Stories and memories
Our Customer Sent has had an amazing life. Born in the Netherlands, he came to Australia at just 19-years-old with nothing more than an empty suitcase and the clothes on his back. With vivid memories of his childhood, time in the war and travelling to Australia, Sent was one of the first Customers we encouraged to create a Life Story Memory Book through our Virtual Connections service.
After nine interviews, Sent can’t wait to see his book. He recently shared one of his special memories with us – the day he caught a plane to Australia to begin a new life.
“When I was 19, I applied to the Office of Migration. The choice was Canada or Australia. No way was I going to Canada. If you go to Canada you had to live like an Eskimo! Australia was warm, never cold, palm trees and warmth!
I had my interview with Australian migration. I had no shoes to wear, they had holes in them, I just had clogs. My uncle gave me a suit that was four times too big for me. It was all pinned up.
When I was accepted I was given a choice – you can go on a ship or a plane. I chose a plane, the quickest way to get out.
The plane was a migrant plane, massive and all the same class. I had never travelled on a plane. There were 23 babies on board and they were hung from the luggage racks. We flew only eight hours per day. Then we would stop in a different country. We flew from Amsterdam to Italy. Then to Egypt, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Batavia (or Jakarta as it’s now called), Perth – and then Melbourne.
I arrived on the 24th of March 1954, 8.30pm at Essendon Airport. I remember standing there not knowing what to do. My sister had given me a suitcase, but it was empty. All I had were the clothes I stood in.
A priest invited us to stay in a hostel he ran for a couple of days. Six months later we were still there, sleeping in a cellar underneath the house. It was freezing.
Eventually two of us moved into a spare room at a new house. It was the house of the owner of the chocolate factory, Cadbury. It was very luxurious. There was even leather wallpaper!
My first job was at a plastic manufacturer. I was paid nine pounds a week because I was only 19. Someone suggested I become a builder’s labourer saying ‘they don’t ask your age. You will get 14 pounds 10.’ I got a job there the very next day!
When my first paycheck came I thought I’d arrived in heaven! I sent money back to my mother, then bought myself a pair of brown lace-up shoes!”
Sent’s Memory Book is full of stories and memories like this one that he can now share with his family and friends. If you’d like to capture your memories in a Life story Memory Book, talk to your KinCare Customer Care Manager about signing up to Virtual Connections.