Tag Archives: ANFE Brisbane

Tying knots and stories…

A post script – there were too many little incidents to include them all in, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, but in relation to the previous post, here is a small, extra story…

Just up from the family house in Wyandra Street, Teneriffe was a Gospel Hall that had Scout meetings on Friday nights. By then, it was the early 1950s and Remo, not yet ten, went along.

To his dismay, when Granny Maddalena found out, she turned up and told him to get home. ‘You’re not going to any more of these meetings, the devil is in there!’ – Perhaps because the Gospel Hall wasn’t Catholic?! – Bewildered, Remo said to her, ‘But we were just learning how to tie knots!’

Nearly thirty years on, the Gospel Hall was still there, next to the land Annibale was hoping to purchase to build the ANFE premises. He made an appointment with the Minister to see if he was willing to sell it. The Minister took a long look at him and said, ‘But I can’t sell this hall to you! The devil is in it!”, and then he winked. He and Annibale had a good laugh, remembering, and then the Minister said, “All right, I’m happy to sell it since the land will be used for another community venture.”

…Dad reminded me of this story just the other day. I didn’t recall ever seeing any photographs with this Gospel Hall in them but then, not long afterward, a curious thing happened. I went back to work looking through old photographs for another book I’m working on, and by chance, out fell a photo Nanna Francesca took in Wyandra Street when they lived there and in the background behind the car is the timber, Gospel Hall. All these years on and I happen to see this for the first time now.

Perhaps I was a bit too sentimental in my previous post, (I can be at the best of times!) It might’ve been because Wyandra Street features so strongly in my family history and now, little remains of how the area once was and another bit will soon vanish. But I accept life keeps going on, change happens and so it is. In the meantime, we connect and live on in our stories and I feel very blessed to be able to share these stories with you and to hear yours in return. Gentile auguri! Zoe xx

PPS Apologies for the picture quality, these photos are almost 70 years old now. (The older boy is a cousin possibly dressed up for an occasion and Dad as a little boy seems to be copying his stance!)

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A place to meet, share food and stories…

Forty years ago today, the Brisbane ANFE Italian Club opened its premises in Wyandra Street, Teneriffe, built on the same spot Nonno Anni and Nanna Francesca bought their first house in 1947 (pictured top left and on Mezza Italiana). Yesterday, ANFE celebrated the occasion and as I gazed around the club building it felt poignant, for I couldn’t help thinking of how my grandparents put so much of their time, finances and their hearts into this place and that this time next year, the building would be demolished.

I recalled Nanna Francesca in the kitchen cooking with the other lovely volunteers, Nonno Anni running fund-raising dinner dances for several hundred people, working the bar and waiting tables with others and, when no one else was around, vacuuming the huge floor area or cleaning toilets among the myriad humble jobs he did for the club, despite being its president. He was a driving force in getting this building for ANFE built with both steadfast support from many and at times in the face of indifference from some.

The Brisbane part of the organisation had verged on closing when he took over in 1972 as president, (a position he’d be annually re-elected into every year until his death in 2006). He strongly believed local Italian migrants needed ANFE to continue and found the block of land where he’d once lived in Wyandra Street and even helped build the actual building, along with his brother and other volunteers. (The photo Nanna Francesca took of him unloading bricks from his ute alone on a Sunday perhaps says it all!)

I love how proud he looks among the other ANFE members when the building was officially opened by Brisbane’s mayor, Frank Sleeman 40 years ago (Nonno Anni holding plaque, standing tall, centre) and decades later, the happiness on his face when he (kneeling front) and other members gathered for another photo – it’s almost like, “we did it”. All those decades of voluntary work, events and fundraisers had kept the club going.

For forty years the building has stood, solid, strong, however, it’s been sold and while ANFE will move, like the timber houses that once made way for it and other commercial premises, this building so hard-won and built by volunteers will be demolished, to be built over by a high-rise apartment building, another among dozens now dominating the area. I admit it’s with sadness I write this, as again, another small part of Brisbane’s history will be razed.

I didn’t always understand my grandparents’ connection and drive for ANFE – it was mostly a different part of their lives when I was off busy in my own. Yet I’ve come to be so proud of what they and other like-minded ANFE volunteers achieved. Just recently, I learned about a group of migrants from Afghanistan, some of whom run a modest café with a kitchen garden out the back. While they are now Australian citizens, as they learn English and adjust to a new culture, this back garden offers a place to meet, share food and stories of their struggles and triumphs, keeping some of their birth culture while embracing a new life in Australia. In way, just like ANFE was for Italians all those decades ago.

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