English lessons were granted to all immigrants living in the Capital Hill Barracks. We all attended together. The instructor spoke in English but was not a good teacher, I learnt nothing that first time, so it was the only time I attended. I began to learn the English language from those around me and in time was able to communicate fluently.
We paid £2.18 per fortnight board which included two meals a day. I met many good people during that first-year forging relationships that endured throughout the years. I had a good life, with no complaints.
I did not feel home sick at all as the European community at the hostel was very comforting. There were many Croatians and Italians, and we had many good times together. We did experience some racism in that first year, but it wasn’t so bad. The Australian woman would not dance with us ‘wogs’ at the local dances and once a group of men spat at us in the Pub. The English were the worst. It didn’t bother me much, I adapted easily as our community was big and we just mingled together.
I formed my first music band. We played regularly at the Manuka Service hut, the Queanbeyan Polish Club and a few other venues. I purchased my first car, co-ownership with a friend in 1958. It was a second hand 1950 FX Holden. We took our first road trip to Sydney, and I was unlicensed at the time. When we got there and parked a police officer came over to check my licence and told me to move the car. He did not pick up that I only had my learner’s licence. What luck! We laughed about it at the time.
Over the course of the next year or so I lived in three different hostels, Capital Hill, Hillside and lastly the bachelor’s lodge called Action Guest House. At the end of 1958 I moved out to Queanbeyan with a friend, living in his boss’s garage. I was settling into Australian life very well.