Aunty Uta’s Memories

           How we settled in Australia

We disembarked in Port Melbourne on the 31st of May, 1959. The same day a train took us from Melbourne to the Bonegilla Hostel (near Albury/Wodonga). The train was a special train for us migrants who had come on the S.S. STRAITHAIRD to Port Melbourne.

Around lunch-time we stopped in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. There were two long huts. Some Australian volunteer ladies were about to serve us a warm meal in these huts. One hut was designated for women and children, the other for men. Each hut was equipped with long tables and benches.

It was lunch-time. The meal for us consisted of meat with three vegies: Potatoes, carrots and peas. The peas were straight away called ‘Kuller-Erbsen’ by some German migrants for they thought the peas weren’t soft enough. They kept joking they were just good enough to be ‘kullert’ (rolled around)!

Peter was most upset that he wasn’t allowed to sit with me and the children. ‘I could’ve helped you with the feeding of the babies,’ he said. ‘Why on earth wouldn’t they let me sit with you?’ Yes, I would have loved Peter to be with us for the meal. Nonetheless, I felt that the feeding of the newcomers was well organised. I thought we ought to be thankful that they went to a lot of trouble to provide a warm meal for all of us. Strangely enough, I even liked the ‘Kuller-Erbsen’. The meat-rissoles were tasty and suitable to be fed to the babies. Besides, they had allowed us enough time for our lunch; we did not feel rushed at all. — And there were special chairs for all the babies! That gave me the feeling that Australians liked children. In Germany we had never seen a baby-chair in any public place!

In the evening our train stopped at a siding close to the Bonegilla Migrant Hostel. It was still early evening, but already pitch dark. And we could immediately feel that it was going to be a very cold night.

At the Hostel we were assigned two rooms in one of the huts. One room contained two single beds with two sheets and four Army blankets on each bed. In the other room were two baby cots, also with sheets and warm baby blankets. Both rooms were freezing cold. An electric radiator was in each room. We decided we would use only one room to sleep in, and use the other room as a store-room for our luggage and for one of the cots. One of the cots fitted into our bedroom. So we let our twenty-one months old baby sleep in it. Our six months old baby was to sleep in her pram, of course also in the same room with us. We pushed the two single beds together to make one big bed. One of the Army blankets we hung over the window as an extra buffer against the cold. Using both radiators for the one room it was soon pleasantly warm.

 Before bedtime we were given another hot meal in the huge dining hall. We were told every day we would get breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining hall. The meals were served from a counter. And again there was no shortage of baby-chairs for all the little ones!

For breakfast there was always semolina available, which was cooked in creamy milk. Our babies liked to eat it and so did I. Most German grown-ups didn’t like it at all and would complain that this sort of food was served every morning.

 Nonetheless, this was not the only breakfast food. There was always toast and butter and jams as well as other hot cooked food; for instance baked beans, scrambled or boiled eggs or fried eggs with bacon. I think there was also fruit-juice on offer and of course hot tea as well as coffee. The coffee would not have been made the way Germans liked it, but I’m sure I thought by myself, we had really nothing to complain about!

 We had severely cold nights during the month of June and wonderful sunshine during the day. We could use an outside laundry free of charge. There were a number of huge kettles and laundry tubs. Most mornings we boiled nappies in one of the kettles. After having rinsed those nappies in one of the laundry tubs, they were hung outside on one of the long clothes-lines. The sun quickly dried them. Taking the dry nappies of the line, they smelled wonderfully fresh! Some of the women made some rather sly remarks about how Peter was always around to help me with the babies as well as all the daily washing. They were probably envious that their husbands didn’t help them as much!

 We soon made friends with another German couple who had two babies of about the same age as our babies. During the day we often went for walks with them. The fresh air was good for all of us, especially for the babies, two of them being pushed around in their prams, while the other two could already walk a bit and when they got tired they could sit on a little seat which was fastened to the front of the pram.

 This other German family had been neighbours of ours on the S.S. Straithaird. The voyage on that P & O ocean-liner had been absolutely first class: Families with very small children had been accommodated on C-Deck with private cabins for each family! The cabins were large enough for double bunks for the parents as well as room for two cots. Right next to our cabin we had our own private bathroom, where the steward would fill the bathtub for us with hot seawater. He did this twice daily. Next to the bathtub was a dish which was filled with hot softwater for soaping ourselves.

 Every morning our steward collected our baby nappies to take them to the laundry-service, for which we had to pay some money. We were not allowed to wash nappies in the communal laundry, which people could use for free. Our voyage lasted for five weeks. For a five weeks nappy-service we had sufficient money, only just. Naturally we could not buy anything in the shops on board the ship. This did not in the least matter to us. All the meals on board for the passengers were absolutely first class! We regarded this sea-voyage as the best holiday we ever had.

 In Bonegilla we were immediatly given ‘dole’-money, since nobody had started work yet. The migrant workers were given a choice to look around themselves for a job or to start working in the Port Kembla Steelworks in Wollongong. Peter chose to go to Wollongong, a pleasant town at the Pacific Ocean. (We still live in the area!) Most migrants chose to start in the Steelworks. For a number of years Peter worked in the Steelworks with a gang of brush-handpainter climbing onto very high chimneys in order to paint these chimneys.

 Over the years Peter has had lots of different jobs. He was never out of work. It was like that in the sixties: There were always jobs available for everyone. People did not have to be afraid of losing their job. In the seventies Peter joined the railways and eventually was an ASM (Assistant Station Master). He worked then for the railways until his retirement.

 We raised four children in Australia. We are debtfree and own our own home. We never regretted that we left Germany to live in Australia. However we like to go back to Germany for visits. We’ve done so a number of times. 

Childhood Memories

Katyn and the Wailing Wall

Werner M gave us a piece of land some distance away from the house so that we could grow our own vegetables. Aunty Ilse very enthusiastically started making a few beds and put in seeds for radishes, tomatoes and lettuce. The beds looked totally out of proportion. Aunty soon was teased by the family that her beds indeed looked like graves. From then on the garden was called ‘Katyn’

Aunty soon got fed up with working in the garden, which turned out to be much too large for the effort she was willing to make. Mum and Mrs. T showed no interest in growing vegetables either. So what to do with the rest of the allotted piece of land?

Werner M came up with a solution. He offered to get his workers to plant carrots and potatoes for us. That way all the land could easily be used. Soon neat rows and rows of machinably planted crops appeared some distance away from the ‘Katyn-graves’. Further down on the site a huge rectangular basin was built and filled with water. Werner M was of the opinion that we needed this pool of water in case of any accidental air-attacks on our ‘Ausbau’. Should there be any fire, at least there would be some water close by which we could use.

To me this basin looked a bit like a swimming-pool. So I was planning to go into it as soon as the water had warmed up a bit. By June it seemed warm enough for a dip. However by that time the water had already turned quite dirty. I told Mum I did not mind a bit of algae in the water. I wanted to try to go into it anyway. Mum let me have her two-piece swimming costume, which she had sewn together for me. Mum came to the pool with me to watch me. The water came only up to my chest, which was just as well because I could not swim yet. I did not venture again into that pool at any other time. I felt once was enough!

And the ‘Wailing Wall’? Well, Werner M had a wall built for Aunty Ilse and Mum, but not for wailing but as a screen so they could sunbathe in the nude. They laughed when they called it ‘Wailing Wall’ . The local working families in the complex could not understand how anyone would want to sunbathe behind a wall!

Christmas 1943

I have a photo which was taken in Aunty Ilse’s livingroom when we were all sitting together for Christmas Eve celebrations. I gather Mrs T. took the picture since she isn’t in it. The photo is proof that my grandmother from Leipzig and cousin Renate were with us for Christmas 1943. Also in the photo are Aunty Ilse, Werner M and Mr. T as well as Mum and Edith T and my brother Bodo. I am in the picture too: You can see me holding up one of my Käthe-Kruse-Dolls. Mum had knitted a lovely new dress for this doll.

In the weeks before Christmas Mum loved to do some sewing of clothes as well as a lot of knitting for us children. When she did this we were not allowed in the living-room because she wanted the gifts to be a surprise for Christmas Eve. That meant of course that we had to be very, very patient. Naturally we thought Christmas Eve would never come!

Diary of Aunty Uta

Peter and I just finished our morning tea. We were  enjoying sitting outside in the warm winter-sun,  watching a wild dove, who  seemed to watch us, while she looked again and again towards a large bush. Was she thinking of building a nest there? We had found birds’ nests in the past in bushes near the front of our house. It was not like this with this bird. She just took off to look around elsewhere.

Our thoughts went to our neighbours, J. and S.,  who had  left  early in the morning to go on a holiday to Queensland. J. sometimes comes to talk to us when we’re sitting outside having our cup of tea. Peter says that J. won’t be around today.

So, why do we suddenly talk about the games we played as children?  I think we were comparing our different attitudes to being left alone. I say I cannot remember ever having been distressed when I was left to do something by myself or to go to sleep. I had my ‘Kinderzimmer’, where I was  often supposed to play on my own. When I was all by myself, I liked to invent people who would talk to me. I totally accepted that not all the time someone could be with me no matter how much I loved to be surrounded by people.

‘Yes’, Peter says,  ‘I played with my toys all by myself too. I can imagine your Mum would have been home with you more often than mine because your Mum did not have to go to work, whereas my Mum always went away, and I hated it, when she went away. I did not want her to go away.’

I say: ‘I don’t think, it bothered me, when Mum had to go somewhere without me. But I sure was  very happy  when I was allowed go on an outing somewhere. And I certainly loved it, when I was allowed  to play  with other children.’

Many children my age and older lived in the neighbourhood  in apartments of five-story high buildings. Our street was very secluded with no traffic to speak of. We would play ball-games in the street. We also played singing games, indeed lots of games with singing or reciting certain verses. It doesn’t take me long, before I start singing  songs and reciting verses that went with our games. I am amazed at myself. that I can still remember the melodies and   the words quite effortlessly! (If someone asked me to recite something like it on a stage, I probably would not remember a word!)

Diary of Aunty Uta


Four weeks ago I saw Dr. B. I’m aware I ought to see my GP this week to get my blood pressure checked again. I check my blood pressure at home all the time. Sometimes it’s high, sometimes it’s low. When I get very tired, it’s usually very low. And when I can’t relax, it’s high. If I could get my emotions more under control, maybe then my blood pressure woul normalise?

Two weeks ago I saw the surgeon who operated on my tongue on the 31st of May. He’s very pleased with the way the tongue has healed. In three months he wants to see me again.

One week ago I saw the dentist at the Holistic Dental Health Centre in Sydney.I made another appointment with him for cleaning of the teeth and to discuss several health aspects. Hubby made an appointment too. Each of us are going to see him for one hour in the afternoon of the 21st of Septemer, which is my 77th birthday!

Before I got up this morning I kept thinking of themes for my blog. I could write about our area. We have beautiful beaches very close by. There’s also a bit of rainforest left in our area. I could write about different aspects in retirement. Whyx are retired people always pressed for time?

I could write about all the travelling we did over the past fifteen months or so.We had quite a few lovely breaks away from home. After every trip we enjoy being home again. We think our home is paradise! If I knew how to include pictures I could show some of them in my blog. I would love to show some pictures of our home and surrounds!

I only just started blogging. So mayby there’s still hope that it’s not too late yet for me to learn a bit more about blogging.