This is a friend of mine whom I admire for a number of reasons.
One is her drive and determination, last year, to celebrate the fact that her late parents brought her and her brothers to Australia, in December, 1956.
( I had arrived, in May that year, on the same ship.)
In December 2006, she came with her family, to her eldest brother’s place and changed into a costume, to honour her heritage.
She had researched the story of their migration; collected memorabilia and produced a booklet to hand to all the members of the three generations present at this party, in a sunny backyard, in southern Sydney.
A family friend had been invited to sing the Australian ballads, and everyone knew: Click go the shears, Wild Colonial Boy, Botany Bay, etc., etc..
The older brother, host and now ‘head of the family’, explained that there had been hardships. That the parents had worked hard and that there had been ups and downs, through the years, but there were now many reasons to celebrate.
I’d been contacted by the lady, during the preparations. She had hoped that I’d know when the migrant hostel, in Matraville, ( where we all got to know each other, in 1956/57 ) was built and when it was vacated and removed. I put her in contact with Randwick Library and they found the answers.
I was invited to the celebrations, not only because I actually represented the past, that nobody else there apart from the lady and her brothers had known, but also because I could accompany her and the grandchildren.
While I played, the grandchildren were taught some Dutch children’s songs and any Dutch visitors to this journal entry will realise that one of the songs was: 1, 2, 3, 4, hoedje van papier and the children made the paper hats after learning the song and singing it, while they folded.
The middle brother had researched and prepared copies of the family-tree, going back, not only to the northern province(s) of the Netherlands but also Germany.
I had the strong impression that the family, which had thrown itself into the Australian community, and not normally been very involved with things “Dutch”, on this great, sunny, summer’s day, in this Aussie back-yard, with its shed and its clothes-hoist and neatly mown lawn, had gone the extra mile to make this a very Dutch occasion. Not only the orange hats and typical Dutch caps, but all the Dutch delicatessen, including the obligatory salt-licorice and the croquettes.
The middle son and I arrived at the same high school, in 1957, in first year. It was South Sydney Boys Junior High, in Randwick.
It ceased to exist and the building went back into use by Randwick Girls High School, in 1959 and half of the students were enrolled in the new Maroubra Bay High School. THAT ceased to exist a number of years ago and before being demolished was used for the T.V. series: “Heartbreak High”.
Our parents knew each other, having met, in Matraville Migrant Hostel. My father used to give theirs, a lift to work. My mother “clicked” with their mother. I believe it was the “right-brain-oriented” (’arty?") interesting ways of doing things that attracted my mother. The middle brother and I, along with another Dutch friend, who arrived at South Sydney Boys Junior High, a little later, in 1957, still speak Dutch to each other, on the rare occasions that we meet.
It is hard to put into words, how lovely this celebration was. The backyard couldn’t have been more Aussie! The warm, summer weather more perfect. The family more relaxed and the symbolism more obvious. Their parents would have been so proud. There had, no doubt, not always been happy times but THIS was what packing up and taking your family to the other side of the world, had been all about. Hard to put into words. But, as you can see – *I’ve tried!!
- Last year I was able to send some items to the Pack Up and Go exhibition which was located in the Lower House of Parliament building, in The Hague.