love and affection, those important qualities no money can buy, must inevitably diminish. With children, love and affection increase, and a man and a woman achieve a sense of purpose.

We began to visit the Crown Street Women’s Hospital Sterility Clinic. It was not a pleasant experience. One feels like an animal on a clinician’s dissection table. However, they rapidly diagnosed a condition the pundits in England, by some strange oversight had completely missed – a minor obstruction of the Fallopian tubes, which was quickly rectified.

Irene became pregnant, but had a miscarriage, probably due to the need to carry buckets of water across our block at Caringbah before we had it properly connected to the garage. The next time, she had injections, and we were much more careful. Patricia was conceived in our little green and red silver-roofed garage in Caringbah, and born just after we had entered into occupation of the house we later built on the block.

I shall never forget the day my daughter was born. Indeed, I have remembered that afternoon with tenderness all the days of my life. I walked to the “Jacaranda” Hospital, near Cronulla. (We could not afford a car). Here I was shown an olive-skinned newly born child lying in a butter box. There had been many births that day, and they had apparently run out of cots. A fuzz of dark hair covered her head. Her blue eyes rolled in completely opposite directions, chameleon-like, as she tried to focus on what was possibly my vague shadowy shape bending over her, or perhaps sought to identify the direction that my voice was coming from. Her little soft red mouth seemed to pull itself into a kind of smile. She was bruised right across the face, from the forehead, across the eye and nose, diagonally to her chin, for it had been a difficult forceps delivery. That moment, a wave of tremendous love swept over me. Irene and I were both almost thirty years old. We had thought that we should never have children. Yet here was my beautiful daughter smiling up at me.

I went to say “Hallo” to Irene, but she was stretched out exhausted, and very weak. She had been in labour for four days, and the birth itself had been extremely difficult. I think she hardly realised I was there.

That evening I went round to the house of a friend who insisted on playing Richard Tauber records all night. Although Tauber was a great favourite of mine, I simply sat there in a kind of daze. The only thought that kept repeating itself in my mind over and over again was, “I am a father. I am a father.” The wonder of it dazzled me. The responsibility of it overwhelmed me.

Later, I took to washing out the nappies, as they did not do this at the “Jacaranda” Private Hospital. But my good intentions were undermined when I put tapioca in the sink in mistake for washing powder. The result was a bit of a mess. Subsequently, when she returned from hospital, Irene took over this chore.

Some months prior to Patricia’s birth, having paid off the garage and once again obtained a clear title to our land, we approached the St George Building Society for a loan. This was quite a small concern then, with headquarters in Forest Road, Hurstville. We had no money, so we were obliged to pick a plan showing a two-bedroomed house of minimum size – in fact, the overall area was six and a half squares, which most people today would consider laughable. However, we borrowed sixteen hundred pounds on the grounds that half a loaf is better than no bread. Our repayments were two pounds ten a week, and my wages at that time seven pounds.

The problem now was to get a builder. Irene had transferred from Coles’ in Sydney to a milk bar in Forest Road, Hurstville, so we were able to go into work together and come home together, the Council Chambers being just along the road. This enabled us to have more time to look for a builder. However builders were not interested. Most of them had work for the next eighteen months or two years, and simply could not fit anything in prior to that time. We went to builders all over Caringbah and Cronulla without success. I did not want to try to build it myself, fearing that I might not get a good result because of my lack of expertise. I feared also that it would simply take too long and costs would smother me. In the event, we ran a builder down who lived no further than the adjoining street. He agreed to build our small brick and fibro castle after nine months had elapsed. We accepted his offer with alacrity, knowing it was the best we were likely to get, and the house was eventually built just in time to welcome Patricia into the world. How proud I was, that although the place was small, it was entirely adequate at that time for Irene and me and that my daughter had a separate room and lovely surroundings to take her first faltering steps in Australia.

I was not a particularly devout Christian, nor was Irene a devout Jew. We decided that Gentiles have an easier time in this world than Jews, but that it is desirable for children to be taught the moral precepts common to both religions. We therefore had Patricia christened in the Methodist Church just down the road, on the grounds that this was the closest church in the vicinity, my own Church of England being a couple of miles or so away at Cronulla. Patricia’s godmother, our good friend Beryl, was a practising but very tolerant Catholic. Thus were the outward formalities of society completed.

CH10 Pt1 The best garage in Caringbah.

Irene therefore began to look around for a place for us to live whilst I went to work during the week, earning enough money for us to hang on by the skin of our teeth, and at least not need to touch our capital for everyday living expenses. Renting a room we decided was out of the question. First, rents were exorbitant. In the second place, we disliked the idea of paying for somebody else’s property. There had been enough of that in the old country. We weren’t about to start bad habits in the new one. Eventually Irene came across a temporary dwelling and laundry on the outskirts of Yagoona, whose owner was selling out for just over four hundred pounds. She made inquiries at the Bankstown Council and was told that there were no problems. We paid a deposit of forty-five pounds from our capital – equivalent to nearly two months’ wages at that time. We had just over two hundred pounds saved up. We hoped to raise the rest by loan from the Rural Bank.

Too late we learned that the land was to be declared unfit for building as it was subject to minor flooding. The solicitor, one of the tribe who inhabited small offices in large buildings in Hunter Street, told us that the legal position was that the land was still fit for building at the time of signing the contract. Therefore we stood little chance of regaining our money. Indeed, the vendor might force us to proceed with the purchase. At this stage it dawned on us that he was acting for both parties, a fact to which, in our ignorance, we had not paid any attention. Subsequent advice from other quarters revealed that we had been misled, deliberately, it seemed, and we were eventually able to recover fifteen pounds. However, the outlook seemed very black at the time. Moreover our money was in limbo for a considerable period when we had most need of it. Although it seemed a paltry amount today, it meant that when we did eventually buy land and build, we had to settle for something less than might otherwise have been possible. To this extent our unpleasant experience possibly affected our entire future life in Australia. For had we been able to build a better house at the beginning in what was to become one of Sydney’s go-ahead areas, I may have resisted the temptation, five years later, to leave the big city and go to the bush. In the event, the lesson we learnt was not to pay out a penny before making the best possible inquiries about land. One should never sign a contract without being advised by one’s own solicitor. Any deposit should always be conditional on there being no unforeseen difficulties that might vitiate the agreement. The world is full of villains without conscience seeking to separate suckers from their hard earned cash. Caveat Emptor! Trust nobody!

The strike was wreaking havoc with the economy and eventually Ben Chifley, the Prime Minister, decided to put troops into the mines to save the jobs of the majority and prevent social chaos. It was the correct thing to do, although it earned Chifley, a great Labour leader, the enmity of many in his own party. Power was always dicey in Sydney at that time. The Snowy scheme had not yet been constructed, and everything seemed to depend on the continuing working of the Bunnerong generating station. But with the mines producing again, trains were restored, and we could once again cook with electricity. Suddenly the strike was over. And as if to herald better times, even the rain began to abate.

One evening, when I came home from the city, Irene greeted me with the news that she had found a reasonably priced block of land in Caringbah, near Dolan’s Bay, a couple of stops along the railway line from Cronulla. We went out to have a look at it the following weekend. It was in Want Street, opposite the junction of Cook Street, at the foot of the hill. It was fifty feet wide by about a hundred and sixty deep, and the price was sixty pounds. Irene said she could just imagine our house there. Trees were everywhere, the road was gravel, there was no sewer. Although we were only three of four minutes’ walk from the main road, and the bus, we seemed to be in the heart of the bush. Kookaburras perched on age-old gum trees cackled joyfully morning and evening. We thought it was beautiful. We engaged a solicitor, had all inquiries made and bought the block.

Our next door neighbour, whose name was Jack, was the sanitary carter. He lived in a rather jerry built house with his wife, mother-in-law and several children. He parked the sanitary cart outside at weekends in order to get an early start Monday mornings. Fortunately he always emptied it of its contents Friday afternoons. From Jack we hired a tent for ten shillings a week, pitched it on our block and moved in. Thus we kept our promise to Oll to leave his house as quickly as possible.

We had no toilet, so for the time being we used Jack’s. His professional activities enabled him to supply an extra sanitary service at no cost. We bought cups and saucers, plates, knives, forks and spoons. One Saturday morning, walking back from Caringbah, I saw the bus stop at Cook Street, and Irene, dressed in a brown suit inherited from her mother, step off. She had been down town before me, and held clutched to her a collapsible tin box containing double primus stoves. She made a bee-line down Cook Street in the direction of our tent, and I had to call before she saw me. 

She had picked up the cooker at a bargain price. Now we should be able to enjoy hot meals, always provided we could get the primus going.

Jack had lent us a couple of single beds, which just fitted into the tent, so we didn’t have to sleep on the ground. This was just as well, because shortly the rain began again. Only then did we discover that our block was a virtual continuation of Cook Street, and a main drain for all the storm water coming therefrom. 

For a couple of weeks we were ankle deep in water every time it rained. In addition, the tent had a number of holes, and the water dripped in everywhere. Getting up and dressing every morning without getting one’s feet wet became something of a work of art. The inside of the tent became a haven for tarantulas escaping from the rain. We had never seen these huge, ugly spiders in England. Here we quickly got used to them, but Irene never did feel completely at ease when one of them parked itself on the tent canvass just above her bed. The other spiders were the red backs in the dunny. There were endless colonies of them. They seemed to be unaggressive, and I adopted a policy of live and let live. Many a time, in the dunny I have had eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations with red back spiders at the end of which we have both departed in peace. Only when the spider insisted on taking charge of a section of the dunny essential to my own purposes was I obliged to pick up one of the many stones lying around and strike it sharply on its red spot.

When the rain eventually stopped, I went up the street, borrowed a wheelbarrow from a neighbour, and made two hundred trips to the bush immediately behind our block. I pushed two hundred barrow loads of soil from the bush and dumped them on the footpath and the front of our block. I had to go about three or four hundred yards into the bush and the road back was all uphill, so I slaved for a long time over that job. Then I went even further down and dug huge lumps of sandstone out of the soil. These I either wheelbarrowed or bullocked up to the front of the block to make my own kerb and gutter which would never be washed away in a hundred years. I succeeded in diverting the flow of water from Cook Street at right angles along Want Street into a small creek a couple of hundred yards further along. Never again was our block subject to flooding with storm water.

We now proposed to build a temporary dwelling. We drew up plans and specifications for a garage and our own dunny, and had them passed by Sutherland Shire Council. We would be permitted to live in the garage for a limited period while we built our house. We were not permitted to live in a tent, but nobody knew that we were doing so, and before they did, we would have the garage erected.

Thus we laid our plans, but now struck a snag. We had run out of money and needed to borrow one hundred pounds to obtain materials for our temporary dwelling. We would also have to pay for a minimal amount of labour, for we were totally inexpert. With a block of land rapidly appreciating in value, there should have been no problem. But we had been in Australia only a few weeks, and we knew nobody who would vouch for our bona fides. Oll gave us a character reference, but he had only been acquainted with us for a short time. We had no money, virtually no belongings, no bank references, we were new arrivals, foreigners, in fact. Today, when banks throw money at you and want everybody to be their customer, the conservatism of lending institutions in those days is perhaps difficult to understand. I could not do very much about this matter, because I had to work to keep our heads above water. Irene went to the Rural Bank in Martin Place, where she made the acquaintance of a man, who was one of their small loans officers. Over a period of three months she went to see him almost every day. Eventually he lent us a hundred pounds. I am quite sure that he did it to get rid of her, because it had become obvious that otherwise she would waste his time every day for the rest of his life.

Irene and I now made the acquaintance of a friend of our neighbour the sanitary carter, who came over from Wentworthville most weekends to visit. This man was a bush carpenter. He agreed to lay out the foundations of the garage and a dunny for us, to cut and erect a frame, and organise the purchase of materials for roof and cladding. However, Irene and I would have to organise the foundations.

We borrowed a hand concrete mixer from a sympathetic neighbour; ordered sand, a couple of trailer loads of metal, and several bags of cement; and stored everything underneath the sanitary carter’s house. Our first effort at putting down concrete was the floor of our dunny, the most essential of all buildings. Irene turned the hand mixer while I shovelled sand, metal and cement into it in the proper proportions and added the appropriate amount of water. A few weeks earlier I had not even known what concrete consisted of, so it is easy to imagine with what care we poured the dunny floor, smoothed it over with a wood float, and sprinkled in just a dash of cement to give it a final finish. I do believe that that dunny floor was the most perfect piece of concrete I ever put down. It was a beautiful piece of construction, and the only pity was that it was to be forever hidden from public gaze. However, I gained considerable satisfaction afterwards in private contemplation of my handiwork.

We now had to put down the foundations of the garage, and as our land sloped to the rear, these foundations were a major work, requiring the formwork to be straight and robust. Also we had to meet a deadline, as the builder was to arrive at a set time one weekend to erect the frame. Irene and I worked all day Saturday and Sunday, then continued during the week after I came home from work, sometimes at night by lamplight, and on occasions in drizzling rain, covering the form work with old tarpaulin and newspapers to allow the concrete to dry and set. With this job finished, I began to put together the frame. Our builder arrived in the middle of this, which was just as well as I had not had any experience in squaring up, and although I knew what was required in theory, practice was lacking. Soon our builder was putting in the second hand corrugated iron on the roof, and Irene and I were putting up the weatherboards, which were to constitute the cladding. I gave the garage a coat of red lead, an undercoat, and two good coats of dark green, glossy “Dulux”. There was red piping at the corners and around the louvre windows. I painted the roof silver, and it gleamed like a mirror in the summer sun. We filled up the interior of the foundations with earth and ash, put hardwood joists across, standing on bricks, then nailed fence palings for a floor. We covered the whole with lino. One end of the garage was the wash-house-cum-laundry-cum kitchen-cum-living-room. This section had a concrete floor, two concrete tubs under a water tap, and a vitreous clay pipe poking through the concrete foundation at the back allowing sullage to spill out direct on the ground. How the building inspector ever passed it I do not know. He must have felt sympathetic towards us because we were obviously trying so hard. Such were the times.

We were the cynosure of all eyes in Cook and Want Streets. The centre of attention. I think all the neighbours were interested to see how the new immigrants were getting on. Whatever else they thought of us, Irene and I certainly showed them how to work, for in that first twelve months we never stopped once.

Thus, after only four months in Australia, we moved into our own place. It was an unlined garage on what was then the far southern perimeter of Sydney. It was unsewered and stood in almost virgin bush. Goodness knows it was a modest enough achievement. But we had saved every penny we could to make this small dream come true. Not knowing the first thing about building, we had put it together ourselves with minimal help. I cannot easily express the tremendous, absurd, bursting sense of pride that Irene and I took in owning that little garage in Caringbah. No other home we ever owned in the future meant quite so much to us as that dark green timber garage with the silver corrugated iron roof.

Ch9 Pt4 Arrival in Australia

How can one give one’s first impressions of Australia at a distance of thirty-two years? I kept no notes of our first Australian landfall. I recollect that as we got off the ship at Fremantle for a stop of just a few hours, I was a little dismayed at a lean, lantern-jawed, “typical Aussie” who was trying to sell us obviously worthless and meretricious souvenirs. I was disappointed to have my intelligence insulted by a man who would shortly be a compatriot. But when we got into a bus for the trip to Perth, I was enchanted by the small, neat, fibro and weatherboard cottages, whose corrugated iron roofs were painted prettily in reds and greens. I swore there and then that I would own one just like them, no matter what it cost me in personal effort. 

In Perth itself, I remember the beauty of the Swan River, the cleanliness and openness of the city, the lack of high rise building (at that time!). I thought that the streets were wide and gave one a sense of freedom. I liked the cool, easy, spacious layout of the big department stores. I found the easy, unselfconscious egalitarianism of everybody positively marvellous after that cramped English society which I had left – where everybody classified everybody else in the social scale as soon as he opened his mouth. The nasalness of Australian speech hit my ear with sledgehammer effect as if I was almost listening to a new language. But I did not find this intonation at all unpleasing. Most of the people I met seemed to have a clear idea of what they wanted to communicate, and in these circumstances the accent was of minor importance. Yes, I positively liked the Australian accent, and greatly preferred it to both glottal-stop Cockney and to nauseating plum-in-the-mouth Oxford English.

I remember that the trip across the Great Australian Bight was extremely chilly – those cold winds must have been blowing up from the South Pole. Even so, we had frequent clouds of flying fish fluttering up out of the water for a few moments ahead of the ship, then dropping back again. 

We by-passed Adelaide, but had a forty-eight hour stop in Melbourne. There we looked up Max and his wife Alice. Max was the son of a friend of Irene’s mother with whom both Irene and I had a passing acquaintance, since his mother lived close by Berta, in London. Max had escaped the Holocaust by moving to Australia just prior to the war, studying at technical college to learn English and become an electrician. He extended us his kind hospitality, and Irene and I explored Melbourne a little, moving around Flinders Street, Collins Street and St. Kilda, and having a look at such differing places as Port Phillip Bay and the Zoo.

Shortly afterwards the Ranchi was thrusting its way powerfully northwards in very fine weather, with the east coast of Australia, green and beautiful, about half a mile across the blue water on the portside bow. We reduced speed as we approached Sydney, and the evening before berthing went to sleep with feelings of intense excitement. The following morning, we were up on deck immediately after breakfast to see the entrance into Sydney Harbour. 

We came through the Heads with no indication of what lay before us. But suddenly there was the huge harbour with large rocky areas of bushland rapidly disappearing into urban development. Just ahead there swung into view the immense “coat hanger” of the Harbour Bridge. Having seen photographs of it many times, it was so familiar yet somehow more imposing and breathtaking than we had ever dreamt. I knew the moment I saw this that I was home. I knew somehow in the marrow of my bones, that although I might regret England and Europe many times in my life, Australia was the true place where I really ought to be.

We spent a while in the gloom of the Customs sheds at Woolloomooloo wharf, and it was from this large and disorganised checkpoint that Oll and Alma rescued us. He was tall, bespectacled, fortyish, bald and nasal. She was shorter, rounder, but equally nasal and one hundred per cent Australian. They were both extremely friendly, kind and hospitable. They took us by taxi to Wynyard Station, where we boarded a train for their home in Campsie. Oll had decorated the sunroom in bright colours, and a bed, cupboard and chairs were set aside for us. Everything possible was done to make us feel welcome and at ease. We had our meals with Oll’s family, and we were shown typical Australian hospitality. They were a great family, and my gratitude to them and admiration for them has always been unbounded.

For a week we took it easy, looking around, trying to find our bearings and somehow adjust to this new atmosphere. After the first forty-eight hours of fine weather it began to rain. Some people said it was the worst rain in living memory. I wanted to get a job, but I wanted it to be the right job. The trouble was, I had no idea what the right job for me would be. I was painfully conscious of my lack of any skill, apart from good literacy, which I suppose was something. I began to traipse the sodden streets of Sydney, looking for employment, and exactly at this time ugly rumblings started to come from the coalfields. Jobs seemed to be drying up. But I landed a stop-gap one with the Department of Local Government, at that time situated in an old colonial building on the corner of Bridge Street and Macquarie Street. Then the big coal strike of 1949 broke out. Industry was brought to a standstill, power was cut off almost continuously, people cooked on primus stoves and by the light of candles. Train services were cut back to an absolute minimum during the week and virtually ceased altogether at weekends. All this was happening in a country where labour was short and where there should have been a good living for everyone!

I found it all the more unbelievable because economic conditions were so far ahead of what we had known in England. Unrationed meat literally festooned the shop windows. You could buy as much chocolate as you liked. The greengrocer shops displayed unlimited tropical fruits – bananas in huge bunches, as well as such esoteric things as custard apples and paw paws, things which we had never known in England in the years of peace, let alone during and just after the war. Clothes, too, were in unlimited supply, of good quality and material, and not subject to rationing. The country was rich. What was everybody complaining about?

With the real commencement of the coal strike, factories began to close down all over Sydney for want of power. All of a sudden, thousands were out of work, and I was grateful for my local government job. It did not pay a princely wage by any means, but at least I had a small income to keep the wolf from the door and allow us to live. At this stage many of the Ranchi passengers with whom we were still in touch found themselves stranded. Some lost heart and booked return passages to England, feeling homesick and dispirited by the totally unexpected and quite catastrophic unemployment resulting from the coalminers’ strike.

We had given Oll our word that we would leave his house within a week of arrival. It was a promise that we were unable to keep because of the restrictions imposed by the strike. On his side, he had agreed to accommodate us for six months when he had secured our nomination. It was a contract that we certainly did not want to hold him to. 

But with transport so limited, particularly at weekends when I was free, it became extremely difficult to search for alternative accommodation.

Ch9 Pt1 Sponsorship to Australia

“They’ve published it,” said Irena. 

She held out a short typewritten note to me.

Dear Sir,

Your letter to The Editor was published in ‘The Sun’ today, and we have pleasure in enclosing a cutting.

                “Yours faithfully ………..”

It was signed by The Associate Editor of the Sydney Sun.

“Well,” I said, “let’s hope it will help us to get on our way to Australia.”

Irene and I were in the small upstairs flat near Notting Hill Gate that we had been lucky enough to rent after our marriage early in 1947. The letter, which had just reached us after journeying half way across the world from Sydney to London, was the result of our latest effort to obtain a sponsor to bring us to Australia.

We had decided many months ago that our future lay in Australia. The idea of migrating had been at the back of my own mind for a long time. After the war it was resurrected by the publicity given to the country by its “Food Parcels for Britain” scheme. The Australian Government also initiated a drive for British migrants. The problem was to obtain berths on the limited number of overcrowded ships.

During the war in Britain we had seen quite a few Australian airmen who were regularly engaged on bombing raids over Germany. Also one saw occasional Australian sailors. I do not recall ever meeting any Australian soldiers. After their stint in the Middle East the Australian Prime Minister of the time, John Curtin, had withdrawn them to Australia to fight the Japanese in New Guinea. This was after a ferocious but well-concealed row with the British Prime Minister Churchill who thought that Australia was expendable, and could be liberated from the Japanese after the defeat of the Germans in Europe and North Africa.

Irene had known a few Australians in Cairo. They were rather notorious for misbehaving themselves and taking bars and bistros apart. She said that basically they were lonely and frustrated, and weren’t really bad at heart.

The Agents General for all the Australian States were in the west end of London, and most of them in The Strand. Thus I could walk across Waterloo Bridge from the Headquarters of the London County Council where I worked and read the Australian newspapers, which were always on display during the lunch hour. I did this for two years so that when the time eventually came for us to go, I felt that I knew as much about modern Australia as I did about England, and when we got there, I would not be a stranger. I also read as many books on Australia and Australian history as I could find in the library with the object of making mental preparation for the future.

Irene was not happy with the London climate after the openness and sunshine of the Middle East. The dirty streets oppressed her and the cold winter chilled her to the bone. Moreover, she viewed with alarm the renewed activities of Sir Oswald Mosley’s fascist hooligans, and wondered how many of her friends who thought she was German would still have been her friends had they known that she was not only German but Jewish. Remember that the clap-trap mouthed by these young fascist thugs who openly began to hold meetings in London was identical with Hitler’s ravings which had encompassed the death of most of Irene’s family little more than three years previously.

Sir Oswald Mosley, by the way, who addressed fascist meetings in the east end, dressed in jackboots and black riding breeches and shirt in pre-war years, had been interned during the war. It was always a mystery to me why the authorities did not shoot him. Instead, with that tolerance for which Britain was at one time famous, they let him loose again.

If these things made Irene begin to doubt the wisdom of continuing to reside in London, I saw the city as a huge stone and concrete prison. A kind of claustrophobia gripped me when I walked its dusty streets, devoid for miles of a single blade of healthy green grass.

The general economic situation at this time was also most depressing, and a sense of urgency began to prick at my mind. I was in my late twenties, beginning to look towards thirty, and I had achieved nothing, neither did I seem to have any prospects. Apart from these things, however, there was another even more important matter thrusting me towards pulling up stakes and starting afresh. Quite simply, I had a quite dreadful personal vision of the England of the future.

I saw the rich getting continuously richer and the poor getting poorer. I saw a country with decreasing access to raw materials and a need to rely increasingly on superior technology to import food and resources necessary for its survival. But who could guarantee that with increasing competition, English manufacturing excellence would continue to be triumphant? Beyond this, the tight little island was grossly overcrowded. Furthermore, the nation had always been riven by class distinction and had never been a true meritocracy with equal opportunity. I saw this inequality and class distinction tearing England apart.

I did not foresee racial strife, because West Indian and Commonwealth immigration had barely begun. What I did see, however, was the spectre of nuclear war.

Already we had been almost brought into conflict with our recent allies, the Russians, over the Berlin question – where that city had been divided into four segments under British, American, French, and Russian control.

There was no way in the world that I would have joined up again to fight the Russians, and I am sure that a very large number of ex-servicemen at that time would have been of the same mind. But it was crystal clear that Russia was to become the next enemy. Nuclear bombs had won the war against Japan, with what terrible effect everybody knew. How long would it be until the Russians mastered the technology and laid waste to England?

These, then, were our reasons for wanting to get to Australia. We were held up because of lack of shipping following the war. The Jumbo aircraft of the modern era had not yet been developed, and all travel to the Antipodes was by ship. The Australian Government, in its drive for migrants, was offering free passage to ex-service personnel. But in order not to prejudice the housing situation in Australia, which was very restricted after five years of war in which little building had been permitted, it was necessary for each migrant who was not a skilled tradesman to have a sponsor. This individual would guarantee board and lodging for six months in Australia. Irene and I had no known relatives in Australia, neither had we discovered any friends who had contacts. Therefore, to accelerate processing of our immigration application we had to find a sponsor. This was the reason for my letter to the Sydney Sun. The letter read as follows:

           Waiting, Hoping ……..

                My wife and I first decided to migrate in 1946, and long before the present ‘free and assisted passages’ scheme came into operation, we were investigating at Australia House here in London, generally gleaning all the information about it that we could.

                There are now about 750,000 applicants for free and assisted passages registered with the authorities – and the list is getting longer every day. So it would seem that if government-assisted migrants eventually leave at the rate of 50,000 a year, a wait of “some years” for those without priority such as my wife and myself may mean 15 years!

                In desperation my wife and I booked private passages with the P and O Line. We should be broke when we reached Australia, but at least we should get there while still young enough to feel ourselves part of the country.

                We were told at the time that we would have to wait 18 months for a berth. Today, more than a year afterwards, we are informed that the shipping position has worsened, and that a wait of three years is envisaged before tourist berths become available.

                When such difficulties and delays are put in one’s way, one feels at times like accepting the fact that one is beaten. Only at times, however, because we intend to come to your country no matter how long it takes, and to settle there.

                I wonder, nevertheless, if there is any reader of your newspaper who would care to nominate a would-be immigrant and his wife — both ex-service, and not afraid to work and learn? 

                When we get settled in Australia, we know at least one family whom we in turn shall nominate.”

About a fortnight after receipt of notification of publication of this letter, we received a further letter from a Mr P, of Campsie, Sydney, New South Wales. Mr P informed us that his parents, to his everlasting regret, had christened him Oliver, and begged us to call him “Oll” for short. He also told us that he would nominate us for a free passage if we received no other offers of help. As it turned out, we did not receive any other offers. Thus, a few weeks later Oll, true to his word, and despite the fact that he and his wife had five children, and his own house was, if anything, overcrowded, had nominated us.

Oll was employed at the GPO in Martin Place (now Martin Plaza), in Sydney. He was an upright, honest, hard working Australian gentleman, who took a chance on a couple of complete strangers. I added him and his wife Alma to my very special list of people whom I regarded it as a privilege to have known.

What is Jim’s Book?

Jim loved writing. At nineteen his goal in life was to be a top notch journalist. His first step on the ladder was for a hairdressing magazine in Soho, London. Despite WW2 intervening, changing his career, and moving across the world to Australia, Jim continued to write stories, poetry and his diaries.

A lifetime later, he compiled his notes and recounted his life on typewritten pages, which he then bound and presented to his daughter Trish.