Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chapter 1 - The Start of Life in Australia

After a welcome drink of beer that I shared with my Uncle Percy and my cousins and given a tour of the house, I was shown my “Sleepout” that would be my home for the next 10 months. I unpacked the clothes that I wore on the ship that my Aunt Bertha kindly agreed to wash and dry and settled down and wrote a letter to Mum and Dad about my journey to Australia. I cannot recall my first night in Australia, but this may be due to the fact that I was exhausted and must have fallen asleep the minute that my head hit the pillow. We came back to the Customs Clearing depot at Port Melbourne the next day and being Christmas Eve I am sure that the whole process took much less time than it would have taken normally. My first Christmas with the Kalenberg’s family with all the usual trappings such as Brudher and Edam Cheese, Christmas Cake, etc and plenty of Aussie Beer.
40 Young Street, Albert Park in 2009 The timing of my arrival in Australia was perfect as I got to watch the Tennis and the Cricket on TV during the Christmas/New Year Holidays. This was my first experience with television as “TV” had not reached Ceylon at that time. The first few weeks seemed to fly, with visits to Peter and Barbara Kalenberg’s house in Sunshine, etc. It was then time to get down to the serious business of registering at Melbourne University. I found that my GCE Advanced Level subjects were not recognised and I had to attend classes at Swinburn College to obtain an exemption for the Victorian Leaving Certificate. I did this with great aplomb and was admitted to commence my course.

The “Sleepout” in 2009 Unfortunately, living in a “sleep out” and trying to study did not go together and I decided (much to the disappointment of my parents) to give up studies and enter the work force.

I decided that studying part-time and finding full-time work was the best option for me. My Father through his Free Mason connections in Sri Lanka, arranged for me to see the General Manager of the Prudential Insurance Company in Melbourne with a view to getting a job with his company. Unfortunately he could not find me a place at that time. The Australian economy was booming at the time and finding a job was as easy as presenting yourself to the equivalent of “Centrelink” and I was employed by the Housing Commission of Victoria. I started work the following Monday.

I made my way to the Albert Park Station and caught the “Red Rattler” train to Flinders Street Station.

Red Rattler

My Uncle Percy had given me a map of the City of Melbourne and I had no trouble finding my way to the Housing Commission building at 179 Queen Street, Melbourne. I presented myself to the Personnel Department on the 9th floor and after a short interview was offered a job a House Sales Revenue Collections Clerk in the House Sales Section of the Finance Department.

I was escorted to the 4th floor and introduced to the Chief Finance Officer – Mr Laurie Symes who explained to me about the various sections of his department and their operations and then took me to the section that I was to work in.
Ed in front of his “Sleep Out” in 2009 The Accountant of the House Sales Section whose name I cannot remember introduced me to my immediate boss, Mr Dunne who in charge of the revenue collection of the clients who had purchased their homes from the Housing Commission. My fellow workers were Messrs, Laun Cunningham, a former Canadian Sailor who had settled in Melbourne after the war and three other whose names I cannot remember. This before the days of computers and all collection receipts that were received from various branch offices had to collated and totalled by hand, then batched with a control total and forwarded to the ladies to record the transactions on large cards, using “Accounting Machines”.
With my trusted Peugeot 203 C On receipt of my after tax, fortnightly wage of Sixteen Pounds, I thought that I had won the lottery, as this was the most amount of money that I had in my life. A few weeks after this, on the week-end, I convinced my cousin Jim Kalenberg to take me to visit the second hand car dealers in Morabbin. My good friend Warren Dickson had migrated to Australia and was boarding with Freddie de Silva in Hampton and I needed “Wheels” to get around.

We visited several dealers and finally arrived at a dealer at the corner of the Nepean Highway and North Road in Moorabbin. We looked at several cars and when I saw a cream coloured 1952 Peugeot 203C, I as fascinated, as I recalled speaking to the owner of a similar car when I was at the Katakurunda Motor Races, before I left Ceylon.

A young Warwick De Kretser We took the car for a test drive and I was satisfied that this car had been carefully maintained and was in excellent condition, even though it was nearly ten years old. Jim haggled with the salesman and we agreed that One Hundred and Ninety Pounds was a reasonable price to pay for the vehicle. I could meet the monthly repayments after allowing for the board that I paid my Aunt and a small amount of spending money that was reserved for petrol, servicing, etc and personal expenses. A 21 year old Ed Rowlands wearing pretend glasses The hire purchase papers were signed and a small deposit lodged to secure the car. I had to wait until the hire purchase agreement was approved and next week-end, I picked up my very own “First Car”. I drove back to Albert Park to show my Uncle Percy and Aunty Bertha my pride and joy and they gave their seal of approval. The next letter to my parents was a very positive one as Ed Rowlands had finally made his mark in Australia. The next trip was to see Warren and Freddie and we went for a drive along Beach Road to Mordialloc and back.

A young Warren Dickson In the mean time I had made friends with Monty and Heather Mack and their parents who lived in Springvale and renewed acquaintances with Brian and Charmaine Janze and their parents who lived in Morrabbin. Warwick de Kretser who was engaged to my cousin Peggy Rowlands who lived in Adelaide also became a good friend. Heather and friends This group of friends took over my life until Dad and Mum and the rest of the family arrived in October 1961. Every Friday night straight after dinner at my Aunt’s, I would head off for the week-end at Freddies house. I shared a bed with Warren or slept on the floor, depending on the amount of beer that was drunk that evening. Once, I got sick in bed and it took a long time to live down this episode.

Fred De Silva, Ed Rowlands and Warren dickson at Tailem Bend coming back from Adelaide.

Freddie had bought an old Volkwagen car and we stripped down the engine and reconditioned it most nights after work or on the week-end. Warren had bought himself an old Ford Prefect “Convertible” and this was also a source of constant enjoyment with the “girls”, until after a Service, the mechanics forgot to refill the engine with oil and the engine ceased.

Warwick De Kretser, Warren Dickson and Ed on the way to Adelaide (Photographer – Freddie de Silva) Once a month, Warwick, Warren, Freddie and myself would take off on Friday evening to drive to Adelaide. We would drive all night and arrive at Adelaide next morning. This was a hairy trip, especially during the night, over the “Pentland Hills” before we got to Ballarat and the mountain passes before Adelaide. Ben Chapman, Cedric Rowlands and Ed Rowlands We stayed at Peggy’s parents house (Vere and Norma Rowlands) and made friends with Peggy’s girlfriends and enjoyed our regular week-ends away. While we were in Adelaide we did the usual things that a tourist would do, like visiting the Victor Harbour, driving to the top of Mount Lofty, going to the Zoo and generally driving around.

Ed Rowlands in Adelaide in 1960 During the winter of 1960 we worked most nights in Freddie’s parents garage and reconditioned and put together the engine of the Volkswagen that Freddie had bought. When the job was completed, after a few hilarious and anxious moments, we decided to take a trip to Adelaide in this car rather than my Peugeot 203C. The engine was tuned according to the Instruction Manual and every thing was ready to go. This trip took place in the middle of winter and if we had known the problems we would encounter, may have had second thoughts before we commenced the journey. For a bunch of amateur mechanics, we had done a great job in putting the parts of the air cooled horizontally opposed engine and its cooling system. The tuning was immaculate and the engine purred like a pussy cat. We handled the Pentland Hills comfortably, but when the heating was turned on, the less than adequate job of cleaning the panels properly resulted in the car filling with oil fumes. Not to be deterred, we wound down the windows at the front, opened the awning windows at the back, put on more warm clothes and continued on our merry way. We heaved a sigh of relief when we got to Adelaide next morning.
Warren Dickson and Ed at Victor Harbour A good time was had that week-end and the return trip was undertaken with a wish and a prayer. Needless to say we got back safely home on the Sunday night. These trips continued until Warwick and Peggy got married and later to see girl friends we had met in Adelaide. Peggy's Friend Lorraine We also got to know the Collette Family who owned a Service Station on the highway to Adelaide at a place named Eagle-on-the-Hill. As time went by, the trips became less frequent and finally stopped when life in Melbourne took over Freddie De Silva at Victor Harbour
We kept in touch with Warwick and Peggy De Kretser and Uncle Vere and Aunty Norma and Cedric Rowlands. Warwick De Kretser, Peggy, Vere, Cedric and Norma Rowlands at their Adelaide Home. The next trip was to Sydney where we stayed with Warren Dickson’s Aunt. I cannot recall exactly who came on this trip other than it may have been the three musketeers, Warren, Freddie and myself. Like other times, we left on Friday evening after a meal and proceeded to drive all night. We stopped in Albury and had a rest, then continued to Yass and stopped there when the dawn was breaking. We then continued on the old Hume Highway that went through Bowral in those days and I can remember being sprayed with hot coffee when we had to stop suddenly before the rail overpass in the township. We cleaned the car and continued, arriving in Sydney about eleven O’clock in the morning. After a rest we were off to see the D’Silva’s who we knew from Ceylon and had now settled in Sydney. I also visited the Paulesz’s during our stay in Sydney. I cannot recall whether we did the usual tourist things, but must assume that we did. We had taken the Monday off from work and had a great week-end in Sydney. As our hosts had to work, we departed first thing in the morning and drove non-stop until we reached Melbourne late that evening.

Peugeot 203C Life continued as normal, with partying and drinking and one night I disgraced myself after a party by being sick in Warren Dickson’s bed at Freddie’s parents house. It took me a long time to live down this indiscretion. There was a coin operated self-serve fuel pump at the after hours petrol station that was used by the taxi’s around Albert Park. Filling the tank of the Peugeot 203 at 3.00a.m in the morning by putting in two shilling coins was an experience I shall never forget. During the winter of 1960, together with some friends we drove up to Lake Mountain to see and experience snow for the first time in our life. The Peugeot 203C handled the mountain roads to Marysville and Lake Mountain with ease. I cannot recall going on any other trips as my Dad and Mum and the rest of the family arrived in October 1961 and finding accommodation etc, took up most of my time.