I am the eldest child of 4 children (Linda, Raymond, Janet and Diana) born to Mary and Albert Tonellato. I’d like to tell you how our family started and I’ll finish with our tradition of cooking baccalà.
My paternal grandfather, Secondo Tonellato, came to Australia from Caselle di Altivole, Treviso in 1927 to work and prepare for his family to follow him. When nonno arrived, he worked to get money and then he leased and later bought land on Frogmore Road to grow vegetables.
When his wife, Elisabetta, and five children were about to arrive in 1935, Secondo bought a train carriage to use as their home. The famous vagone which had only been used once by the Duke and Duchess of York while he was in South Australia in 1927. My Dad, Albert, was 10 years old when he arrived. He went to school at St Joseph’s Hindmarsh until he was old enough to go to work in a fish shop in Adelaide. After that he worked on his father’s land growing vegetables on Frogmore Road.
My maternal grandfather, Giosue Zoanetti, also arrived in 1927 from Zuclo, Trento. He went to work land at Basket Range until nonna, Metilde, and my mum, Mary, arrived in 1931 when she was 7 years old. She went to school at Basket Range Primary School and then to Norwood High. While at school, mum had many Australian friends and loved cooking using recipes from ‘The Green and Gold Cookery Book.’
Unfortunately, when Italy joined Germany in World War II, Italians in Australia were looked upon as the enemy and anxiety and fear entered the lives of Italians and Anglo Australians. After this happened, Mum recalled how some people treated her differently because she was Italian.
In 1941, the family moved to Fulham as my nonno had leased land there. Sadly, my nonno died in 1943 and nonna and Mary, my mum, moved to another leased property off Grange Road not far from Frogmore Road where Mary met Albert and in 1947 they married.
So started the Albert and Mary Tonellato family.
Mum and Dad believed it was important for us, their children, to experience the best of both Anglo Australian and Italian cultures. Mum loved sweets and cooked the best fritelle (fried pastries like doughnuts) and lemon meringue pie. She also baked hot cross buns on Good Friday along with baccalà.
In our family we still cook these foods. As for the baccalà, it was always Mum who cooked it with Dad as her kitchen hand. When we all had our families, it was never a sit-down and eat together meal on Good Friday as Mum preferred us to go mid-morning for a coffee and pick up the baccalà and polenta to take home. About 16 years ago, we decided it was time for us to learn how to cook baccalà. My sisters and sister-in-law, Elaine, all went to Mum and Dad’s house and we watched Mum and documented what she did. The next year we worked from the recipe while Mum watched on adding extra comments if we didn’t get it right and we adjusted our recipe accordingly. The following year we got it right! I still remember that Dad was very proud of us as he quietly told us that it was as good as Mum’s, without Mum hearing.
Every year since then, Ray or my husband, Armando, cut the cod which then gets put in a large tub of water which Elaine changes two or three times a day for four days.
On the Thursday before Easter, we clean and cook the cod in Ray and Elaine’s kitchen and we work all together on their long kitchen bench top sharing a drink and some laughs. When it is cooked each of us takes our share to eat with our families.
Dad died on 13 April 2010 and Mum died on 16th September 2020. For now, our children are happy for us to cook but when we are unable to continue, I am sure they will learn as we did, and so the tradition will continue.
The Veneto market gardener families were focused on their livelihood – the cultivation and sale of their produce. Their social life centred on their paesani or the other families who were living and working at Lockleys and others in the wider Veneto community. The daughters and sons of the first-generation Veneto market gardeners had broader opportunities to explore a social life independently of their parents. There was a difference in the kinds of activities for the young women and men in the 1950s and 1960s.
Sunday nights – St Patrick’s Hall The women were more protected than their brothers and were more likely to go to dances held at St Patrick’ Hall in Grote Street on Sunday nights. Connie Legovich nee Marchioro went to the dances regularly. Sergio Coronica, who had arrived in Adelaide with his parents in 1951, attended the dances regularly. Connie and Sergio recalled that Nevio and Anna Fiocco nee Daminato, an Italian couple living in Adelaide, had started the dances in the mid 1950s to offer regular social occasions for the young single men arriving from Italy in those years. Connie remembered that there were always more men than women at the dances. Live music was provided by three brothers from Vicenza. The cost to enter was 2/- and the dance was held from 7:00 to 10:30 pm. Connie reflected that many marriages resulted from the Sunday night dances at St Patrick’s Hall.
Several people interviewed for the oral history project recalled their experience of attending the St Patrick’s Hall dances and I’ve selected the following excerpts to provide an insight into the social life in the 1950s and 1960s of three daughters in market gardener families at Lockleys.
A new dress every week for the dances Connie Legovich nee Marchioro was fortunate that her sister, Lina, was a tailoress and made a new dress every week for her to wear to the dances:
And on Sunday nights I’d go to the Italian Church dance at St Patrick’s Grote Street and once a month it was held at the Cathedral in the city, with Assunta. Her married brother would always drive us there and pick us up. Lina would always make me a new dress for each week and when I got home she would ask me if I was the best dressed. Of course I was! At least I thought so. But I did receive lovely compliments from the boys.
(Connie Legovich nee Marchioro, OH 872/11, 10 January 2011, p 5.)
A place to meet your husband Lena Mosceni nee Rossetto recalls that she loved dancing and met her husband, Claudio, at St Patrick’s Hall.
I met him when I was 18 the first time. Then he went away to Renmark, Broken Hill, he was still a young man and I wasn’t even thinking of marriage then, all I wanted to do was go dancing and going down the beach, and things like that. Then he came back when I was 22, and we met at the dance … at St Patrick’s Church [Grote Street] there, at the back. There was a little hall, very small … We lived close by, we used to walk there and walk home.
(Lena Moscheni nee Rossetto OH 872/32, 28 August 2014, p 4.)
From St Patrick’s Hall to other social activities Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato had a varied social life which included going to the dances at St Patrick’s Hall, going to the beach and going to see films on a Saturday night with a group of friends who would have dinner at the Bergen, a restaurant in a basement on Hindley Street. There was live music and Johnny Mac, rock and roll and country singer, was the star attraction. (Do you remember his hit, ‘Pink Champagne and a Room of Roses’?
We used to go with Connie, Connie Marchioro. We used to go to the beach, and then Sunday nights we’d go dancing at St Patrick’s or the cathedral. St Patrick’s Church, at the time, had a little hall next to it and so did the cathedral, so one Sunday they’d have a dance at St Patrick’s, and then the next Sunday there’s one at the cathedral. Ten o’clock was closing time so everyone was home by 10.30. [laughs] … you know, that was really late in those days. [laughs]
Later, Assunta went with friends on other outings to the city on Saturday nights
At that time there, now I had another friend and we used to – Norma [Ballestrin] and Pam [Zerella] and Joyce [Zerella] – our big outings were Saturday night to go to the pictures in the city then, and we’d go out for tea, then we’d go to the, I think it was the Shoppers’ Session they used to have. They used to have it about 5 o’clock or something and we’d go to the pictures first, or we’d go for tea first and then go the pictures. That was our outing, you know, on the … that was when we were a little bit older then and … but still, you know, you had to be in early, you know, none of this 11 o’clock, midnight was the latest.
(Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato, OH 872/6, 15 July 2010, p 13, 17.)
A young man lives for dancing The sons in Veneto market gardener families had more independence than daughters and they enjoyed dances at different venues in and near the city of Adelaide.
Dino Piovesan loved dancing and attended lessons. In his interview he recounted the experience of going to several dances in a week. He begins by saying that his mother carefully laid out his clothes – the dances were formal and required suitable attire. He also recalls that he began going to dances at 16 years of age and drove the family market garden truck to the dances but made sure he parked some distance from the dance halls as he wanted to be seen as a serious dancer.
I can always remember that when I was going out to a dance or somewhere, my clothes were always laid out on the bed, my shoes were always shined, and mother did it all.
We didn’t have a car and it seemed that driving the truck into the city to go to the dance, was easier than catching a tram and certainly cheaper than catching a taxi but the tram or the bus never occurred to me. I would park the truck, certainly away from the dance hall but it was a means of getting to and from the city and that sort of thing.
There were the old style dances, the Barn dance, the Pride of Erin, the Modern Waltz and the Quickstep but they were more or less the older style of dances to what we know today … with Aubrey Hall of a Friday night there was in the beginning, the first hour, I think there was dancing classes and learning the steps. But from then on it was go and pick up a partner and go and practise dancing … it was all live music in those days … A band, oh yes, yes. And from there we would go to the Palais Royal – a Thursday, I think it was, opposite the Royal Adelaide Hospital, there is a car park there now but it was the Palais Royal.
Then of course, there was the Woodville Town Hall which was, I forget now, might have been of a Saturday night. And the Palais, the Semaphore Palais … I did live for that, I did like going out and dancing but no, occasionally I’d go to the Glenelg Town Hall which was in the Town Hall but rarely [I’d go] there. The Wonderland Ballroom out at Unley, on Unley Road was another venue but only occasionally. No, it would not be three or four times a week, no, no, I would be too tired sometimes too.
(Dino Piovesan, OH 872/17, 23 September 2011, p 7, 44.)
The social lives of young people in the 1950s and 1960s reflect a time that contrasts with leisure time before the advent of Netflix and other streaming services …
Last week in Adelaide we had a heatwave with some extremely hot days – and warm nights – before a cool change brought relief. We even had some rain – the first good amount for several months. The weather made me think of the Veneto market gardeners who were establishing their market gardens in the area they called Lockleys between the wars.
The sons and daughters who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s – and who have been interviewed for the oral history project – recalled the challenges of the hot weather. They remembered the need for their parents to start work in the market gardens even earlier when days were hot. They recalled the heat of houses which were often corrugated iron structures in the early days without the comfort of air conditioning. Some remembered going to the beach with other Veneto families.
It’s interesting to discover what people did to get some respite from the heat. The following excerpts from interviews provide insight into how the Veneto families managed the Adelaide summers. It was fortunate that the market gardeners lived about 4.5 kilometres from the beach which meant that it was an easy trip. They had a favourite place for the Veneto group to congregate.
Keeping cool on the market gardens
Johnny Marchioro spoke about the unusual way that his parents kept cool on hot days on their market garden on Frogmore Road in the 1940s:
Dad had a bore and a well that when it was real hot they used to go and cool down in this well … we had bore water for the glasshouses. The well was about a four-foot hole about twenty foot deep and it was padded up with timber that went down there … I don’t know how they got that done back in the ‘30s.
Johnny Marchioro, OH 872/1, p 23.
Taking the children Anna Santin nee Mattiazzo worked with her husband, Vito and his brothers, Lui and Romildo and their wives Rosina and Clara on their market garden on Frogmore Road. Anna spoke about taking her son, Dean and nieces and nephews to the beach at Henley or Grange:
We used to take the kids there – there was no air-conditioning in the house those days – we used to take the children when it was really hot, for the kids to … they used to enjoy the beach. We used to go under the jetty.
Anna Santin, OH 872/24, 3 April 2013, p 27.
Remembering the beach
Frankie Ballestrin remembers summer days at the beach as a child and spending the days under the jetty.
And in the summer – Dad used to grow tomatoes, and around the Christmas time when it was too hot and we were on school holidays – we used to be down the beach all the time, every day, under the jetty there. And all the group round here, cousins and aunties and uncles and friends, the whole mob of us used to go down the beach and pass the day away that way, because it was very hot in those years and no air-conditioning and, you know, all in tin shacks; I mean there was no insulation, no nothing, and like an oven.
Frankie Ballestrin OH 8727, 12 December 2008, p 34.
Families meeting at Henley Beach Dino Piovesan also had memories of being a child and spending time at Henley Beach with his family and other Veneto families:
Henley Beach, and that’s where Mum liked to go, because in the very hot weather Dad would drive us down in the Bedford truck, and Mum would simply sit under the jetty, and we kids would do our thing as much as we could in the sand and the surf … Dad would pick us up later in the day, the later the better on the very hot days, and I can remember Mum saying, Stay under the jetty, stay under the jetty away from the sun or you’ll get sunburn. Many a time I can remember, oh, getting severely sunburnt and suffering for it … usually there were three or four families that met there on the very hot days
Dino Piovesan OH 872/17, 23 September, 2011, p 12
Spending the whole day … Assunta remembers the way the whole Tonellato family would go to Henley Beach:
We used to go, when I was little I remember every summer, because it was school holidays, we’d go down the beach, Henley Beach, it was in those days, and Mum would pack a roast chicken and we’d all sit under the jetty. And this is like when I was a teenager and was still going to school, and we’d spend the whole day at the beach because in those days we didn’t have air-conditioning, and my Uncle and the boys, they’d work in the garden and then at night they’d come down to the beach –
And we’d all sit with a blanket eating our roast chickens, and a whole lot of the families would meet under this jetty because that’s where all the ladies would go with their children when it was hot, you know. And then the men, when they’d finished work, would just come there and, you know, at night and have their supper, and I remember that Henley Beach was, under the jetty, was all Italians in those days.
Assunta Giovannini nee Tonellato, OH 872/6, 15 July 2010, p 13,14.
Seeing the beach for the first time Johnny Tormena was 12 years old when he and his parents and sister arrived in Adelaide in 1939. The family lived in the city and had a large group of relatives including the Rebuli family who were market gardeners on Frogmore Road. In his interview Johnny reminisced about his excitement of actually seeing the beach with his relatives:
Now that was another luxury that I thought was fantastic that I had never seen the sea until — I can’t even remember seeing the sea in a book. I knew that Venice was all in the sea but I had never had seen I could only imagine it, I always thought the sea would have an end to it, you know — And to live here and knowing that we were on the coast and people used to go to the beach every weekend and all of that, to me, was luxury plus. And we used to have a pushbike that we would go down on…, a group of us from the city.
Johnny Tormena, OH 872/18, 25 May 2012, p 22
The weather is looking much cooler in Adelaide for the week ahead, and the fierce heat of last week is almost forgotten …
26 February 2023
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