AUSSIE BY CHOICE
This is an adventure of a young
enterprising migrant who, having escaped the horrors of war, saw his way to
wrestle a good, healthy life for his young family, whilst in that process
achieving happiness and wealth they could only dream of in post-war
Rather than waiting for any
political concessions he never rested until their dream became reality, only to
find that over time the value of all his hard work was greatly diminished due to
rising standards in the country.
The value of his effort and his
never-resting ingenuity is there for all to see.
As is the history of the way it
Enjoy the making of a couple of
Australians by choice who raised a family and built a house whilst earning
the help and respect of their neighbours and friends.
Cover: Picture of M.S. Skaubryn in Sydney
In Store Price: $AU29.95
Online Price: $AU28.95
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages:
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published: 2004
years have passed since the time we lived the story as told in the following
pages. Since then a lot has changed in life, making some of the actions of the
past almost unbelievable. What was possible, indeed regular then, is no longer
either permitted, nor is it done, or possible to be done.
Many rules and regulations have changed, or for that matter are no
To gain access to money is easy now and makes for the demand of better,
speedier supply of housing as well as building materials, manufactured to suit
all taste, avoiding waste by often being of a pre-prepared size.
Statistic Calculations, now a very necessary part of building, were then
not asked for in private dwelling construction.
The following therefore is just an adventure of a young, enterprising,
migrant who, having escaped the horrors of war, saw his way to wrestle a good,
healthy life for his young family, whilst in that process achieving happiness
and wealth they could only dream of in post-war Germany.
Rather than waiting for any political concessions he never rested until
their dream became reality, only to find that over time the value of all his
hard work was greatly diminished due to rising standards in the country.
The value of his effort and his never resting ingenuity however, is
there for all to see. As is the history of the way it was then.
Enjoy the making of a couple of Australians
by choice who raised a family and built a house whilst earning the help and
respect of their neighbours and friends.
Thankfully the likes
of the story will never happen again, nor should it. But its true; every word
of it, and the success is as sweet as ever.
Decision of a Lifetime
Another grey, cold, January morning in the Catalytic
Cracking Plant of the Union Rheinische Braunkohlen Kraftstoff G.M.B.H., standing
twenty metres high on the top gallery of one of the crude oil heating furnace.
This usually would be heating crude oil as part of a continuous process of
splitting and refining, but was presently undergoing the cleaning of heating
tubes. There had been a malfunction of some magnitude interrupting the flow of
crude oil, thus with the flow blocked, the oil turned to solid carbon in
temperatures of 400 to 600 degrees, instantly adhering onto the inner tube walls
as a hard coating of 10 millimetres thick and more.
the maintenance crew, reinforced by cleaning staff, had been systematically
reaming all the 120 mm diameter, eight metre long tubes for a week now, using
compressed air driven reamers, working each reamer slowly into the tube
vertically from the top down, strenuously holding onto it by steel cable and air
hose, fighting the reamer-body’s tendency to rotate against the direction of its
spinning tool bits inside the tube.
was hard, backbreaking work, made worse by the continuing stream of black
carbon-oil dust emanating from the tube at some force created by the exhaust of
air from the compressed air driven reamer. Wearing goggles and facemasks to
avoid the intrusion of that dust into the eyes and prevent inhalation, yet there
was really no way this dust could be totally excluded.
fine dust particles would clog the facemask after only a short time making
breathing more and more laborious, raising the perspiration inside the mask and
goggles, fogging up the vision and restricting breathing.
all had to be removed and cleaned to be re-used, until the procedure became
necessary all over again, these intervals were of about one hour at the start of
shift but decreased as time went on. Adhering to the face and neck, the dust
would gradually mix with perspiration, turn into a sticky substance and slowly
work its way into the facemask affecting smell and taste with, often, sickening
was working shift work of 2 day and 2 night and 2 days off, each shift of 12 1/4
hour duration, starting at 6.00 a.m. or 6.00 p.m. The routine was, if starting
on Monday, dayshift from 0600 till 1815, on Tuesday the same, then off until
Wednesday evening, night-shift from 1800 till Thursday morning, out of
nightshift at 0615, on Thursday evening the same, then from 0615 Friday morning,
off work, until Sunday 0615, when the routine started all over again as before,
except moving one day forward with each turn. There were two other shift
complements, which filled the times in between with the same roster.
time worked was 61 1/4 hours, being 5 shifts per week, however we were paid only
60 hours, the extra quarter hour each shift was regarded as pass over time
to the following shift. Nevertheless, as normal working hours were 48 hours per
week, in this routine we worked 12 hours of overtime each week, this bringing
about a very good payday indeed.
was an exhausting and debilitating shift routine especially for me.
did not have the luxury of a sound proof bedroom, darkened for the purpose of
re-generating strength at will, I was at home in a block of flats at a corner
next to the crossing of two busy streets, on the first floor, in one room of 3
1/2metre by 2 1/2 metre in size, with my wife Christa and baby Sylvia. When I
was on nightshift Christa spent much of the daytime walking about town with
Sylvia inside the pram, to give me as much quiet for sleeping as was possible.
this morning there was no sign of the sun only cold drizzly rain all around
making the distant view of the Rhine River rather unfriendly, not at all like
the Rhine River we do love to remember. The year 1954 was a continuation of
similar weather conditions in 1953, in spite of almost being used to this
weather it was making the job a sheer misery no amount of money could easily
make up for.
war, although some near eight years ago, still very much affected the welfare of
lots of people especially those of my generation. Yes we had survived the
bombing and destruction, for us it had largely been a horrible adventure which
saw us getting used to its cruelty, the blood oozing from broken bodies, the
thousands of burned corpses slowly faded into memory, thankfully with not enough
duration of it to not be able to forget in time.
the reserves of material assistance from our working class parents had been
destroyed and this left us with very little assistance in our endeavour of
building now a family ourselves. The very people we looked at for help did have
nothing much left to help us.
had not been able to assist my father due to having been totally engaged in an
apprenticeship from April 13th 1945 until October 20th
1948, where my weekly allowances were paying for less than a days food, not
to mention the clothing and educational material needed. Germany had been
struggling slowly out from total destruction largely at the expense of its
working class people. Hard as it was for my father to provide, he never allowed
my participation in anything to do with the black market or stealing for fear of
it reverberating into my future life. In the light of this I did not wish to
burden him any longer.
My thoughts remembered some
discussions I had with a couple of my workmates on several occasions, talks
about leaving Germany, venturing out into the World somewhere in search of, not
necessarily fame and fortune as the saying is, but escaping the after
war doom and gloom which was still felt largely amongst the people and in
particular affected me for reasons which were more complicated.
There had only been discussions,
exchanges of information gleaned from here and there, very generalised, but it
was becoming clear that the matter would really be subject to an individual
decision having to be made by me eventually.
Everyone has, at least, one good
reason to leave their Home-Country, and it became more and more clear to me that
in the prevailing conditions, we, that is Christa and I, would have a very hard
time to achieve in Germany that which, in my opinion, should belong to every
family, namely a fair chance to gain a place to call their own, where they can
close the door at will and be a family in privacy.
fair chance meaning within half a lifetime of honest, earnest effort, yet, apart
from the task of gaining the amount of money necessary there were other
socio-economic reasons restraining us from gaining our own flat or even house as
well as living the life we were hoping for.
re-building had not as yet been able to catch up with the demand of housing.
Many, like us, had been standing in line for two years to be allotted a
flat. On several occasions we had been very close, only to be pushed back by
somebody of greater need so we were told.
course were we to migrate, then there would have to be a number of people
considered who would be either directly or indirectly affected by that decision
and therefore these had to be consulted for their say on the matter.
first people were Christa, my wife, and she would be speaking on behalf of
Sylvia Yvonne, our darling little daughter of not yet two months old. The
remainder of our family, like our parents, brothers and sisters, would be
informed, which would bring forth expectedly their thinking on the matter,
mostly indifferent and in some cases very strongly in one direction or another.
This I was to find out in time.
would be hotly discussed, more perhaps in our absence but I for one would not
see sufficient reason to be seriously swayed by any decision any of them would
make, as you will see.
explain my reasons for the rather drastic step of taking my young family far
away from its roots, even from its relatives, was very difficult because it was
based on, not what we knew, but on what we were hoping for from a source,
foreign to us, with no guarantee given. To gain agreement from our family under
that circumstance was unthinkable. After all I would be taking my wife and child
into the uncertainty with literally no means of reversal of that step, other
than was provided by the contract arrangements I would sign, those binding me to
that contract for a period of two years from the day of arrival, almost
in conjunction with the Breach of this arrangement, even
by a day, would make me liable to pay back all travel cost incurred by my
family, to the destination, and no responsibility of any arrangements for the
return whatsoever. Money I did not have and none of our family was willing to
It was a hard decision to make, aided only by written information on
conditions, climatic conditions varied from tropical to north European. There
was no choice to be situated anywhere other than the one arranged by the
Immigration local authorities on our arrival.
were going to, wherever there was call for our particular expertise. We
certainly could only expect to be treated as ordinary migrants as we had no one
we knew to favour us or knew us any more than was evident from our documentation
only light that shone for us right through however, was our age and my trade
certifications plus references thereof. There was no doubt, they wanted us to
come and made that unashamedly clear. I saw a lot of advantage in this and would
not be disappointed.
Nevertheless it would take enormous strength of
character for both Christa and I to successfully carry out this adherence to an
adventure of a proportion so difficult that I would need to explain our
relationship of excellence at our age.
met first on the 24th of July 1949 absolutely by chance, I was
returning early from a sizzle-party held at a place in Hersel some five
kilometres away, where I had been invited by my friend Jupp, in honour of his
girlfriend Christel, and I was hand-pushing my bicycle along the path near the
Rhine, alone and in no hurry, toward my home in Wesseling. The time was about
five in the afternoon on a wonderful Sunday, I had been enjoying the party until
a girlfriend of Christels took an interest in me which threatened to go
beyond my liking, making me take my leave early as a result.
were lots of people walking along the river enjoying the warmth of a perfect
summers day, also a mate, Tony Braunsfeld, who had started his apprenticeship
one year later than I at the same company, he saw me and I stopped to talk.
was the custom then, the younger apprentices always were subservient to the
older ones, but I had rarely made a point of that, instead believing in the
respectful co-operation leading to a successful outcome. As it was, I was
remembered for that attitude, not only by Tony, by being good mates long after I
had left that company.
was accompanied by a very pretty young lady, he introduced her as his friend
Christa Klein and it also being her Namesday, the day of the saint she was
named after as a Catholic custom. He had come to visit her in Wesseling to give
to her an appropriate present, as was the custom. They were on a walk about town
before deciding which place to go, to the usual Sunday Dance later that evening.
very much noted Christa and had the feeling she also was showing more than a
passing interest in me. An ice-vendor came to peddle his creations and I ordered
an ice-cone of fifty-pfennig value for myself, then, noting Christa’s interest
offered the same to her and Tony. Christa accepted and Tony, politely, declined.
was usual to buy an ice cone of twenty or thirty pfennig but as a bachelor and a
connoisseur of ice-ream I considered the larger cone the only worthwhile
proposition not thinking that Tony, who was still an apprentice being paid a
very low allowance, may be short of funds especially after investing earlier in
a present for Christa.
ice cone certainly did not do my popularity with Christa any harm, which made me
ignore being politely dismissed by Tony for some time.
attempts to find out his remaining plans for the day came to nothing and I did
not have the strength, under the circumstances, to straight out ask him where he
was intending to take Christa for a dance that evening.
I continued on toward home where I crashed for a sleep waking up later than
intended and too late to go out further that night.
mind was occupied by this lively, pretty and amicable young lady I was certain I
had made friends with this afternoon, and I was certainly more than bothered by
her pleasant attitude toward me.
at work, the next morning, I visited my friend Jupp at the Gas-Extraction
Section of the Refinery to hear how my departure from the party in Hersel had
affected his day. Nobody had much worried about my not being there and whilst
this was almost disappointing I could not help but tell him about meeting with
Tony and much more so with Christa Klein, the young lady I was most interested
introduced me to a fellow, our age, working in that workshop as a Welders
Assistant, and his name was Willi Klein. Willi was an easygoing chap of
entertaining capacity, he was a very successful flag bearer of the notorious
great Bachelors Association in which there was only one emphasis, this
being, the competition for dancing, drinking and loose womanising. This was
their all-encompassing sport, which they took from township to township in order
to gain lots of good times before entering the bond of marriage eventually.
it did not occur to me, Willi in fact was Christa’s older brother but I noted
that his place of home was only about five hundred metres away from mine. It
therefore should not have been a surprise to me when one afternoon soon, when
coming home from work, I came upon Christa accompanied by two of her girlfriends
very near my home.
were both pleased to meet and talked over the top of the distractions of her
girlfriends and it created a good warm feeling of obvious mutual interest in
both of us.
some considerable time we fare welled with me asking her to meet me again.
Her answer was inconclusive but she surprised me by suddenly kissing me, quick
and definite, then rushing off after her girlfriends leaving me standing
perplexed, unable to move at first.