We’d finally set sail on the Arawa, an immigrant ship transporting many hopeful ‘Ten Pound Poms‘ to set up home in Australia or, like us, in New Zealand. We all now faced a long, tedious six-and-half weeks stopping only at various places in South Africa and then on to Freemantle, Melbourne, Sydney and finally New Zealand.
Pat, my wife, and only child of Bill and Dora was heartbroken at having to say goodbye to her parents and spent many hours crying in our cabin as the ship sailed out of Southend. Lyn, 9-years-old and Roy, 7 can also remember how terrible and sad it was having to say goodbye to their grandparents. But, they were young children; for them, it was an adventure.
Lyn, being the eldest child, has sharp and clear memories of the trip. Talking to her recently about her memories onboard Arawa she said that she and Roy had a brilliant time. They had looked forward to six weeks of play and no school; until…spoiler alert !!
Some do-gooder teacher decided it was too long for the kids not to go to school, so he set one up for us to attend every morning.
Here’s another memory Lyn has clear recollection of:
Our steward Arthur John Joseph Johnson snuck us an orange or piece of fruit every day to stop us getting sick. We had to wrap the peel in tissue so no-one saw it. I wrapped my precious gold charm bracelet in tissue or some reason and it got thrown overboard with the orange peel. Children weren’t allowed into the adult’s restaurant, but I was so upset they let me in. I was distraught at having to tell mum and dad!! Dad told me when I got to NZ he would get Uncle Fred to send me a new one. It arrived about six months after we got to NZ.
As long as you’re paying attention, life will throw opportunities in front of you in every situation. But, you have to expect them to come your way and be alert and ready to strike when they do.
I was and still am (at 84-years old) always on the lookout for a door to open revealing a business idea, money-making opportunity or scheme. I’m not fussy, and it could be short-term, but it had to have the potential to make some money or at the very least, be exciting and fun. Being trapped for six-weeks onboard the Arawa was certainly not going to be a fun-filled adventure for me but it did have its possibilities.
The lack of onboard activities left many free hours for passengers to fill, so the lure of cheap alcohol would draw many to the bar…and keep them there !!
Friendships formed, dreams of new lives in Australia or New Zealand shared, and pockets quickly emptied of hard-earned cash. I watched with interest how quickly the need to borrow money from each other increased…and we were still only in the first week !!
One of my favourite activities, offering me plenty of time to contemplate and plan, was taking Sheena, our Doberman, round the decks for a stroll. It was on one of these walks that heralded the beginning of my onboard money-making scheme.
I recognised the face walking up to me as someone I’d been chatting to at the bar the previous evening. After a few seconds of polite small talk, he whips out a woman’s bracelet “would you like to buy this?” He asked. I have an eye and passion for good quality jewellery, so I took the bracelet and checked it over.
Immediately I saw that the bracelet was gold and in excellent condition and quality. “How much?” I asked. He gave me a price, and I halved it. Without any further negotiations, we shook on a deal.
We met up later I gave him the cash, and I pocketed the bracelet. “Tell your mates if they need some money I’m happy to look at any jewellery they’d like to sell,” I told him.
Very quickly the word got around; Ron King had cash, and if more booze money was needed he was your man. I soon held the title and honour of being the ships ‘Pawnbroker.’
The number of people coming to me each day increased over the weeks. I was gradually filling a small, hand luggage sized case with rings, bracelets, necklaces.
Things must have been getting desperate for one couple; the husband rocked up offering his wife’s wedding ring for sale. I can only imagine how well this went down if the Mrs had reluctantly parted with it.
Most of the passengers left the ship in Australia removing the possibility of me ever seeing them again. I disembarked the Arawa with a small case filled with goodies that I would later sell and make money on. The only piece I kept was a St Christopher medallion which I still wear today.
So, here we were in New Zealand; known as a ‘fucking dead shit-hole.’ I asked myself many times during those first few months; “what was I fucking thinking ??”
I hope you enjoyed this blog
Until next week…see ya later mate 🙂