Tag Archives: Brisbane history

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!)

Previous post… A place to meet, share food and stories

Leave a comment

Filed under inspiration + history

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.

7 Comments

Filed under inspiration + history

From one hand to another…

I’m so thrilled that, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar has now been translated and published in braille. In a way, the story is completing a lovely circle in travelling from my mind to be written by hand then to be read by hand and to another mind.

Thank you to all those at Braille House who made this possible. It really feels very special! 💙 Zoe xx

[Image descriptions: Image 1: blue book cover with braille along the spine and a black and white photo of Joe and Francesca and their little boy, Remo in front of their 1950s milk bar.
Image 2: a braille alphabet.]

Leave a comment

Filed under books + writing

A decade on from the flood…

Floodwater creeping up Brunswick Street, New Farm. 2011

The tenth anniversary of the 2011 Brisbane floods has crept up on me in a way, like the floodwater as we tried to save things from my grandparents New Farm house. It’s still hard to believe how the water rose so deceptively fast. And not just from the river breaching its banks but up road drains and inside houses up sinks and toilets.

Brunswick Street not long after.

Those familiar with what I wrote of it in, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar know much was lost, including what remained of my grandparents’ possessions. While my home wasn’t impacted, I find I’m still affected by the floods I saw a decade ago. I still cry. For the 36 lives lost, three of those people never found. For those who had to climb onto their roofs to be rescued, for all the animals lost. And not only those affected in Brisbane but people in Ipswich, in Toowoomba, Grantham and its surrounds where they faced without warning an inland tsunami. For all those impacted that 2011 summer when Queensland had a flood incredibly, the size of France and Germany combined.

Top: New Farm (arrow shows my grandparents’ house). Bottom: Rocklea Markets, where Nonno Anni would go each day for produce for his fruit shop and milk bar. Courtesy, ABC.

Returning to my grandparents’ house after the flood, I recall being stunned and quiet on the outside yet my heart beating fast. I can still smell the grey-black mud the flood left in its wake. Anyone who smelt it will know that almost primal, earthy smell, mixed with acrid chemicals and an overlay of death and decay. To see it covering my grandparents’ lounge suite and Nanna Francesca’s ‘good’ cabinet that still contained glassware and crockery we didn’t have time to save is a sight I’ll never forget.

The first two photos are my own and show the floodwater creeping up the footpath toward my grandparents’ house and then their part of Brunswick Street soon after. The others are courtesy of the ABC and are before and after the flood.

This anniversary will be very hard for so many people and my heart goes out to them. Yes, time passes. Experiences become less raw. Yet, they’re not forgotten. The resilience of people in the face of grief and loss moves me the most. When it doesn’t matter if rich or poor, or any of those other labels that often can divide us, all put aside when people come together to help each other. I hope we never lose that.

Top: Milton. Bottom: Fairfield. Courtesy, ABC.

Top: Ipswich. Bottom: Lang Park, Milton. Courtesy, ABC.

Leave a comment

Filed under inspiration + history

Red Hill Skate Arena…

Certain places give a funny feeling when you return to them decades on. Perhaps it’s something that’s more inside yourself than in the building with its recognisable, old glimpses and smells, even if these are veiled in years of change. I found myself back at the Red Hill Skate Arena for the first time since I last roller skated there when I was 13 in the 1980s. (And in another layer of family history, my Mum and Dad had a ‘skate date’ there back in 1967!)

Before it became a skate arena in the 60s, it was ‘Pop’s Picture Theatre’ from the 1920s, so it seems fitting it’s back to being cinemas once again. So pleased the modest, old building survived a fire and dereliction to live another day. As you may recall from, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, when I went to locate the places I was writing about, it was sad to find most had disappeared beneath ash, bulldozers and high-rises – the milk bar, Astoria Café, Regent Theatre and Trocadero to name a few.

Life goes on, change happens, good and bad. And in the same way that the old skate arena has changed, now being middle-aged I’m a long way from that teenage girl in the 80s, but sometimes it’s perhaps good to remember the 13-year-old who loved skating and the history that is within us all and the places we live.

2 Comments

Filed under inspiration + history

Family history by chance…

Looking closer at this old photo from the Brisbane Ekka (exhibition/show) that recently appeared on several local history sites, I couldn’t believe it when I happened to see my Dad in it. In 1971 he worked at the chairlift after he and Mum returned from travels and working overseas for a couple of years and he did other work until he resumed his teaching job. (Dad is one of the blokes in red and white and is under the OR of the Escort sign above).

It’s the first photo I’ve seen of him working at the chairlift (unfortunately, I don’t know who took this photo to credit them) but incredibly there’s more to this photo than first realised. In the foreground, a short, brown-haired woman in pale blue looking toward my Dad appears to be Nanna Francesca. What is especially poignant is that they’d been estranged for a few years after my parents’ cross-cultural wedding (not so accepted back in the 1960s) and it was when they accidentally first saw each other at the Ekka chairlift that my Dad and his parents reunited and became close again.

Little did the person who took this photo know they’d captured such a time in my family that we’d only happen to see almost 50 years later.

8 Comments

Filed under inspiration + history

sign of the old shop…

In this photograph of my family’s fruit shop and milk bar in its earlier days, it’s apparent how it began very modestly with my grandparents standing on the footpath in Ann Street selling produce from a ‘hole in the wall’ before they expanded the space to include a milk bar. Visible in the top left is some of the sign that hung over the footpath from around the early 1950s. It was white with ‘milk bar’ in red Perspex letters and lit up at night.

Below is the only part of the sign we managed to salvage after Brisbane’s 2011 floods (and happens to be the bit seen in this photograph taken almost 70 years ago!) It might be broken but it’s one of only a handful of items my grandparents kept when they closed their milk bar and with now no trace that it ever existed, it seems lucky to have this piece left.

Leave a comment

Filed under art + photographs, books + writing

Official opening of Anzac Square, Brisbane…

Anzac Square 1930Official opening of Anzac Square in Brisbane on 25th April, 1930 (taken from Ann St looking towards Adelaide St).

image courtesy State Library, Qld.

More about Anzac Day…

{For those familiar with the Astoria Café in Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, this building can be seen  in the far right of the photograph.}

Leave a comment

Filed under art + photographs, inspiration + history