Memories of school – Part 3

This is part 3 and the final blog about memories of school shared by sons and daughters of the first generation of the Veneto market gardeners at “Lockleys.”

The image above is of the Intermediate class at St Joseph’s Hindmarsh in 1967. Diana Santin is last on the right in the front row and Irene Zampin is last on the right in the second row. Photo supplied by Irene Zampin.

As a consequence of the migration program and the growing population after the Second World War, more schools were built in every state of Australia. In Adelaide, more Catholic schools were established in parishes including in the Flinders Park parish which, at the time, was nearest to the Veneto market gardener families.

Most children in those families attended St Joseph’s Primary School in Captain Cook Avenue at Flinders Park. After primary school, the girls usually went to St Joseph’s Hindmarsh. The boys attended St Michael’s College at Beverley and when the secondary school opened at Henley Beach, they went there.

In the following excerpts from oral history interviews that held in the State Library, you’ll read memories of some children who were born in the 1940s and 1950s in Adelaide and whose parents had market gardens in the Lockleys/Flinders Park area.

Lina Campagnaro nee Ballestrin OH 872/28
Lina recalls walking to school from Valetta Road to Flinders Park and also the experience of learning to knit when she was in Reception:

Lina Ballestrin, family market garden, Valetta Road, c 1950. Supplied by Lina Campagnaro nee Ballestrin.


I went to Saint Joseph’s and enjoyed it immensely but … I had this vision of having beautiful clean shoes when I got to school. Never did. Because we had to trudge through market gardens that was always being watered and so my shoes were always muddy. Whereas, my Flinders Park counterparts had beautiful clean shoes. [laughs] that was my memory of school, but I loved school.

I first learnt knitting when I was in Reception with the nuns and we had to knit a tea cosy just using garter stitch but I said to Mum: “Mum, I need some wool because I need to make this tea cosy.” So she gives me this ugly coloured brown wool, dark brown wool. Oh. And when I get to school these other girls have got these beautiful coloured wools. But do you know what? My Mum treasured [laughs] that tea cosy cover – it was beautiful.

Sandra Conci nee Santin OH 872/47
Sandra remembers the early days of St Joseph’s at Flinders Park when the classrooms were part of the church building:

Sandra Santin, First Communion, St Joseph’s Flinders Park, 1955. Courtesy, Sandra Conci nee Santin.

 Yeah, I did like school, I enjoyed school … What did I like? To me, I thought we always had sports day, it was always sports but – I enjoyed school. Teachers –  especially Sister Perpetua, a very tall nun, very nice-looking nun. In winter time there wasn’t any … heating in the classrooms, there used to be three or four classes because there used to be the church and they used to draw this big thing across the church, and we used to have the classrooms at the back end of the church and … I think there were three classrooms in the one room and we used to have little desks with the lift up tops …

The nuns were strict, you used to hear them coming down the corridor … because of the beads and things like that. But I enjoyed school, I didn’t mind going to school.

Terry Mazzarolo nee Zampin OH 872/64
Terry’s memories of school include the walk to St Joseph’s on Captain Cook Avenues and seeing the other market gardens along the way. Terry remembered also the milk that was delivered to primary schools every morning:

Terry Zampin, Valetta Road, c 1952. Photo, courtesy, Irene Zampin.

Oh, I used to walk and then I used to go to Dolfina Ballestrin’s place, pick her up, and then we used to walk … Oh, we’d know who they belong to … Zerella’s. Oh Ballestrin’s, for sure and then Zerella’s and then school … How long to get to school? It would have taken — I don’t know. Depends how fast [laughter] we walked or how many times we stopped to eat some of their carrots or something on the road. [laughs] Or their grapes.

I remember the milk, every morning we had that milk, little bottles of milk they used to deliver. And I used to love the cream on top. [laughs] I didn’t like the milk but I liked the cream. [chuckles] I remember sports days. I liked sports days.

Silvano Ballestrin OH 872/67
Silvano remembered that he was not fond of school and thought he had a good reason to stay at home to care for his sister, Norina, who was five years younger. He also recalled a teacher in secondary school, an Italian Australian man who made a positive impression on him:

Maria, Silvano and Norina Ballestrin, Valetta Road c 1955. Photo, courtesy, Silvano Ballestrin.

And Norina was a good excuse for me not to go to school because I’d say to Mum, ‘Do you want me to look after the baby?’ ‘Oh, no you’d better go to school.’ ‘I know, but the baby.’ [chuckles] I didn’t like school.

Mr de Pasquale, a completely different teacher to the brothers. He would never use the strap and he would always sit at the front. Or he’d sit on his desk, rather sit at the desk. And he’d start talking about anything, you know, it wouldn’t necessarily be English.


Remo Berno OH 872/46
Remo remembered that he and his brother, Robert, and sister, Diana, and cousins, Johnny and Marisa, went to primary school at St Joseph’s at Flinders Park and did not speak English until they started there. His cousin, Marisa, was only about three years old when she began school. Remo explained that Diana cried because she wanted to go to school just like Marisa.

Berno siblings – Diana, Remo, Roberto, Valetta Road, early 1960s.
Photo, courtesy of the Berno family.


We went to school young. I think I started when I was about four — because I turned five in December so we started early … None of us went to kinder, kindergarten and so that meant we spoke Italian till school started …


And when she [Diana]  saw Marisa getting all dressed up for school and everything, she started crying. And I can remember Sister Perpetua, she was the nun who ran the school in Flinders Park, saying “Oh, take her, buy her a dress, bring her to school, she’ll probably get bored and sleep or whatever it is. So, she’ll just do it for the novelty of the first few days.” And she kept on going to school from then. So, we started quite young, going to school.

Irene Zampin OH 872/45
Like several of the people interviewed, Irene remembered one of the nuns, Sr Perpetua, at Flinders Park. She had a strong memory of attending Mass before school as a way of thinking about children in third world countries:

Irene, in front of market gardens, c1961
Irene Zampin, family market gardens, Valetta Road, c 1961. Photo, courtesy, Irene Zampin.


I used to remember the school, the primary school where I used to go. I remember Sister Perpetua. Probably a whole lot of people remember Sister Perpetua, she was very severe.  Another thing I remember was when I used to go to school – if you used to go to Mass in the morning, you could save a little black child so they used to put a little dolly, a black dolly on a calendar … So, I used to go to Mass every morning.




Denise Doyban nee Santin OH 872/62
Denise had positive memories of St Joseph’s at Flinders Park and she also remembered parent involvement in the primary school and the limits on time for her mother and father because of their work on the market garden:

What did I like about primary school? Play. [laughter] Well, what kid doesn’t like play? It was enjoyable, we had nuns as teachers. I remember Sister Perpetua. She was, she was lovely, but oh, when she’d get upset at you … I don’t think I ever said, “No, I’m not going to school.” But then I think it was because you had your group of friends there and so you went to school.

Santin family, Lui, Rosina, Johnny, Sandra and Denise, St Joseph’s, Flinders Park, c 1957. Photo, courtesy, Sandra Conci nee Santin.

They [my parents] never had a lot of time to donate their time. But they always had time if there was [something to do] and that was with most of the market gardeners whose kids went to school there, if there was lawn to be planted, dirt to be dug … and do all the hard work. And then they’d donate for sports day … The time was too precious for them, but the goods, they always donated goods. I think Mum came a couple of times, maybe to a fete or something … the Italians and the Europeans were more in the working side, doing the working bees, you know, they could do that. 



Madeleine Regan
25 February 2024

Memories of school – Part 2

Imagine starting school when you’re five and you’re not able to speak the language used in the classroom … Several people born in Adelaide in the 1920s and 1930s interviewed for the oral history project recalled that when they started school, they could not speak English. The following excerpts are from interviews with daughters and sons of Veneto market gardeners who were born in Adelaide in the 1920s and 1930s. In their interviews, they recalled different aspects of their school days.

The image above is the Year 7 class at Underdale Primary School, 1945. Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato is last on the right in the second row. Photo supplied by Assunta Giovannini.

Lina Rismondo nee Marchioro, OH 872/9, 9 June 2010
Lina was the first child born in Adelaide. to the first generation of Veneto market gardeners.  Lina was born in 1927 and because she lived in the city, she mixed with English-speaking girls and she could speak English when she began school in the city. She attended three schools, St Mary’s Convent Franklin Street, Underdale Primary and St Joseph’s Hindmarsh for three years of secondary school.

Because I grew up with Australian girls in Waymouth Street, all my playmates were Australian. I think I grew up with the two languages. Most of us did then. [Then] I went to school at Underdale, State School. [now Flinders Park Primary School]

Daughters of first-generation Veneto market gardeners – Rosina Tonellato, Lina Marchioro, Virginia Santin, Frogmore Road c 1942/43. Photo: Santin family.


Yes, there was the Tonellato boys and Rosina – sometimes we’d go together, sometimes went on our own, yeah, so in the same school until the priest from Hindmarsh convinced Mum to send me to the Catholic school, so I went to the Catholic school then in Hindmarsh. Yes, I used to come top in grade 7.



Milva Rebuli nee Zampin, OH 872/36, 27 March 2016
After completing primary school, Milva, who was the eldest of nine children, was needed at home to help her mother look after younger children and also assist in the market garden.

I didn’t go to high school. I stayed home and helped in the garden because by then we had about, Dad and Mum had about seven children, eight children, seven… about seven, yeah.

I didn’t have a lot of friends at school. None of us did, I think because we always had to get home early and help in the garden.

Zampin family, Adelaide, c 1954. Milva is second from the left. Photo supplied by the Zampin family.

Bruno Piovesan, OH 872/5, 4 October 2008
Bruno Piovesan recalled that after he came home from school he worked in the gardens:

I remember coming home from school, didn’t even know what homework was because we had our chores to do: take the leaves out of the glasshouse when they were pruning tomatoes; hoe around the side of the glasshouse so insects wouldn’t get inside of the glasshouse. Always something to do [pauses and laughs]. We were kept busy all the time. There wasn’t a question of having nothing to do, that’s for sure.

Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato, OH 872/6, 15 July 2010
Assunta remembered the way she used to go to school with the Piovesan brothers, Nillo, Dino and Bruno:

Assunta Tonellato, First Communion, c1944. Supplied by Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato.

I remember Dino and Nillo used to … we used to what they called donkey on the bike, you know, and Bruno, we used to go to the school and we’d cross all market gardens, like from where we were in between Frogmore Road and Findon Road, we used to … go down the dirt track and then we’d cross over the Ballestrins’ land and … they were all market gardeners, the Zerellas and the Bernos, they were all there, and the school was  on Holbrooks Road …  we would take about 15, 20 minutes by bike … There was a shortcut crossing through the market gardens, all dirt tracks, but everybody knew everybody  … all the Ballestrins would wave out when we’d go past on bike.

Connie Legovich nee Marchioro, OH 872/11 10 January 2011
Connie recalled that she was very happy at Henley Beach convent school for ten years and she has maintained lifelong friendships from those days.

Marchioro sisters, Mary, Connie, Lina, Adelaide, c 1946.

I went to the Convent of Mercy at Henley Beach and I spent ten years there with the nuns. They were beautiful memories where I made lifelong friends with four girls. From the day when we all left school in the ’50s we started socialising twice yearly and then we got to four times a year and now every two months we socialise in each other’s homes with about five others joining us including two nuns. We have kept this up for 55 years and also travelling overseas with one girl.

Frankie Ballestrin OH 872/7, 12 December 2008
Frankie recalled attending primary school during the war years and the drill of going to the trenches. He also remembered assisting his parents to shift glasshouses when he came home from school:

Isidoro and Gina, and the two eldest children, Frankie and Santina Ballestrin early 1940s. Photo supplied by Frankie Ballestrin.

We went to school at the Flinders Park School down here, primary school … I still remember the trenches:  when they heard a plane going over they used to take us all out of school into the trenches. And they used to take us to school on a horse-and-sled when it was wet, like in the winter … But we got on well with the kids at school, we sort of got on quite well, and never an argument, never fight.

My cousin and myself, [our] homework … was to drill holes and put up a roof of posts each night we come home from school. Our parents would prepare the rails on the ground and that was the start of setting up your glasshouse. And we put the rail in, then they’d have the rail on top of it and then we’d come home and nail the rafters in. You know, they’d show us what to do, sort of thing. And then carry on from there. And then slide the glass and all the rest. It wasn’t easy.

Jimmy Ballestrin, OH 872/15, 6 June 2011
Jimmy was born in Italy in 1939 and arrived with his mother when he was about a year old. He went to Underdale Primary School, Marist Brothers Thebarton and Christian Brothers College in the City of Adelaide for secondary years and recalled that during those years, he accompanied his uncle Antonio to the market twice a week before school started for the day:

I started first year in Marist Brothers, Thebarton, but I had two cousins that were going to CBC [Christian Brothers College], and I was talked into going to CBC from Thebarton … I did go to the market with my Uncle Antonio … I went with him to the market every Tuesday, every Thursday, before school. He’d come and pick me up at 2 o’clock, and at 8 o’clock or half past eight, I would catch the bus, or walk to school, from then on.

Nillo Piovesan, Connie Marchioro, Assunta Tonellato, Dino Piovesan, Jimmy Ballestrin, Frankie Ballestrin, Bruno Piovesan, Frogmore Road, 1945. Photo supplied by the Piovesan family.

Madeleine Regan
11 February 2024



Memories of school – Part 1

 This week in Adelaide school students begin the first term of 2024. In this blog it is fitting to explore the experience of school of some of the children who arrived from Italy with their mothers to join their fathers in the 1930s and in 1940.

The image above is of the primary school at St Mary’s Convent Franklin Street Adelaide in about 1943. St Marys Franklin Street, Adelaide c 1944 – Maria Rosa Tormena, last on the right on the third row. Cousin Aldo Rossetto, fourth from left in back row. Photo supplied by Maria Rosa Tormena.

Children in the Veneto market gardener families
Four Veneto men who were married when they arrived in 1927—Brunone Rebuli, Domenico Rossetto, Giovanni Santin and Secondo Tonellato—reunited with their wives and children in Adelaide within 10 years. Altogether, 13 children arrived and formed a two-generation community in the paese of market gardeners at Lockleys. The children completed compulsory years of education before undertaking full-time work in the market gardens with their parents.

The children were part of the 1.5 generation who grew up and came of age in Adelaide and made their adult lives here. A number of the 1.5 generation, including relatives of the market gardener families spoke about their memories of school in their interviews. Following are a sample of the memories.

1935 – The Santin and Tonellato children arrive with their mothers
 Both the Tonellato and Santin families had lived in the village of Caselle di Altivole. By 1935, Giovanni Santin and Secondo Tonellato had earned enough money to pay for the passage to Australia of their respective wives and children. In June 1935, the Tonellato children – Lui, 13 years, Rosina, 12 years, Albert, 10 years, Lino, 9 years and Nano aged 8 years and their mother Elisabetta arrived and the family settled on Frogmore Road and lived in a train wagon.

Giovanni Santin pours drinks for his children, Panazzolo and Tonellato children. The Santin and Panazzolo children had just arrived in Adelaide – December 1935. Photo supplied by the Santin family.

The Santin children – Lui, 14 years. Vito, 12 years, Romildo, 11 years and Virginia, 8 years – and their mother, Costantina, arrived in Adelaide in December 1935. They joined Giovanni who worked for a farmet in Jervois for the first years before the family leased a market garden at Lockleys.

Lino Tonellato arrived when he was 9 years old
Lino remembered his school days which were balanced with his work in the market gardens:

Yeah, we went to school … not far from Underdale, and then the priest came around after six months we were there … and they wanted us to shift to the Catholic school, and Dad reckon “I can’t afford it”. [The priest] paid for the tram to go backwards and forwards… I liked school in the beginning. It didn’t, it doesn’t take long to speak English when you’re young, so you get used to it, but … you had to run back home and get into the garden and then books, we never used to see them, only when we were going to school.

Lino Tonellato interview, OH 872/10, 16 July 2010.

Relatives of market gardeners who arrived as children

Mary Tonellato nee Zoanetti arrived 1931, aged 7 years
Mary  arrived with her mother, Metilde. Mary’s father, Giosue had arrived in 1927 from the village of Zuclo in the province of Trento and had worked in a market garden at Basket Range, about 20 kms south east of Adelaide.

 Mary did not speak English when she began at Basket Range Primary School, and unusually for girls at that time, she completed three years of secondary school at Norwood High School.

Albert Tonellato and Mary Zoanetti, engagement, 1946. Photo supplied by Mary Tonellato.

She took a job in an office and had hopes of becoming a nurse but her father died when she was 19 years old.

Mary assisted her mother working their market garden before she married Albert Tonellato and they worked their garden together for many years on Findon Road.





Oscar Mattiazzo arrived 1934, aged 7 years
Oscar arrived with his mother, Virginia, and were reunited with Angelo, Oscar’s father who had migrated from Bigolino in 1927. In his interview, Oscar recalled that he loved his first years of school in his village:

 In fact, I had to stop home so many weeks one year because of tonsillitis… and I couldn’t walk up to four kilometres in the snow, and I had to stay home, and I used to cry because I had to stay home… I just liked learning … a lot of the people couldn’t understand why I was crying because I was stopping home from school [laughs].

Page from ‘Smiths Weekly,’ 13 June 1936.

Like many children in Italian families in Adelaide during the 1930s, Oscar attended Saturday morning Italian classes taught by teachers who were part of the fascist party. He explained that when he arrived, he had a balilla uniform that  was worn by young school boys as part of the pervasive fascist culture in Italy.




Oscar remembered the significance of the balilla uniform:
We used to go to, Saturday morning we used to go to Italian school, in 1936 we were going to the Italian school at the cathedral of today, St Francis Xavier, there’s a hall next to that. They used to have these lessons, Italian lessons, for Italian children to keep the Italian language, and about half a dozen or more of girls and boys dressed up in this uniform because they also came from Italy with their uniform, but because I was the latest one that arrived, I had the latest model. So they put this big photo in the paper, the “Smith’s Weekly,” which was a rather, oh, scandalous paper.

Oscar Mattiazzo, interview, OH 872/13, 13 April 2011.

Virginia Santin and Oscar Mattiazzo, Valetta Road, c1948. Supplied by Christine Rebellato nee Mattiazzo.

In 1949, Oscar married Virginia Santin, daughter of Giovanni and Costantina who worked market gardens on Valetta Road and Frogmore Road with their three sons and daughters-in-law.



Maria Rosa Tormena arrived 1940, aged 7 years
Maria Rosa went to school at St Mary’s Convent, Franklin Street in the city until she was 14 years old. She laughed as she recalled that she enjoyed playing sports more than the being in the classroom.

Maria Rosa Tormena holding the basketball with team members, St Marys Franklin Street c 1946. Supplied by Maria Rosa Tormena.

We lived in Waymouth Street at the time. So, all the years I went to school I also lived in Waymouth Street. And it was a walking distance, it was only one street away.

And my main reason for going to school was really to play sport. Loved my sport.

Maria Rosa Tormena, interview, OH 872/19, 25 May 2012.

The school memories of some second-generation interviewees will be included in the next blog.


Madeleine Regan
28 January 2024

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