Celebrating 10 years of the website

Later this month, the Veneto market gardeners’ website will be 10 years old. The website was an opportunity to create an archive for the Veneto market gardeners’ oral history project which had begun in 2007.  I was fortunate that the City of Charles Sturt gave me a small grant for the design which was created by Dave Smids.

The image above shows a section of the participants who were present for the launch.
Pam and Guido Rebuli in the foreground.

Launch – 24 May 2014
The launch of the website was held in the City of Charles Sturt library at Woodville and was a memorable occasion. Nearly all the 30 people who had been interviewed up to that date were present and many other guests who celebrated the achievement of the website.

Terry Judd nee Tonellato, Dino Piovesan and Armida Mattiazzo nee Biasetto.

Aida Innocente gave a speech and she spoke in Veneto for the first part. You’ll see parts of her speech are included in this blog. Aida had introduced me to Johnny and Eleonora Marchioro – the first people interviewed for the project in 2007 – and who generously helped to guide the project from then.

 

Aida reads her speech at the launch.

Aida’s speeches
In her speech in Veneto, Aida speaks about the benefits of the website to hear the family histories, read the transcripts and view the photos. She remembers her father, Angelo who used to speak about the older generations in Italy and she pointed out that the website contains the stories of the Veneto families who migrated and made their lives as market gardeners. The oral histories are a way of honouring the first generation who arrived in the 1920s. Aida suggested that these people are now in a museum, present in our hearts and in technology on the Internet that keeps them close to us.

Bon di.

Son qua tuti quanti oncò perchè Madaena Regan a me ga invidà. A vol mostrar el frutto del lavoro che la ga impegnada per ‘sti ultimi dodese mesi. Le storie che ghe gavemo contà, e fotografie che ghe gavemo da adesso podemo vedarle, scoltarle, ledarle su internet. E podemo dar l’indirisso del sito che Madaena la ga fato ai nostri familiari e amighi in tutto el mondo. Che bel no ve par?

Angelo, nonna Teresa and Aida Innocente, Caselle di Altivole, 1964. Photo courtesy, Adelaide Valentini.

Me ricordo che me popà parlava sempre dee storie dei nostri veci. Adesso, podemo dir che tutte e storie che Madaena a ga ciapà, e xè storie dei nostri veci. Me popà el xè deventà anca lu adess un nostro vecio.

Son tuti fortunai che a storia dei nostri veci – i veci australiani e i novi australiani – a nostra storia de Veneti di Lockleys, no a sarà mai persa.  Non a xè sol che a storia che tegnemo a ment dea nostra fameja, ma stà storia a sarà là par tanti altri su internet. A nostra storia de migranti, a storia dei fioi e dei nevodi de questi migranti veneti a sarà recordada e onorada. Ancò son qua par farghe festa!

Adess, son anca noantri in un museo. Ma sto museo el xè pien de vita, pien dee vose nostre, de nostre fotografie, piene dei nostri veci – quei che i xè qua oncò co noantri e i nostri veci che i no ghe xè pì.  Con sto progeto dei market gardeners del Frogmore Road i nostri veci non i sarà sol che nel nostro cor, ma i sarà visti e conosui da tanti, par medo de sta nova tecnologia, l’internet.

Mary Tonellato nee Zoanetti, Alex Bennett, Madeleine Regan.

Aida’s speech in English
I remember the people who lived on the parcel of land at the centre of these oral histories, with a lot of joy and sadness and nostalgia as these market gardeners were closely connected to my parents, Angelo and Elsa Innocente. Not just because Mum and Dad were half-case manufacturers – Dad would have called himself simply a box-maker, I’d say – but because several of the families – the Santins, the Tonellatos – came from our hometown, Caselle di Altivole. One of the families, Vittorio and Angelina Marchioro lived in our street White Avenue and were my godparents, my santoli and my parents’ compari.

Mirella, Elsa, Aida Innocente, Lockleys, c 1959. Photo supplied by the family.

These oral interviews recorded and collected with such constancy, diligence and love by Madeleine Regan – working from time to time with others like Eleonora Marchioro and Anna Mechis – tell in microcosm the history of migration of people mainly from the Veneto region in Italy. These stories begin with the migration in 1927 of many of the patriarchs of the families featured and continue with the post-war migration of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Members of the Zampin, Marchioro, Ballestrin, Innocente families, Morialta, mid 1950s. Photo supplied by Johnny Marchioro.

Now because of this work, all of us gathered here today – first, second, third, maybe fourth generation descendants of these migrants – have the privilege of knowing that over 64 hours of these oral histories – our history – are safely deposited at the State Library of South Australia. And now with this website we are able to share freely and easily much of our history with family and friends far and wide and with the world!

Why is this so valuable?

Because these stories tell our story; they offer first-hand knowledge and insight into the migrant journey; they ensure that these particular experiences are preserved and shared; they formalise this history and they ensure that the contribution of this particular migrant community to their local area and to the building of this state, is recognised. The story of migration is a big part of the story of nation-building.

These local oral histories affirm the lives and identity of all those who so generously contributed their stories and in so doing affirm the lives everyone connected to them.

Anna Santin nee Mattiazzo, Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo, Lino and Rosanna Tonellato.

There are so many stories and memories recorded in the 64 hours, many of which you can now access through the website. I hope you will all visit the website – log on, explore it, play with it, share it with your family and friends, engage with it. It promises to be a rich and revealing journey!

Aida Innocente
Giuliano Berdusco – edited the Veneto speech


Other speakers at the launch

Johnny Marchioro at the microphone.
Lina Campagnaro nee Ballestrin at the microphone.
  • Johnny Marchioro, son of Angelina and Vittorio Marchioro
  • Lina Campagnaro, daughter of Maria and Narciso Ballestrin and niece of Isidoro Ballestrin.
  • Ray Tonellato, son of Mary and Albert, launched the website.

    Ray Tonellato at the microphone.
  • Linda Lacey, Cultural Heritage Officer at the City of Charles Sturt, who had supported the project for several years spoke about the local history featured in the stories of the families on the website.
  • The Mayor of the City of Charles Sturt, Kirsten Alexander, also acknowledged the importance of the website.

 

A decade of the website
The website continues to attract new readers and subscribers who are interested in the history of the Veneto market gardener community in the western suburbs of Adelaide in the area the families called ‘Lockleys.’  The blogs generate the memories of second and third generations  – and others in Adelaide and in Italy and Canada – who share the family experience of migration and settlement that is usually not recorded in history books. The website is a living archive of the lives of the Veneto market gardeners who settled with their families at Lockleys between the wars. It shares their legacy.

Connie Legovich nee Marchioro, Angelo Giovaninni, Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato.

Thank you to Michael Campbell for his generous ongoing commitment to managing the website. I was grateful to Linda De Marchi nee Cescato and Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo who edited the family biographies on the website in time for the launch. Thank you to the Veneto Club for supporting the website in the past few years and covering some of the annual costs.

Denise Doyban nee Santin, Sarah, granddaughter of Anna Santin nee Mattiazzo.
Guests at the launch testing out the website.

Thank you to those people who have written blogs and shared their family stories in the last 10 years. Finally, thanks to all the readers for your interest and support.

All photos of the launch taken by Michael Campbell.


Madeleine Regan
19 May 2024

The Veneto Club – 50 years

In the photo above, volunteers are shown working on the construction site of the Veneto Club at Beverley c 1972.  L-R: Bepi Oberti, Silvano Girardi, Gino Torresan, Arturo Pagliaro, Aldo Snidero, Ferruccio Brazzaolotto, giovanni Bille,
Luigi Soldan, Romano Dametto.
Photo, courtesy Veneto Club.

Social life before the Veneto Club
After years of informal gatherings, plans were made to establish a Club so that members of the Veneto community in Adelaide could maintain customs, language, identity and relationships. From the early days of Veneto migration to Adelaide, Veneto men and women had socialised through attending weddings and other social events and gathering in each other’s homes. In the case of the Veneto market gardeners, they often gathered in packing sheds.

Party to celebrate the confirmation of Robert Berno and John Torresan, Berno packing shed, Kidman Park, 1959. Photo, courtesy the Berno family.

These occasions provided the Veneto migrants with opportunities to speak Veneto language and develop strong relationships that in many cases, replaced the extended family events they had left behind in Italy.

After the Second World War, the Australian Government migration policy increased the intake of southern European migrants.  Large numbers of veneti arrived in South Australia, many of whom were single men.

Young men worked hard to make a living and settle in Adelaide. At first, social life was limited because the men often worked six or seven days a week and there were not many opportunities for large groups to gather for social events. As time went on and families were growing up, social activities broadened and included women and children but were limited to a few public venues in Adelaide.

The vision of a Club for the Veneto community
Over the years, groups of Veneto men had met at the Fogolar Furlan Club at Felixstowe which had been established in 1958. Others met at the Shandon hotel on Tapleys Hill Road. In June 1971, a group of Veneto men expressed the strong desire to build a meeting place that could be a venue to host social occasions for Veneto people in Adelaide. The group developed a strategy to gather support for building a venue that would bring the Veneto community together in its own facilities that could incorporate social, cultural, sporting and educational activities.

Membership and acquiring land
The community demonstrated its support for forming a Club and building a venue and 178 men became foundation members paying $100 each. In June 1972 when the average male weekly income was $90.00, the membership fee was a significant contribution for working families.[1]

A site for the Veneto Club was finally found at Beverley after extensive searching. It was a five-acre piece of land which had been a clay pit for a local brickworks and had also become a dump. Within a year, guarantors, Franco Battistello, Leo Conci, Arturo Pagliaro and Gino Torresan, organised a bank loan – and the Veneto Club of South Australia became a landowner!

The lion of Veneto – a copy of the statue in St Mark’s Square, Venice. Photo by Madeleine Regan.

The first formal general meeting of members took place in October 1972 at the Oberdan Hall, Findon. Of a total membership of 300 at that time, 298 members attended and elected the first managing committee. Arturo Pagliaro was elected the President with two Vice Presidents, Franco Battistello and Gino Torresan and other officer holders were Franco Farina as Secretary and Rinaldo Stecca as Treasurer. Committee members were Ampelio Bendo, Carlo Boin, Mario Borghetto, Giorgo Busato, Leo Conci and Gino Innocente.

First Committee of the Veneto Club; Back: Leo Conci, Gino Innocente, Ampelio Bendo, Giorgio Busato, Mario Borghetto, Rinaldo Stecca, Carlo Boin. Front: Gino Torresan, Frank Farina, Arturo Pagliaro, Francesco Battistello. Photo courtesy, Veneto Club.

The hard work begins
Once the land was purchased, large numbers of volunteers levelled the land, set out footings and built a two-metre high brick fence before the foundations were laid. Volunteers  contributed their labour and equipment: operators of heavy earthmoving and compacting machinery, graders and tip trucks.

Laying of the Foundation stone
In July 1973 the foundation stone was laid by Premier Don Dunstan and it was a memorable occasion and the community could see the progress that had been made with the building.

Premier Don Dunstan makes a speech at the laying of the Foundation stone with Arturo Pagliaro, July 1973. Photo, courtesy Veneto Club.
The book describing the work of volunteers in constructing the Veneto Club over 84 weekends.

The Club is built by volunteers
During a period of 84 Sundays, hundreds of volunteers gave their labour  – they included steel fabricators, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, painters, concreters and other tradesmen. The Veneto Club published a book that described the wonderful achievement of the community in building the Club in 84 Sundays –  In 84 Domeniche Nasce il Veneto Club.

With the assistance of the many volunteers, the physical structures grew at Beverley. To support the men who were working hard on their trades, a group worked on organising meals: a butcher supplied free meat for barbeques, groups of women provided food and created a family atmosphere on weekends when so much labour was undertaken. Some social events were also planned in this period and a makeshift kitchen made it possible to cater for volunteers.  The community continued to support the initiative to build the Veneto Club by attending family fundraising events.

Bricklayers at work at the Club with a young onlooker! Photo, courtesy Veneto Club.
Enjoying a break on site – Sante Piovesan, Rinaldo Stecca, Lino Zenere, i fratelli Stocco, Silvano Girardi, Luigi Soldan. Photo, courtesy Veneto Club.

When Sandra Semola nee Zampin was interviewed for the Veneto market gardeners’ project in 2017, she remembered that her husband, Arturo, was involved preparing the land for the building and her father enjoyed watching the progress also:

Well, when they bought the land, it was a pug-hole. And you know, they needed someone there, say to “Give me the shovel.” And Dad used to give the shovel. Or, “Can you do this? And that’s what he used to do. Well, he did other things but he enjoyed going over there with the men and doing things. My husband was there – he used to dig swimming pools and the dirt used to go to the dump so instead of putting the dirt in the dump, he used to take it to the Veneto Club to fill in the pug-hole. We used to have tractors and trucks there. And Dad used to go over there and supervise. [laughter]

(Sandra Semola nee Zampin OH 872/44, 27 April 2017, p 27)

Workers take a break on site: Silvano Girardi, Emilio Doz, Edoardo Polli, unknown, Rinaldo Stecca, Sante Piovesan, Eugenio Macente, Bruno Facchin. Photo courtesy, Veneto Club.

The official opening
On 26 May 1974, the community participated in the official opening of the Veneto Club at a ball held in the Club with over 500 guests who celebrated and expressed pride in the achievement.

The Veneto region flag depicting the seven provinces. it-venb

The celebrations honoured the vision of the men who had gathered over time to plan and develop the steps towards the establishment of a community space where veneti and others were welcome. The Veneto Club housed a building of 3,500 square metres which consisted of an office, a large function hall, a bar and kitchen facilities. (Many women volunteered their time to work in the kitchen for several years.) There was parking for 350 cars, soccer grounds, netball and basketball courts, a bocce court with eight lanes and two lanes for borella games. The venue made it possible for the Club to host social, cultural and sporting activities which brought the community together and provided enjoyment for hundreds of Veneto Australians and their children. At last, there was a venue that the Veneto community could call their own!

49th Anniversary – past and present Veneto Club Committee members, June 2023. Phtoo, courtesy Veneto Club.

Anniversary Dinner
The Veneto Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary at a grand event in Adelaide on 25th May 2024. 600 guests will enjoy the opportunity to socialise and remember the establishment of the Club and the vision, hard work and achievement of the first members.


Madeleine Regan
5 May 2024

[1] Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra, Australia, Average Weekly Earnings, June Quarter, 172. https://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/free.nsf/0/1DED1C423EF40AD9CA25751600102E95/$File/63020_JUN1972.pdf

Transplanting seeds from home

Guest blogger, Alessia Basso, writes about her family’s strong connections to the Veneto Club in Adelaide from the first seeds that were planted in the early 1970s.

The image above shows Francesco and Lucia Battistello in front with their daughter, Marisa and son-in-law, Bruno Basso, Adelaide 1993.


My family’s connection to the Veneto Club in Adelaide began in 1924 when my bis-nonno (or great grandfather) Stefano Battistello arrived in Melbourne, Australia. That year, my nonno, Francesco who was the youngest of four sons, was just nine months old and his father began working in country Victoria as a stonemason.

Stefano Battistello – arrived in Australia 1924 – stayed for 10 years.

He experienced the harsh conditions of the Great Depression after his work ‘dried up’ and he walked from Melbourne to Adelaide in search of work.  Bis-nonno carried all his belongings in a cart and along the way, he worked on farms for food and lodging. Earlier, he had saved enough money for deposit on a farm but unfortunately, he couldn’t keep making the repayments. He returned to Italy when my nonno Francesco was approximately 10 years old. In those times, there were no assisted passages and the fares were very expensive.

 

 

My nonno Francesco Battistello

Battistello brothers – Umberto, Stefanino (Nino),  Virginio, Francesco, Italy, 1943.

Following WW2 and hardened by his experiences as a young soldier and later partigano, there was a lot of poverty and hardship in Italy, he needed to search for work and a better life and more opportunities for his young family. He had married my nonna Lucia Canalia in April 1948 and their daughter, Marisa, was born in October 1950. (The year before, they had lost their son Franco Pietro to meningitis.)

In June 1951, Francesco embarked on the ‘Ugolino Vivaldi’ and the journey to Australia took 3 months. He was sponsored by Pietro Franzon, a plasterer, who was married to my nonno’s cousin, Rita Nicoli.  When he first arrived, he lived in a boarding house run by Flora Maschio’s parents behind the Newmarket hotel on North Terrace in the City of Adelaide.

My nonno initially worked as a carpenter for Fricker Brothers Construction. He knew that in order to progress he needed to be able to communicate with others, so he would attend English lessons one night a week at St Mary’s Convent in Franklin Street run by the Dominican nuns. He also supplemented his day job by washing dishes at Allegro’s Restaurant on other evenings. On Sundays he did weeding in an onion block in Richmond and a friend would lend him their bicycle to get there. From 1956 he had his own construction company F. Battistello & Co Pty Ltd, until he retired in 1985.

The Battistello family in Adelaide

Lucia and Marisa Battistello, Italy,, 1951.

My nonna, aged 32, and my mother aged 22 months, arrived in 1952 with my nonno’s sister-in-law to be who was engaged to Zio Virginio Battistello, nonno’s brother. My mother, Marisa Basso (nee Battistello), lived at Woodville West and attended Our Lady Queen of Peace and Star of the Sea for Primary Schooling and continued her studies at St Aloysius College for high school.

Lucia and Marisa Battistello arrived on this boat in August 1952.

The Veneto Club Adelaide
There weren’t any clubs in the western suburbs for the young Veneto migrants to meet up and socialise together. They used to attend the Fogolar-Furlan Club in Felixstow but they wanted a local Italian club. Italians weren’t accepted/welcomed in “Australian” pubs/bars. The Veneto people in my nonno’s generation who had arrived after the war wanted a place where they could gather and connect with their fellow Veneti – they wanted a place that could be a refuge.

Event for the laying of the foundation stone, Veneto Club, July, 1973. Premier Don Dunstan in white suit.

 

My nonno, Francesco, was one of the Veneto men who began planning for the Club in the early 1970s. After considerable searches for a suitable location Club in the western suburbs an abandoned clay pit that had supplied local brick works and had also been  a dump became the site for the Veneto Club.

 

Francesco Battistello in a black suit is in the centre of the image at the laying of the Foundation Stone, July 1973.

Nonno was one of four men who were guarantors for the purchase of five acres at Beverley. The others were Leo Conci, Arturo Pagliaro and Gino Torresan who made it possible to negotiate with the bank to get a loan. Nonno became the first Vice-President of the Club.

 

Nonno participated in the Club’s activities and it quickly became a place that drew the Veneti; it was a safe and enjoyable place to spend time with paesani.

Celebration for Veneto members and their wives who were born in 1931. The event was held in c 1980s.

Before the Club was opened in 1974, my nonno played Bocce in Romano Dametto’s backyard at Seaton but later, the Bocce courts at the Club made it possible for extensive competitions. Nonno played cards or Mora Giapponese on Friday nights. On Sunday nights my nonni attended Dinner Dances and the Club became a venue for special events and functions. It was very popular and apparently up to 500 people attended New Year’s Eve dinners.

My parents, Marisa and Bruno Basso, were the first young couple to have their wedding reception at the Club in 1975. (The Club’s kitchen wasn’t operational at the time so an external caterer was organised for the event).

Francesco and Lucia Battistello with Damien, Gabriella and Alessia , 1994.

 

My nonna volunteered as a cook for about seven or eight years when she was in her 60s until the paid cook took over the kitchen. My zia Mariola Canalia (nee Gallio) later became one of the official cooks at the Veneto Club.

My nonno Francesco died in 2008 and my nonna Lucia died in 2022.

 

 

Francesco and Virginio Battistello, Bruno Basso, Four Seasons statues, Veneto Club Adelaide, 1996.

My memories of the Veneto Club at Beverley
I remember Sunday dinner dances – I used to love watching the ballroom dancers. Whenever visitors from Italy came to stay with us, we’d attend at least once to show them ‘our’ piece of Italy. Family celebrations like First Holy Communion meals were held there. Christmas was a special time for children and one year Santa arrived in a helicopter! In later years there were soccer teams and Italian language classes for children.

Father Christmas arrives at the Veneto Club Christmas picnic, early 1980s. Photo supplied by the Club.

I became a waitress one New Year Eve’s celebration and then stayed on the roster. I loved listening to the women and their lively chiaccierate [conversation]. I remember older women there like Bertina Burato, Norris Schevenin, Anna Simionato and Renata Pietrobon.

I really LOVED it – it was a weekly dose of Italian. I enjoyed interacting with the customers. They’d always ask: “Whose grand-daughter are you?” Working there reminded me of my nonni. I got to know different people and they liked sitting on certain tables. For example, Mrs Fritz and Mirella Mancini were at Table 9, Visentin/ Didone on Table 21 and Mary Dal Santo, Table 4 etc.

Function setting at the Veneto Club, no date. Photo supplied by the Club.

Joining the Next Gen Committee
In 2015 I joined the Committee of ‘younger’ people as a way of continuing the work of nonno and my Dad in building up the Veneto Club over the years. They were both acknowledged for their contribution to the development of the Club and made Life Members. I also have the opportunity to give back to the community. We organise events that are relevant and appealing to the ‘younger or third generation of Veneti’ where possible. We have pasta night and tombola, wine tasting and movie afternoons. We have also organised cooking demonstrations and workshops to pass on food traditions – gnocchi, frittole and crostoli.

Event held at the Fogolar Furlan Club – organised with the Next Gen Committee of the Veneto Club, November 2023. (Alessia is second from the right.)

In November last year we joined forces with Fogolar Furlan for Italian Week – “Italian Cuisine with Altitude,” which was very successful.

The Veneto Club today
I like to think of the Veneto Club as a kind of piazza – a meeting/gathering place for people of Veneto background – a place to remember our heritage. Unfortunately, membership numbers are declining because Italians have assimilated ‘too well’ into Australian culture. I think the provinces need to work together to support each other and we also need to collaborate with other Italian cultural clubs and support them.

The Veneto Club celebrates its 50th Anniversary in May, 2024 – a significant achievement. We hope to see the Club continue for another 50 years!

Alessia Basso
21 April 2024


Family photos supplied by the Basso family.

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