Carmen and sons in Madrid, 1965.

Carmen & sons in Madrid, 1965.

After I got I married my husband and I went to live with my parents. Later we had a little boy and therefore decided to live on our own in Murcia. Our first home was in a boarding house that was lovely but there wasn’t any running water. Because my son cried a lot I had to take him out to the street wrapped in a blanket so he wouldn’t wake the other boarders. In the end we rented an apartment.

My husband bought a dog for our son, he named it Lulu, which resulted in me having to take it and the baby down to the river to wash the clothes. One day, I came home to my husband and said, “Are you stupid, do you think that I came from Madrid to live like this?” I then picked up my son, packed my bag and went back to Madrid to live at my parent’s house. Two weeks later my husband followed. We initially rented a semi house but then we decided to emigrate from Spain.

Switzerland was the first country to be offered. My husband went first and I followed three months later with my son, as I had a contract to work. The Swiss government was very good to us and paid for our hotel and meals for the first three days so that we could rest. I soon began working in a gold watch factory, my husband in another. In Switzerland we lived really well, but as we earned more money my husband began to take a liking to racing cars. Even though he didn’t have a license to race, he did it anyway. He would get fined and each time the fines got bigger. We then decided to fill in the application forms to emigrate to Canada or Australia. I said to my husband, “Here in Switzerland we are not doing anything. If this doesn’t change you are going to be on your own!” We decided to come to Australia where we rented a house and my husband started up a mechanic workshop.

When we arrived in Australia, I thought that this place was a disaster. In Switzerland I had a lovely home and it was a beautiful country. Here they put us in small rooms in a hostel. Apart from that, my son got a fever and I had to ring a Peruvian woman who helped me with doctors because I didn’t understand anything. I spoke French, Italian and Spanish but not English. At first, we experienced a lot of difficulties. At my children’s school the English-speaking children formed gangs and would hit our children. I had to go to the school to speak with the teachers. When I arrived at the school one of the mothers was waiting for me. She came after me and hit me because I rang the school. Thankfully another lady came to my assistance. When my husband heard about it, he wanted to go after them and took out his knife as usual. I told him that this wasn’t the way to fix things. I then went to the school office and they told me that the lady would not give me any more trouble. But for me that wasn’t enough, I wanted to have her charged. However, my husband and his knife didn’t help the matter. The authorities took the other mother’s side and in the end nothing happened, it was just forgotten. No more said.

In the hostel we made friends from all nationalities. At night we would sing, play the guitar and have a good time. It was easy for me to find work even though I didn’t speak English as I was a seamstress with industrial machine experience. Wherever I worked I felt appreciated. I worked for four years in a factory in Liverpool. The boss was very good to me, however I fell ill with heart problems and had to leave. After I recovered and was ready to return to work the boss came to my house with a big bunch of flowers and asked me to come back. I went back for a further four years until the factory closed.

My husband then began breeding Great Danes. Someone gave us a puppy and we crossed it with another dog producing eighteen puppies. We had to bottle-feed all of them because the mother had gotten an infection. Within three months the dogs were huge. We sold the puppies for $50 each. We then started to take them to shows and they always won. Some of the other breeders became suspicious of our fortune and were curious who we were and what was our secret. One day they came to our house to meet me and asked, “What do you feed the dogs?” I answered, “Well the same as my children, I give them milk, eggs and vitamins”. I began to learn a lot about dogs and we bred champions, winning the “The Best Black of NSW” and the “Best Red of NSW” which is a cinnamon colour. We continued to breed dogs until we had thirty of them, but then we grew tired of managing so many dogs. When I put out big bowls of milk and eggs they would come at me and push me down and climb all over me (Carmen smiles). So we stopped.

My husband would take the children to the factory to work with him, which was not a good idea but we had no choice. I started working in a childcare centre starting with seven children and soon expanded to forty seven, many of whom were Spanish. The government gave us $1400 a year that paid for a teacher for the children, and another to teach the mums English, guitar and dance lessons. One year the children performed at a Christmas competition in Martin Place and won first prize, it was worth $25.00. I managed the centre for two and half years.

Unfortunately money had changed my husband. He became involved in betting, cars and women. One day I left him. The government gave me a house and I worked in the Spanish Club for nearly twenty years with older people. I was happy and liked it a lot. The Spanish club was wonderful place. But after some time they closed the childcare centre. I told them when you take away the centre things will get worse within the Club. And so it was. The mothers had no where to leave their children, this was the first downfall. However, all the committee members continued to work hard, even though there were those who abused the system. They asked me to be on the committee of the older people and I accepted. Older members of the club played cards and entertained themselves. If something went wrong, I was there to manage the situation. I was happy to be there. It was lovely and we would help the people. Everyone would sing there, the Club was a very happy place. It is sad but everyone in the end was there to take what they could until it was ruined. I knew several Spanish groups but never joined any other club. I am very happy with Maria and John from the Spanish Community Care Association. They are excellent people looking out for everyone. I only hope that people know how to appreciate the work that they do.

The language was a difficult thing. Although I studied English at the hostel it was very difficult for me to learn. I do not speak fluently but I can get by. Although in my private life I listen to Spanish music and I cook Spanish food, I feel like an Australian. I like being in Australia but I have to admit that my heart is in Spain, however I cannot see myself returning to Spain. My health or money doe not permit it. Also, my children are married here and I can’t see them going to Spain either. They are one of the reasons why I have stayed here. I lived in the main thoroughfare of Madrid, the Gran Via. When I think about it, I miss walking past the Royal Palace, and all of the beautiful avenues. Australia is also beautiful and Sydney is a city that I love. And the services here are wonderful, the doctors and nurses are fantastic. I am very happy in Australia and I like everything here. There is nothing I don’t like. What a luxury!
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