An Introduction of myself,

My name is Gerrit Blankestein I was born in Holland in Woerden in 1954 as 3rd child of Martin and Dit Blankestein. A lot of people have difficulties pronouncing my Christian name, In Australia they all called me Garrit. It’s not exact but its close. If you ever land at Schiphol airport in Holland you will notice that there is no E gate this was done because an Englishman talking about the A gate sounds similar to a Dutchman talking about the E that's why there is no E gate at Schiphol.  My brother Adrian and sisters Lida, Jeanette and Ingrid were the other 4 kids of the family.

We immigrated as a family of 7 to Australia in 1960. We came to Australia on the S.S. Groote Beer (SS. Big Bear) in 1960 we travelled from Rotterdam sailed through the Suez Canal it was still open back then stopped at Port Said, Fremantle, Aldelaide, Melbourne to finally arrived in Sydney.

My mum told me that my Dad was already homesick on the way to Australia. We shifted around a lot mainly because my dad was looking for work. In 1961 and 1962 it was very hard to find work in Australia, 1963 up to 1968 were better years and we stayed at St Marys North, (close to Penrith near the blue mountains) My parents had 2 more kids there Elisabeth (Beppie) and Connie.

My parents goal was to save up enough money so we could all return to Holland, however... the money saving progress was slow. In 1968 my grandmother passed away in Holland this speeded up the process in going back to Holland.

Some people describe me as a very dusty guy mainly because of my hobbies. I collect stamps, play very old music on my guitar, I can talk your ears of about my family trees. I have the Blanckensteijn archives at home a collection of nearly 14000 blan(c)ke(n)stei(j)ns old photos you name it.

I collect old cards, coins, money, drawings of the towns and castles Blankenstein in Germany and Tjechie also beer bottles from a Blankenstein Lager, Pianos, bikes that once existed,

I also run a website for the Blanckensteijns and for my primary school and high school years in St Marys Australia. This is the link

I have always been half draftsman/ half site organizer on building sites. I work for the largest contractor in Holland. (Bam).

I remember seeing the ships plans of the Ellinis at a travel agent in Blacktown NSW. I could be dreaming this part it was so long ago I think I went there with my brother Adrian it was close to the Blacktown station.

I remember that my dad made a very large wooden box to transport all our belongings with us back to Holland he even took the TV with us.

The Voyage home to Holland

We left Australia on December 2nd 1968 on the Ellinis from Sydney Harbor through Sydney Heads going a total different way that we came. Little did we know then there was so much youth on board that this was going to be an unforgettable trip.

We left Sydney cruising for Wellington New Zealand.

I think the first friend I made on Board was Michael Zivkovic. I have been reading some letters I received from kids on board that wrote to me. I didn't realize I had written to so many people. I received more than 35 letters coming from the following friends. Denise Hydes, Pam Simpson, Ingrid van Kekeren, Elenora Koch, Michael Zivkovic and from Jim Petry also signs with James Petry he wrote the most letters. Jim was Monica’s brother.

These are things I remember about the trip. First of all I did learn some Greek swearing words.

Also I can still remember Costus I think his name was the guitar player from the Five Fingers. playing some kind of electric mandolin (I think it was called a Bozoeki) oh my God that was something no one forgets he could play the Zorba number fantastic on that thing  I guess everyone that got on board learned how to dance the Zorba that month.

We use to hang around close to the kids playroom at the paddling pools after the kids hours was finished. Someone had a small record player (I think it was Gary Doyles) he use to wear a shirt with a big union jack on it. I even remember Ashley (see photo Ashley and me as hippies) having a guitar with him. Michael Zivkovic, Wally and me use to go there a lot.

I remember we played Elenore from the Turtles on it. I probably remember that because of Elenora Koch being on the trip with us.

The group of kids would split up also because some of use to hang around the flicks on board.

My girlfriend on board Denise Hydes wrote a great deal about this to me afterwards in Holland about how I acted there, Don't worry I was about 14½ , Denise was 13½ we were both real innocent at the time. Maybe someone still remembers her she use to wear a round sailors cap so did her girlfriend Suzi.

I also can remember playing cards at the Bar close to the clubroom Brian (see front row of the groups foto with the red jumper) taught Lida my sister and me the famous seven of diamonds card trick also the famous card trick that he put the stack in his pocket and could tell which card we would pick (was the one on the bottom of the stack). I still use that nowadays.

In the evenings we would watch what was happening in the ships lounge then we would go to the veranda ballroom.

Everyone use the have the same funny way on dancing it was a sort of ice skating motion.

I remember every 2 days they would steal an hour from us by turning the clock an hour ahead to keep up with the actually time. They also held some kind of lottery you could guess how many miles the ship would run in a day.

My family and I, had our meals in one of the superbly appointed dining rooms called the Coral room.

We celebrated Christmas and New Year on board. I also can remember the Hellenic and Tahitian night on board. Somewhere burned onto the back of my head there is a picture of Ingrid van Kekeren wearing a grass skirt doing a Tahitian dance. I think my sister Lida also danced that dance.

I remember that fresh water was taken in when we docked before the Panama Canal. The ship was listing very badly at the time, it was real funny to walk around while the ship was at such an angle.

At Nausau the weather was to rough to dock at the main harbour so a ferry came to the ship to get the passengers.

In the afternoons you could also learn the Zorba. And there was also someone playing piano in the piano room nearly every day.

If anyone has forgotten which cabin number they had I still have a passenger list.

I was a bit lucky with the photos of the Ellinis my brother Adrian took some photos at Wellington, Tahiti, Bermuda helps you remember everything. He also bought some color slides on board these are the good ones of the Ellinis. The Mist photos of the Ellinis are when the Ellinis sailed into Amsterdam. Was probably the only time the Ellinis did so. This happened because there was a strike in Rotterdam.

While typing these notes I was practicing a song, “Never fall in love again from Tom Jones” a well known Greek a board use to sing it a lot. Its probably why Nanette Simpson fell for him. I was wondering if I dare send it to Wolf to put on the site , I thought of it and decided Nanette is probably an old lady by now so who cares, lol.

Hope this helps everyone remember the Ellinis

Nowadays I live in Holland with my wife "Joke" {Pronounced "Yocker"} and 4 kids Linda, Peter, Gerlies and Jelle.

This is the family.

Picture below


PS comment by Web-master... for those people who are intrested, the ship "SS Groote Beer" can be easily found by using "Image search" in your browser.

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