1955 to 1958

In 1955 I was a six year old in a strange land. Initially reaction was where is the Kangaroos and Koalas.  When we disembarked at Outer Harbour in South Australia my Uncle Billy picked us up in his Taxi that he drove around and took us to his house in Semaphore.  There I met my Aunt Betty and three cousins Kay, June and young Bill. My only recollection of that time is my Aunt Betty singing the song "Australia".  This became a regular occurrence in future visits where all the children stood around and performed this song.  Aunt Betty seemed to enjoy this, but us children did not get a choice, things you do for family fun.

Enjoying sun outside Nissan Hut at Finsbury Hostel
We eventually were taken to our new home at Finsbury Hostel, Pennington or as we used to call it The Camp where we lived in Nissan Huts.  It was a former accommodation site for soldiers at some stage with a sitting room and sleeping quarters only, no provision for cooking, bathroom or laundry as such. These were all on a communal basis.  Our food was served in a big hall known as a canteen, where we queued up at a pre determined time every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Sandwiches and fruit were given for children or adults needing lunches to take to work or school on request.  The choices of food left a lot to be desired, but it was wholesome and I actually didn't mind the occasional meal of Tripe N Onions.  Bath time was first in best dressed and my recollection was the three of us were bathed together in this big bath three times a week.  Unless we needed it otherwise.

Both my parents were successful in finding employment.  My dad was working at General Motors Holden, Woodville as a Maintenance, Pipe-Fitter and Mum was employed at Actil Sheets, Pennington as a sewing machinist.  Dad purchased his first car a Morris Minor and Mum used to ride a bike to work. Both my brothers were placed in a kindergarten within the Camp grounds, where as I on the other hand was required to get myself off to school at the ripe old age of six years.  At this time this was a common practice, as there were no grandparents to look out for me and my parents did not know many people who would be willing to look after me and get me off to school.  The term "latch key" kid came into being.  We were children who would go to school with a key on a string around your neck, and instructed in the art of telling the time, when the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand on the 8 make sure all lights are off and pull the door shut, which was a Lockwood lock, and walk to school.  Under no circumstances was that key to be taken off or shown to others for obvious reasons now, but try and explain to a six year old.

The route to school was planned out by my parents and we walked it a few times prior to my doing it on my own.  My first traverse into the big world was memorable to say the least.  My parents were very diligent in reinforcing "the don't talk to strangers" rule and not to dawdle, as there were nasty people out there.  In my mind they were bogeymen and my imagination was alive and well.  Picture this six year old walking along the footpath close to a factory that made sheets of plasterboard, that hung on racks to dry.  The workers wore cloths on their heads tied at the corners, white t-shirts and big white rubber boots, steam was pouring out of this factory and it was very noisy.  When I walked with my parents it was the weekend and this factory was closed. Needless to say I was scared and apprehensive about walking past.  Added into this scenario was an innocent enough motorbike rider with a large army coat, collar up and scarf wrapped around his head, as it was cold, who just happened around the corner at the same time as myself, needless to say this was a recipe for disaster and I was scared stiff and did what every self respecting scared six year old would do and screamed, and screamed. The workers eventually calmed me down and were able to ascertain that my dad worked at General Motors Holden at Woodville. They were successful in reaching him and he came and took me on to school.  After that mum was determined to have someone take me to school and bring me home and was fortunate to have made friends with our neighbours across from us who had three daughters, one the same age as myself and the other two older and we happily walked together.

Pennington School was very different from my school in Scotland, where the classrooms were in one big building and opened out into a large corridor and lunch was served in a cafeteria where you could have a hot sit down lunch at a table.  My classroom at Pennington was in a long building with a corridor that had rows of shelving where you placed your bag and hooks for your coats and funny windows that opened inwards at the bottom and sash windows at the top.  At lunch time we sat at our desks until we finished eating then went outside and played.  

As a six year old from another country there were some interesting cultural awareness problems as far as Australian wording and phrasing, one that caused a few problems for my Mum was when my teacher let fly and called me a "humbug".  On relaying this back to my parents they both took offence and were convinced it was not something a teacher should say to a pupil and the very next day my Mum asked to speak with the principal.  Both the principal and the teacher convinced my Mum that it was an innocent enough statement and nothing was meant by it, but good on Mum she stuck her guns and insisted the teacher refrain from calling me anything other than my name. The rest of the year the teacher would berate me about this and tell the rest of the class to be careful how they speak to me or I would set my Mum on them. I learnt not to mention to my Mum anything about what happened in the classroom if I didn't want to get teased by the teacher or the rest of the children.

1957 to 1958 saw us moved to another hostel, this time at Gepps Cross. Again in Nissan Huts but a bit more palatial.  There was a room for cooking and three bedrooms.  The hut was split down the middle with a wall that was as thin as rice paper, so that nothing was really private from your neighbours. Bathroom and laundry facilities were still communal.  It was a great life as a child as we were virtually housed behind a large fence and allowed to go off and play.  There was a pine forest close by and we all used to venture over there to play amongst the trees, building a cubby from the pine trees and branches, playing chasey and hide-n-seek.  

It was during this time my brother and I attended Northfield Primary School and we used to catch the bus from the Hostel up the Hill to the School. Occasionally we would spend our money in the tuck-shop at school and then we would have to walk home which was all downhill.  Again I felt the wrath of a teacher who decided that my new dress with a little bolero jacket in green and white stripes, that my mother had made for me was not appropriate for school and that I was not to wear it again.  This came about because I had taken off the jacket and the dress underneath had shoestring straps and I was showing too much bare skin, I was nine years old.  Again my mother went to the principal and again they convinced her that this was not appropriate attire for school, but to be kept for family social functions.  There were no standard school uniforms in those days then, but I took to wearing plain skirt, twin-set jumper and cardigan or white shirt, brown lace-up shoes and white socks. 

When we first arrived at Gepps Cross Hostel there was talk of a new City being built north of Adelaide and they were seeking people to go and live there.  It was an undertaking by the Housing Trust and a politician called Thomas Playford (later known as Sir Thomas Playford) the township was to be called Elizabeth after the Queen.  Mum and Dad were eager to explore this and placed there name on the waiting list.  It was explained that this may take about two years before they may hear anything.  Needless to say in June 1958 we moved out to the new satellite city of Elizabeth to Elizabeth East, which was on the right hand side of the Main North Road with nothing between us and Para Hills one way and nothing between us and Smithfield the other way.

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