We arrived on the SS Strathnaver on 14 April 1960 on a cold wet blustery Autumn day. I remember being disappointed because we were assured by an uninformed story teller that it was summer all year round in Australia with kangaroos hopping along the city streets.
We were a family of six. My parents decided on the big move because they saw no future for us kids in the UK. Dad was a mental health nurse & had secured a position in the (then) Parkside mental hospital, later renamed Glenside. He went straight to work. My brother David, 17 was part way through an apprenticeship & very reluctant to have left England & his mates. Carole, 14 fell in love several times on board ship. I was 3/12 shy of my 13th birthday & Viv, at only 10 had to eat in the children's dining room on board ship. My parents had agreed to be a part of the Elizabeth scheme to buy a house in this new and upcoming city where pretty housewives were depicted in glossy brochures wearing white aprons smilingly preparing dinners for the family in their new posh kitchens. When they were taken on a tour of Elizabeth my parents were far from impressed, seeing no apron attired housewives smiling or otherwise. What they saw was a lot of identical houses, no schools, unsealed roads & a lack of shops. When they declined the offer, they were on their own to buy a house. We were no longer welcome at the hostel but they dug in their heels for the next five weeks until Mum found a house to buy & the bank had grudgingly agreed to their loan application.
The hostel itself was very depressing and expensive, costing more a week than Dad was earning. There were three beds all with squeaky springs and saggy lumpy flock mattresses in a room I shared with my two sisters, with one small cupboard between us, we lived out of suitcases. My brothers room that he shared with a stranger was directly above the kitchen and with gaps in the floorboards, he spent many hours, laying on his belly watching the goings on below. What he saw did not entice him to enjoy the food. The last meal of the day was 4 O'clock so Mum Dad & David often went to the pie cart in King William street to buy pie floaters, I don't remember us girls sharing this treat. My parents had just enough money to buy a house outright but decided on a mortgage so they'd have money to spare but there was a slump on loans at the time so finances were rather tight.
I remember helping Mum in the cyclone enclosed laundry with its cement tubs & cranky old machines that were jealously guarded & jostled for, being insufficient in number. I remember the slices of white bread in the dining room that we used to beg from the waitresses so we could feed the aggressive swans that ruled the river Torrens. Until we knew which suburb we would live in, it was pointless enrolling in school so us girls had an extended holiday, mostly left to our own devices whilst Dad worked & Mum spent every waking hour searching for houses. Sometimes Viv & I were dragged unwillingly along, catching buses, getting lost, & walking for miles in the inclement weather. We enrolled in the city library so we had books to read plus we had a few board games. We were not permitted to wander into the city itself so made our own fun, often on the lawns on the banks of the river Torrens. One vivid memory I have is how cold the rooms were so Mum bought a kerosene heater, known to us POMEs as a paraffin heater. They lit it up & it stank the place out so they turned it off & promptly went out. It wasn't long before the officious manager came around, rule book in hand, thumping on doors in an effort to discover who dared to disobey the 'no heaters in bedroom' rule. I answered the hammering on our door. He asked where our parents were. 'Out shopping' I replied. He asked if they'd been using a kerosene heater. I innocently asked him what it was so he gave a detailed explanation before asking again if we had a kerosene heater. 'No' I replied. He sniffed loudly, attempting to peer past me but I stood my ground. Well if he'd asked if we had a PARAFFIN heater, I could have told him yes.
Finally Mum found us the perfect house in Dover Gardens with nine fruit trees in the back garden, an unknown luxury in the UK. There was a huge vineyard at one end of the street & an almond orchard further down. Mum secured a job in Clarkson tool department, David got an apprenticeship in Monroe Willies (sic) whilst Viv was enrolled in Dover Gardens primary & Carole & I in Vermont tech. Both of our parents have long since passed but I shall be forever grateful to them for taking this bold step. I love Adelaide & although I've been back to the UK twice for a visit, the thought of living there depressed me. So, that's my abridged story, I have since published my memoir, not about being a migrant but my 50+ years as a mental health nurse at Glenside when I followed in my dads footsteps. It's called If Asylum walls could speak.
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