Last week’s blog was the initial post about my Uncle Tony and his family’s exploits in Australia when he worked for John Deere down under from 1964-69. Recall the photo of the family as they were about to depart, all in suits, ties and formal dress. Imagine flying all the way to Australia dressed that way? The second installment follows as the family departs for Australia:
Australia (Part II)
Now, back to reality. We had lots of work to do. Deere recommended that we not ship much household goods, especially electrical appliances, since Australia used 220 volt power to residential homes. Any electrical appliance we would bring required a transformer. The timetable established that I be in Australia on the job as soon as possible, preferably within a couple of weeks. Disposal of most of our household goods and car, securing passports for all, special inoculations for certain tropical diseases, visiting with our respective families to say goodbye, and a thousand other things contributed to the flurry of activities leading up to our departure in September, 1964.
That last day in the “states” we packed all our belongings into 10 suitcases, and drove our station wagon to Springfield to say goodbye, then on to Ft. Loramie to stay with my sister and her family (Note: that would be us!) before departure from the Dayton airport the next morning. It was quite a sight to see all seven of us and all our luggage in and on top of that station wagon. Our first flight was on a DC6B from Dayton to Chicago, changed to a Boeing 727 to San Francisco, where we changed to a Boeing 707 for the flight to Honolulu where we were to stay over for a couple of days. We spent an anxious day without luggage, which accidentally continued on to Sydney. But, it was eventually returned, and all was well. While in Hawaii, our former next door neighbors in Springfield, Jack and Elsie, who were now living in Honolulu, visited with us. Two days later we were on our way to Sydney aboard another Qantas 707.
Once we were settled in at the Shore Motel (pictured above) in Sydney, one of the first things we needed to address was education for our children. The normal school year in Australia runs from February through mid December. Being in the southern hemisphere, September was springtime, and over half the school year had already been completed. After much thought, we decided to place them in the same grade they just completed in Ohio, to give them a chance to become acclimated to that system. They were temporarily enrolled in the Chatswood school system, near the Shore Motel, where we occupied the manager’s suite, until we could find a 4 bedroom house to rent. Mary did most of the house hunting, scouting the areas with wives of other Deere employees. After scores of hours she spent with real estate people, we finally decided to rent at 39 Lancaster ave. St. Ives, NSW.
This location was in the northern suburbs of Sydney, a rapidly growing area, so rapid that phones for most homes could not yet be supplied. Finally, after a two year wait, telephone service was finally supplied to our home.
The four school aged kids were enrolled in the local Catholic schools. Deere reimbursed us for all tuition and school expenses, including uniforms, books and supplies. The youngest entered the first grade on his 5th birthday, June 6, 1968, as was the custom in Australia, and was appalled upon our return to the States eight months later where he was not yet old enough for the first grade, therefore was placed in kindergarten!!!
We soon became acquainted in our new neighborhood, and became friends with many, especially the Wilcox’s, who hailed from Canada Our interest in bridge introduced us to many other Americans living in this area, and enjoyed many, many interesting parties with them. It was here that we really learned this card game by playing with experts.
And we quickly learned about the many, many differences from our previous lifestyle in Ohio. Our new home in St. Ives was of brick construction, no central heat or air conditioning, not conducive to comfort with year round temperatures ranging from a low of about 40 to a high of 95. It became mighty cold many mornings with inside temperatures in the 40’s. There were no closets in the bedrooms, small screened openings to the outside near the ceiling in each room for ventilation in case of carbon monoxide buildup (many homes were heated with charcoal).
Other differences included such things as lever type door handles, higher on the door so little tykes couldn't reach them, 220 volt electricity, light switches flipped up for off, down for on, seven foot high privacy fences around every backyard, milk not homogenized, and delivered in glass bottles, totally different sports at school, no stores open Saturday afternoon or Sunday, grocery stores did not provide bags, a totally different monetary system and a host of strange wildlife were just a few new things we had to quickly learn in this culture.
Even the spelling or pronunciation of some common words were different. The cadence of speech, and some of the slang words often threw us into a bit of a culture shock. For example:
But of necessity, all of us soon learned the meaning of these terms and others as time went by. There were many more.
Learning to drive on the left side of the road required total concentration, but after a while, it became so routine we had some lapses when driving back in America on our home leave!
Australia was still on the British type currency system: pounds, shillings and pence. Conversion to the decimal currency system occurred on 14th of February, 1966. Learning the system was not easy for anyone. Coins and bills looked so strange--different colors and sizes. Preparing expense accounts for our housing allowance, cost of living allowance and educational expenses on a monthly basis was not easy, considering that currency valuations between USA and Australia fluctuated from month to month, Converting pounds, shillings and pence to American dollars always gave me problems. My starting annual salary as General Sales Manager in 1964 was about $9000, up from $8000 as a territory manager in Ohio, then increased by increments to $12,500 by 1969. About one half of that was deposited in our Springfield, Ohio bank account by Deere so our General Manager, would not be aware that my salary exceeded his.
All our family soon settled in to our new environment, but nothing became routine. Much of my official time was spent out-of-town, sometimes for weeks and over weekends. Entertaining visiting Americans and others from other Deere facilities also demanded much of my time. This saddled Mary with all the responsibilities of running a household, which she did with aplomb. The older kids bought used bikes, and we all enjoyed frequent trips to the outback and other places of interest. There was so much to discover in this wondrous place far away from home.
Check next week’s blog to read more about the family's adventures while in Australia (and beyond).