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Today's quote:

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The salt of the earth

John (29) and Elizabeth (18) at their wedding in 1965


After my return to Australia in 1985, I tried to settle back into beachside suburbia at Cape Pallarenda just north of Townsville but the old magic of just walking back in and picking up from where I had left off had deserted me.

I eventually landed a job large enough for my ambitions in far-away Sydney, but not before I had made friends with two Townsville locals, Elizabeth and John, who at the time were the heart and soul of the budding German Club. I spent many happy hours at their crowded home in Railway Estate, with Elizabeth trying to encourage me to stay in town because, as she put it, "something always turns up".

Which was pretty much how she viewed the world because for her something - or someone - always turned up, just as twenty years earlier a young migrant from Austria on a round-Australia-trip had ridden his motorbike into Home Hill, a small place a hundred kilometres south of Townsville, and swept her off her feet. Not that everything went exactly to plan because, as she once wistfully remarked, "I married a migrant in the hope of seeing the world and got as far as Townsville".


Populate or perish: their family sometime in the early 80s


That migrant became her husband John who'd come out, just like me but eight years earlier and slightly older, as an 'assisted migrant' from his native Salzburg aboard the TOSCANA. Whether six children had been part of his plan is unknown but it certainly fitted in with Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell's post-WWII rallying cry of 'populate or perish'.


John arrived in Melbourne aboard the TOSCANA on 12 January 1957, not quite 21 years old


I stayed in touch with Elizabeth and John, and briefly enjoyed their Austro-Australian hospitality again during a short visit in 1999, but, sadly, they have both since passed away, Elizabeth far too soon in 2004 and John in September 2015.



Thanks to them and their six children and many more grandchildren, Australia is not likely to perish, and nor am I likely to forget them. They were the salt of the earth with hearts of gold. May they rest in peace!