Italians in NE Victoria – Part 2

This blog continues to cover the history of the Italian community
in the Myrtleford area.

Tobacco farms in the Myrtleford
The Italians in the Myrtleford area followed the example of Chinese migrants who developed tobacco and hops farms in the Ovens Valleys after the gold rush period. Large numbers of Italians arrived in the 1920s and worked on tobacco farms. Some were share farmers and some bought properties which were usually less than 20 hectares.

Tobacco farm.
Monument to the tobacco growers, Myrtleford – https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/technology/industry/display/110061-tobacco-heritage-

Like the settlement of the Veneto market gardeners at Lockleys, the men usually arrived first, and women followed once there was some security. Some men married by proxy. Families worked hard and women’s lives were busy with domestic duties and activities on the farm that included grading tobacco leaves for market. Children also had jobs on the farms. After the war a new wave of Italian migrants arrived in the area. The boom time for growing tobacco was from about 1950 to the late 1970s. By the mid-1990s the industry began to wind down and in 2006, tobacco production ended and about 138 farmers in the Myrtleford area were compensated.

Myrtleford. Supplied by Madeleine Regan.

The Club Savoy
In 1956 a couple from Calabria offered a venue in Myrtleford where Italians could gather, speak their first language and share food and social events.  At first, it operated as ‘Continental House’ on weekends and in 1960 it changed its name to Savoy Club and in 2014 changed again to Club Savoy. It was the first club in Victoria to be granted a liquor licence.

Today the Club is open seven days a week, hosts several social activities including the Savoy Ladies Group, a pensioner group and there is also a successful soccer club.

The Savoy Ladies Group – video
This group was founded in 1983 by a nun and a community nurse concerned that the women needed information regarding women’s health who observed that some Italian women were isolated on their farms. The group meets every fortnight at the Club Savoy. In 2014, a short video, “The Savoy Ladies Group,” was made to celebrate the Italian Australian women who are members of the group. They speak about the formation of the Club, their hard work on tobacco farms and their lives in the district. You can watch the video about the group who meet to socialise and maintain their heritage. Click here to view the 10-minute video: The Savoy Ladies Group

La Fiera
The Italian festival at Myrtleford began in 2009 and brings together Italians and other people in the wider community to enjoy activities including art and culture, food, wine, soccer and bocce challenges and a live chess match. the event is held in May each year. The circoli, Calabrese, Trentini, Trevisani and Vicentini, are involved in planning the event and offer provincial foods.

promotion of la Fiera, Myrtleford. https://www.travelvictoria.com.au/myrtleford/events/

Other Italian groups that meet in Myrtleford

Trevisani nel Mondo di Myrtleford
The Trevisani nel Mondo of Myrtleford and District was established in the late 1970s. Members continue to meet regularly.

For more information about the Trevisani di Myrtleford & District, see the information and visual history compiled by the Veneto Club Melbourne: Myrtleford-Trevisani

Promotion for the convegno, Trevisani nel Mondo, Myrtleford & Districts, 2005.

In October 2005 about 200 members of the Trevisani nel Mondo from around Australia gathered in Myrtleford for their three-yearly convention. Two busloads of members from Adelaide attended and stayed in Bright. Terry Mazzarolo nee Zampin remembers the occasion and loved being in the area. The weekend before the convegno, the snow season had finished and the Adelaide group spent time at Mt Hotham. She said it reminded her of locations in the north-east of Italy.

Lucia Mazzorolo, Terry Mazzarolo, Ursula Giacomelli, Mt Hotham, October 2005. Photo, Terry Mazzarolo.

Vicentini di Myrtleford
The Vicentini di Myrtleford was founded in 1982. The Association was involved in establishing the annual Italian festival, La Fiera. The Veneto Club Melbourne has produced a visual history of the circolo Vicentini nel mondo di Myrtleford. Click here: Vicentini nel mondo di Myrtleford

To buy a copy of “For a Better Life: The Story of Italian Migration to the Myrtleford District” by Chris McCracken, Joy Phillips and Roy Ward, on behalf of U3A Myrtleford & District Inc. please contact:
Jan Mock: u3amyrtleford@gmail.com

Madeleine Regan
14 August 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copies of the book about Italians in the Myrtleford area are available for $30.00 plus postage.
To buy a copy of “For a Better Life: The Story of Italian Migration to the Myrtleford District” by Chris McCracken, Joy Phillips and Roy Ward, on behalf of U3A Myrtleford & Districts Inc. please email:
Jan Mock: u3amyrtleford@gmail.com

 

Madeleine Regan
14 August 2022

Italians in NE Victoria – Part 1

Recently we were visiting our family in the Ovens Valley in the north-east of Victoria and I became aware of the strong Italian influence in the area.

Salamis hanging to dry, Bright, June 2022.

One of the first signs that made us reflect on the impact of Italians was a string of salami drying under the verandah of the house next door to us in Bright.

The presence of the Club Savoy in Myrtleford is a strong clue about the large numbers of Italians who have lived and worked in the region.

While we were in Bright, I tracked down a book about the history of Italian families in the Myrtleford area which won the Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence in Community Innovation in 2020.

Cover of the book published by U3A Myrtleford and District Inc.

The book is “For a Better Life: The Story of Italian Migration to the Myrtleford District,” by Chris McCracken, Joy Phillips and Roy Ward, on behalf of U3A Myrtleford & Districts Inc.  It documents more than 150 years of the history of Italian migrants in the area through the stories of 29 local families.

Writing the history of Italian families
During our stay, I was fortunate to meet with Jan Mock and Yvonne Tabalotny who had been involved in the initiative to compile the book. Both Jan and Yvonne had been interviewers. The number of people who were interested grew as word spread about the interviews and the book.

Yvonne Tabalotny, Jan Mock, Porepunka, June 2022.

Jan and Yvonne told me how much they enjoyed the project and the opportunities to get to know the history of some of the Italian families in Myrtleford and they have formed friendships with some of the people they interviewed.

The book was compiled by a committee of dedicated volunteers who are members of the University of the Third Age (U3A), Myrtleford and District Inc. which had started up in 2018. The goal of U3A is to develop educational, social and recreational programs for retired people. Within six months, more than 120 members had signed up but just three were from families with Italian heritage.

The idea of the book stemmed from a proposal that Jan made to engage with the Italian community and record the history of the Italian migrants who had lived and worked in the Myrtleford region. A committee of ten members was formed and Jan, who has had experience in coordinating community development projects, applied for a grant through the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Seniors Grants Program which was successful. In 2019, the process of interviewing and collecting photos from families began and this was followed by writing and editing and finding a printer. The members of U3A who were involved in the project achieved a wonderful outcome with the printing of the book.

What’s in the book?
The book includes 34 family stories that are accompanied by photos. The earliest family story dates from the arrival of Battista De Piazza, who migrated from Lombardy, in 1863.

The most recent story features Nino Mautone and Maria Mautone who arrived in 1966 from Ceraso, Salerno, province of Campania. Nino has been a Councillor and Mayor of the Alpine Shire and is currently President of U3A Myrtleford and District Inc.

The first part of the book covers themes that include: leaving, arriving, enterprise, challenges, friendship, a woman’s place, home, wisdom and legacy. These nine chapters describe challenges, daily lives, the different working roles and achievements of the Italian families and provide an insight into the contribution that Italian migrants have made to the area.

Nine of the families originated from the Veneto region including eight from the province of Vicenza. The first man to arrive from the province was Giuseppe Piazza from San Antonio, Valli del Pasubio who disembarked in Innisfail Queensland in 1922. He moved to the Ovens Valley in 1929 and bought a tobacco farm with another man from Vicenza before purchasing a property in Myrtleford with his wife, Angela Pianalto, in 1931. From the late 1940s to the end of the 1950s, they created ways to develop the social life of Italians and provided meals and company on Sundays for young men who arrived after the war. Giuseppe also had a role as travel agent, ambassador for the Wangaratta hospital and he represented the Italian Consulate. In addition, he was a co-founder of Club Savoy.

 

Myrtleford Chemist. June 2022.

By the early 1960s, there were significant numbers of Italians living in the Myrtleford area. Shops catered for the needs of Italians and Jan remembered that before she left the town in the late 1960s to study to become a teacher, a staff member who spoke Italian was behind the counter of every shop in the town. Today the chemist still bears the name in Italian.

Detail from back cover of “For a Better Life.

The popularity of the book
The book has been very popular with the Italian families whose stories have been documented, some of whom have bought 6 or 8 copies at a time. There have been three reprints and over 1,000 copies sold up to July 2022. The book has honoured the many Italians who made new lives in Australia and contributed to the economic, social and cultural life of Myrtleford and the region.

In Part 2 of the blog about Italians in the north-east of Victoria, the focus will be on the Italians and their occupation as tobacco growers and the various Italian groups and activities that are now part of the life of Myrtleford.

To buy a copy of “For a Better Life: The Story of Italian Migration to the Myrtleford District” by Chris McCracken, Joy Phillips and Roy Ward, on behalf of U3A Myrtleford & District Inc. please contact:
Jan Mock: u3amyrtleford@gmail.com

The cost is $30 plus postage.

 

Madeleine Regan – with assistance from Jan Mock and Yvonne Tabalotny.
31 July 2022

The De Pieri & Corletto families

In this blog I focus on the De Pieri and Corletto families who originated from the Veneto region. I’ve gathered the following information from Adelina Pavan nee De Pieri and Roberto De Pieri, the National Archives of Australia and a PhD thesis by
David Hugo about mica mines in the Harts Range, NT.[1]

Serafina De Pieri nee Corletto was born in Castelfranco Veneto in 1920. She was one of six children and both her father and grandfather had been shoemakers. The family also worked land. When she was 18 years old Serafina met her husband, Attilio De Pieri at a sagra or feast, and within a month they married and left for Australia. Serafina celebrated her 19th birthday on the boat.

Il Promesso, Tullio De Pieri, Serafina Corletto, Attilio De Pieri, Castelfranco Veneto, 28 February 1939.

Attilio De Pieri was born in 1903 in Loreggia in the province of Padova. He migrated to Australia in 1927 and after a period of employment he went to work a mica mine in the Harts Range in the Northern Territory with other Veneto men. From about the 1930s to 1960 there were a series of mica mines run by Italians in the Harts Range located about 200 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs. Attilio was naturalised in 1937 and in 1939 he returned to Italy and one of the purposes of his visit was to find a suitable wife who would return with him to Australia.

 

Serafina and Attilio, Caruso mine, 29 August 1940.

 

After they arrived in Australia, Attilio and Serafina went to live in a camp at the Billy Hughes mine and when she was interviewed by David Hugo she recalled the first night which improved once Attilio organised goat skins for the floor of the tent. The goat skins provided basic comfort particularly when children were born. The communal kitchens and storerooms were built of stone. The family worked in a couple of different camps and Attilio bought shares in one of the mines.

Serafina, preparing to change camp from Billy Hughes to Caruso camp,  December 1940. (Boards stacked to make cases to transport mica).

 

Serafina in front of the kitchen, Billy Hughes camp, 1940/41.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living conditions were primitive in the camps. There was no electricity or running water although there was a spring near the camp and after some time, vegetables were planted. Serafina recalled:

When we have the bore, the men put some garden, we have grown lettuce, beans, peas, cauliflower, cabbage – not much but whatever we can do. (De Pieri, TS92 12, p. 8 and p 188 in the thesis)

Diana Del Tedesco, Freddy and Adelina De Pieri, Billy Hughes mine, 1948.

Adelina remembers that her father was able to grow watermelons in one camp because of access to water. She also recalls playing with the goats which were kept for milk and meat.

 

Front: Attilio & Serafina De Pieri, Caruso mine, 3 March 1941.

 

 

 

At one time Serafina was the only woman at the camp and she recalled in her interview that she did not see another white woman for seven months.

Serafina explained how she used her time on the camp:

. . . there was always plenty to do, you know, even though I was
there [Rex mine] on my own – the only woman. But I used to
cook for the men, there was about five men at the time, and I’d
prepare lunch and dinner, and make the bread. If I had any
spare time I ‘ d read or sew, so, you know – listen to the wireless.

(De Pieri TS92 12 p 6 – p202 of the thesis)

Attilio and Serafina returned to Adelaide for the birth of Adelina in 1942. Fred was born in 1944 and the family returned to Harts Ranges in 1945 with the two children. Attilio and Serafina lived and worked there until 1948 when the family returned to Adelaide. Roberto was born in 1950.

De Pieri family, Serafina, Atillio, Adelina, Fred, Roberto, Adelaide, c 1954.
Tullio De Pieri, Attilio, Serafina, Teresina nee Corletto & Guerino Santinon. Children: Freddy, Adelina, Milvia Santinon, Currie Street, Adelaide, c 1948.

In Adelaide the De Pieri family lived in Currie Street in the west end of the city and Attilio worked from the front room of the house and repaired shoes. In 1948 Attilio sponsored his brother, Tullio and his wife Imelda who lived in Adelaide for about 20 years with their children, Anna and Luciano.

 

Serafina & Attilio, in front of shop in Gilbert Stree, Adelaide, October 1964.

 

After leasing the house in Currie Street for ten years, Atillio and Serafina bought a house in Gilbert Street in the city in 1958. Attilio made this shop in the front room and he carried on selling and repairing shoes. He bought shoes from Slatters. In 1965 they moved to Malvern before they bought a house two years later at St Peters and enjoyed living in an area with more Italian people in the neighbourhood. Attilio died in 1973.

 

The Corletto family
Between 1939 when Serafina left Italy, and 1953, all members of her family migrated to Australia. They were sponsored by Serafina and Attilio and most of them stayed with the De Pieri family at Currie Street for the first months after arrival.

Corletto family: Teresina, Serafina, Serafino, Riccardo, Babilla, Lino, Orfeo, Umberto. Adelaide 1954.

Teresina was the first to arrive  with her husband, Guerino Santinon, and daughter, Milvia, in December 1948. They flew on one of the first planes to bring Italians to Australia. They went to the mica mines for a brief period before returning to live in Adelaide.

Lino arrived August 1949, aged 27 years (married Drusilla Fighera in February 1954 who had arrived June 1951 aged 26 years)

Orfeo arrived May 1950, aged 20 years. He returned to Italy in 1957 to assist his father to sell the family property in Castelfranco Veneto. At that time, he married Gina Milani and they returned to live in Adelaide.

Umberto arrived September 1950, aged 24 years (in April 1952, he married Maria Anna Panozzo who had arrived as a 15-year-old in March 1949)

Serafino (aged 31 years) arrived July 1953 with his wife Norma (aged 26 years) with their child, Gabriella, aged 3 years.

Riccardo and Babilla Trentin, the parents of Serafina, Teresina, Lino, Orfeo, Umberto and Serafino, were the last members of the family to come to Australia. They arrived in March 1954 and went to live with Orfeo and his wife, Gina, at Hindmarsh.

Serafina and the Veneto Club
After Attilio died in 1973, Serafina became involved with the Veneto Club in Adelaide. At first she played bocce for the Club.

Sisters-in-law: Gina Corletto and Serafina De Pieri – bocce team, prize night, Veneto Club, 20 March 1977.

Then Serafina became involved with the Club through several roles including coordinating the Women’s Committee and managing the kitchen for the popular Sunday night family dinner dances. Serafina was the first woman to be elected to the Committee. She was a committee member for six years before she was elected as Vice-President in 1984.

She was Vice-President of the Veneto Club for four years – again the first woman to have held that position.

Serafina organising an event at the Veneto Club, early 1980s.

Serafina’s daughter, Adelina Pavan, remembers that her mother appreciated opportunities to offer her assistance because she loved mixing with people and she felt as though she was contributing to the growth of the Veneto Club in Adelaide.  As a result of her involvement, and in recognition of her voluntary work, Serafina was nominated for the award, ‘The South Australian Italian of the Year’ in 1988.

Serafina, near the former campsite of the Billy Hughes mica mine, Harts Range, 1995.

 

In 1995, Serafina was interviewed by David Hugo when he was researching for his PhD thesis on the Harts Range mica mines. She is quoted throughout the thesis and describes the operation of the mines and arrangements in the camps, relationships with Aboriginal men and women who assisted with work and the friendships with the miners and other Veneto women in the camps.

 

 

At that time in May 1995, Serafina’s daughter, Adelina and son, Fred, and other family members accompanied her to the site of the mines with David Hugo. Although not much was left at the camp site by that time, Serafina was able to point out the features and tell stories about her experience of being a young married woman living in remote Australia.

Serafina died in 2001 after a productive and happy life of 62 years in Australia.

Madeleine Regan
17 July 2022

All photos supplied by Adelina Pavan nee De Pieri and Roberto De Pieri.

[1] David Frederick Hugo, “Mica Mining at Harts Range, Central Australia, 1880s-1960: A Study of Ethnicity and the Impact of Isolation.” PhD thesis, Northern Territory University, 1995. https://ris.cdu.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/23680670/Thesis_CDU_6115_Hugo_D.pdf

 

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