Written by Rose B.
I remember driving into Armidale for the first time. It reminded me of a cowboy film. If I had seen a horse tied up outside a pub and someone come flying out the saloon doors head-first I would not have been surprised.
Mum and dad had moved to a nice little two-bedroom house not far from where they had bought a block of land. Dad was in the process of building a new house. Two bedrooms and there were six of us. We had one room, my mum and dad had another with my sister sleeping on the floor and my brother had his swag behind the settee in the lounge room.
My dad was working for a painter with my brother as his apprentice and my sister had a job in a solicitor’s office. My mum, who had never worked other than on her parent’s dairy farm, was working as a cleaner at the university. They were all loving it in Australia even my sister who had itchy feet and was saving to go home for a visit.
My mum made friends easily and had spread the word that we were coming and that my lad could kick a ball. It didn’t take long for someone to come round and rope him into one of the local soccer teams. They were a great bunch of lads and we all stayed friends for many years. A lot of them were
migrants, a Dutchman, a German, an Austrian and at least two other poms.
Mum had got me an interview at the university, but I didn’t get the job. I had been working at PERA in Melton on a fancy machine called a varityper in the translation department. The old girl who interviewed me said I couldn’t possibly know how to operate the machine and anyway I was as likely as not to go and have a baby any time.
My, how things have changed in the workplace.
I got a job at the local hospital as secretary to the deputy matron. They obviously weren’t used to pommie workers as I also ended up transcribing the nurse’s lectures because I had time on my hands.
My lad had worked at Holwell Works in England but there was no real industry in Armidale – it’s an education city and farming district. When he left school, he was an apprentice signwriter but that didn’t last long as most of his mates were working at Holwell for much more money than he was getting; so he left and joined them. In Armidale, he went to work in a garage, doing not much more than sweeping the floors.
He got on well with the other workers especially the spraypainter and after a few months he was helping in the spray shop more than anything else. He wasn’t an apprentice but over the years he learnt the trade. In Armidale in those days if you could do the job, no one worried about papers.
I’ve no idea when all the regulations were brought in that you had to have a gold card to say you were qualified to do the job but his boss said don’t worry I’ll fix it.
The house my dad was building was nearly finished by the time we arrived. He worked on it at night and weekends, did everything himself except the plumbing and electrical work.
My mum told me he dug the foundations by hand with her and my brother as labourers.
One cloudy day he was outside with no shirt on from morning till night and ended up in hospital with blisters on his back as big as saucers. It was finished a month after we arrived and we all moved in.
Three bedrooms and a sleep out, plenty of room for all of us.
Two women cannot share a kitchen and my mum was a great cook so she was the boss in that department.
There we were all working and a roof over our heads, wouldn’t you think we would stay put?
(to be continued…)