This blog is a tribute to the life of Lino Serafino Tonellato who died on 4th September 2022, aged nearly 96 years. The information has been taken from the oral history interview I recorded with him in 2010.* Lino’s wife Rosanna, and daughter, Terri Judd, have also contributed to the blog.
This is a story of the continuity of a migrant family in Australia.
Lino Tonellato was not quite 12 months old when his father migrated to Australia in 1927. Secondo had left behind his wife Elisabetta and four children, Luigi, Rosina, Albert and Lino. A fifth child, Orlando, was born after Secondo had migrated. In June 1935 Elisabetta and the children arrived in Port Pirie and joined Secondo in the market garden area that the Veneto called Lockleys.
Two years after the family was reunited in Adelaide, Assunta, Secondo’s niece, came into their family as a much loved sixth daughter and sister.
The family settles in Adelaide
In his interview Lino spoke of the reason that his father had migrated from Caselle di Altivole in the province of Treviso – to have a better life for his wife and family without poverty. He remembered what his father did when he arrived in Adelaide in 1927:
Well, he said … he saved up some money when he worked up on the Mallee country and then he came down on the farm, and he saved up some money and he planted tomatoes, and he got us out here. That’s how he got to pay the passage over [for the family in 1935].
Secondo had worked hard and solved the problem of accommodating his large family by purchasing a train carriage that had been used by members of the Royal family in a visit to South Australia in 1927.
Lino recalled the delight of discovering where the family was going to live:
But when we came down here and we had seen where we were going to live, we thought we were Father Christmas (laughs). Yeah, a train carriage. (or vagón)
I still remember, it was all nice shiny and real polish, high polish, and it was not hot and not cold, always the same temperature in there, with no air-conditioning, it was always the same temperature because the wall was three layers of like cork … There were six bedrooms and two, one each end of the carriage big enough to put the tables and chairs and everything, you know … Dad put the bathroom and the kitchen there, he made one room for the kitchen and one room for the bathroom. Oh, he had everything. We had hot water in them days (laughs).
Moving the vagón
Lino remembered that his father had explained the challenge of transporting the railway carriage to Lockleys:
Well, it took them all day from early morning to night-time, because they had to have the police and shift the electric poles. It was that long they couldn’t get it around the corner in them days from Islington, all the way from Islington to down Lockleys, but they couldn’t get around the corner on the Grange Road there. They were stuck there for about five hours trying to get the post out to get it across (laughs)… And they had a special trailer there, he had to hire for it because it was over a chain long (over 20 metres) you see, it was pretty long …
Work in the family market gardens
Lino left school when he was about thirteen and a half and went to work in the market garden with his father. He spoke about what the range of vegetables the family grew on the market garden including tomatoes:
… we used to plant tomatoes, the young ones, in June and July, because in them days housewives wouldn’t buy tomatoes in winter, they wouldn’t buy tomatoes …They only wanted them in the hot weather, yeah, (laughs) but now they sell them twelve months of the year, yeah.
When I asked Lino what the area looked like when he started working there and he told me about the large numbers of family market gardens in the area:
It was all little, little market gardens, all done by hand, and you’d see people working an acre of land. it was all done by hand, and they still made a better living than what they would anywhere in the world I suppose, I don’t know.
Lino reflected on the way that the Veneto market gardeners adapted the practices of working the land that they had known in the Veneto region:
The whole area was all market garden, you know. Well, I suppose they had to get a living somewhere, you know. When they come here, they couldn’t understand much, speak much English, didn’t know what to do, so they had to start off something because over there they only had little gardens too, and where we come from, they used to plant once a year because you’d get the snow that high, every year, I still remember the snow there.
Some memories of the war years
Lino also had some memories of living on the market gardens during the war years:
Well, I was called up … When you come of age, eighteen, you go for the examination, and they say, “What do you do?” “I’m a market gardener”. I said, “We’ve got contract with the Army, cabbages, caulis, and potatoes”. We had a contract for the Army at Keswick, and then they go, “Oh.” They looked that up, we were there, then we had the contract to plant stuff for the Army, so “No, we don’t need you, you go home and feed the Army”.
Marriage to Rosanna
Lino and Rosanna married in December 1950 and had two children, Therese Marie born in 1952 and Steven who was born in 1960. Sadly, Steven died in 1986.
Towards the end of the interview, I asked Lino if he would like to add to what he had said and his first thought was to speak about his marriage to Rosanna.
Well, when I met my wife, that was the best day of my life, you know. The first time I seen her was, I was twenty-two I think, no twenty, then she disappeared for a couple of years and then I met her again, so it went on. Well, December, it will be sixty years.
Working life and family with Rosanna at Two Wells
Following a tractor accident, Lino was unable to continue working in the market gardens. In 1957, Lino and Rosanna bought land at Two Wells and established a poultry farm which they ran for 35 years. Terri said that her father was very clever and resourceful and invented pieces of machinery that improved feeding and watering and general conditions for the chickens.
Lino and Rosanna moved to Adelaide in 1980 and in retirement, Lino took up hobbies such as working with leadlight and was interested in creative work. Lino and Roseanna enjoyed travelling around Australia with Lino’s brother and sister-in-law, Albert and Mary Tonellato, in caravans. They were always very involved with their family as loving parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and close to their wider families.
Lino was interested in the Veneto market gardeners’ project and attended several events with Rosanna and Terri and family over the past 11 years.
Rosanna and Terri cherish Lino’s optimism and resilience, his placid nature and his sense of humour. They remember him as a man who was curious, a problem-solver and inventor who was gentle, kind and loving. All the family will treasure his memory forever.
Lino and Rosanna’s grandson, Andrew Judd, delivered the eulogy at his funeral which you can read the eulogy. (It will be available in a later version of this post.)
*You can listen to the interview (nearly one hour) with Lino Tonellato 872/10, recorded on 16 July 2010 here:
11 September 2022