Trouble on the market gardens 1946


In the first few months of 1946, two distressing events touched the lives of the Veneto market gardeners at Kidman Park or at St James Park as it was known then. I first learned about the events in 2008 in oral history interviews with Johnny Marchioro and Bruno Piovesan.

At the time, the Veneto market gardener community was recovering from the difficulties they had experienced during the Second World War. The two shocking incidents would have had an impact on the Veneto community on Frogmore Road and River Road. The incidents were unexpected and both Johnny and Bruno had strong memories of them. After hearing about the events in the interviews, I discovered through Trove that they had been reported in the South Australian newspapers.

Trove is the research portal of the National Library of Australia that preserves newspapers and other documents for people who are investigating family or other lines of history.

A shocking incident on Frogmore Road
In February 1946 a young woman died after throwing herself into a glasshouse on the Tonellato family’s market garden. Bruno was nine years old at the time and more than 60 years later when he was interviewed, he remembered what happened on that day. He recalled that a woman dressed in white had walked onto the market gardens early one afternoon while the children were playing and their parents were having a rest after lunch. Bruno stated:

Dino Piovesan, c 1945/46. Courtesy, the Piovesan family.

She was heading east, towards the city from Frogmore Road.  And she’d jumped through one glasshouse, she went right over one glasshouse, crawled over one glasshouse, and somebody saw her and they said, ‘What are you doing?’  She just kept walking, she just kept walking, didn’t say nothing.  And then she come up to this boundary of the Tonellatos where we were staying with them, and we were kids playing outside … I remember her standing on top of [a railing] and then she just threw herself on a glasshouse.  Of course, we got scared. 

and the next thing I heard people screaming around the place, called an ambulance out, and I remember the ambulance picking her up and taking her away. 

Well, we weren’t allowed to go close, of course, because my Uncle Attilio was there at the time, and they just started ripping up sheets    to bandage her up before the ambulance come there.  But you don’t forget it.
(Bruno Piovesan, interview 4 October 2008).

The following article appeared two days after the incident on Frogmore Road:“The Advertiser” Monday 11 February, 1946.

House robbery on Frogmore Road
When Johnny Marchioro was six years old, his parents’ house on Frogmore Road was broken into and £250 in bank notes was stolen. The robbery took place in April 1946. (Checking on a calculation for 1946,the sum would have been equivalent to about $18,000 in 2020.)

Johnny and Romano Marchioro, Frogmroe Road, c 1945/46. Photo by Lina Marchioro (Rismondo)

Johnny recalls:
Dad had made enough money to buy himself a truck, but before that in 1945 he bought a second‑hand one that was breaking down all the time and he wanted a new truck, and he had three hundred pounds – don’t know where it was, under the bed somewhere – and my uncle was sick, so it was 1945, he used to go and see my auntie from Frogmore Road to Pierson Street [and he] come home and the house was all upside‑down and they said, ‘Oh, thieves, the thieves’, and being small I did not know what thieves were – [laughs] but yes, he looked for his money and it was all gone.  So that was the end, so they had to wait a bit more time to buy his new truck.  That’s why Mum didn’t like to live at Frogmore Road any more, because of that, and the first chance that Dad got to buy his own land he shifted.
(Johnny Marchioro, interview 28 July 2008).

The following article appeared on page 1 of “The News” Monday 15 April, 1946 in the week before Easter.

The two incidents are part of the history of the Veneto market gardener community and are remembered today by some who were children at the time because they  were shocking events that disrupted the daily working life and sense of security of the families on their market gardens.

Madeleine Regan
17 October 2021



Soldier settler market gardeners

In 2011 I discovered several Anglo Australian market gardeners had been allocated land near the River Torrens in the western suburbs through the Soldier Settlement Scheme after World War I. At an exhibition about the Veneto market gardeners’ community, I met two families whose fathers were market gardeners who had applied to buy land as soldier settlers after the First World War in the St James Park area which we now know as Kidman Park. From 1915 the South Australian Government had identified areas of land and provided assistance to members of the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) who had been honourably discharged from overseas service.

River Torrens in flood near Ballantyne market garden c 1930. Courtesy, Rae Ballantyne.

When I met Rae Ballantyne and his sister Barbara Haynes, and Barrie West, I learned that their respective fathers had served in World War I and had acquired their properties under the Soldier Settlement Scheme. Richard Reginald West acquired his property of 11.5 acres in 1920 and James Ballantyne took up his seven acres in 1923. I interviewed their children Barrie, Rae and Barbara in 2012 and each of them recorded memories of growing up on the market gardens.

There are similarities with the accounts given by the sons and daughters of the Veneto market gardener pioneers. For example, Barrie, Rae and Barbara recall the hard work required to cultivate vegetables for market and the long days in all kinds of weather. Like the veneti, they remembered that their mothers worked double shifts – in the gardens and managing the household. Both Barrie and Rae worked into their adult years on the family market gardens. Rae notes in his interview that:
Even the Italians, they had to work Saturday and Sundays, all their children … so that was the thing in those days.

Barrie West
Barrie was born on 22 August 1937 and grew up on the family market garden on Valetta Road, St James Park. His parents, Myrtle Helen Terrell and Richard Reginald West married in 1924 and had four children. In his interview Barrie speaks about his family, the range of vegetables his father first grew including cauliflowers and cabbages and beans and tomatoes in glasshouses.

From the 1930s the Wests grew celery because it was more lucrative than other vegetables. Barrie worked in the market garden from when he was 14 years. His older brother Reg managed the property after their father died in 1955 and Barrie worked in the market garden until about 1976 when the property was sold although Reg and his family continued to grow celery into the 1980s. Barrie’s mother lived until she was 95 years old.

West family cutting celery, Valetta Road. Berno house in the background c 1964. Courtesy, Rae Ballantyne.

Barrie recalls that the Italian and Bulgarian market gardeners in the area had come to Australia with different traditions in agriculture and they were not as interested in the association of celery growers. The West family were neighbours to the Berno families on Valetta Road and he remembers them:

Oh we had a bit to do with them, we didn’t live in one another’s pockets but we did … like as I say, I was talking about the boxthorn and bushes, they wanted to get rid of the boxthorn and bushes and we just talked, you know, about who was going to pay for what and where and we were quite happy to share the cost of the bulldozer and just pushed it all down and burnt it.

Rae Ballantyne and Barbara Haynes nee Ballantyne
Rae and Barbara’s father, James, was born in Scotland and arrived in Australia as a 19-year old in 1907. James signed up with the AIF and served in France and Egypt during World War I. He signed papers and acquired his land through the Solder Settlement Scheme in 1923 and six years later, married Muriel Langsford Brown from McLaren Vale. Rae was born in 1933 and Barbara, in 1935..

Ballantyne family, Muriel, James, Barbara, Rae, on the market garden, c 1936. Courtesy, Rae Ballantyne.

Rae and Barbara’s parents grew a range of vegetables including tomatoes; cauliflowers; cabbages, turnips; spinach; radishes and lettuces which they sold at the East End Market. They focused more on potatoes and celery from the 1940s. Rae attended Urrbrae High School for a year and worked full-time in the garden with his father for ten years until he was 25 years.

The Ballantyne siblings knew three other returned soldiers and their families in the area: George Delicate, Walter Satterley and Archie Smith. They were in the local Returned Soldiers League with their Dad and Reginald West. Although they knew of some of the Italian market gardeners along Valetta and Findon Roads, the families did not really mix.

During the War Rae remembers  that there was a fear of Italian market gardeners who lived in the area:
… those days, you knew there was Italians there but you didn’t mix with them much no we were not allowed, I don’t think because during the war years, you know I think there was a bit … I suppose … they were against us and that’s what upset things, I think.

His parents sold their land in 1958/59. They kept half an acre and grew flowers. His mother died in 1973, and his father, in 1977. Both Rae and his wife, and Barbara and her husband bought houses at Kidman Park, staying close to the area where they grew up and saw many changes in the use of land over their lifetime. The market gardens were swallowed up in urban development and the history of the area lives on in the oral history of family members.

You can listen to the interviews with Rae and Barbara and Barrie:

Rae Ballantyne, 2012.
Barbara Haynes nee Ballantyne, 2014.

Click here to go to the Ballantyne page.

Barrie West, 2012. 

Click here to read more about Barrie West

Madeleine Regan
19 September 2021



What remains of the market gardens

If you drive along Findon Road, Valetta Road, Frogmore Road or Grange Road in Flinders Park and Kidman Park today, you won’t see any market gardens. Although you will not see market gardens, I know there are plenty of vegetable gardens in backyards and even the occasional front yard. It’s difficult to believe that these two suburbs once contained great expanses of land that were intensively cultivated for market gardening. There were plentiful glasshouses, sheds and equipment which were clues to the occupation of many families as commercial market gardeners.

The River Torrens has been a source of abundance for food since the time when the Kaurna people occupied and owned the land before colonial settlement in the 1830s. It became an area well known for broad-acre farms and dairies and because the river was liable to flood, there were losses for farmers and later, the Anglo Australian market gardeners who settled along the banks.

I’ve seen records from the 1890s when owners began to subdivide their land and leased it to smaller growers including Chinese market gardeners who leased land from the late 1890s near the River Torrens.

Glasshouse, Lockleys [B 48539]. Courtesy State Library of SA.
The Veneto group who migrated between 1926 and 1928 had faced problems making a living when they first arrived and after working in labouring jobs in country areas in South Australia and Victoria and even Queensland, they discovered that it was possible to lease land north of the River Torrens. The veneti (and other market gardeners) called the area, ‘Lockleys’ even though the suburb of Lockleys was on the southern side of the River. The Veneto group leased land of different sizes – two acres to ten acres – and began growing vegetables that they had not cultivated in the provinces of Treviso and Vicenza.  They had not used glasshouses so there was much to learn as they entered the commercial market in Adelaide.

Angelina Marchioro & Margherita Marchioro picking onions, Frogmore Road, late 1940s. Photo by Lina Marchioro.

The Veneto community endured many challenges. They persevered and raised families – and men, women and children worked very hard on the land. During the Second World War they were able to tolerate racism and hostility and in the 1950s, they began to see the success of their work with the contribution of family members. At this time, they also welcomed new Veneto migrants who arrived after the war.

Today it is difficult to imagine that there was so much open land used for cultivation in the area. An aerial photo taken in January 1949 and held by the City of Charles Sturt shows the large numbers of landholdings used for growing vegetables. In fact, in the area that is now Flinders Park and Kidman Park, the small number of houses indicates that this was really a large rural area although it was only eight kilometres from the city of Adelaide.

What remains today? There are very few signs of market gardens or earlier use of the land for agriculture. The area is densely populated and these are inner suburbs of Adelaide.

However, there are street names that identify some of the families who settled in the area from the late 19th century. For example, Edward John Keele who owned the land holding of 134 acres that was subdivided from the 1890s, is recognised in the name, Keele Place.

Veneto families and street names

Several pioneer families or those who arrived between 1926 and 1928 are acknowledged by street names in the area. In Flinders Park, Ballestrin Court refers to Isidoro and Maria Gina Ballestrin and family who owned the land where the subdivision was made in the 1980s. There were several Ballestrin families who lived and worked land in the Flinders Park area.

In Kidman Park, various Veneto pioneer families are identified by street names located in the place where they owned market gardens. For example, Rosalia and Angelo Piovesan and their sons are acknowledged in Piovesan Court and Rosalia Court.

Giovanni and Costantina Santin and their sons and wives who worked land on Frogmore Road until the 1980s are identified by Santin Avenue.

Tonellato Place was named for Secondo and Elisabetta Tonellato and their family who had land off Frogmore Road.


Other Italian families and street names
Pellegrino and Concetta nee Faraonio Mercurio were from Benevento and their family members grew celery on 11 acres of land on the River Torrens and their name endures in Mercurio Drive, Flinders Park. Click on the following link for an article about Concetta written by her son, Antonio, for the ABC in 2019: Click here to read the article.

The Canino family who were originally from Calabria had extensive market gardens on Valetta Road and Canino Drive refers to their ownership of land there.

Carlo Avenue represents Carlo Zoanetti who bought land on Frogmore Road in 1951 for market gardens. Carlo was the uncle of Mary Tonellato who with her husband, grew vegetables on Findon Road.

The history of food growing in the Flinders Park and Kidman Park area lives on in the memories of people and in oral history interviews recorded with sons and daughters of the Veneto market gardeners. Some street names recall the families who worked the land until it was subdivided beginning in the 1960s.

Madeleine Regan
5 September 2021