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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Kraut-pleasing evening

None of the occupants will see the age again that resembles their table number ☺


Our Austro-German friends Helene and Othmar Mair invited us to a night out at the Soldiers Club which led to a lot of reminiscing between Othmar and me while the women discussed whatever women discuss when they're being ignored by their husbands.


Some still hadn't forgotten the German "Gruß" ☺


On arrival in Australia, both Othmar and I had been shunted off by train to the Bonegilla Migrant Centre; Othmar ten years earlier, as he had arrived in Melbourne aboard the 'Aurelia' in June 1955.

Not that Bonegilla had improved much by the time I spent two very cold nights there in August 1965 when it was still something straight out of the movie "The Great Escape". What's left of the camp today is now a tourist attraction - click here - but it certainly wasn't then.


Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre was once made up of 24 blocks. It had its own churches, banks, sporting fields, cinema, hospital, police station and railway platform. More than 300,000 migrants from more than 50 countries passed through its doors between 1947 and 1971, with most of those originating from non-English speaking European countries. Today, Block 19 is all that remains of the original site.

Today Bonegilla is even on facebook


Despite such an unpromising start, we both drank a toast to what in the end turned out to have been the best decision we ever made in our lives. Othmar became a public servant and I a grumpy old man who now mostly hides away from the world at a bend in the river.


Australia's Immigration in the 1900s


Which is not to say that we shouldn't have another night out again as that table by the window overlooking the Bay is as good a "Stammtisch" as any. We'll let the ladies tell their stories next time.