From the 1920s to the 1960s many boarding houses sprang up in the West End of Adelaide to accommodate large numbers of newly arrived migrants from countries all over Europe. Some were only for sleeping arrangements and laundry but others offered full board which included 3 daily meals.
There were many families running small to large boarding houses and they also employed lots of locals to help. Following is a list of some of these families who ran boarding houses.
On the corner of Currie and North Streets the boarding house owned by Raymond Tranquillo Balestrin included his father Federico and his four daughters when they arrived from Italy in 1927.
In Waymouth Street some of the boarding houses were run by Clorinda and Angelo Cescato, Elena and Luigi Stocco (who also had 3 bocce courts), Mrs Agnese Urbani and Mrs Paoletto.
Giovanni and Lino Pietrobon also had a boarding house in Waymouth Street.
Other boarding houses in the West End
- In North Street there was Nelli Guidolin, known to all as Nelli Crotti, and later Mrs Saccoia.
- In Grattan Street there was Giuseppe Nussio known as Beppi Scarparo.
- On West Terrace there was Mrs Castagna.
- The Conti Family was in Hindley Street.
- In Currie Street there were the Del Tedescos and on the corner of North and Currie Streets, the Mattiazzos had boarders.
- Lina Rossetto also had a few boarders in Crowther Street
- In Franklin Street Giuseppina (Pina) Caon’s establishment was behind her husband Giacinto (Jack) Caon’s butcher shop.
In the next-door garden block of the Cescato boarding house Angelo and Clorinda dug out an air raid shelter during World War 2. Then they covered the top with the soil they had excavated and grew all sorts of vegetables (and peanuts) on it for the boarding house. You name it and they had it. Chickens too, naturally!!
Some of the children in the boarding house families had to help before and after school with chores, including cleaning, sweeping and washing floors, making boarders’ lunches, preparing and waiting on tables, washing up etc.
Some hostesses secured jobs for their men whether daily, weekly, monthly or life time – either locally or in the bush! When some of these men met these ladies again later in life they told them they attributed their successes to them and how eternally grateful they were.
Some long-time boarders became life-long friends. Some made toys, rocking horses and walkers for the infant/child of the family. One in particular was Giuseppe DeBandi, known to one and all exclusively as Piemonte.
Social life around the boarding houses
A Spanish contingent invited the hostess’s teenage nieces to impromptu Flamenco afternoons and they also taught the girls how to dance.
On Sundays Federico Balestrin would organise get togethers where his son-in-law Dario Pisani would play his piano accordion for singalongs and dancing.
During summer evenings the boarders and friends would meet out of the front of the houses and passed the time together.
The boarders were always treated as family and were even advised on family matters with some of them having family overseas. Some were accompanied to medical and other professional appointments to help with the translating and understanding.
The whole of the West End was very much a close-knit family with everyone living side by side – Aboriginals, Italians, Greeks, Jugoslavs, Hungarians, Australians, Maltese, Spanish, Scandinavians, Syrians, Lebanese, Balts to name a few. Racism did not exist here!
Linda De Marchi nee Cescato
Nives Caon nee Cescato
7 March 2021
Photos supplied by Linda and Nives except for the one from Maria Rosa Tormena.