Giovanna Carollo`s father Antonio, was born on the 26th of August 1898, in the village of Zugliano. Zugliano is situated in the province of Vicenza, Italy. He was 24 years old when he arrived in Australia in 1922.
Antonio came to Australia with his friend Mario Borgo who was also from Zugliano. Three years later in 1925 their friend Giovanni Binotto would join them and call Australia home. They were all good friends but Antonio and Giovanni were particularly close.
Antonio and Mario both came to Tarrawanna as the mines were close by. Within a short time both men acquired jobs. When the great depression hit in 1929, many miners were laid off.
In the meantime, Giovanni Binotto had brought his wife and two children out to Australia. Giovanni’s wife Fiore, was Mario Borgo`s sister. By 1930 Giovanni and his family were living with Luigi Luccarda. Giovanni was also laid off from the mine. He would be out of work for the next 7 years.
It was a particularly hard time for so many back in those days. With no work, many were living in boarding houses, sheds or garages that were `questionably liveable`. It was all about sheltering people and giving them a place to stay. Everybody worked together to make do, the best they could. Being Italian, many were skilled in agriculture, so they were able to sustain themselves by growing much needed fruits and vegetables. Even though it was hard, people were happy.
Giovanni was a very skilled handyman and gardener and he built the bocce courts and the grape vines at Luigi Luccarda`s house. Luigi Luccarda`s bocce courts became quite the meeting and gathering place for many. It kept them connected to their fellow countrymen as well as a place to go, when there was nowhere to go. Mario and Antonio would also frequent Luigi’s place. Having such a meeting place must have been a such a blessing for everyone.
In 1931 Antonio and Mario went into partnership and purchased a wine shop in Crown Street, Wollongong. It was purchased from Lorenzo Filippi who had been operating the shop since 1929. Mario had stopped working in the mine, as it was making him sick. He found the work very heavy and hard on him physically. Antonio was still working in the mine and together they had a plan for operating the store.
Mario would run the shop during the day. As Antonio worked in the afternoon at the mine, he would schedule the mornings to do deliveries for the wine shop. Antonio had his drivers licence as well as his own flat top truck. This seemed to work out very well. The business was picking up.
In 1938, Antonio married Agnes Dargan, who was the girl next door. In that same year their daughter Giovanna was born. Eleven months later, Antonio had an accident in the mine and on 20th September 1939, Antonio Carollo passed away. He was 41 years old.
Antonio`s passing was devastating for everyone. Agnes had to now find work to support herself, as there were no widow pensions available at that time. Agnes got a job as a hotel cook and she lived on site. Antonio`s best friend Giovanni Binotto and his wife Fiore took in little Giovanna and raised her as their own along with their two children Luigi who was 16 years old and Caterina who was 14.
Giovanni and his family moved into a house that he rented from the Crofton family. The house sat on the grounds of the Crofton family property, that spanned across three street frontages. There was the main house (the homestead) as well as three other cottages on the property. When Giovanni was unemployed, he would do the gardening, landscaping and maintenance of the homestead and the property itself. The Croftons appreciated him and his work so much, that they did not charge him any rent. The homestead was indeed huge, and needed constant attention. The Crofton family grew to love Giovanni quite a lot.
By 1940 the Croftons had both passed away. Giovanni remained a tenant of the Crofton family, whose daughter, Kathleen Collier now owned the property. Giovanni would eventually move into the homestead, renting it from Mrs Collier. When Giovanni was renting the main house, there were still many immigrants coming and needing a place to stay. Giovanni opened the house to boarders and sometimes entire families would arrive from Italy as well. Word had gotten out about the homestead, because of it’s size, families were soon staying for extended periods of time, till they were ready to move on. There could be up to 7 extra people staying at any one time along with Giovanni and his family at the homestead.
In 1950 Mrs Collier wanted to sell the entire property and wanted Giovanni to have first preference to purchase it. Giovanni didn’t have the money to purchase the lot, but he did express his interest in purchasing the homestead itself, that stretched across three blocks of land. Mrs Collier agreed and sold the homestead to Giovanni. She then sold the remainder of the property that was subdivided into many blocks. During the time they were living there in 1948, Agnes Carollo (Giovanna`s mother) died at age 40.
Giovanni eventually, went back to work in the mine and continued until his retirement in 1957, the same year that Giovanna ( his step daughter) was married at the age of 19. Giovanni’s children Caterina and Luigi had moved out years before. Giovanna and her husband Antonio Sandona, lived in the homestead with Giovanna`s parents.
Giovanna and her husband Antonio began building their first house on land given to them by Giovanna`s parents. The plan was to build a new house and move Giovanni and Fiore in with Giovanna and her husband Antonio, as the homestead was in its original state but with no modern facilities. There was no hot water, no sewerage and the house was way too big for Giovanni and Fiore. Four years before, at the age of 15, Giovanna had left school to help care for her mother Fiore who became incapacitated, due to a brain haemorrhage. Giovanna never worked as she dedicated herself to looking after her mother. Giovanna`s husband Antonio was of tremendous support to her. Having to care for both of her parents now (as Giovanni’s health was failing too), Antonio also would help Giovanna care for her parents. Antonio was working at the steels works at the time, and he was working hard to get the house finished for everyone to move into. Unfortunately, Fiore never got to move into the new house, as it was still a few months away from being finished. Fiore passed away in 1962. Giovanni. who also was quite ill now, passed away a year later after a long battle with bladder cancer. The year was 1963. For the past ten years from ages 15 - 25, Giovanna nurse both her parents due to their ailing health and basically did it on her own. There was no outside help.
1964 saw the birth of Giovanna and Antonio`s first born child, Giancarlo. That same year Giovanni’s homestead was sold. Giovanna and Antonio now had their own family and in 1972 their daughter Fiona was born.
In 1978 Gina Borgo (who was Mario Borgo`s daughter) and her close friends Irma Calgaro and Rina Filippi, had a discussion about having a get together with some of the women who were the daughters of immigrants that had lived locally as children. As the children married and moved on, many moved out of the area, while others stayed. Gina, Irma and Rina wanted to reconnect to their roots and to stay in touch with as many of them as possible.
The three women decided to form a group and call themselves `Daughters of the Italian Pioneers of the South Coast`. The original group of women were born from the 20`s decade. Some came from Italy while others were born here. They then made a decision to bring in the younger ones too. The younger group of women were from the 30`s and many were born here. So approximately 64 women in total made up the combined group.
The first reunion was at The Fraternity Bowling Club in Fairy Meadow. They had a magnificent luncheon catered for by the club and the women were just so happy to have seen their friends after such a long time. The excitement of getting together, of sharing lost memories, was so heartfelt. The majority of the women were from the Veneto region, but other Italian regions were represented too, making up the group. With the older women, they shared their stories of hardships that they endured. Many of these women married Australian men, as there were not many Italian men available at the time. A lot still talked in their old dialect which was quite funny to them.
Each year the reunion would take place on the first Sunday in March. No one received an invitation, they just knew where to turn up, back at the Fraternity Club at lunch time. Often they would have photos taken and a story or a write up would appear in the local or Italian newspapers.
Over the years the group has naturally gotten smaller. Some have passed, some no longer drive, or some have moved to a different place. In the last ten years the group reduced to about 19 people.
Since the pandemic over the last two years, the group has all but dissolved. There a just a few of them now, who are very close friends. Giovanna still keeps in touch with them and hopes that one day they can get together again for another luncheon.
Antonio Carollo at Luigi Luccarda`s bocce court.
|Antonio Carollo on the right (hand on hip)|
|The group of older women from the 20`s era. Including Gina, Irma and Rina.|
|The group of younger women from the 30`s era. Including Giovanna, front row left wearing blue dress.|
All images from the collection belonging to Giovanna Sandona (Carollo)