Ginette Matalon

Ginette Matalon (born in 1936) and her mother fled from Cairo to Paris, and then to Sydney in 1958, escaping the persecution of Jews by Egyptian nationalists. In Sydney they moved into two rooms in a terrace house in Glebe shared with Ginette’s uncle and his wife, Aunt Becky.

Edited Transcript

Wednesday we arrived here. The next Monday I had a job. On Saturday firstly, the young men started coming. My aunty did such marketing work about me to the whole Jewish community with available young men. She said, ‘My niece is coming from Paris, she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. She can dance, she can sing, she can do this, she can do that.’ And on Saturday afternoon they all came. Who came with chocolate, who came with records, who came — they all came. I thought this was the nicest part of Australia was all these. One came with a motorbike, one had a car and they all started inviting me out. So that was a good start socially—I had my fellows lined up.

My husband happened to be Becky’s cousin—first cousin—as well, and he came and as I said he bought chocolates, words of songs—in French the song at the time was called Bambino—he bought me the words to Bambino and took me out on his Vespa. One night we went to Chequers to dance on the Vespa—I had this beautiful night, evening dress—and we went on the Vespa.

So, twenty-six days after I arrived, we went on a ferry cruise for Australia Day with the All Nations Club. The boats stopped a little distance from Parsley Beach and the people started swimming from the boat to a rock. When we reached the rock, Ralph said to me, ‘I have to apologise to you. I’m really, really sorry, I can’t marry you straight away, I have a few commitments.’ To which I replied—I was really surprised—I said, ‘But I have no intention of getting married now.’ I mean, I had just come here. And this was the twenty-sixth of January 1958. He proposed to me on a rock at Parsley Beach. That was his first proposal.

His second proposal was the next year. The year was early 1959 and my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Obviously she wanted me to get married—very badly. Very, very badly, and very quickly and this fellow was not proposing officially as yet. So one afternoon, I went to visit my mother in hospital, with Ralph, and she said, ‘You know, my friend, Florette McDowall just came to visit me in hospital and she has two brothers coming from overseas’—that’s my mother saying in front of Ralph, you know ‘and they’re very, very keen—the whole family’s very keen—that you should meet them.’ And Ralph said, ‘But Ginette and I, we came here today to tell you that we are getting married.’ So that was proposal number two. It was a bit forcing his hand. We got engaged and that September we got married.

Credit: Ginette Matalon interviewed by Frank Heimans in the Australian generations oral history project, ORAL TRC 6300/125, National Library of Australia. Recorded on 13 and 14 January 2013 in Sydney, New South Wales.

Listen to the rest of Ginette’s interview.

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