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

Remembering those who have come before

This website captures the history of the community of Veneto market gardeners who arrived between the wars and established market gardens in the Lockleys area in the western suburbs of Adelaide.

Eulogies at funerals can provide information about the lives and experiences of individuals in the community.

In this blog you can read eulogies that were given at the funerals of three of the people interviewed for the Veneto market gardeners’ oral history project and who died in the last three months of 2023. The relatives have given permission for the eulogies to be posted on the website.

The image above of the extended Veneto market gardener community taken in the mid 1950s shows different families gathered on one of the market gardens. It communicates the idea of the close relationships between the families. The older generation pictured in the photo have died and the men and women are remembered through time in their families. The eulogies that you read in this blog preserve the memory of, and offer a way to learn about, the lives of three people connected to the Veneto market gardener families:

1. Johnny Marchioro was born in Adelaide in 1940 and died on 15 September 2023. His eulogy was given by Madeleine Regan.

2. Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto was born in Adelaide in 1933 and died on 7th October 2023. Her niece, Amanda Rossetto, gave her eulogy.

3. Anna Maria Lucchesi nee Vettorello was born in Bigolino in 1929 in the province of Treviso in the Veneto region. She died on 17th November and her son, Enrico, gave the eulogy.

To read the full eulogies, scroll through the pages with the down arrows on the left-hand side of the text.

Johnny Marchioro

Johnny Marchioro, Bolivar, mid 1970s. Photo by Eleonora Marchioro.
Johnny Marchioro, back garden, Nailsworth, March 2023. Photo by Madeleine Regan.

Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto

Lena Rossetto, 21 years, 1953. Supplied by Mandy Rossetto.
Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto, 2022. Photo supplied by Amanda Rossetto.

Anna Maria Lucchesi nee Vettorello

Anna Maria Vettorello c 1950. Photo supplied by Anna Maria Lucchesi nee Vettorello.
Anna Maria Lucchesi nee Vettorlello, Adelaide, 2022. Photo supplied by Enrico Lucchesi.

Other eulogies are available on this website. Look at the Resources button on the far right of the headings at the top of the web page. Scroll down and find ‘Eulogies’ to find the ten eulogies that have been published so far. If you would like the eulogy of a family member to be preserved on this website, please contact me and I will be very pleased to add it.


Madeleine Regan
14 January 2024

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