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.

 

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