Mongiana in Calabria, that’s the main one, Mongiana Calabria and at the age of 12, my father was already in Australia here. He come here 1927, and he called for me to come to Australia by myself because he never had enough money to bring the mother and the other two brothers
altogether so I come out here by myself on the boat by the name Romulo and it took 44 days to get here. And on the boat was about 375 kids, round about my age or a little bit younger, coming out on the boat so when we got to Sydney here, on
the other side of the boat was that high, I couldn’t even get my head above so I had to stand on other kids and sing out my father’s name because I didn’t know, I’d never seen my father for, where I was 8? 12, he left when my brother, was seven years, and I’d never seen my father. And I’m looking around and calling his name, you know, I didn’t know who my father was. Anyhow I finished up singing out that much that he waved at me so he waited till when we came out of the boat
and I met my father for the first time after seven years. Then, he had a shoe shop up in Elizabeth Street, Sydney and had a residential on top of the shop and I lived there for about the best part about seven or eight years above the shop. Then I started to learn about shoes, then my father was only just making his living, just make enough money to keep on
going and I said to my father, “Unless you make enough money for my mother and my brothers to come out,” I said, “I won’t stay here,” and when I seen him that he was working hard and he couldn’t make enough money so I finished up going out at night time, two or three nights a week and get odd jobs here and there where I could make a few bob and I used to get 15 shillings every night, 12 to 15 shillings at night so I finish up saving up round about
there was 160, 170 pounds until we got the fare for my mother and the two brothers to come out and they came out here about two years before the war started and then from then on I just finished up going out, when my mother and two brothers came out, finished up going out like getting odd jobs here and there at night time because I started to pick up, I used to do a lot of shop work, you know, picking up
groceries or packing up fruit or serving milkshakes and stuff like this so I got pretty good at it and I finished up getting pretty good money at night time. Then at the age of, I’d better tell you this before. That went on like during the wartime. Then when I got to the age of 18, they called us for the army medical service
so we went and passed our medical and we were waiting to get called up in the army. That didn’t succeed so the next call up we got was to the army labour corps. No-one knew what the army labour corps, we were treated as army people but no uniforms, nothing, so the first call then we had after that was to go to
Canberra Forestry Department and then when we got to the Forestry Department, was all these pine trees there. We’d never seen them before and they teach you what to do and how to do it and how to work on them and we started to work there. There was a chap there by the name of Pryor. Major Pryor he used to call himself and he said, “You’ll be working here. At Christmas time you’ll be getting your leave like the army do and we get army pay”
and lived under the camping tents and we had no fridges, no water supply, no toilet water, no showers, nothing there. We had to carry our own water into the shower. We had a big tub on the back with the holes and put our water in and have a shower and our toilets were in the holes. You know we used to, all that type of things so then when the time comes along that the Christmas holidays were due, he comes
a few weeks before and he said, “You’re not going on for your holidays.” “Well,” I said, “You promised us the holidays and the families are waiting.” I said, was about seven of us young ones. I said, “If we don’t get our holidays,” I said, “We just won’t work, will refuse to work.” So when the end of the week, before the Christmas week, he turned around and he said,
“You’re not going up for your holidays,” so he comes up there with a truck and he had about three soldiers in the truck with rifles and machine guns. He thought we were going to cause, God knows what sort of problems so they took us to Canberra Police Station where they had the little cell room behind the station which no-one ever been in there. When we got in there the damn fleas, they were about two inches long, and put us in there
and we started to kick up, bash the doors down and kick up a stink so they’d let us out in the yard because the cell was full of fleas and we stayed there till the Monday until the court come on. Then went to the court, like into the court house on Monday and this fellow said that we refused, and I said to the judge, “We didn’t refuse to work at all. He just broke his promises that he told us we were going to go for a holiday at Christmas time
and he waited till the last couple of weeks to tell us we’re not going to go and that’s where the problem started,” so the judge said, “Well,” he said, “Who am I to believe?” I said, “Well we’re telling you our story and he can tell you whatever he wants to,” so then he started to call people in and was about three or four of them that couldn’t understand or speak English so these people that couldn’t understand,
was a chap there by the name of Peter and I said, “When he calls you Peter, you tell them the reason why we were on strike because he didn’t give us leave for our holidays,” so the judge called this Peter up and the first thing he said, “No leave, no work,” so the judge called him the name and they all started to laugh, you know because he didn’t know what he was talking about, so I said to the judge, I said, “I’ll be his interpreter because he doesn’t understand.” I said, “You ask me the question and
I’ll tell you what it,” so he called me up and I told Peter. I said, “That’s what the judge said,” and we went on, there were 12 of us all told. We went on and we refused to work, go back to work unless we got our leave so the judge said, “I’m sorry,” he said, “I can’t do anything but I’ll have to put you to Goulburn Gaol.” That’s when we started with the job so the following day, there was about three or four of those hire cars,
you know. They picked us up in hire cars and took us to Goulburn Gaol. We had to do four and a half, well six months hard labour but four and a half months good behaviour. Well, we done the four and a half months and when we come out, we went back to Sydney, stayed home there for three or four weeks and after those three or four weeks, they come and picked us up again and they sent us to the Banana Growers’ Federation. Want me to keep on going, or?
and no-one was looking after them so then the people who were right next door in the same sort of a valley or valleys where the bananas are, they were complaining that the disease from that plantation goes onto the other plantations so they had to destroy their banana disease that they had on, so we started to go around different districts and looking at all these bananas had the disease on and we had special materials like to chop them down,
poison them and make sure that, go over to the other plantations and we done that for the best part of eight months, then went home for Christmas then we come back, all told up there we spent about 14 or 15 months with the banana plantations. Then after we finished with that, we come back home but during those days up there with the banana plantations, over the weekend we were free to do what we wanted to do. You know, we weren’t tied up
like Canberra there. We were just like, in Canberra, just like slaves there, was no, you had to have a, ‘cause it was a long way from Canberra to travel and those days they had no cars, only horse and cart, stuff like you see if you owned one and that was the worst part in Canberra but up here, we used to live in a boarding house. They gave us boarding house and we just, over the weekend, we were free to do what we wanted to do. That’s why we stayed there all that time
and we made a damn good job of it too cause some, we used to travel all the way from Murwillumbah all the way down to Lismore, right down the coast because that’s all full of bananas, all the coast part of it there and some of the boys, that Mick Zappa there, he was a carpenter there and he got a job near Lismore to do banana boxes. Those days they used to do the boxes out of wood, you know that
you have, be a sawmill. He used to work in a sawmill and do stuff, do that type of work there and we cut those banana groves for all the time we stayed there, looking after diseases then destroy the ones that were, you know were causing problems and clean everything out.
there, those people there, they were still, because they didn’t let them out soon the war finished, they were there you know and I went back to the Double Bay shop, household supply in Double Bay and another shop, so even when they were in the holiday, they shut up the shop and I looked after the shop for him while he was away on holidays and when he come back, he had three months, he gave me 750 pounds, you know, for looking after the shop, so I saved up a bit of money and I had about, must have had about
thousand four hundred, thousand five hundred pounds and I said to him “I’m going to open up a shop, the same as this one, at Randwick,” because was no other shops and Randwick those days was a place something like Double Bay because all the horse trainers, jockeys, horse owners, they used to live around Randwick so I opened up this shop here in Allison Road Randwick there and I was there for a while. I built this shop up from nothing and I paid
nearly 14, 15 hundred pounds, thousand and I finished, when I sold it I made about four or five thousand profit on it and then we went back to shoes then. Then we started making all the orthopaedic shoes, sports shoes. I brought a lot of different machines, you know, to make all this stuff here and we went on just making shoes with hospitals, sport people, dancing,
golfers, all this type of things.
up and seen me there and he called the doctor straight away. He put my head up in a rag here, close it up and he said, the doctor come up and he said, “You’ve got 24 hours to live.” In those days, you know, that’s the little towns, so he cleaned it all out and put a, and the whole kids around the little town, they were at my place because they thought I only had 24 hours to live. Anyhow I survived.
Then the wife here, she comes from the same town and we used to go to school together and her family and my family or, you know, my mother’s side and her mother’s side, they were sort of a really together, really good friends so I, after so many
years, like we used to go to school together but we never, ever met up to, say, boyfriend or girlfriend, nothing like that and after so many years that, after I come out here, her father used to be here in Australia too so they decided to bring his family out and I met my wife here. We come from the same town but I met my wife here. That’s one part but going back to the childhood there.
When I made this billy cart up, had this smash up in the creek and all that, then we used to have two different type of farms. We had a farm out from the town. It was about two and a half hours walk and we had another one near the town. Now this one was two and a half hours walk, was a lot of chestnut trees, walnut trees and, so we used to go there with my mother to pick these walnut trees up
and every time we got out I had this mania that I wanted to get up on the top of this walnut trees and as a young kid I got up to the top and the wind started and I couldn’t get down out of this damn tree so my mother down the bottom of the tree, you know, “Please be careful, hang on.” I was that damn frightened that I didn’t want to move and as soon the wind comes down, slowly I got down and my mother said, “You’re not to go back in that tree anymore.”
I said, “No,” so we got back because it was the chestnut trees and walnut trees so we got back about a week after so we can pick the walnuts and the chestnuts so my mother’s standing, picking up other stuff there and I climbed up another walnut and she started yelling and crying so I said, “Alright,” I said, “I’ll come down, there’s no wind there,” so this was, we used to do that every year, that season when walnut and chestnut trees come up and we used to take other kids
so we’d go up there to pick them, you know.
He used to own about 100,000 acres of land and 100,000 head of sheep and what he’d done, he worked in that place as a jackeroo and the house, he used to look after the house for him and then, some of his friends, Italian friends that he had here, this Barrington feller was looking for labour to clean the what’s a name? Clean the paddocks
for them, take the lantana bush and all that and my father wrote to the people that he knew here and they all went up to Merriwa working in the station, and cleaning lantana bushes. So when he was there for two and a half years, he’d saved about 270 odd pounds and when he come back to Sydney he wanted to start a shoe shop so when he come back to Sydney, the banks were all closed and he couldn’t get the money out of the bank. So
he seen a shop in King Street, Sydney for sale that he wanted 160 pounds, 160, 170 pounds and my father said, “Look, I’ve got a bank book, but I haven’t got the money,” and he said, “The banks are closed and I can’t get the money out, but,” he said, “If you want to sell your business,” he said, “I’ll give you my bank book for 270 pounds and,” he said, “I’ll take the business over,” so that’s what he done. Then the bank opened up
about three days after he brought this damn shop, so he finished up losing his hundred pounds. In those days they were hard to make, a hundred pounds and then he finished up with the shoe shop in King Street. Once he got to that shop, he stayed there for two and a half years, like doing only repairs. He didn’t make shoes, only was sort of repair trade. Then they pulled the shops down and they build the pub on the corner, King George and then they had to get away from the place, so he finished up losing
the money that he paid for the business then. He had to start something else in, well he got Elizabeth Street and from then on, we went on that way.
I don’t know if it’s something we had in the blood, you know that my father travelled, my grandfather used to travel to the States all the time, that I wanted to do something myself cause I used to talk to my grandfather as a kid, you know, the feller that was in Western Virginia there and at the same time, you know, “You’ve got to travel to see different things.” You know, “Staying here, you see nothing,” then it goes on and that really
something that sticks in your mind or head that you want to travel around. That’s what made me probably give me the encouragement to get in that car and just say, “I’m going to go,” cause the way they were saying, like my, mother, aunty, grandmothers, “Don’t go, don’t go.” Anyone else probably would have just say, “Right I won’t go,” and then when I got on the boat was a chap that had the, taking charge of you,
being under age, so someone else was coming to Australia from near our town and he signed that he’s going to look after me like on the boat but then on the boat, we had all, as I said there was about 370 odd kids with their mothers and fathers coming out so once I got on the boat I was just got friends with some of the kids and was just one of those things that you didn’t worry about nothing. The only time that I got worried, when I got to Sydney
looking for my father, didn’t know my father what he looked like or didn’t know, that was a problem but you know we discovered one another, then we were right.
farm most of them. They used to go up to Queensland. Most of them went up north, Queensland and most of them they went to, cause the main stop was Sydney those days there and whatever the street they had to go and a lot of them, the husbands would just wait on the boat and pick them up in the car or the train and just like going to Lismore where the banana plantations were and in north Queensland where they had the sugar
cane and all this other stuff there. Most of them got to these places. They had no idea what Australia would look like or what they’re going to discover, what they’re going to see until they really got here and those days there, when you come out here, it’s nothing like today, nothing. You had to, you got to
well you have to eat. The only thing there was a hamburger shop or fish shop and when most of the Italians, I had to laugh there, you know they had these big pots where they put the chips in there with all this fat but they weren’t used to fat. They were used to only oil cooking the things, you take them out this fat out and five minutes the thing’s all greased up or had,
you know, they can use this stuff again. You know, not being used to it see and anyhow they got used to it. After a while they had to get used to it because there was nothing else and you got the hamburger shop. Those days there the hamburger shops, they had a little restaurant behind there and the only thing you’d be getting there is mixed grills. You get a lamb chop with all the fat on it, boiled potato,
a couple of bits of carrots and a couple of beans there and a mutton chop. You know the mutton chop boiled up with a piece of steak and the sausage. That was a mixed grill, lamb chop, mutton chop and a sausage and it was a bit hard, or then you get a hamburger shop, a hamburger like, done up and it was all cooked in those plates there, which they weren’t used to it. You know cooking, you know, “Fancy
if they stop cooking the black stuff there,” and then I used to explain to them what really happens. It’s an electric appliance but it was really hard but they got out of it. They got over it and they’re still going.
then you go straight Chalmers Street, then there’s Devonshire Street and then it’s Elizabeth Street right on the corner of Devonshire and Elizabeth Streets. We used to be, there’s a pub on the corner. The pub’s still there and we started to walk from there, come down through a subway into George Street. In those days there, everybody used to wear a hat and my father said, “I’ll have to get you a hat, you know so you can look like one of the Australian fellers,” because here they would all wear hats. I said
“I don’t want a damn hat,” cause those days, in Italy as a kid no-one used to wear a hat. “No, I don’t want to wear.” “No, you’ve got to wear.” He decided that much that he was going to buy me a little hat and wear one and we walked right down to the Circular Quay from the Central Railway in George Street right down the Quay in George Street. We had something to drink and eat there, then we come back through Pitt Street and we had, anyhow we done
the whole George Street, Pitt Street, Castlereagh Street, Elizabeth Street. We went up and down the whole, and by the time we finished I was worn out so, “We’ll go home.” Pop cooked and he never did like cooking. My mother said to me, she said, “He’s not much of a cook,” you know, before I left there so he cooked, forgot what he cooked but used to like all this dry
food, cheese, olives, salami stuff like this. He used to eat all that stuff so the next day, Monday he said, “What do you want to do?” He asked me. I said, “Well I’d do anything.” I said, “The only thing I want to do,” I had that in my mind all the time, I said, “I want you to make enough money or do something with me,” I said, “So we can make the fares for my mother and two brothers to come out.” He said, “I know all that.” He said
“Don’t stop.” I said, “That’s what I want to do” so when you come 12 years old, cause up to 14 those days you had to go to school so the lady next door, she was Australian married to an Italian there. Mrs Masula said, “You’ve got to take him to Cleveland Street and enrol him in the school,” so we went to Cleveland
Street and Pop knew some of the families living near the shop, going to Cleveland Street so those kids used to come in of a morning and pick me up and we used to go to school together. We started there. It only lasted about six months because he was never making any money. I said to Pop, I said, “I’ll help you out,” like during the day, “To do more work but,” I said, “I’ve got to get something so I can make money,” and I started to go out at night time to different spots where I can earn like 15
shillings, 10 shillings or 20 shillings and two or three days in the week I probably might earn about 30 shillings, go to a different spot until we make up, well we finish up making up the fare for my mother and two brothers to come out.
and so my father started, you know to tighten up a bit and work a bit harder so we worked it out till we like made the fare up but it didn’t, you know didn’t, that age was a very hard situation to make up your mind and know exactly what to do but then when my mother come out and we opened up that shop, well actually my mother was dead
even before I opened the shop up because she, in those days there I used to make in that shop, we used to make around the best part of about a hundred to 200, 150, 200 pounds of profit a week and because I was upset and losing my mother and, you know I was up the air a bit, didn’t matter if I made 200 pounds of profit a week. I’d go out and spend them.
I brought a car, brought, you know things that you should never do, when you’re young but you do silly things until you start to realise it. Then when I stopped and started realising I was wasting all this money and getting nowhere. That’s when the young brother and I, we started to, we brought this shop in Parramatta Road, where we were there all these years, and we started building it up. We had up
to about seven, eight people working in the shop all the time and then we used to make, we started to produce little children’s shoes, the Italian style children’s shoes. When the first, after the war finished, because you couldn’t buy little Italian, mostly Italians come out here then and they wanted these little pointed shoes made up and so we started to make them here and we made them for a long time.
and having her coming out, I was just jumping out of my skin. Just think yourself, you know that after so many years, after 10 years that my father never seen my mother and me for two years and having her to come out with the two brothers. It was a shock to the system and, you know when she arrived
the poor thing, she would never let, she just hugged me and that went on for half an hour, until she, you know got herself together. It was really a shock for her and after that
she come on, you know pretty good and then she got pregnant and poor thing, she lost her life and there’s not much, what can you do? I’d done my best. Then the brothers were young, then they come on and the two things in a different world than what I did because
you know, when you’re young you don’t think much about what happen to the past, like I did, since I was four years older than the first one and six years older than my second one and they were pretty good, like we grew up together the whole three of us. With the young one we had the shop together for many
years but the second one, he didn’t want to be in the shoe trade. He worked more or less in a different type of business, like fruit, having grocery shops, mixed business shops. He done all that type of things but with the young one, we stuck more together because he liked the shoes, and we had the shoes. Then when I had the shop at Randwick I had the two of them with me there. We sort of got into sort of a group.
With what we’d done, we’d done it together and we knew what we wanted to do see.
thing that happened. There was a lot of possums in some of the trees there and some of the old Italians had never seen a possum before because, they used to say, “That makes a good feed.” I said, “No don’t kill that because they stink, they smell,” so we more or less go for birds. A lot of birds there, a lot of quails, cockatoos and all these things and kill the birds. We used to trap them
and this Tom had a shot, a pea, like a shotgun and I used to get on pretty well with him so I said to Tom, “Can I have your shotgun, kill a couple of birds?” He give it to me because he used to trust me so go out and shoot a few of the birds up and funny, I’ve got to tell you this. We had this young, he would have been round about 25, 30, this Peter. I shot one of these big
cockatoos in the wing and it fell so I said, “Pete,” I said, “Go behind these pine trees and get it,” and the thing was still alive so he put his hand and the cockatoo grabbed his finger and he used to call me ‘Scutpardel’. Scutpardel in English it means ‘shoemaker’, and he used to say to me “Scutpardel, quick,” he said, “the bird has got my finger and won’t let go.” He had grabbed hold of his finger so I had to grab him by
the wings to open his mouth up and take the bird out of his finger but we done that, used to do that pretty often and sometime we’d go out a long way like, as I said to you, walking about a couple of hours before we got to the job, the place where we had to work and it started raining and we had nowhere we can shelter or do anything and we get under these pine trees
and we couldn’t eat or even drink because the waterhole, we used to have waterbags, when you finish your waterbags, we had two chaps going with the waterbags and they’d fill them up in the waterholes and sometimes he used to get lost because water was only in special parts where we were and that was a bit of fun and we done that all the time we were there.
had to have boots. If you complained about it, they used to get all the army second hand boots. You know old type of boots they had lying for years God knows where and even old army uniforms and they used to bring that junk up so when we went to Goulburn Gaol they had all these old army uniforms that we had to wear in gaol.
There was no clothes, only this army uniforms those days there and this little poor, little Peter was only not even five foot tall there and the feller, when we got in Goulburn, he said, “You get in charge of the store room to dress them up,” and this Peter here was only, I couldn’t find anything small enough for him so I had to roll his sleeves up and all his pants up and pair of boots.
He took a size four or five and the smallest boots I could find was only about eight or nine, something like that and there’s about five steps going into the street and then we got to the yard where the wire, and the other guys are all waiting up the other side of the wire and when this poor Peter come out, the way I had him dressed up with the rolled sleeves there, rolled pants and this bloody hat. He couldn’t see anything of him. They all started giggling and laughing and the guard came
out and said, “What’s going on here?” you know. They said, “We’re just watching one of mates coming out dressed up with a gaol uniform, all army stuff, you know and he turned around and had a look and he started laughing and he said, “What’s going on?” I said, “I can’t find anything small enough. I said, “If you get something smaller,” I said, “I’ll put them on him. But,” I said, “That’s the stuff they’ve got, you know the smallest stuff they could get,” so he said, “Mate,” he said, “I don’t know what’s in
there but he said, “I’ll find out tomorrow. See if we’ve got anything smaller there.” Tomorrow never come. He wore those clothes there all the time he was there.
telling them. It’s best for me if I can explain to them what you want to tell them,” and the judge turned around and said, “How do I know if you are telling the truth what you, you know what I’m telling you to tell them?” “Well,” I said, “If you think that I’m not telling the truth,” I said, “It’s no use me interpreting to them what you are telling me.” I said, “You try and explain to them,” and then this Pryor came up. “Oh,” he said, “I think he’s
going to tell them whatever you tell them,” you know so he went along and turned around so this Peter, this young Peter feller there, he never understood nothing at all cause he was only here for a few months before the war started and he called him by the name to appear. “Tell the truth, nothing but the truth.” “No leave, no work.” That’s what he said to the judge. I said, “see, he did know exactly what you told him and
they never understood anything that you told him.” I said, “I’ll tell him in Italian and then he’ll give you an answer,” so when I spoke to him like that he said, “right, the ones that do not understand,” he said, “You put them on the side and we’ll ask them the question, you can interpret to them,” and that’s how we finished up like with the court case. There was about five of them that didn’t understand much, didn’t know what
the judge was saying so I told them exactly what went on and three of them, they went back and the other five stayed with us.
this young chap, he used to be in the shoe trade. His father was in the shoe trade. As a matter of fact, together with my Dad and Bep Calabro, don’t know if you ever seen those Calabro tourist busses? They were there for a long time. They just got rid of them. Anyhow one of these, the older brother this Bep Calabro, he was probably lightweight. He used to,
he was New South Wales flyweight champion in boxing and we’re in Mullumbimby there and after we’d finished we come into Mullumbimby. We called the pub and the pub was very helpful. We had a couple of beers and this half caste Aboriginal fellow come over and starting arguing the toss and he picked the wrong feller. He picked this Bap up and he was a really hot temper this feller here and he said, “Listen mate, I’ll shout you a drink,
whatever you want, but get away because if you get me upset I’m going to flatten you.” Anyhow this feller said, “Don’t do that.” Anyhow this Bap started and he flattened him on the ground so the chap that owned the pub, we knew him and he said, “you’d better get upstairs because in about half an hour there’ll be about 400 Aborigines here,” so he called the police and there was only one policeman in the town. He called the police and
we got upstairs and he had to close the doors up and I thought that was the best bit of fun we ever had because I would never dreamed or imagined, there would have been that many Aboriginals there and they were there alright so we had to wait till the next morning to get out of the joint so that was an episode that we didn’t realise would happen but it did and after that we used to be very careful
with the Aboriginal boys because, well they used to look after them in Murwillumbah, you know buy them a drink so they think you’re helping them, he just got a bit hot under the collar this fellow here and he thought that we were doing our work and we were taking their money and he started, you know, then I said, “You started with this wrong feller here,” going crook on Bap and he told him a few times. He said, “Listen mate, I’ll shout you a drink but just go,” and he started to shape up. When things started to shape up he just, he let him have it see.
We had this Bap, me and another chap, Mick there. I reckon we had a few girls there between the three of us. We stayed there eight months,
eight months yeah. We had a few girls from different families. We used to go up to the houses with the family cause once I got to know them, I used to get a lot of fruit and I used to get a lot of vegetables and stuff that was around the plantations. I used to take them over to them over the weekend when we used to come home. I used to help most of those people there because unless, in those days there, people in Murwillumbah, if you never had a job, you just live on the dole or government money, whatever you get and when
the Yanks come out, when they started to bring these Yanks out, this place, this boarding house, this Mrs Ford there. She used to run the boarding house. I said to her, “Do you want me to bring a few Yank officers down because they’re looking for a place to stay over the weekend?” They used to come down there and leave everything they had there, every weekend. Extra clothes, shoes, Scotch. They used to buy, because hard drink was hard to get and they used to pay anything to get it so then they get themselves
half shot and then on the Monday morning when they had to go back, they leave everything in the house and they go and the ones who finish the leave, they didn’t want to take anything back with them, so they’d be leaving more stuff with them. A lot of those people up there, they made money with the Yanks there, then when this found out, a lot of people from Kings Cross here, they used to come up through Murwillumbah, catch the bus and
go up to Coolangatta cause then the Yanks started to come there for a holiday and they were there for the best part of a couple of years and as I said, they used to come on leave there. That was the first leave that they had ever since they got flown there and they had a lot of money on them, yeah and they didn’t watch how to spend it and in Murwillumbah, then they started to find out where Murwillumbah was, then they come down to Murwillumbah cause they had trucks and those
four wheel drives like a Jeep and all that and they started to drive down there so we had them in Murwillumbah.
in the little town there that they all had these banana plantations there and no-one ever used to go to this place here because they didn’t want anyone from the outside world knowing what they were doing. They were five families, so the Bananas Growers’ Federation mob, they said, “That we had to go and check the plantations on account of all this disease,” and anyhow they forced them that much that we finished up going.
When we got there there’s a Maltese man that he owned two of the plantations and I had his name there so I’ve got to see him on account of plantation and I said, “I’ve got to check it all out,” and he said to me, he said, “If you check it all out and I’ve got disease on or something wrong, what happens?” I said, “We’ve got to destroy them, not the plantations. Destroy the
banana stools,” they used to call them. It’s like a, have you seen a banana stool? So chop them down, chop them up, put the poison on, burn them or whatever the case got to be done. Anyhow he said, “No other damages?” I said, “I’ll promise you that,” so we started to go round, check them up. It got pretty dark at night and he had a packing shed there. I said, “We’re going to stay here until we’re finished. Might be two or three nights we’ll
be staying here,” and he had five daughters so the first night we stayed there, kept in the shed. Well we had those kerosene what’s a name lamps, where you put a grate over the top and you put a pan and you’ve got a pot to cook on, you know so we lit this up, so soon as we lit this up he come flying over. He said, “Don’t do
that in the shed, everything catch on fire.” “No,” I said, “We done this every day of the week.” I said, “We’re aware of that. Don’t worry about the fire.” We had those rubber mats on the bottom so the following day, morning when we got up, he called me over. He said, “Tonight,” he said, “You can come home and we have dinner at our place.” I thought, “That’s a bit strange,” you know, a little bit. “Alright,” I said, “You sure?” I said, “Yep,” so when we come back,
he called in and he said, “Come in I’ll introduce you to my family,” so this five daughters, they’d never, ever been out of that place ever since they were born. 22, 20, 18 so
I was, that Mick, we were all round about 20 so they had the piano in the, the girls used to play the piano so after we stayed there for a little while, this Mick, the one who used to sing, he said, “Who plays the piano?” He said, “Play the piano and we’ll sing a couple of songs,” so then they go and start and we stayed there till about midnight that night.
The next night we kept going there and we done the same thing so I said, “What religion are you?” She said, “We’re Catholics.” I said, “Have you been going to church anywhere?” “No.” I said, “On the Friday night,” I said, “They’re having a big turnout at the church.” I said, “Why don’t you come over and I’ll introduce you to the priest and the brothers because they had the schools there,” and
the mother looked at me and she smiled. Her father said, “No they can’t go to.” I said, “Have they been to the church?” He said, “No.” I said, “Why don’t you come over and,” I said, “I’ll make the arrangements so you can stop in one of the Greek restaurants place upstairs with the whole family and then,” I said, “They can come over to the dance like at night plus the church service,” and the wife agreed and he was stubborn. I said
“Nothing’s going to happen to your girls. Don’t worry about that.” I said, “I’ll promise you that I’ll look after them if they come to the dance or the church, wherever they want to go,” and he said, “You sure?” I said, “Yeah, I’ll shake your hands,” and he said, “I don’t know,” he said, “I’m still not quite sure if I’m going to do it or not.” “Well,” I said, “You talk to your wife,” so this wife, I could see she wanted to come out. She wanted to go and
she said, “Yes they can go and we go too,” so these girls, they’re jumping up and down so we took them down on the Friday night. The mother and father, they’re sitting on the side. I had them amongst all the church crowd and the young fellers there. They had the time of their life, so I said to the oldest one, I said, “How many times you been?” She said, “We
never been out of the house ever since we been there,” and he was too frightened like to get them out of the house because he thought something was going to happen to them so I got the priest inside, in charge of the church, to go and talk to the mother and father so they finished up going every Sunday to the church so I finish up, talking about girls,
that with this oldest girl there, I said, “When you come in on Sunday,” I said, “You come down to Mrs Ford’s place, teach you how to take there and,” I said, “You can come and have dinner with me there, you and the whole family. I’ll get Mrs Ford to cook up.” She was too frightened to tell her father see. I said, “You going to?” “No,” she said, “You’d better tell him,” so I said to her, “You stop here and I’ll go see your father.” I said, “listen, on Sunday when you come down to church,
come over to Mrs Ford’s place at the corner near the park and,” I said, “You can have dinner there with us.” “Oh,” he said, “We’ve never done this before.” I said, “I know.” I said, “You’ve got those girls like prisoners.” I said, “They’ve never been out of the house ever since you’ve been there,” and he said, “Who told you that?” I said, “Your daughters.” He felt, you know that he strike himself down to nothing. He said, “I’ve got to ask the wife and the daughters.” I knew as soon as he asked the wife and the daughters, they’ll want to come down.
Anyhow I finished up going with this girl here most of the time that I stayed there in Murwillumbah. I’d forgotten about this to tell you about this and when we finished up coming home in Murwillumbah, she wanted to come down to Sydney and the father said, “No I won’t let you go there,” and she rang me up and she wrote me letters. Then I said, “I’d better let them go because if I don’t, something happen to them,”
and he was sort of a wild type of man. You know does his lolly [becomes angry], and he used to call those girls whatever name under the sun and even goes mad on his wife. Then I wrote a nice letter and explained to, I said, “With your father,” I said, “You can’t do much cause you can’t reason with him, nothing,” so she said, she write me back and she said, “I think we better leave it like that,” and then I finished with it but for nearly, what was it, nearly four or five
months that I met up with this family, they used to come down every Sunday.
he happened to come out here the same year as my father did and like Nicolina’s father could not speak English. When Nicolina’s father come out here, my father had a place up at Merriwa working for that Barrington feller and he got him to go to the Barrington and working on this sheep farm cleaning up the lantana bush and all that and he stayed there for about
two years while my father stayed there and they made a bit of money there with my father working there all the time and when they come back to Sydney, they brought, he brought a little farm up on North Ryde. He used to like to grow flowers and like bit of vegetables, mostly flowers. He used to like poppies. He used to grow the best poppies in Sydney and then my father got the shoe shop here
and then all of a sudden after the war finished, he brought his family out, Nicolina and another sister which she lives down the road, not far from here and another sister was married there so she stayed there and come out here afterwards and then I met, they come on a boat, come out this Italian boat, can’t think of the name now.
They had a wharf strike in Sydney, all of Australia and the boat got as far as Melbourne and they had to stay another week in Melbourne before they come to Sydney so Nicolina’s father never been to Melbourne before so he said, “Can you come to Melbourne with me because the family got stuck there and I don’t want them to stay on that silly boat,” because it was the first boat had come out from Italy and it was one of these merchant boats and they made it to a passenger boat.
So he said to me, “Can you come down to Melbourne so we can pick the family up?” I said, “Alright,” so I went down to Melbourne with him and look around, we did both wharf things so we got on the boat. When we got onto the boat, I used to go through all these boats when they used to come here. This merchant boat, you ought to seen it. You go up the front entrance when you go in. They were right down the bottom of the boat
cause it was, and they put all these beds on the side of the boat and women and men, they used to sleep one opposite the other. They had no privacy and they had, do their washing, they had a big trough where they washed their feet and all that and the only thing they had separate was toilets. They brought them here like animals and when I seen that bloody boat, I tell you what, I was upset to see that they paid,
the poor old feller paid two hundred and seventy odd pounds each for them to come out on that boat there. It was the first boat that left Italy after the war. Anyhow we picked them up and we brought them to Sydney and that’s the first time I seen Nicolina, all those years after the war and after school and all that, must have been the best part of about 20 years.
I met up, the woman used to live next door to us here and she said to me, “Why don’t you try and settle down?” You know, that’s a good question so I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “You had all those shops, you making a lot of money. You doing this and you doing that, you got nothing,” and I said
“And you think if I get married, I’ll be any better off?” She said, “You got to try.” Anyhow this Nicolina’s father come down one day and said to Pop, “Come up home.” They used to live at North Ryde. “Come up home, we have a dinner at home,” so I drove my father up there and Nicolina’s father said, she said, “Why don’t you stop and have dinner with us?” I said, “No, got an appointment in Sydney.” “No,” he said, “Stay here with us
and you can go afterwards.” Anyhow I finished up staying there. We had few drinks, started to muck around, blah, blah, blah and I finished up staying there during the night. You know stayed there because they had a big house. Pop and I stayed there. The next day we got up and Pop said, “Look,” he said, “You’ve got a good opportunity there. She’s a nice girl,” blah, blah and I said to Pop “I don’t know, Pop.” I said, “Got to think about it,”
so I used to go with a little girl up in Dowling Street. She used to be a hairdresser and she was a fully champion girl. She won a hairdressing prize about three years in a row so her mother used to come down to the shop and see me all the time and she turned around, she said, “It’s about time you’re getting married.” I said, “Don’t tell me what to do, cause I’ve got no intention of getting married.” “Oh,” she said, “If you’re not going
to get married to my daughter, don’t come up to my place anymore.” I said, “You’re right,” I said, “I won’t.” I rang her daughter up. I said, “That’s the finish of it,” so that break everything up and then I went up to Nicolina’s place with Pop again the following Sunday. I stayed there for dinner and then gradually we started, you know I took her out a few times, then I said, “Righto.” In about six months I got married.
that they want to be or have war, they got no feelings for anyone else. You can see what happens now. They put a bomb in themselves and they go where the crowd is and blow everything up so those ideas there, it’s not human and once you haven’t got the humanity and you ceased them in the body, you might as well be dead, don’t have nothing to do with nobody cause the feelings, you got no feelings for nobody or nothing goes on onto the world
and it’s very hard today, very hard. I hate to see those type of things there because during the wartime I seen many people getting killed, for nothing, just through silly arguments about, “You arguing a toss about I’m doing this better, they come to do that better,” and no people. Arguing the toss about things they don’t know much about but they believe in them. They believe
“Italy’s going to win the war, Germany’s going to win the war, England’s going to win the war, America’s going to win the war.” It’s only what they get set in their mind but if they had to go there and really fight it, then it’d be a different story altogether and that’s the belief that a lot of people get in and believe in it and if you get around and find out, you know you got to get around and find out how this country lives and how the other country
lives and then when they find out because on TV’s and newspapers, they never show you the poorest part of the countries. They always show you the best part of it. As my father used to say years ago, “In New York,” he said, “You only see the best part of it.” He said, “If you go down to the slums,” he said, “People are lying, dying in the streets. No clothes, no food nothing but America’s the best country
in the world,” they say. That’s all you ever hear and this thing’s going on all over the parts of the world, not only there, but they never show them to you or they never talk about it and it’s pretty hard for the average person who’s never been around, to be able to sort of settle down and believe in this stuff here so you might be able to talk to me about it. I say, “Yeah, yeah,” you know, “You know everything,” because
they never, even been or seen anything. Once they see it with their own eyes, it’s a different story.
I had Lebanese people working for me in the shoe trade and religious, didn’t matter what religion he had but he happened to be Catholic and his family and he said, “All these guerrillas for years and years his father, his grandfather, they sit on the top of the mountains. In summer time they come down and they take what they want. If you don’t give them what they want, they kill everybody.” That was years and years ago and today, they’re still going and doing
exactly the same thing so who’s going to stop those people? Very hard and if you got a family that these things happen to them, you’ve got your family today, these people come down, they get rid of it and you haven’t got it tomorrow and Sid was saying to me, “Some of his relations exactly what happened to them. They were big
family.” He said, “All of a sudden you lose my father, like his father said, he lost a sister with all the family and his sister, like married this feller here and her husband lost a brother with all his family in the two days period cause when these people come down because they had a bit of a property and they had a bit of animals and stuff and they want to take everything
away from them.” I said, “Try and stop them?” Once you try and stop them, they clean you out and these things go on all the time so who you going to believe, who you going to trust? And another thing I think there’s too much greediness in the world today. We’re not happy what we have. We always want to get more and the more you get, then the more you want to get and those things there
they never come to an end.