3. Exploring This Aussie ‘Sunburnt Country’. (Part 3)

Finding that Joan’s position was that she was a bit homesick and wanted to visit the family, so I sent her back to South Africa for a three months holiday and to spread the good news of freedom land. She was back within three weeks though, for conditions had gotten worst and she couldn’t handle it because of the comparisons of the two countries attitude to freedom. The information and stories that Joan brought back with her from her trip to South Africa was deplorable and pitiful because of conditions having further deteriorated to an all-time low. Non-white workers in Durban who went on strike for some resemblance of better conditions where put on notice according to White workers that they were causing a resurgence of illegal labour organizations. While she was in Johannesburg visiting her brother en route, an uprising by Africans in Soweto because of constant police harassment resulted in riots and deaths of Africans. In Cape Town she found that civil disobedience had escalated and that school students of all non-white communities were forming organizations to voice their protest. Silent protests and marches were met by armed police and army gun-trucks where they were either teargassed or run off the road. The feeling of fear, anger and aggression that was emitted all around her became so stifling and unbearable that she phoned me from Cape Town to come home to the freedom of Australia.

I also found of my time spent on Australia’s soil that its landscape looked like it had just been born, whereas other world continents that I had been too had modern landscapes of magnificent mountains, snow covered peaks, breathtaking waterfalls, continuous fast flowing rivers, ocean looking lakes and exceptional fauna and flora. Australia on the other hand looked like a youthful continent of ancient times with its flatness, stunted mountainous outcrops and arid land that not only spoke of a ‘sunburnt country’ but also for it having to be treated and cared for with respect by its occupants so as not to be abused as the other continents had been. That didn’t take away that it had a coastline of world renown beaches like Bell’s Beach in the state of Victoria, Bondi in New South Wales and Surfers Paradise in Queensland that was as spectacular and varied as its centre. Jagged rock formations on its plains, with Uluru (island mountain) or Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory, which is the world’s largest monolith, looming in the middle of the ‘Outback’ plains, and the Kakadu (Aboriginal=Cockatoo) in the ‘Top End’ with its tropical swamps, giant saltwater crocodiles and Aboriginal carvings and cave paintings. Still in the north, carol reefs with the Great Barrier Reef as the world’s largest living organism that sprawled along the state of Queensland’s coast and had the world’s oldest rainforests thrown in for good measure.

New South Wales was a state of baffling geographical contrasts because of the varied climatic conditions that would occur on the same day, for it could be snowing on the Southern Alps while spiraling dust storms may be sweeping the west and monsoons could be flooding the east. But on the rest of the good days, hilly plains as far as the eye could see, sea lakes and harbour towns. Its next-door neighbour Victoria was the most mountainous state with alpine mountains; desert plains, lakes and the most unpredictable weather that could see it receive rain, hail, snow and sunshine all on the same day. The distinctive lavish wilderness of Tasmania as an island state off its coast, which had the Bass Strait separated them, included rugged mountains, highland lakes and forests, and made it a unique ecosystem due to its protection. South Australia that bordered Victoria was blessed with a Mediterranean climate that gave it endless ribbons of beaches, and with the backdrop of its leafy hills, mountain ranges and several thousand kilometres of nothingness plains made it a beauty spot on the face of Australia. It in turn had as its neighbour Western Australia with its breathtaking Kimberley region of blood red desert sliced by lush forest filled watered gorges and enormous Aboriginal tribal lands, and virtually kilometres of uninhabited coastline. I to my pleasure when traveling the length and breadth of Australia discovered almost all of that and more, just as doing when traveling around the world.

Although the wife and my journey to freedom had only been partly decimated by the Afrikaner National Party, and we had felt the brunt of it; however, the freedom reached and obtained in another way in Australia compensated for that, for it gave us the right and independence to allow us jaunts to and fro from our home in Melbourne to explore and discover a country that we had fallen in love with. Our other expeditions saw us experience most of what the travel and tourist brochures offered in Canberra and in the Australian Capital Territory, Sydney and in New South Wales, and Adelaide and in South Australia to where we traveled via Ballarat to Bordertown. The road from there consisted of a boring drive that wound through flat farmland until reaching the Grampians with its chain of granite outcrops with Aboriginal art sites in caves and rock shelters, and then wheat fields again until we reached and crossed the Murray Bridge and Murray River into Adelaide. The city facing Saint Vincent’s Gulf off the Southern Ocean although of small townish atmosphere consisted of well composed neat tree lined terraces, expansive park-lands, superb stone churches, and architectural and cultural attractions with the Torrens River meandering through the city and navigated by launches and rowboats. We were able to savour the city slowly because of its setting out compactness that had most of everything to see within easy walking distance. Having heard people call it ‘the city of churches’ was easy to see why; for there were plenty of them including magnificent cathedrals in a small radius, but that took nothing away from rather unique features there. Rundle Mall was colourful with fruit and flower stalls, and because it was a hive of activity it reminded me of the same atmosphere of the stalls in Cape Town City.

What was different though was the ‘pie floaters’, a chunky meat pie doused in tomato sauce and floating in thick pea soup that were sold from pie carts at night for hungry people as ourselves until the wee hours of the morning, and again I came across another South African War Memorial dedicated to the Aussies that gave their lives in the Anglo-Boer War. For cricket fans like myself, the Adelaide Oval that had an attractively open ground with a marvelous crowd atmosphere, and to my amazement though it still had operational the oldest scoreboard (1911) used for test matches. Maslin’s Beach South we found was a nudist one and we tested the waters, and the day and twilight boat cruises on Gulf Saint Vincent was tried too. Drove towards the coast to the peninsulas of Fleurieu, Yorke and Eyre that abounded in scenic drives with bays, beaches, ports and parks.  Apart from that, there olden time cottages, historic buildings, disused mines and ones in operation, the influence of the Cornish, Welsh and German miners, and an abundance of wineries was worth the exploration. As in Melbourne, Adelaide too had its ethnic communities, but they were spread out in the surrounding hills with huge eucalyptus and introduced deciduous tree that created a magnificent feature to the landscape. German Lutheran settlers escaping religious persecution in the early 1800 settled and established Hahndorf that had many old German style architecture buildings, a beer hall and of course cuckoo clocks; however, during War World 2 the town was placed under martial law because of their German nationality. Scottish immigrants at about the same time established Strathalbyn, and it had wonderful old streets-capes and impressive Celtic heritage displays. Cornish copper miners established the town of Callington in the mid 1800’s, and although decaying it still had plenty of character. The English settled in Sterling in which there were glorious old English gardens, extensive plantations of exotic deciduous trees and historic walks established in the mid 1800’s.

And then there were the wide-open spaces of South Australia’s Outback that stretched to the borders of Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. The Nullarbor (Latin=No trees) Plains, which we didn’t venture into, was part of that, and the derived name from Latin for ‘no trees’ spelled it out for the awesome space, silence and solitude. On the other hand, to compensate for that there was the oil and gas field, copper and uranium mine, and opal mining in which Coober Pedy’s (Aboriginal = white fellow’s hole in the ground) high daytime temperatures and freezing night-time ones forced the residents to not only live in underground homes where their occupation had taken them, but also to extend that to underground shops, restaurants, motels and churches, and was the world’s largest opal field for white ones. Thrown in for good measure the Simpson Desert with the Birdsville Track running in between it and the Stuart Stony Desert, which was advisable to travel the route by a Four wheel drive vehicle or camel, and the Woomera (Aboriginal = spear throwing tool) Prohibited Area that was run by the American space agency NASA as a communication, tracking and defense system. Also, Lake Eyre that was almost smack bang in the centre of the three deserts of Simpson, Stuart and the Great Victoria with ‘The Ghan’, which was so named after the Afghan camel drivers who pioneered transport in those parts, that was the railway that ran between Adelaide and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, and the Aboriginal Pitjantjatjara people.

Australia’s wine industry first began when the First Fleet of eleven small ships under Captain (later Governor) Arthur Phillip with 1 000 passengers, three-quarter of them convicts, arrived at Botany Bay in 1788 to start an English colony. And in the cargo carried was grape vines picked up en route from their other English colony in the south of Africa, which was from Cape Town in the Cape Colony. That South African and Australian connection not only saw the vineyards spread from Sydney to all other States and Territories for the grapes grown and the wine made, but also farm animals for consumption and breeding, flour for bread and wheat-seed for sowing, and vegetables and fruit. South African perennials, deciduous and fruit trees followed so as to introduce more greenery and shelter because of the overwhelming eucalyptus trees, which grew everywhere, and the coastal banksia that were sparse in foliage. When wandering around the country and recognizing also the shrubs and plants that were introduced, I have thoughts of being back in South Africa with the memories it invokes. That though takes nothing away from Australia’s unique flora that not only stirs the senses but is not also found in other areas of the world. The gold and green of the wattle (acacia) from which we Australians draw our national colour and our floral emblem, the kangaroo paw because of its resemblance to the hind paw of the kangaroo, the Sturt desert pea of the semi desert variety that proliferates at the slightest hint of moisture, the heath, mallee and daisies that burst into bloom in the wet season and the grasstree called ‘black boys’ because of the spear like black vegetation the juts from its centre are some of the well-known native ones.

Maybe I would have felt right at home too if Australia had introduced African wild life instead of the feral English rabbits, fox and cats to make them feel at home. Maybe it’s not too late to do that in the introduction of a few hyena to rid the country of dead carcasses of kangaroo and for them to keep it clean as garbage disposal units as done in Africa, which would also aid in the plague of flies, and they love hunting small animals like cats, and the introduction also of cheetahs, which can be kept as domestic pets that would soon wipe out the rabbits and fox. But then we also have to consider our wild fauna that because of its isolation from the rest of the world took on a unique character. Where else but ‘Down Under’ would you find mammals that lay eggs, spiders that eat birds and rats that eat pythons. The amphibious duck-billed platypus would receive no problem from the hyenas and cheetahs because they wouldn’t know if it was poultry or a fish, the shy cuddly tree dwelling koala who at most times is in a coma because of living off a diet of eucalyptus leaves wouldn’t get a look in due to the two of them not liking a stoned diet and the exertion of climbing trees, and the wombat with its big fat backside would seem to them as an African kopje and be used only to lay in its shade. They would be intrigued though by the swans that they knew as being white in South Africa but are black instead here, but wouldn’t harm them thinking they were Africans, and the hyenas would think that they had found a long lost relative when hearing the kookaburras peal of manic laughter as theirs sound also. Of course both of them wouldn’t have a bar of the emu as they do to the ostrich in South Africa because of its defensive destructive talons and speed, and the echidna (spiny anteater) that has the same defense as a South African quilled porcupine.

The Barossa Valley of world famed Australian wines with its neat regimental precise staked fields of vines in fifty or so wineries, which we found was a wine connoisseur or tipplers paradise, had become part of the grape vine legacy.  The Lutherans influence was not only in the vines but could also be seen in the beautiful stone constructed churches, cottages and town buildings. The Barossa Vintage Festival was a thanksgiving celebration for the region’s grape harvest, and it included lavishing tastings, grape picking and treading contest, and a vintage fair. The German heritage in the valley stood out in the wine brand names, Lutheran spired churches, quaint blue-stone villages, their own style cottages and farmhouses, cooking restaurants and what was displayed in their delicatessen shop windows, and they also spoke Barossa German language. We stayed at the Reservoir Motel in Reservoir as a base, and because Adelaide’s drinking water was so brackish and discolored because of the red earth, Joan and I were consuming Adelaide’s wine instead, but their other water that we enjoyed though was at the nudist beach where we frolicked and splashed to our hearts content.

Another bit of sightseeing and information that was of interest to me was in the gleaning and seeing of Saint Mary’s Convent where Sister Mary MacKillop was excommunicated due to making a stand against South Australia’s Catholic religious hierarchy. It seemed that it was all due to a Jesuit priest and herself establishing the first ‘free’ school in Australia where fees were only for those who could afford it because of them jointly agreeing that all children should have an equal education regardless of parent’s social or financial position. What accelerated it further was on her starting up the Order of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart whose primary purpose was to educate and care for the poor, and within a year she had thirty sisters running eight Josephite schools, an orphanage and a home for ‘fallen’ women. That didn’t go down to well with the high archdiocese because of her still standing adamantly by her philosophy that every person should be respected and valued as an individual regardless of colour, creed or social status, which Australia hadn’t yet come to terms with in the mid 1800’s, and of course she would have fought a losing battle in South Africa. Fortunately, the Vatican saw it the other way after a Commission of Inquiry had cleared her of any wrongdoing, and whereby she was reinstated and received approval of the Joephites. Although her order went from strength to strength and established 112 schools and eleven charitable homes, her ailing health didn’t, until due to overwork and stress she died in 1909. The goodness of her unselfish sacrifice I found was being rewarded most appropriately by what many saw as miracles to what she had achieved under dire circumstances and situations, and has now been declared Australia’s first saint by Rome.

The Murray River with its beginnings in the Snowy Mountains that coursed along the border of New South Wales and Victoria to end up in South Australia and flow into the Southern Ocean, had throughout the entire Murray area good fishing, swimming, water-skiing, all boating which included day cruising, house boating and paddle steamers, and it went all the way to the Murray Bridge. From there we returned via the coastal southeast return route of saltwater lagoons, sand dunes, salt-pans, fishing villages of lobster, weathered limestone caves, lakes and Mount Gambier. From there we stopped twice after branching off onto the Great Ocean Road to Port Campbell to view the battered limestone cliffs that the breakers had created into arches and sea sculptures. And then at the world famous Bells Beach of surfing classic fame that had natural rock sculptures carved by fierce ocean waves and sheer rugged cliffs, and all the way to Melbourne from there we had oceanic mountain drive views.

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Adelaide in South Australia on the Torrens River as is all Australian Capital Cities situated on rivers.

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Taking a break from the driving to have a good old South African braai (barbeque).

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Joan stepping off rather gingerly from the boat cruise on the Torrens River.

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Barossa Valley vineyards where Joan and I tippled so many varieties of German wine that it took me the whole of the following day to sober up to drive back to Melbourne.

 

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2. These Aussies Are A Weird Mob. (Part 2)

 

During that time with the children all at school and Joan taking up employment first at Stegbar where they manufactured bi-fold doors and the work became too strenuous, and then at Tetra Pack where they produced lighter things like soft drinks in triangle cartons; her wages, my substantial salary and a good credit rating with our bank afforded us to purchase a house. The house was in a new estate called Springvale South, which had been farmland, and was in a cul-de-sac with our neighbours been all Aussies, and because they were beaut (excellent) people, we all got on like a house on fire. Because of almost living in one anothers homes with the usual barbies, footy barracking and getting on the piss, we came to know what was first a foreign language to us that what it meant was barbeques, the Australian Rules football team one supported and getting drunk. There were also a few other Australian sayings that were peculiar to us at first, such as ‘how you going, mate?’ And in any other English speaking country one would receive the answer of either going by car, bus, train, plane or ship, and that’s the very serious but puzzling answer given to them when received from the majority of new Australians. Another embarrassing experience was when invited to your first Australian party and asked to bring a plate, the thought would be that maybe they didn’t have enough plates for everybody so you brought extra plates and no party food. The most embarrassing one for me though was when going on a Friday after work to have drinks at a pub for the first time with my new work mates. As was the custom in South Africa also where everyone in your group bought a round of drinks; however, when one of my Aussie mates turned towards me to tell me that it was my shout, I couldn’t for the life of me think why I should be shouting in the pub for. When ignorantly asking why, and him indicating to the empty beer glasses, the penny almost dropped because I actually shouted out the beer order to the barman much to everyone’s amusement. Our first Summer also saw us thinking that Australians were very friendly due to us receiving which we thought were them waving at us even though not even knowing us, but we were embarrassingly mistaken. What they were actually doing was shooing the swarms of flies that were settling on them, which was a well-known Melbourne pestilence, and called the ‘Great Australian salute’ throughout Australia, and we soon came to realize that what they were doing was something we were also doing without realizing it at first. Dumb arse South Africans!

The other cultural peculiarity was that men and women congregated separately at their functions, the men talked sports and work, and the women conversed about home duties and children. That wasn’t unusual for everybody does, what we couldn’t understand though was that all the good music for dancing was wasted. The only people that would dance were women with themselves, and ourselves, and if one of the men were coaxed and almost literally dragged onto the floor to dance, in most instances he would leave his partner before the music stopped and make a beeline back to where the men were. I’ve been to more neighborly functions and parties around the world than most, and as soon as dance music was played, the floor stayed crowded with everybody dancing. Conversations were left for short periods of recharging drinks, snacking and resting the aching feet. They strange thing was that when attending our parties that is what they exactly did. It was a sort of do as the Romans do because we would have South African family and friends there too, and we are party animals. They would have such a good time that we would be asked when our next party would be or ask us to bring our family and friends to theirs. Dumb arse Aussies!

With dinkum (absolutely authentic) Aussies to enlighten us, and the proprietor of Fairline Furniture who was more of a friend than a boss, which I didn’t refer to him as, because of the connotations it evoked of the Afrikaner word ‘baas’, and because in Australia everyone is on a first name basis, I called him Reg and he called me Harry. He, like my former employer in South Africa was a Jew, which again because of my Jewish heritage there seemed to be a connection. Through that understanding too, everything he asked work wise in the designing of furniture, which at times were copied from lounge suites pictures in books and modified, or the redesigning of polyurethane round shaped lounge suites out of timber that the upholstery section foreman thought impossible to produce, I would succeed with. I designed and modified the first polished timber inserted, and complete polished timber lounge suites, and modular and recliner ones too. The only problem was that as soon as it hit the market it was copied by other firms. Another problem too was the upholstery foreman and the sewing section fore-lady showing a bit of jealousy, and although employed there from the inception of the business they still stuck to old and tried methods as my former foreman had also done.  Because of my expertise in production cost cutting and trying and adapting new methods, they were told to reduce production costs in their departments. Instead of trying new methods as I suggested, their comeback was that fabric was more difficult to work than timber, and there was hell to pay when they rather reduced the incentive bonus times in their departments.  We even had a union strike, and the firm had to increase the workers’ wages to compensate for that, which Reg was livid about.

The first reciprocating received for my efforts was when I approached Reg to see if he could assist with a financial loan of $2 000 for the extra fees when purchasing the house. The bank had loaned me a stipulated amount and I had a shortfall. Wanting to know what collateral I could offer him, the only thing was my life insurance policy that he accepted. That amount was never paid back for he handed back the policy at the end of that year and told me keep the money as a bonus for my excellent work. When suggesting to him to have the yard concreted where the workers parked their cars because of getting bogged down when it rained heavily, he not only had that done, he also redid the front of the factory, complete new pathways around my house and a concrete slab for my new double garage. All I did was ask him if I could use the same concreting company to give a quote at my home, and he put the account on his bill. It then became a situation of not wanting to mention anything of my personal requirements or needs to him. I enjoyed my work immensely and loved handling and working timber from the raw material to a finished product. My own timber furniture and articles made by me were like works of art to me, for it was always a one of and an original, and people who admired it would either want to purchase or want a copy of it, which I wouldn’t comply with. In my home I had designed and made an upholstered seating arrangement with a drawer and shelved telephone desk attached that increased the telephone bill due to it keeping the family too comfortable seated. It was also the only piece of furniture that I duplicated. Reg’s wife, on one of my numerous calls at their home to repair or re-polish furniture, mentioned after receiving a phone call that they required a different set up for making and receiving phone calls, for they either had to stand or pull up a chair. On explaining my set up and that if she wanted the same arrangement I would organize it with Reg, she couldn’t thank me enough when it stood in their home. I was only too pleased to do something personal for them in return, though my real turn came when he mentioned that their dog had crept out under their fence again and that he was going to have new fencing put around his property.

Joan’s niece, Gladys Gonsalves, and her family were one of those that we had sponsored, and part of the conditions was for me to have employment available for her husband, José, on his arrival in Australia. Arranging that through Reg and advising him that José was a qualified carpenter and would be able to find employment in the building trade after, José actually liked what he saw in the furniture trade and accepted the position of leading hand, which was conveniently vacant at that time He fitted in well, and also fitted and installed with a group of my workers the complete fencing of Reg’s vast property. José with his South African building construction knowledge thought it a piece of cake after I took him to survey the property. With my department way ahead of production schedule, we drew lots for a worker from every section as part of the crew, and by reimbursing their traveling expenses and averaging their weekly added bonus to their wages, they thought it was a ripper (good), and were also quite satisfied to get an outside break away from the factory. The removing and installment of the new fencing took about two weeks because they had stretched it out a bit because they were having lunch times at the beach down the road. Reg was wrapped (overjoyed) about the results though and I received from him a ‘Good on ya (well done) Harry’. I also received one of those from my wife Joan because of making life a bit easier for her and the children in our home. It was a four bedroom, separate lounge cum TV room, rumpus – entertainment and dining room and a separate kitchen with a laundry that extended into the back-yard. With Reg’s permission to use the wood-working machinery of the factory over the weekends for my home built furniture, I furnished out the entire house. The only thing bought for the bedrooms were the mattresses because I built everything in it from scratch. Every conceivable piece of furniture that could be upholstered, I did, even to my bar walls that I diamond buttoned upholstered as a feature-wall. Feature French polished timber paneled walls also extended into the lounge and dining area and lacquered teak timber shadow boxes on the walls housed objects de art. There was enough hanging, packing and draw space so that everything had a place and everything was in its place, which was also incorporated into the bench seats made in the kitchen-nook that had lifting upholstered seats for storage. And then there was my workshop in the outside garage that had built-in cupboards on one side for my tools and a work-bench that extended from wall to wall, which eventually became our party place because the house was becoming too small for all the party animals.

The older children were then at high school, growing up fast within an Australian environment and their needs were becoming susceptible to their peers. Joan wasn’t out working then, but our young adults were keeping her fully occupied and we were incurring extra financial expenses due to them thinking that money grew on trees. With all Reg had already assisted me with, my reluctance to approach him caused me to see if the Production Manager could affect an increment to my wages. He was one of those managers with the title, but on the other hand he was a wanker (idiot) who only acted as if he knew more than he actually knew. He continuously showed his ignorance in production meetings, and Reg at times had to rectify him about irrelevant and unrelated matters concerning production, and to point out that my production procedures was what had boosted production in the firm. I had been there for two years and knew that double the amount of lounge suites were then dispatched in comparison to before I introduced my cost cutting production methods. I also knew that the Production Manager was receiving on top of his salary five per cent of every sold lounge suite. I didn’t begrudge him that, although it was through my efforts that prices of the furniture had been reduced so as to be more competitive on the open furniture market. He was reaping the benefits and all I only wanted was a little piece of the pie, and he was in charge of the wage structures. There was some jealousy attached towards me too, which was understandable; nevertheless, when he adopted the attitude of telling me that he couldn’t just take money out of his own pocket for my greed, I copped it sweet (to take the blame), thanked him, thought fuck you, and approached Reg.

If he had listened to my prepared suggestion instead of jumping the gun and getting stroppy, he wouldn’t have got his arse kicked. I also knew that the two forepersons that were on staff received a small yearly bonus that they kept very hush hush. What they didn’t know was that my mate the accountant conveyed that information to me. By not even letting Reg know that I was aware of it, my suggestions was taken on board by him, the accountant who was also the paymaster informed of an additional wage structure and I was put on staff. My suggestions were simply that if the two laborers in my department, which one worked in the wood machine shop and the other in the assembly, were encouraged also by a weekly bonus they would pick up pace to maintain a consistent and continuous supply of component materials and parts to the workers instead of them organizing it themselves. In that way the workers would stay at their workstations and extra production would occur. The way the laborers received that bonus was that an aggregate of the bonuses earned by the workers in each of their respective departments was divided into by the amount of workers. My other suggestion that I held back on to first gauge how he would accept my first one wasn’t necessary. His question of asking if I was using the firm as a stepping stone to go elsewhere, and answering in the negative, made him suggest that he put me on staff with a yearly bonus as the other forepersons. With no idea of what he was going to offer me I had already worked out a system to benefit myself on a weekly basis. On telling him that although I appreciated his yearly bonus it would be more so if received weekly because of family circumstances, which he wanted to know how that would be possible. Again my simple suggestion, which I had gleaned from the production manager’s weekly sit on his arse bonus, that the aggregate of all my department’s workers weekly bonus paid, divided by their number would satisfy me. What no one knew, except the accountant who I had befriended, was in comparison to what the other forepersons were receiving as a yearly bonus, I had worked out that my accumulated weekly bonus would amount to much more over a period of a year. Yes, I was becoming a real smarty in the land Down Under.

The Production Manager kept completely out of my way for days, after Reg had torn a strip off him, and would leave production schedules on my desk after my leaving the factory instead of the mornings as per usual. The forepersons didn’t also seem very happy with that turn of events; they did though become chummy with me when observing the Production Manager digging a hole deeper for himself with Reg. What he didn’t also seem to realize because maybe he was living up to his reputation as a smart arse, was that Reg’s son had completed his university studies and was then being entrenched into the firm, and to familiarize him with the whole operation his father started him at the beginning, which was in my department. He was observant, astute and wanted to know all about my production methods, and the writing was on the wall that he would be the next Production Manager. The Production Manager must have seen it too, for soon after he handed in a three months resignation notice so as to train Reg’s son during that time in administration procedure before starting his new position as a Production Manager at another firm. He finished two month earlier though because of making another blue (mistake) by offering me when he was there, the position of foreman.

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After a hard day at the office it’s time for a drink for Moi, Gina, Rita, Harry and Con the Greek. And my teak paneled walls and upholstered dining seats made by me with tender loving care.

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My son Chris (RIP) and Jose & Gladys Gonsalves my niece, chillaxing at our home.

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Arthur, my brother-in-law, teasing Chris with make-believe making-out with Chris’s girlfriend.

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Boys to Men, my sons Neil, Harry, Chris, Greg and Juan the Frenchy at our home getting ready to party.

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My gorgeous wife Joan modeling the present I bought her for her birthday. OK fellows enough perving now.

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Gina & Joan ready for the partying in front of my diamond buttoned upholstered wall paneled bar.

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Happy Joan partying and shaking her booty. In the passage, one of the shadow boxes made, with objects de art, and the pics are what I brought from Canada made from inlaid Canadian tree bark depicting Canadian scenes.

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Party animals Gladys van der Byl, my sister-in-law, and Moi doing our thing.

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OPA! Dancing up a storm the Zorba Greek dance, Arthur, Gladys and Moi at our home.

 

1. My Adopted Country Australia (Part 1)

 

I knew when stepping ashore on terra firma that I would bond with Australians as my fore parents had done, particularly when greeted by every Australian we met with a ‘G’day mate’ (‘Good day friend’), and maybe part of the reason also was because Africa and Australia had always had a close relationship with each other. It had been very close when Australia was joined to Africa in the Southern Continent known as Gondwanaland, and then broke away some 50 million years ago to drift north to form its own continent. Also, since modern times Australians and South Africans have fought side by side in not only the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa but also in World War 1 and World War 2 in North Africa and further afield. Plus their English history and influence, comradely competitive spirit in sport, similar climatic conditions, and a living environment that has seen an influx of immigrants from African countries been accepted in Australia.

The first place of residence I found was in the Melbourne suburb of Bentleigh, a three bedroom unfurnished unit handy to a shopping area, Catholic Church and schools, bus and train transport and the beach. With no furniture except a hired television set, we camped out on the floor that night. With the telly glowing in the dark as our fireplace back home had done, and with takeaways and snacks to sustain us, Joan and the children who had never watched television before because it wasn’t operating in South Africa as yet, watched all night through to the morning. Our packing crates which contained our crockery, cutlery, bedding, personal belongings and my tools were due in that week, so Joan and I after enrolling the children into school went furniture shopping after first withdrawing some of our hard earned South African cash from the bank. Actually I was quite surprised when after ordering bedroom, dining, lounge, kitchen furniture, other house-hold appliances and a present for Joan of one of those new-fangled hair contraptions, and paid cash, that the shop assistant made the comment that I had a lot of lolly (money) while eyeing me up and down; maybe she thought I was a sugar-daddy. However, what I learned that day was my introduction to a good credit rating by that store for further purchasing, oh yes, just remembered the store was called Billy Guyatt’s.

My first place of employment the following week was at a lounge furniture-manufacturing factory in Chameleon, which was in close proximity to Bentleigh by a bus drive, where I only worked for three months. After finding out that they were under paying me due to their misguided belief that as a new immigrant I didn’t have the same expertise as Australians, I didn’t do my block (Australian colloquialism = lose your temper), I just left. I was earning much less there than earning in South Africa, which didn’t make sense to me even with the South African rand a shade lower than the Australian dollar, but my next place of employment doubled that wage. Swiftcraft  boat builders in Mordialloc, which is Aboriginal meaning ‘Little Lagoon’, had a contract to manufacture twenty ship to shore motor vessels for the Australian Navy, which as a shipwright when employed at Louw and Halverson in Cape Town’s shipyard I worked at manufacturing all types of boats, and they employed me to work on the prototype. It wasn’t at first a walk in the park because everything was drafted to specifications, but luckily my technical skills learned at Cape Town Technical College did me in good stead. Australian Navy Inspectors were also there to oversee the whole operation to its completion, and when it was eventually acceptable, we were then able to operate a production line of three at a time. I then became involved in the final finish, and sea trials that too place in Port Phillip Bay of Melbourne, which took me back to my Merchant Mariner days when cruising and putting the boats through its paces.

I was commuting there by train and bus, and because of the constant power strikes it was difficult and impossible at times to get to work, so it then became imperative to obtain a driver’s license and to purchase a car. That was easier said than done, for in South Africa because of the excellent transport system cars weren’t much of a necessity, so I took my first driving lesson with trepidation. My worries were uncalled for because of having been that adamant to obtain it I took to driving as a fish takes to water. My female instructor although a very good teacher was also good at cracking onto me (making advances), and after my reverse parking instructions in between her set up space sticks in the same deserted side street each time she would stay parked, wanted to know all about me and became real chummy. She wanted to play games and I wanted my driver’s license and car, so by compromising that if we both concentrated on just getting my license first for me to fulfill my desire to have a car I would be able to satisfy hers. I had no intention of doing that, she though was gullible enough to believe me to really put every effort into the following three instructions by putting the chat times into more productive driving methods, and then booked me in for a driving test. She had informed me of all the driving pitfalls to avoid and of the comprehensive road tests involved. The driving inspector was either in a hurry to have his lunch, for it was that time, or I did everything correctly before driving out of the testing yard. All he asked me to do was to drive around the block, stop where cars were parked along the road, and to reverse into the only car space left in between them. My driving instructor had taught me well, for without looking behind me and by only using the rear and side view mirrors, my one off against the kerb and in between the two parked cars reverse action, which he checked by opening the passenger side door to have a look, must have either impressed him or thought it a fluke. Telling me to drive out onto the road he suddenly stopped me again and told me to reverse back into that position. Receiving the same results he instructed me to turn into the testing yard, which was in the same street, and I received my driving license with a five-minute drive.

My driving instructor’s face fell on seeing my quick return thinking that I had failed. After explaining what my test had consisted of and thanking her for that skill taught, she took advantage by not only shaking my hand but also to be all over me like a rash (unable to keep ones hands off through desire). I thought that a bit over the top, she more so when suggesting that we go to her home to celebrate. My excuse that having made previous arrangements with a car dealer and that my next priority was in purchasing a car according to our agreement didn’t go down well, but she relented when seeing I was serious. Waving her on after dropping me, the car purchased was a 1968 Ford sedan. The car dealer was quite amused when telling him that my money was in the bank and if he drove me there to withdraw it we would have a deal. He locked up his car-yard, took me and I drove my car home. My family had no idea of my purchasing of a car on the same day, so they were quite surprised and thrilled on hearing the honking outside and seeing me in the car. They weren’t game though to go for a drive seeing that I had just obtained my license, a car and the first time really driving on the road on my own, but a bit of gentle persuasion and bribery of treats did the trick though.

A year after arriving we became Australian citizens and it was a pleasure to relinquish our South African passports, and having the car made it easier for us to see and experience our new environment of Australia. It also made it convenient for seeking a more lucrative employment position, and with my testimonials, certificates and trade papers I procured a leading hand’s position at Fairline Furniture in Cheltenham, which was in the vicinity of our home. It was an established firm manufacturing upholstered lounge suites and it was also the first time for me to be in a supervisory capacity to a mixed ethnic group of workers. That was my introduction to the Australian idiom of ‘avago’ (have a go; encouragement), and I did give it a go. The foreman though was a fiery Italian who insisted that all work be done to his methods. It made him feel though that we both were from the old country by me having the surname of Lorenzo, and my few and far in between suggestions to improve production was accepted. His fiery temper though was too much for the workers to accept and was too hot for him to handle. In one such outburst he physically assaulted a worker by hitting him with a G-cramp after having a verbal blue (argument) with him, and I had to drag him away before he continued the assault on the worker. The injured worker who was lying unconscious and bleeding from the wound to his head resulted in the foreman’s dismissal and my promotion to foreman.

The workers had been taught set production methods, which I found antiquated to my expertise in effective incentive production, and my introduction of improved production methods at first reluctantly received, was firmly established when the work methods became more simple and easy and they were still earning their usual amount of incentive bonus. My methods used was standard procedure in South Africa, and by updating cutting list to reduce timber off cuts, produce setting boards that depicted furniture component parts in its original size with all cutting angles demonstrated, all component parts of the lounge suite that required intricate machining, jigs for machining multiple amounts of component parts and for assembling of component parts to lounge frames, and an assembled prototype, it reduced the production cost and increased productivity automatically. They were a good mob with a mixture of Aussies, Pommies, Greeks, Ities, Czechs, Jerries and thrown in for good measure a fellow South African. He too was in timber manufacturing, and by then I required a leading hand because I was becoming more involved in developing new designs, which had become my forte, that saw the firm then producing show wood lounge suites, occasional tables, recliner chairs and sofa beds. His duties consisted of controlling the production flow of the timber yard, timber machining and assembling, springing up and foaming, and the spraying section. I had done all of that when on my own, plus ordering of raw materials, administration, the improved production methods and the developing of new designs. So I also instructed him that in his down time to organize maintenance of machinery and equipment, accept deliveries and maintain the department in ship shape condition. He lasted the whole of four months because while I was going flat strap he would be instead yabbering (talking) away to the workers who were trying to earn extra bonus money by keeping the production flowing. In the centre of our department was a large pig iron potbellied stove in which in winter was continually fired up by either of two labourers to warm the department. That was a duty he rather preferred to do, and would stand there warming him while feeding it timber off-cuts and the workers had to warm themselves through working. They didn’t have to dob (inform) on him to me for he was doing it to himself by having been such a nong (fool) for making it so obvious, but what really did it for me was when he made the rather going against my grain remark that we South Africans must look after each other, which didn’t sit alright with me having almost become a true blue (genuine) Aussie.

Wanting to experience our new Aussie environment my family and I became Aussie tourist, but more so me who saw a whole new continent to explore. Starting from my home city Melbourne in the state of Victoria that nestled comfortably on the banks of the Yarra River, I found it to be a city of European tastes, genteel and refined with its fashion, theatre, art galleries and restaurants. With its melting pot of cultures, which goes to explain it as having the largest Greek population outside Greece, there was no greater contentment than spending time as Melbournians in the Royal Botanic Gardens that undulated beside the river. I found my tranquility there amongst the wooded green lawns, fern grottoes, native and exotic plants and watched black swans cruise regally by. It reminded me so much of Cape Town’s Botanical Gardens of my youth with children running freely about seeking new adventures under the watchful eyes of parents, hand-holding couples, sun-worshipers and elderly couples watching and reliving their youth. However, the only difference was the Greek families that it seemed had brought everything but the kitchen sink with them with an array of dining arrangements, crockery, cutlery, enough food to feed an army and of course their bouzouki music and dancing. Also, as a family in that same area in summer we would attend the outdoor performances at the Meyer Music Bowl under the stars at night, and the day outdoor theatre ones. I didn’t also have to be a rocket scientist to work out that Melbournians were sport crazy. Yarra Park near the river contained the Melbourne Cricket Ground for inter-state and international matches and the Australian Rules Football Grand Final, and also the National Tennis Centre that hosted the Australian Opens. The other major sporting events were the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse and the Australian Masters Golf Tournament. Be that as it may, it took nothing away from other sports such as soccer that saw Sunday league matches competitively played amongst ethnic teams that had their supporters barracking (supporting) with country of origin flags, banners, drums and at times running fights if the opposing team lost. And then there was ‘the game that is played in heaven’ according to its devotees like myself of Rugby Union, which unfortunately I found was only mostly enthusiastically played at colleges; however, my other love of athletics and swimming saw me wallowing in a fest of those events that had world class and Olympian champions amongst them.

We also found the old and new trams that rattled along the city streets and into the suburbs an exploratory experience that took us for a taste of Melbourne’s immigrant legacy. Chinatown’s distinct ethnic area was due to their gold prospecting ancestors who joined the gold rush in the 1850s, the Spanish quarter in Johnston Street was lined with tapas bars that pulsated at night with salsa and flamenco dancing, a Little Italy in Lygon Street that waves of post-war Italians adopted as their own and was inundated by their influence of trattorias, bistros, pizzerias, coffee bars, noisy bars and cruising young Italians. And then there were the Jews in Acland Street in Saint Kilda, which they had made their own community, and because Christian Sundays were not theirs it was a busy shopping centre with palate delighting delicacies of Tel Aviv, Vienna, Prague and Budapest, and last but not the least the Greeks who had taken the proverbial kitchen sink to Chapel Street with their inundation of restaurants. I found that Melbournians just loved markets, and it ranged from flea, arts and crafts, exotic foods and the biggest of all the Queen Victoria Market of every imaginable fruit and vegetable.  Although the city had smoothness about it in the environment and the gentle flowing river with its pleasant boat cruises, canoe paddling, riverside bicycle paths and beautiful old river-crossing bridges, there was a rough element. It was all due to the city facing the large spacious Port Phillip Bay into which the river ran that lead of Bass Strait in the Tasman Sea. It was not only when sailing out on the bay where it would become a challenging and sometimes a dangerous pursuit when conditions would change radically and without warning due to gale force winds that would wipe up and sweep the bay, but it also would send boats, fishermen, bathers, promenades, alfresco diners and pedestrians scurrying for cover. Another fascination they had, and so did the whole of Australia, was about their legendary folk hero Ned Kelly who had been the most infamous bushranger of Victoria, and we viewed the scaffold from which he was hung in 1880 at the Old Melbourne Goal, and his death mask.

To go further afield I traded the car for a Ford Falcon sedan and then we were crisscrossing the State of Victoria. On going around Melbourne we came upon Mount Macedon, an extinct volcano with rocks formed by solidified lava and erosion, which was depicted in the movie ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, and I also came to know about the ‘magic mushie’; an hallucinogenic mushroom.  Mount Donna Buang, an Aboriginal name meaning ‘the body of the mountain’, we found was the closest snow to Melbourne for sightseeing and tobogganing, and where the children had their first snow fight and built a snow man. Mount Baw Baw, which is Aboriginal for ‘echo’, was a novice’s ski resort, which they were a bit reluctant to try, but Mount Buller, which the Aboriginal name for the mountain is Bulla Bulla meaning good, Mount Hotham and Falls Creek that were alpine ski resorts, got them all enthused. Our favourite though was Lake Eildon. A body of water formed from the damming of five rivers to irrigate the farmlands. Be that as it may, we though found to our pleasure that it was also a year round water recreation and holiday resort paradise, which saw us returning there frequently, and on the way there we had also come across Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary that was Australia’s best nature fauna reserve that played a key role in replenishing some of Australia’s endangered wildlife. Dandenong Ranges, which the Aboriginals call Corrhanwarrabul – meaning a desirable place where birds sang, kangaroos jumped and lyrebirds perform, although of panoramic views didn’t have a touch on Table Mountain, Puffing Billy though made up for it with a scenic mountainous railway ride. Latrobe Valley, which sits upon the world’s largest deposit of brown coal, as an industrial heartland of coal mines and power plants reminded me so much of Wales in England, but in contrast its coastal area of a huge granite peninsula that was Wilson’s Promontory on the southernmost part of Australia’s mainland and a national park and holiday area. Sale bore the title of ‘Oil City’ because of the oil and natural gas gathered from the rigs offshore in the Bass Strait with its processing plants and supply ports ashore. And it was a pleasurable way to spend a Sunday arvo (afternoon) with family and friends while observing the operations at an adjacent park lunching on parcels of fried fresh fish and chips washed down with chilled white wine purchased locally. Lakes Entrance we found was Australia’s largest inland waterway system with water oriented activities, the largest fishing port in Victoria and Ninety Mile Beach of coastal sand dunes that separated the lakes from the ocean. The Wilderness Coast we found relatively uncrowded, unspoiled and undeveloped due to its remoteness. Phillip Island was another holiday resort but with a fairy penguin colony and their parade as they returned from the sea to nest at nights and Australia’s second biggest tourist attraction, with an added attraction of Australia’s first motor racing circuit (1928), which today hosts the Australian 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Our next outing took us to Ballarat, aboriginal words meaning a camping or resting place, which was within an hour’s drive from Melbourne, with its rich heritage of gold rush days and the best-preserved and impressive Victorian street-scapes in Australia. A signpost pointing to Eureka found us at a site and name that was etched into Australian history, and the diorama there depicted the event. In December 1854 when the gold diggers angered by government oppression stood up for their rights at the Eureka Stockade, troops were sent in to storm it and twenty-two diggers lost their lives. Because of their mate-ship and sacrifice it became a pivotal point for Australian republicanism, which is still experienced today, and the Eureka flag remains a strong Australian trade union icon. Ballarat of the 1850’s we found was recreated in Sovereign Hill, which had been another gold-mining town, with its old fashion wooden shops, and we watched blacksmiths and tinsmiths at work, had our faces imprinted on ‘Wanted’ posters at the old press in the Ballarat Times office, took a ride on a Cobb & Co coach and panned for gold in a creek. Bendigo with a past history too of gold-mining had underground mine tours, with a Chinese Joss House, temples, tea-houses and festivals as a reminder of their gold-mining heritage there.

Further north the ‘Goulburn’ River, an aboriginal word meaning a camping or resting place, which met up with the Murray River near Echuca, an Aboriginal name meaning “Meeting of the Waters”, that wound through Goulburn Valley and was Victoria’s fruit bowl with Shepparton operating the largest cannery in the southern hemisphere. The Murray River of winding waterways with paddle steamers from riverboat era took in Echuca, Swan Hill and Mildura, and was Australia’s most important inland waterway for agricultural irrigation. Travelling through Melbourne we eventually found the Hume Highway that connected Melbourne to Sydney and took in Benalla, Aboriginal word meaning ‘big waterholes’, which was part of Ned Kelly’s territory. Further on Wangaratta, meaning resting place of the cormorants’, which was the heart of ‘Kelly Country’, and Glenrowan where his legendary exploits told of him and his gang capturing the town to hold the townsfolk prisoners in the Glenrowan Inn because of a trainload of police that were on their way to arrest them, which caused him to have the tracks ripped up. All the same, it all came to a bloody end with him been shot but not killed while in his suit of homemade armour trying to escape after a furious shootout and captured, and his gang died within the torched hotel rather than surrender. The town of Wodonga, which means ‘bulrushes, was the end of the trail for us in Victoria because it ended at the Murray River, which was the border into New South Wales, and although we had only crossed and visited its twin town of Albury, I knew that I would be back to complete the touring journey of New South Wales from that designated town. So also by now, those reading this are well on the way to understand certain Australian slang words and Aboriginal words as I do.

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Melbourne City on the Yarra River.

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Our first picnic outing given annually by Fairline Furniture for its Staff and workers with Moi, Joan, Greg and Gina.

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Our first back-yard barbeque with son Greg, Brother-in-law Arthur from Vanguard Estate episodes, Moi, Sister Rita and their two daughters Debra and Toni.

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Harold and Joan on their first Australian date at the Cuckoo Restaurant.

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Greg and Joan seeing snow for the first time at Mount Baw Baw.

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Gina and Harold having a snow fight on Mount Baw Baw.

 

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Camping at Lake Eildon with Joan, my nieces Debra and Toni and my latest addition of  a Ford Capri.

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Chillaxing at Lake Eildon with Joan, Debra, Rita and Greg.

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All the camping mod-cons with Chef Harold, Arthur, Gina and Rita at Lake Eildon.

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Skipper Harold boating on Lake Eildon.