My unforgettable school years – Part 1

In this blog, and the next one, Irene Zampin writes about her memories of school years in Adelaide and in Italy after her parents returned to live in Riese Pio X in 1967. Irene’s parents had a market garden on Valetta Road. Today Irene lives in Caselle di Altivole with her husband, Giuliano Berdusco. Their children and families live close to them.

Even if sixty years have quickly passed by, I still remember some events that occurred at St. Joseph’s Primary, Captain Cook Avenue, Flinders Park where most of the Italian market gardeners’ children attended school.

I often used to get up early in the morning so I could participate at Mass celebrated in Flinders Park parish church. My intention was to save African babies. This meant that our teacher would put a small black coloured baby doll on a board where my name was aligned with the names of other students. The more baby dolls we could put on the board the better we would be. Unfortunately, I often used to faint during Mass since I never had breakfast before attending Mass which was either at 7:00 or 7:30 am.

I remember walking to school, and on the way, I used to pass by Tony Mercurio’s home where his mother would sometimes call me in and invite me to have breakfast with her children. What a nice fragrance of heaps of toasted bread. Delicious with butter and then dipped in a cup of milk with coffee. On our way to school, besides Tony and his sister Grace, the Girolamo kids joined us.

Irene Zampin, Year 7 student, 1964.

I still haven’t forgotten that disgusting milk that we had to drink during recess time. It was in a triangular cardboard container that certainly had gone bad since it was in the sun all morning. I still don’t drink milk (if not in a cup of cappuccino) since that time in my childhood.

Certainly, lunch time for the Italian children was either salami, tuna, egg or fritz sandwiches. Rarely did we buy those delicious vegetable pasties or meat pies from the tuck shop.  During recess I remember playing Pigeon Toe, All Over, Red Rover, Telephone, Blind Man’s Bluff etc.

Beside our school lessons we also had to clean our classrooms and rather well or else, Sister Perpetua (who doesn’t remember her?) would test her bamboo duster on our knuckles.

I think that my school mates also remember sweet Sister Luke, ready to encourage us. Our Saturday basketball games were also most enjoyable especially when we used to win against the other teams that came from the other part of the town and that we considered “snobs”.

On our way back home from school, it was a pleasure to pick up some of those huge carrots from the heaps that Mr. Zerrella would line up near the road ready for the market. Certainly, he wasn’t that happy. A stop at Adami’s delicatessen was usual. Those delicious kitchen buns and cream buns are still in my mind. (Unfortunately, they were hard to find on my trip back to Australia in 1999/2000).

Irene Zampin, secondary school student, 1965.

The trip by bus to St. Joseph’s High School at Hindmarsh sometimes wasn’t so pleasant for some of us Italians since other Australian students used to make fun of us. Besides this, we all had to be on alert if we saw a prefect nearby whose task was to supervise the student’s behavior and if their uniform was not complete with hat/beret and gloves, she would refer them to the school principal. Our school principal was Sister Anne, most severe. I still remember the music she used to put on the disc player when we had to march into the classrooms. First whistle: get ready, second whistle: in line, third whistle: march in.

What I enjoyed at High School was Sports Day under Mrs. Walker’s leadership, which wasn’t that easy. At those events our mothers used to sell bright red toffee apples, slices of marshmallow and chocolate crackles. What surprises we would find in those small packages during the raffle!

Unforgettable were the concerts. Days and days of singing rehearsals and finally the concert where we were all dressed up like princesses with white gowns and glittery crowns on our heads. Unforgettable and wonderful years.

Third year students at St Joseph’s Hindmarsh, 1967. Irene, second row, first on the right. Diana Santin, front row, first on right.

1967 was my last year of school and I was rather melancholic since I knew that I had to leave for Italy. It would have been hard for me to forget the girls with whom I had laughed and enjoyed my school days.  I would certainly have missed them all.

My father had taken the decision to return to Italy in 1966, after he was hospitalized and realized then that he couldn’t get along with his English.  Even if his heart was always tied to Italy, it was tough for both my parents since my sister Teresa had in the meantime got married to Louie Mazzarolo.

In May 1967, my parents, Nico and Delia Zampin, my brother Dennis and I left for Italy leaving my sister Teresa in Australia.  During my trip I had a good time on the “Achille Lauro” and didn’t have the time to think of what I was going forward to.

Friends’ farewell party for Irene, 1967. Irene is in the middle of second row.

It didn’t take me long to understand how much I missed my sister and my friends and what a hard time I was going forward to in Italy. At that stage I felt very unhappy and lonely and realized that my school years were not yet over due to the difficulties I met with the language and with the new environment. Therefore, I had to deal with more years of school studies in Italy and I longed for the years I passed in Australia.


All photos provided by Irene.

Irene Zampin
3 April 2022


2 thoughts on “My unforgettable school years – Part 1”

  1. I’ve just read Irene Zampin’s blog.
    OMG. What wonderful memories those photos brought back. I’m sure everyone who attended St Joseph’s Flinders park has a photo like that of Irene in front of the school security gate Thank you Irene. Thank you Madeleine

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