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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January 5...

Last Sunday was January 5 and on that date in 1967 my father lost his 11 month battle with leukemia. He was 58, and I can remember at the time, how people, when offering their condolences always said he was 'too young'. I didn't really understand what they meant, but as I have grown older myself and gone past 58, I do understand...
My dad was born in Sicily and at the age of 15 came to Australia to join his older brother, who was a canecutter in north Queensland. My father came out on the steamship 'Regina d'Italia'; he would have travelled from Sicily to Genoa to board the ship. I did not know any of these details when my dad was alive; I only discovered these things during a visit to the National Archives of Australia in Canberra. I have already written about this very emotional day in a post here.

Regina d'Italia


Many people associate migration from Italy to Australia with the post World War 2 years but history shows that many came to Australia in the 1920s (and even earlier,) as my father and his brother did. They were escaping poverty and hoping for a better life.

The photo that was used for my father's temporary passport
My dad on the left with his older brother Sam
My dad is holding the enamel mugs and teapot; when he arrived he was too young to join the 'gang' cutting cane so it looks like he was the 'teaboy' until he was 17

From books that I've read, being a canecutter was very hard, dirty, hot work but my dad's stories of those times didn't reflect that. The money was good and the season was only part of the year...
Dad's on the right 
 He told me stories about his beloved motor bike; the photo below isn't him but one of his mates. He described riding the bike along the long beaches up north...my staid 'old' dad sounded a bit of a rebel! lol
I believe he was in his 20s when the next photo was taken...in Australia he was able to learn the violin; many of my memories of him feature him playing opera tunes on his violin.

In this photo he would be in his 30s and the hairline has 'gone right back'
In his mid to late 30s my dad started farming in the Stanthorpe district, but after WW2 ended  he moved to Brisbane...
One of a set of studio photos my father had done to send to the woman who would become my mother...
When dad first arrived in Brisbane, he worked at the Wunderlich factory at Ferny Grove, but luckily not for long as the Wunderlich factories were producing asbestos sheeting. After having had a share in a fruit farm at Ballandean, dad started working in a fruit shop in Brisbane city...
Needless to say the workers in this shop seemed to have some fun times...about 13 years ago, Jimmy, the man on the front right of the photo, gave me the original but damaged photo. Jimmy's parents owned the shop...the shop was called The Why (or Y) Worry and it was in Edward St.


I don't think my dad ever expected to be a father. His first marriage had ended in divorce and with no children. Then when he was 42, I was born. 
He was a very 'hand on' dad, changing nappies, bathing  and feeding me...


My dad would go to Symphony concerts and the opera and would wear his suit and a bowtie to these occasions. The photo below was taken in 1963 at my cousin's wedding (an arranged marriage for her :-( )   and dad is wearing his 'concert outfit'; because my uncle went back to Sicily to live many years earlier, my father was the Patriarch of the family here...a role he took seriously. 


The last photo I ever took of my dad; in 1966 working in his garden.
I like to think that even though my dad died when I was only 15, he lived long enough to influence the type of person I became as an adult. 

13 comments:

Dorothy said...

Sad day for you Maria but lovely memories of your Dad. xox

Maria said...

Your Dad was a great man and you have lots of wonderful memories of him..
A lovely post.

shez said...

yes a lovely post Maria lots of lovely memories.xx

Claud said...

He was way too young when he passed; but he left a wonderful human being here.

Love,

Claud

Sue Niven said...

Thank you for sharing your fathers' story with us, I really enjoyed it. Although my own father is still alive, he was never there for us preferring the pub and having fun.
He regrets it now,

Ryll Paul said...

Beautifully put Maria - it is too often we don't appreciate our parents until they are gone - you have done a wonderful job of honoring your dad :)

Susan said...

What lovely memories you have Maria.
Certainly unusual to have a hands on dad like that back then, Im sure he was a treasure.

Jill Butler said...

A lovely post Maria...wonderful photos and memories.

Anthea said...

These are wonderful memories of your Dad, Maria, thank you for sharing them x

Vireya said...

Fascinating story of your father's life, Maria. And how sad for you to lose him when you were so young.

Nicky said...

What a beautiful story of your Dad's life, you have told it so well....

Chookyblue...... said...

interesting to see where your family came from...........what they did.........

Marit Johanne said...

You have written a wonderful story about your dad. It is important to write down the history we remember so the next generations can learn about it. I know from myself that there is so much I would have liked to ask my parents about now, but when I was younger and they still lived, I had no time to listen to the old stories. Sorry that your father died so young.