Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Housing part II

Elena with Gintaras and Ruta near their house, c. 1954
Having spent several years in the Displaced Persons camps in Germany, living frugally was not foreign to many Lithuanians.  Work was easy to come by, it may not have been in your field but unskilled labour job was easily obtained.  Having saved a deposit for land, the next stage would be to built a permanent dwelling.  Before that could occur, a temporary dwelling was often quickly constructed out of readily available material until something more permanent could be constructed.  My grandparents purchased a ¼ acre block of land at 2 Fifth Ave, Woodville Gardens for £150.  They had saved £50 and another £100 was loaned by two good Lithuanian friends.  

Their first home on their new block was an empty caravan laid with clean straw.    My grandmother recalled going to the Cheltenham racecourse and with very limited English made herself understood that she need straw.  Needless to say the man was quite taken aback when he realised it was for her family and not for animals.  Cooking was done on a simple primus stove outdoors. Water was put on the block when they purchased it. 

My grandfather was fortunately handy with wood and built a two roomed wooden house at the rear of the block, mainly from old packing crates from Holden’s.  A main living area one bedroom, small kitchen and bathroom was better than the caravan at least.  

There remained an odd verandah on the house, which I was told was to have been part of a large bedroom.  As materials were still scarce the Council required a slight reduction in the size of the dwelling.  When building their house they would purchase concrete by the bags a few at a time.  Weekends and evening were then spend on constructing the permanent home at the front of the block.  Once in their new house they rented out the wooden one to migrants. It was common for people to rent out rooms for extra money.    The wooden home became my grandfathers shed, where he spent many more years building furniture for family.

There were several Lithuanian families in the surrounding streets.  Grandfather not much of a social person did not mix with them, but my grandmother did.  My grandmother appreciated the socialisation with people who spoke the same language, who understood her culture and supported her.  

My grandfather worked at the Holden’s factory but later travelled to Adelaide Uni where he worked as a groundsman and my grandmother sewed clothes for Myers. The proximity to work, cheap land close to transport made the area ideal for their needs.

About half the houses in the streets were Housing Trust homes, those that weren’t were new migrants from Eastern Europe. 

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