Tag Archives: Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

“Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar” broadcast…

From tonight, ABC Nightlife will broadcast the audiobook of Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar read by the very talented, award-winning actress, Daniela Farinacci (who was absolutely lovely to work with!)

Many thanks to Bolinda audio, ABC Books and Nightlife.

 

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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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Old photographs and family stories…

Even though Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar is completed, it is a pleasure to keep hearing more stories from my older relatives who always seem to have a little more to reveal about this era of their lives.

Talking to my great uncle Vincenzo recently I found out the varieties of produce they grew on the family’s Applethorpe farm included Granny Smith and Delicious apples, Santa Rosa and Wilson plums, Packham pears and green beans, also known as French or string beans. And the beans were the easiest to pick come harvest time.

(My great-grandmother – back left – was in her 50s when this was taken and though having recently lost her husband was working hard to keep the farm going.)

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Books update…

Mezza Italiana and Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar are both now in bookshops in Italy!

It is such a thrill, especially to think back to when I first started writing Mezza in a notebook on the kitchen table in the Abruzzo house of my family. What might the generations who sat there before me have thought?!

Thank you to all of you who have shown such affection and support for these books (and to those who’ve messaged me after spotting the books already in Milan and Florence!) I am very grateful! Tante belle cose, Zoe xx

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From 6th June, 1946…

Annibale, Francesca and Remo outside shopToday it is 70 years since my Italian grandparents, Nonno Anni and Nanna Francesca signed the lease on premises to start up their fruit shop and milk bar in Australia.

And so began many years when they opened the shop from 7am until 11pm, only the two of them working there (with a baby in tow) and closing just two days a year at Christmas and Easter.

Thinking of them with much gratitude for all their hard work and sacrifice to make it such a success.

 

 

 

 

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Hand-bound books…

bookbindingIn Bendigo not long ago, I came across a bookbinding shop that is the most similar I’ve found in Australia to the one I came across in Florence (p.212 Mezza Italiana). I couldn’t resist these handmade books and the owner kindly offered to emboss my name on them.
I wrote the first draft of Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar longhand in foolscap exercise books. The pens I used were cheap, plastic biros. The ink ran out in close to a dozen by the end. Mezza Italiana also began in longhand, at the kitchen table in my family’s house in Italy. That time I wrote in several diary planners that were out of date, with similar plastic biros.
These hand-bound books are so beautiful I feel almost afraid to write in them!

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Milk bar glassware, circa 1950s…

milk bar glasswareOriginal, circa 1950s glassware from Nonno Anni and Nanna Francesca’s milk bar… milkshake glasses, the glass for the homemade orange drink and the bowl used for ice cream sundaes and fruit salads.

Built to last, once they were used everyday, often banged down on the milk bar counter and washed ready for the next customers. Funny how time changes objects – these days I keep them in the ‘good’ glass cabinet in the lounge room – smiling.

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the Astoria Café…

Astoria cafe Astoria cafe buildingThe Astoria Café in Brisbane, where my grandparents worked in the 1940s, had long been demolished by the time I wrote about it. I relied on my grandparents’ stories and old pictures and wished it had still been around for me to see.

Recently, I was in Sydney to talk about Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar at a conference and author, Estelle Pinney, who’d been in the audience, approached me afterwards. Estelle told me she’d enjoyed reading Joe’s very much and that she had frequented the Astoria Café many times in the forties. (I don’t think Estelle will mind me saying that she is now in her eighties and extremely sprightly!) It was wonderful to hear her recollections of the café and as always, I’m so grateful for the insights into the past that writing this book has opened to me.

Thank you to all of you who have shared how Joe’s has connected with your own lives, past and present.

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the “cash register”…

Cash boxThe “cash register” at my grandparents’ fruit shop and milk bar was this wooden cash box. For decades, pounds, shillings and pence made their way in and out of it and for the final few years, dollars and cents. All calculations were made in one’s head (and no doubt at lightning speed when the pressure was on with a crowd of customers waiting!)

The wood feels very battered from much use, the lid has come off its hinges and has some watermarks as though much opened with hands damp from retrieving wet bottles of soft drink or making ice-creams. I love how a band-aid has been stuck on the bottom corner where the wood began to split! It looks like an old timber box perhaps ready for the tip but for me it contains so much history as an integral part of the fruit shop and milk bar.

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Inside the milk bar…

Annibale behind counter in the shopNonno Anni behind the counter of the milk bar – one of very few photographs taken inside. Great to see the milkshake machines to the right. It is difficult to decipher some of the brands of sweets, cigarettes and biscuits around the counter though I can see Mars chocolates {first made in 1932}, Violet Crumbles {since 1913} and a sign for Peters ice-cream {since 1907}.

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milk bar glass, circa 1950…

milk bar glassAn original glass {circa 1950} from Nanna Francesca and Nonno Anni’s milk bar. These were mostly used for my grandfather’s sought-after, homemade orange drink but customers would also request milkshakes in them too if they preferred glass to one of the metal canisters.

The milkshake flavours available at the time were chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, custard, lime and caramel, with chocolate always the most popular. The only flavours I had in the house to make this one were maple syrup and vanilla bean, which turned out quite delicious. And yes, that is an old-style, waxed paper straw!

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Italian internees, Australia 1942…

Internees and tent at Western CreekItalian internees at the ‘secret’ Western Creek internment camp in 1942. My grandfather, Annibale (far right, standing) was 18 years old and working as a farmhand at Applethorpe when he was interned.

Those familiar with Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar will know that despite much searching I have to date been unable to uncover any document that officially shows this internment camp existed. This is despite much anecdotal evidence gathered from internees, a guard and residents of the nearby Queensland town of Millmerran. As well as photographs taken inside the camp (see tent to left) and a tiny newspaper article that appeared in The Western Star and Roma Advertiser in 1942.

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Joe’s milk bar, circa 1950s…

Annibale and Vitale in milk barOne of the very few photographs taken inside my family’s milk bar in the 1950s (and also one of my favourites). Nonno Anni is behind the counter and Bisnonno Vitale is leaning on it.

This is the era when my grandparents were working 7am-11pm, 363 days a year at their fruit shop and milk bar. My great-grandfather Vitale helped out at the busy times yet continued in his own job at the Brown and Broad sawmill beside the Brisbane River in Teneriffe.

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

 

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New life between beautiful old walls…

Laidley old bakeryRecently, I have been travelling in southwest Queensland for research for the next book. In the main street of Laidley, I happened across this beautiful old building that was originally a bakery when it was built back in 1905. It is currently empty and seemed to be being renovated inside. Lovely how so many country towns value and utilise their historic buildings. Seeing the words ‘Soft Drinks’ in faded paint across the glass over the front entrance, I could not help imagining turning it into an old-style, 1950s milk bar…

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Stonehenge Boarding house…

Stonehenge 157 Leichhardt St BrisbaneStonehenge Boarding house at 157 Leichhardt St, Spring Hill, Brisbane, where three generations of my family lived during the 1940s. It is amazing to see how steeply pitched the roof is considering my father climbed to the top of it when he was not quite three and a half and my Nonno had to get him back down. Sadly, this house, built circa 1859 of convict-hewn stone, was demolished in the 1950s.

 

Photograph courtesy of the Fryer Library, University of Qld and http://www.yourbrisbanepastandpresent.com/

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Queen Street, Brisbane in 1939…

Queen St 1939….as it looked when my grandfather, Annibale arrived alone in Australia at the age of 15. Met by his father, Vitale, who took him straight from the ship dock to this street to buy some new work boots. The very next day, they left Brisbane for Annibale to commence work at a farm 200km away. After seven years apart, father and son got to spend just 24 hours together.

{image courtesy State Library, Qld}

 Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Milk Bar in the Regent Theatre, Brisbane circa 1936…

Regent Theatre milk bar{image courtesy State Library, Qld}

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Bisnonna’s frittata…

Zoe's version of Bisnonna's frittataFor my Great-Granny Maddalena’s frittata, the main ingredients were eggs, some salt and flat-leaf parsley. She also used a lot of olive oil (her frittata never stuck to the pan!)

In Italy, she included ‘mountain greens’ that she’d collected from the hillsides in her apron, such as agretti, wild asparagus, nettles and an array of ‘wild greens’.

The frittata may also be baked in an oven rather than in a pan. This is a version of her frittata I made with asparagus and red onion – I stress this is ‘home cooking’ not ‘chef cooking’!!

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from Italia to Australia…

remo ship in SydneyThe ship, RemoThe Italian ship, ‘Remo’, which is linked to four generations of my family… my great-grandfather, Vitale arrived in Australia for the second time aboard it in 1932, my grandfather, Annibale sailed from Italy in it when he was just 15 in 1939, my father was named after it, and my nephew shares with it his second name.

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uno zufolo ~ an Italian folk flute…

zufuloGiuseppe (Joe) Castellana was taught by his Nonno in Sicily how to play the zufolo (an Italian flute dating back to the 14th century). After he migrated to Australia, Joe continued the tradition – playing the folk music that he learnt from his grandfather in Italy at performances in Australia over many decades.

He swapped between playing the zufulo and the accordion at the launch for Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar and I was touched when, at the end of the evening, Joe, who is now 82, gave me a zufolo that he had hand-carved himself.

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the first copy…

First copyAn advance copy of Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar arrived on my doorstep today… It is quite incredible to hold the book in my hands, flick through the pages and smell the scent of the paper. I have known since I was teenager that this was a book I one day hoped to write so in essence it’s been 25 years in the making! I also received some posters like the ones that will appear in bookshops, which makes it all feel that bit more real. Only three weeks until Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar will be on bookshop shelves!

 

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Freshly baked bread…

For many centuries, baking in most Italian villages took place mostly once a week or even a fortnight. Both my grandparents told me how they recalled the women of the village taking their dough to the forno (often the only oven in the entire village), and that each piece of dough had an identifying mark on it for when the women came back to collect their baked bread.

In Palmi, Calabria my great, great grandmother and bisnonna baked for their area in a large, wood-fired oven or forno in a room beneath their house.

While I’d heard these stories and have been to the village forno I had never seen any pictures so I was thrilled when photographer, Carla Coulson recently sent me this Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph. It was taken in 1953 in the Abruzzese town of Scanno as women were carrying their dough to the forno for baking.

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