One Day in September

The morning after arriving in Australia from Finland, my family left for a walk from our new home in the migrant Midway hostel in Maribyrnong. I guess we wanted to discover this strange new country we had landed in. We walked along the side of the road, like ducklings flowing their mother. We must have made a peculiar sight, in the streets of suburban Melbourne.

It wasn’t long until we found a caryard. How funny the ‘AUTO’ stickers in the car windows looked to us. Auto means ‘a car’ in Finnish, but at the time we didn’t know it is also shortened for an automatic. I don’t think we had ever even seen an automatic car before. Cars to us were always manual.

That very first morning in our new country, we were introduced to Holden cars. My dad explained to us that we have arrived in a land where distances are vast and where a car is a necessity. At the time my mum had the best English language competence out of all of us, so she was the one who did the negotiating in the back little white portable. The car salesman kept repeating one question: “You have lived in Australia for less than 24 hours?” I suppose he thought we didn’t understand his question when we all nodded our heads in unison.

About an hour later, I was sitting at the backseat of our new acquired car, Holden Belmont. I don’t pretend to understand much about cars, all I knew, it was white, my mum had managed to sign all the papers, while my dad pulled a huge stack of cash from his back pocket and put it on the desk. The knowledge of what was under the bonnet was left to my dad and brothers.

We left the car-yard, dad knocking down grey round rubbish bins by the side of the road while mum’s high pitched frightened scream filled the motor vehicle. I guess my dad had never driven on the left side of the road before, so it took him awhile to work out where the middle of the road was. My dad in reply made some comment about the side of the road being a silly place to store rubbish bins. Little did we understand at the time that Friday morning must have been picking-up-rubbish-bins day in the Maribyrnong neighbourhood. We would learn all that later. I turned my head to look through the back window. I saw the car dealer shaking his head. I can only imagine him thinking that our family’s future Down Under wasn’t going to be a long one.

Our family had arrived in Melbourne at the end of September, right into the middle of the greatest footy finals fever. This we had no understanding of either. We just wondered why every second person was wearing royal blue and white beanies and scarves while the other half wore brown and gold. But we were ready to embrace whatever it was that this unfamiliar and often bizarre new country had in store for us.

It was the late 70s, with a memorable advertising jingle of ‘we love football, meat pies, kangaroos, and Holden cars’, that filled our TV screens. It was adapted from the American Chevrolet campaign, ‘baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet’. Ours featured a kangaroo, a koala, and a meat pie. In addition, the ad portrays a laid-back and fun-loving Australia. I got the message loud and clear: if you don’t love football, meat pies, kangaroos, and Holden car, you’re not truly Australian.

At least now we owned a Holden car. It was a good start.

44 years later, I sit here, in my Melbourne home, having breakfast and watching the pre-game coverage on TV. I have well and truly been introduced to all four now, from Holden cars to kangaroos and not forgetting the football and meat pies either. The footy fever has taken hold of our beautiful city once again. It is time to watch and feel the city come alive, to make my traditional meat pies and to listen to Aussie icon Mike Brady sing his sports anthem and enjoy the match of the year, this time with my nephew by my side because football’s such a part of this whole town.   

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. annemariedoecke says:

    I love it! Mind you, not every person loves though things in Australia. Even within the one family there are differences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely!!! I have not even managed to teach my own daughter, born in Australia, to like Aussie footy. Such is life!


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