Tag Archives: family history

con amore e grazie…

‘Helping Dad’. 😄 (Got to love that 1970s wallpaper. And the Band-Aid on the knee!) Buona festa del papà. 💕 Warmest wishes on this Father’s Day to our fathers and grandfathers present and past, our father figures, those of us who’d hoped to be fathers and all who are caring for and protecting children. Grazie eterni, Dad. 💙 Zoe xx

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Inklings of the past…

Bisnonna Francesca… a companion post to the previous on Bisnonno Domenico. Likewise, I didn’t get to meet her yet each photo has a little to reveal and brings the past somewhat closer in that moment. A rare photo, circa 1930 (bottom right) shows Francesca in Palmi, Calabria with her mother, Soccorsa, the baker and her daughter (Nanna Francesca). The three who lived together for years after Domenico was in Australia. And then (top left), just Francesca and her daughter, soon to leave to join him in 1934. She and her mother had worked hard to help raise the ship fares, determined as she was to be reunited.

I long for a photo of Francesca in her Applethorpe kitchen, cooking at the wood-fired stove, but sadly there are none. Often, I find her standing a little way behind in photos or to the side so it’s nice to see her front and centre (top right) with family and friends happy at harvest time.

For, by the photo of her and Domenico, it wasn’t long before he died, she becoming a widow at only forty-six. Sadly, their orchards were sold and she moved to her own house in the city – Teneriffe, Brisbane (bottom centre) but missed the farm and her life in Stanthorpe. At a picnic day with friends and family (top centre), still wearing her dark, mourning clothes, again Francesca stands to the back, as in many photos. Dad told me she remained heartbroken at losing Domenico and it truly must have affected her heart for she died just over a couple of years later, aged only 50.

My truly favourite photo of her is one of happiness (centre). She stands in her orchards and it seems light is falling upon her. To me, what’s most beautiful is her bare feet. My great-uncle, Vincenzo tells me his mum was always walking barefoot in the orchards and I love this so much. Her feet on the ground, feeling the earth. For someone who worked her entire life from a very young age and with no holidays, thankfully it seems there were these small moments of beauty in the everyday. 💛

Companion post –
Clues in black and white… Domenico

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Clues in black and white…

When writing of the past, two of the most valuable things I can hope for are handed-down spoken stories and photographs. I never knew my bisnonno, Domenico yet each photo can say so much…

In his work clothes (top left), one knee patched, behind him his Applethorpe orchards on land he’d hand-cleared, long before he could afford the horse.

Below, just a teenager in his navy uniform, this studio portrait in Palmi at the time of WWI. (For most of his life a cigarette never far from his hand – he smoked Capstans).

Other photos reveal the camaraderie of the migrant men in Australia. Their evident love of music and dance in those rare times they weren’t working and could get together, Domenico often asked to play his guitar. Bonds built up in the years they’d been compelled to be apart from family in Italy, and now reunited with wives and children, WW2 over, the future promising.

In the centre photo, Domenico stands between two fellows, well-dressed, behind them the truck he’d bought – that sign of success for many. By this time he owned the farm, had his wife and three children near, a first grandchild. It must be one of the last photos of him. Domenico only lived to be fifty-three but by then, the risk he’d taken in emigrating to Australia with so little, knowing he could never again see his parents and relatives back in Italy, had set up a future for ongoing generations of his descendants. It never fails to impress me what these first generations of migrants accomplished.

Companion post –
Inklings of the past… Francesca

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Darwin bombings… 80th anniversary

Remembering all those who lost their lives or were traumatised by the heavy bombings that occurred in Darwin on this day 80-years-ago. I wish I’d been taught more about this event at school in the mid-1980s, however back then, more emphasis was on the Pearl Harbour bombings. Many years later, I’d come to learn just how much the bombing of Darwin directly affected Australia and indeed my own family.

My grandpa, Bob and my grandma, Lorna met there in the 1940s when each of them were stationed in Darwin, he in the air force, she in the WNELs (Women’s National Emergency Legion), being among those involved in its clean-up and recovery. These bombings also meant the ramping up of interning Italian ‘aliens’, Nonno Anni being one of those rounded up soon after as a result of what happened in Darwin.

Incredibly, at one point in 1942, my two grandfathers would be just 40kms from each other, Nonno Anni in an internment camp at Western Creek, Grandpa Bob at Cecil Plains where he’d been posted to a new Liberator Squadron assembling to head north. Decades later, they would not only know each other but be related.

Considering what happened to them during WW2, as I wrote in ‘Joe’s’, they each could so easily have chosen to shun each other, cite their differences rather than their similarities. My Australian and Italian grandmothers too. But they didn’t, for the sake of two little girls, their shared granddaughters and I will forever be grateful to them for this because it was so wonderful to have their influence, their stories and their unconditional love in my life.

Perhaps, current generations acknowledging what happened in the past, in some way, might give back a little. And considering that much of the history surrounding Darwin’s bombing remained unspoken for decades, it is with much respect that I remember and acknowledge what happened there eighty years ago today.

Related post… Lorna – WNELs

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Spring daisies…

I planted these in the vegie patch to attract bees yet the flowers have taken me straight back to the daisy bushes Nanna Francesca grew in her front garden. She often had us stand in front of those daisy bushes for photos and from the 1950s on, we have decades of family photos taken with the daisies. (I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has old photos taken in front of a certain plant or tree in a family garden over the years!) While those daisies are long gone now, I love how daisies will forever remind me of Nanna Francesca. (I also couldn’t resist including the photo of Bisnonno Vitale watering their front garden back when three generations of the family all lived in the house on Brunswick Street.)

In Italian, the word for daisy is margherita, the name of so many women in Italy. Daisies are also said to symbolise hope and new beginnings and in Old English were called ‘day’s eye’ because at night the petals close over the yellow centre and open again to the daylight. I’ve found out too daisies can be medicinal as well as eaten, wild daisy tea used to treat coughs and bronchitis and their leaves added to salads. So, by chance, it seems fitting that I planted one in the vegie patch after all. (And if you look closely at the single flower, the bees have been visiting and left little pollen footprints.) Buona giornata! 💛🌼🌿

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Four generations…

I have this one treasured photo with three generations of the Boccabella men in my life – Dad, Nonno Anni, Bisnonno Vitale (and my zio).

When I was born, I was the first girl in centuries of generations in my Boccabella line and very fortunate to have these older men around me. Men who showed me kindness, love, respect and generosity, who never hit or yelled, worked very hard and who could also be infuriatingly stubborn at times! Am very proud to share their name and their stories.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads and tight hugs to those missing Dads (and also Grandpas and Great-Granddads as I do too). With much love, Zoë xx

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Carnations, kindness and minestrone…

Thank you to great-granny Maddalena who showed me about forbearance, cheekiness, growing vegetables and cooking minestrone and great-grandma Charlotte for her work ethic, kindness, growing gerberas and carnations and baking scones.

I’m forever grateful to have had two great-grandmothers in my childhood from two of my ancestral cultures and many older women who’ve guided me with their wisdoms and care throughout my life so far.

To all those kind, strong, gentle women out there and the men who support them – happy International Women’s Day. Zoë xx

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Tanti auguri a zio Vincenzo… ottant’anni

Happy 80th Birthday to my great uncle, Vince. Lovely to celebrate this milestone with him on the weekend. To me, he’s always been a gentle soul and am so glad we’ve stayed close.

A wonderful ballroom dancer, loves local history and photography, was born and grew up on the family’s Applethorpe farm and I also have great memories of him working hard on tomato day bottling the passata, making Italian biscuits with Nanna Francesca and looking like an Italian Elvis with that wonderful hair slicked back.

Older members of a family are so important and I never tire of sitting listening to the old stories and memories. Buon Compleanno Vincenzo! Tante belle cose. xx

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old photograph, blurry, creased, precious…

My grandparents, circa 1950.

                                                                 …small moments of beauty.

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Looking out from Fossa to the Apennines and nearby towns…

When I think back to first leaning on these railings more than two decades ago, the unexpected sense of belonging to a place that until then I’d only heard about, amazes me even now. Such a beautiful landscape in all it holds, its timelessness, change, ancestry, scars, history and splendour. xx

“Nonno Anni’s face creases in smiles when I join him. He leads me out to Piazza Belvedere and we lean on the railings taking in the magnificent view of the Aterno Valley. Nonno Anni straightens and takes a big breath. He slaps his chest, encouraging me to take some deep breaths of the pure mountain air with him.”

from Mezza Italiana

 

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via dei Beati… and being almost home

Coming up this street in Fossa always feels like being ‘almost home’ whether returning from nearby L’Aquila or a long flight from Australia. For just around the next corner is my family’s house and while it has centuries of history, to me it also has that comforting feel like coming to stay at your grandparents’ house.

In recent years, this street was renamed via dei Beati for two saints born here, Bernardino in 1420 and Cesidio, 1873. But for me, this is also where Granny Maddalena stood not far from the church door you can see and watched her son, Annibale, then 15, walk away from her as he carried just one port to start his journey to Australia. It changed the course of our family history from then on, but his keeping a part of Fossa in his heart to one day share with us showed me that in a way it was part of us too. (For which, after resisting it a long time, I’m now very grateful!)

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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.

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