THAT FIRST AUSSIE CHRISTMAS

December 1958, just on 58 years ago I arrived in Melbourne, Victoria aboard the ship “Fairsea” and what a change it was having left the shores of England on Guy Fawkes Day and spending just over a month travelling over the seas to the other end of the world. As a boy of eleven years of age it was a time of excitement and adventure. We had stopped at Port Said (Egypt) and at the then British territory of Aden (now part of Yemen) where Arab traders tried to sell souvenirs to my parents.

After crossing the Indian Ocean we arrived in Fremantle where I first stepped ashore on Australian soil. There it was my father took my sisters and I to a beach, whilst back in England people would be huddling around a coal fireplace trying to keep warm.

Arriving in Melbourne, we disembarked the ship and we were taken to a transitional migrant hostel in the city centre where we stayed for I think about a week. The transitional migrant camp is now long gone and has been replaced by office buildings. The camp bordered, what is the Exhibition Gardens so there was plenty to explore both in the gardens and the city itself. Then came the move during a great heatwave from the city to the Brooklyn Migrant Hostel between Footscray and Altona.

The hostel was adjoining abattoirs where sheep were being kept prior to being slaughtered. With temperatures of around 108 degrees (Fahrenheit) and sheep just on the other side of the fence the smell and flies were atrocious. The Nissen huts in which we lived had no cooling and were very hot.

As migrants from war-torn Britain coming to Australia for a better life I guess you would call us economic refugees. So there we were to be stuck in a hot, stinking, fly blown place for Christmas 1958. It was still an adventure for me and, with some friends from the migrant camp, would walk the length of Millers Rd to Altona beach. One of the things that boys from the camp would also do was to collect the ear tags from the sheep at the abattoir by tackling the sheep and after bringing them down taking the ear tags from them. The boys then attached the ear tags to their belts and wore them I guess as a sign of manliness.

My parents had obtained work locally and had at bought an old car. So as Christmas came they decided that we would drive to Sydney to visit friends who had come out to Australia on the ship with us and were living at Cabramatta. Into the car we tumbled and off along the Hume Hwy we rode. They had arranged for a cut lunch (sandwiches) from the Hostel Canteen. No cooking allowed in the huts. Our first trip into the countryside of Australia and passing through towns with strange names; crossing over creeks (which we would have called brooks or streams back in the UK) and seeing for the first time the Pioneer Scenic Interstate Coaches (Remember them?) and the Southern Cross windmills which dotted the landscape of farms. Finally arriving at Cabramatta where the huts in the hostel were similar to those at Brooklyn but there was not the smell and flies that we were suffering back in Victoria. My parents decided that when we returned to Brooklyn after Christmas that they would apply to transfer to Cabramatta and the rest is history as we arrived back at Cabramatta in February 1959. I guess at the age of 11 years everything in Australia was new to me and I could have or would have settled anywhere, but I am thankful to my parents for choosing Sydney where I have made my life and have had no regrets for the choices that they made.

We left behind the British class system which was still in place during the 1950s we also left behind the cold and dampness of “working class England” to come to a bright sunny future in egalitarian Australia, where everyone had equal opportunity

NOW WHAT ABOUT YOUR MEMORIES OR YOUR STORY
You can write about childhood memories of where you may have grown up or moving into the area. Tell us about your school days. Where you worked, played or went on holidays; your first car; that first date, getting married or maybe the history of your family, group or organisation in the district. This page is about memories so tell us yours.

If you have some great memories, or perhaps you belong to a local community organisation and would like to share your organisation’s history or story with us then feel free to share your memories or experiences by writing to 17 Rose St., Baulkham Hills NSW 2153 or email to ivorjones@hillstoHawkesbury.com.au You can also share memories on any of my Facebook memories groups including Hills District Memories which you will find at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Hills.memories/ or Hawkesbury Happenings & Memories which you will find at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Hawkesmemories/