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Hawil the Bloody New Australian

September 16th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hawil, the New Australian

The first job Hawil had in Australia, was in a factory by the name of Simpson Pope, in Dudley Park S.A.
Having never worked in a metal factory, it was rather a new experience for Hawil.. The first few days, he was given a grinder, and with some other workers, they were grinding off welding burrs on bed frames. Being new to this task, he was not performing best, in comparision to the other more experienced workers in this field, as he was trying to smooth too well the welding spots, which took too much time, and if he tried to keep up with the other workers, his work did not pass the ‘quality’ inspection.

The foreman in the section where Hawil was employed, was a man of some fifty years, who had no teeth and spoke rather indistinct for him too understand; in the two month that Hawil worked under him, he hardly understood a word he was telling him, but despite that, they got on rather well.

One day he made Hawil work on a press, pressing sheets of metal, aproximately one square meter into sides of washing machines. Before starting, he intended to give Hawil some safety instructions, which rather did not turn out the best. The job required, to put a sheet of metal into the slot of the press, while the top portion was up, and then make sure to keep the fingers clear of the press when it came down to shape the metal. The foreman placed a sheet of metal into the slot of the press and then turned towards Hawil, trying to tell him to keep his fingers clear of the press, which he himself forgot to do, and as a result, his right index finger was almost squashed to a quarter if its thickness. A very unfortunate lesson in safety! The job was rather boring, but he had to concentrate, so that he did not finish up with losing some fingers.

After a few weeks, Hawil was transferred to another section, where he had to rivet some electric radiator frames. The job involved to rivet an upright frame onto a flat metal sheet. The foreman in that section demonstrated to Hawil how to rivet the two parts together, but he was not very successful, because the rivets would bend, and not form a neat rivet head. After a very unsuccessful instruction, he left Hawil to his own devices, but most of the rivet heads did not pass the quality inspection. Then Hawil got hold of a metal chisel and cut the rivets to half the length and succeeded in making perfect rivet heads, and he told the foreman to bring him some shorter rivets, but the foreman refused; took the rivets and heated them red hot, then dumped them in cold water and after brought them back to Hawil. Then the rivets were even worse than before, and Hawil went back to cutting the rivets short so that he could produce perfect rivet heads.

The foreman tried to tell Hawil, that he can’t do that, so Hawil blew his top and went back to his previous foreman, but he told Hawil, that he had to go back to keep riveting, and Hawil kept cutting the rivets, nearly spending as much time cutting the rivets, as riveting, and the foreman just ignored him, but the quality controller was passing his work.

Living in Glenelg migrant hostel, Hawil had to catch the bus at 6.00AM to be at work at 7.30, having breakfast before that, so when it used to get to 9.30 his stomach was screaming for some food, but lunchbreak was not before 12.00 noon, and the job he was doing required both hands, so he could not eat anything without stopping doing what he was doing, so he set down for some 10 minutes to grab a quick snack. The first day that he did that, a nearby Italian worker was trying to tell him, as best as he could, because neither of us spoke any English, and he spoke Italian and Hawil spoke German, that he could not sit down to have a snack.

The following day, the foreman tried to tell Hawil the same thing, but he pretended not to understand, so Hawil called another German worker nearby, to come and act as an interpreter, as his English was far superior to Hawil’s. When the German worker explained to him that he could not stop for a snack, Hawil told him, to tell the foreman that he had to have breakfast at 5.30 and that going without food until 12.00 noon was too long; the foreman than just ignored Hawil from then on. Now the irony of it all was, that next time Hawil sat down for his short snack, the Italian worker, who previously tried tell him that he could not have break, a few days earlier, was then sitting right next to him; really jumping on the bad-wagon. Those were the working conditions in Australian factories in the 1950’s.

While travelling to work on the train from Adelaide to Dudley Park, Hawil saw an advertisement for a labourer in Ovingham, and so he decided one Saturday to go and apply for the job. Hawil was bluntly told by the person who he considered to be the boss there, that he does not employ any New Australians. Some years later Hawil noticed that the firm either moved from there or went broke. Hawil found out some 20 years later, that it did go broke, and the son of the owner was then working for a firm where a friend of Hawil was his superior officer, and rubbed this over his nose.

After working some two month at Simpson Pope, Hawil was not very happy with the long travelling time; and slowly learning to read the job advertisement’s in the News, he read that Perry Engineering at Mile End were looking for factory workers, so he decided to apply for a job, and was told that he can start there as soon as he finished at Simpson Pope. But when Hawil turned up in a weeks time on Monday, he was told that there was no work for him, so he went back to the Employment office, which sent Hawil to Wiles Manufacturing, which was also in Mile End and even easier to get to, than was Perry Engineering, and they promptly employed him.

The first day Hawil started there, a lanky six-foot Australian by the name of Peter took him under his wing, and they started stacking some columns, which were used in the construction of farm sheds and barns. On one side of the column there was a plate for connecting it to a concrete floor, and the columns tapered of towards the other end, so they were heavier at that end, and Peter conveniently took the lighter end. They started at 7.30 AM and worked solidly for some three hours as a fork-lift operator was bringing more columns for stacking. At about 10.00AM Peter rolled himself a cigarette, and Hawil took quick bite of a sandwich, than they worked solidly until noon, when the siren announced lunch-time. Hawil thought it was rather heavy work for the low wage on offer.

As Hawil was regularly working out at a gym, he could cope with the heavy work, and after lunch, he thought he’ll give Peter a little surprise; he put his left hand on the stack for support and then lifted the column with just the right hand, making sure to lift his side of the column before Peter could lift his side, putting more weight on his side. The first time Hawil did that, Peters mouth opened so that his false teeth nearly fell out, because he could not believe that Hawil could do that. They kept working until about 3.00PM and then Peter indicated to Hawil to hide behind some stacks so that any bosses, which my pass, did not see him. After that Hawil really had the respect of Peter and at times they would work really hard for a short time, and then bludged around.

In 1955, it was rather a wet winter, and at Wiles they were rather wasteful; like storing stacks of galvanized sheets in the open, so after a week or two in the open rain, the sheets would start to oxidize and could not be sold as new, so we would often spent hours in sorting the sheets, and half the sheets would be sold for a fraction of the cost. Now, it would not have been very hard, or expensive to use some of the sheets and make a roof over the stacks. The idea must have been too clever for the managers of the firm.

The incident at Simpson Pope and then a Wiles should have told Hawil that in Australia the manufacturing could be very inefficient.

After some time at Wiles, Hawil was to work with a carpenter, fixing roof-sheets on huts; the carpenter was very skilful, he would give the roofing nail a small tap to penetrate the sheet and then with one hard hit, the roofing nail would be in. When Hawil tried to imitate the carpenter, the result was mostly disastrous, because he did not have the knack to hit the nail straight, and then he had to pull the nail out, while the carpenter was having a rest, rolling himself a cigarette, which rather affected Hawil as a non-smoker. Otherwise Hawil got on with the carpenter very well.

Other times, Hawil would be on top of trucks, many which came from interstate, stacking goods loaded by forklifts and Hawil had a good judgement of how much weight was already on a truck, so the truck drivers would respect his opinion in this regard. On a few occasions, there used to come a young driver from Sydney who was driving for his father, and then he bought his own truck, proudly displaying it on his first trip to Adelaide. It was a Friday and he had to pick up some goods which Hawil considered to be too much for the truck, and he told the driver, but this time he would not listen. We finished loading the truck at 5PM and then went home, while the driver was still tying down the load. When Hawil came to work on Monday morning, the truck which should have by now be in Sydney, was standing outside the gate. The driver of the truck was pulled up on the exit road from Adelaide and placed on a weigh-bridge, recording 6 tonnes over the load, so the driver was sent back to take off some of the load, and copping a hefty fine. About 10AM, the father of the young driver pulled up in his Mercedes, coming all the way from Sydney, and literally blew shit out of his son, Hawil just tried to get away from the scene because he felt sorry for the young driver.

After about two month a couple of ex-marines joined the workforce, both being taller and heavier than Hawil, he had a job to keep up with their rough pranks; and rough they were; at times, they would throw a three by two piece of timber at each other or Hawil, and yell timber, and then it was which way to jump and not being hit by the timber; how none of us get seriously hurt, was rather a miracle. All in all, Hawil enjoyed the five or six month at Wiles, because he always had a chance of getting something to eat before the whistle blew for lunch at noon.

21.Sept 2014
As Hawil was always keen on driving, he decided to apply to the SA Railways as a cleaner, with the intention of becoming a train driver. At the interview for the job, Hawil was asked to read a paragraph from the rule book, and then the person interviewing Hawil, dictated the paragraph to Hawil, who had to write it down, and miraculously, Hawil made only one mistake; writing of with a double off, like in kick-off, so Hawil was taken on as cleaner. To become a fireman, a cleaner had to pass five exams, mostly in writing, and Hawil being less than a year in Australia, never learnt English before, had the job in front of him, passing the exams. In the first exam, Hawil wrote some words down correctly, not knowing what they meant, but the second and subsequent exams were becoming easier, because Hawil,s English was improving quite quickly. Hawil was fully qualified as a fireman in six month from joining the Railways, where some of the Australian cleaners took a lot longer. After doing fireman’s duties for some eighteen month, Hawil started attending classes in his own time, to qualify as driver; first Westinghouse air-brake, and after that, the engineman’s mechanical; but being almost half-way trough the engineman’s mechanical, Hawil realised that if he passed the engineman’s exam, he would be sent to a country depot, because there was no driving available in Adelaide, because the diesel engines started to replace steam engines, and they could be coupled together, pulling double the load of a steam engine. As a result, Hawil stopped trying to qualify as a driver because he did not like to go to a country depot, but after a few month, the Railways decided to form classes to pass the engineman’s exam, for fireman with air-brake qualifications, and Hawil then had to attend the classes to qualify as a driver, which he did. So Hawil was qualified as driver in three years of service, but was not sent to the country for another year.

While working as a fireman in Mile End, first on shunt engines, then suburban trains for some four month, he and another fireman asked the roster if they could work on big engines; the roster was rather pleased by the request, as there was a shortage of firemen to work on big engines.The first time Hawil was rostered on Sunday 10PM with a n instructor to Balaklava. Hawil did find the work rather tiring as he shovelled some 6-7 tonnes of coal into the firebox in eight hours. After arriving in Balaklava on Monday morning the crew tried to get some sleep during the day and were booked at 6PM to make the return trip to Adelaide, returning about 2AM Tuesday; the other fireman who was rostered to Snowtown at about the same time, felt that the work for the pay received for firing on big engines was too hard and resigned immediately after arriving in Mile End. Hawil felt the same, but then he thought, if the other firemen could handle it, he should also be able to do it.

After that Hawil worked almost every night for some three month on freight trains, and he was getting used to the heavy yakka. Then one day Hawil fired an engine on a freight train to Terowie, and the next day was booked to fire a 520 class engine, which was oil and coal burner fired on the Broken Hill passenger. Then something went amiss with the 520 class engine, and it was replaced with 620 class, which was a hand-shovelled coal burner. As a passenger train was moving at 60 miles an hour, compared to freight trains doing 40 miles an hour, it was a complete different experience; trying to keep the steam up. As the 620 class was not suited for the heavier train usually hauled by a 520 class engine, made it worse for Hawil, because as the driver was driving at full-steam, the coal was virtually flying of the shovel as soon as Hawil opened the firebox door, going everywhere except where it should have gone. After two sections, the firebox was almost full, not getting enough air through, the engine would not steam. So the train had to stop and Hawil had to clean the fire; he was probably the only fireman, who cleaned the fire at a place called OOlloolloo. Then the driver told Hawil to put some 6-10 buckets of water onto the coal and then just pack the back corners in the firebox, and the coal being wet, would not fly of the shovel, and this worked, although from there the terrain was at times downhill, making it easier to keep up steam. Anyway it was a real baptism of fire for Hawil, and after that, he never had any problem to fire any big engine on any train.

The conditions in the SA Railways were as bad as in the factories, no meal breaks on any trains; which was ok when working on trains which would do some shunting along the way, but it was a different story, when booked on a through train. Hawil was once booked on a train, laden with super for Gladstone, some 200 km from Adelaide. The train went non-stop from Adelaide to Balaklava, there Hawil had to clean the fire, fill the tender with water, and then the Station Master waved a green flag for departure to Gladstone.

Hawil just sat down for some ten minutes and had a few sandwiches, then the Station Master came towards the engine asked why we are not going. Hawil told him, as there is some 4 hours heavy work ahead of him, he needs to have some food to do the work.

So Hawil got a nasty docket for partaking in a 10 minutes meal break to which he was not entitled, and thereby delaying the train for some ten minutes. To answer the docket Hawil read the rule book and Appendix issued by the SA Railways, and found a chapter, how the horses used in some stations for shunting purposes, had to be unharnessed and fed every four hours, so Hawil replied; if it was good enough for horses to feed, a fireman should have been entitled some time to eat. Hawil never got a reply from SA Railways, he was found out later, as he tried to qualify as an instructor and inspector, that SA Railways used the comment against him, and he was unsuccessful in his attempt to get promotion.


In 1959, after working as a fireman on both steam-and diesel engines, hawil was transferred to Peterborough to act as a fireman and subsequently as a driver. For the first three month Hawil was doing fireman’s duties which was very beneficial to him, as he did not do any driving by being in charge of an engine, nor did he know the track conditions of the system, so he had the opportunity to gain knowledge which was necessary to drive a train, particularly in night conditions.

When arriving at Peterborough Hawil on his first Fireman’s duty was assisted by a Loco Inspector, on a 400 Class Garrott engine, which was an oil burner which Hawil could have fired in his sleep, yet the next job was on coal-fired T-class to Terowie. The firebox on the t-class was a lot smaller than on even the smaller engine which Hawil fired in Adelaide, so he was rather vary of putting to much coal on, and he was losing steam and water, but the Driver could see Hawils problem and put on quite a few shovels of coal, which surprised Hawil, but the engine started steaming properly. To Hawils blessing the Driver did not tell Hawil,”You silly bugger, can’t you  fire an engine after four years on the job”, and Hawil had real respect for the driver, for the rest of the time he worked with him.

There were two big brothers K, which were considered rather too boisterous, but Hawil got on with them very well. One night Hawil was firing for one of the big K, and we were shunting in Jamestown across a level road crossing. We blocked the crossing for a while and there was a single car trying to cross over the line, and after some time the driver of the car got impatient, and while we stopped over the crossing, raced towards our engine, yelling, how long are you bastards going to block the crossing, and he made an attempt to get up on the engine, but then the big driver, who wasn’t aware of the car driver, stepped over to my side, and when the car driver saw the big driver, he jumped of the steps of the engine and raced towards his car. The situation was quite hilarious, and I said to big K, you scared the living daylight out of the poor fellow. I had a dig at big K , that had the car driver known that you are big windbag, he would have not run  for his life. I got away with the dig, because K and I got on very well.

When Hawil first started driving, some Guards would treat him with some disdain as a gringo driver, but after a year or two, he was quite respected by most guards.

In 1962, a charge-man in Cokburn went on long-service leave for a whole year and he had to replaced for that time, by either another charge-man, or a fully qualified driver; as it would have been quite costly for the Railway administration, some smart Alec in the department suggested, to replace the charge-man with four single drivers from Peterborough, giving them a permanent home station notice, to avoid paying any living expenses. As Hawil was one of the four, he was transferred for three month to Cockburn as charge-man on a wage which was lower than  a drivers wage, and as it was Summer, living in an old barrack, with no air conditioning, with virtually nothing to do for a single man, the only option for Hawil was, to go to the pub; in the three month Hawil drank more beer than he would have drunk otherwise in three years.

When Hawil took his complaint to the Union, that he should be paid drivers wages while performing charge-man’s duties, which required drivers qualification; what did the Union boss do for Hawil, zilch, but the Union bosses wife finished up in the SA parliament, although the Union boss failed himself in trying to get into parliament.

After the three month stint in Cockburn, Hawil was transferred back to Peterborough, but after a month he was transferred to Port Lincoln as a driver and fireman, something that did not please Hawil at the time, but Hawil enjoyed his job in Port Lincoln.

The first Saturday Hawil spent in Lincoln, he went to a pub to have a couple of beers; his usual limit, but then a fireman, who Hawil did not know at the time, came over to him, introduced himself as Clarry and told Hawil, would  I drink with you, no other bastard will drink with me; Hawil replied, my limit is usually two schooners, so don’t expect a long session. Over the few month Hawil spent in Lincoln, he got to know that fireman very well, and they got on very well. Clarry was married, with children, bought some bushland near Port Lincoln and was looking forward to establish a small farm, unfortunately for him,  he died a few years later, at rather a young age.




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