Dad remembers back to when he was a young boy and how when he did something wrong, he would start to run. My Nonno would chase after him saying "Come back, I love you". Dad while still running would yell back, "if you love me, why are you chasing me?" Nonno wasn't mad at Dad, he was upset for other reasons. Dad went to school for a short time, but then as a teenager he found work and his boss loved him. He tells me how he would run home for lunch, eat and then run back as he didn't want to be late or let anyone down. When he got back to work the other workers would still be eating. Food was scarce in those days, so when you saw it, you ate and fast or someone else would.
Before Dad was born, Nonno Francesco had decided to migrate to America as there wasn't much work in Italy after the war. As hard as it was to leave, he boarded the ship 'Patria' from the Naples dock and headed for Ellis Island, New York. This was a processing centre for all new migrants. Once he had been given the clean bill of health by the doctor, he was able to leave the Island and would have done so by ferry. He then went on to start up his own Ice Cart business in Newark, New Jersey. Mum recently told me that he had a sister named Paolina who also lived in New Jersey.
Dad had lots of friends, but his best friend was Luigi Rotundo who he has never forgotten and still talks about. They loved climbing the olive trees and going to the local beach and getting up to a little mischief. He was like any normal teenager just wanting to have fun and enjoy life as much as he could. Sadly when Dad was only 15yrs old, my Nonno Francesco passed away a few days before Christmas day.
A few years had past, but things were becoming more difficult at home. When my Dad was 19yrs old he would have to leave for his journey to Melbourne, Australia and leave everything that he knew and loved behind. On the 6th May 1962, he said goodbye to my Nonna at his family home and he then left for the Naples dock with a close family friend. It was heartbreaking for the both of them as they adored each other. He boarded the ship Castel Felice 'Roma' and he left for the start of his next chapter. Surrounded by strangers who were all feeling the same, they comforted each other, ate together and talked about their future new life. There was a photographer on board who took pictures of them and a day or two later they could be purchased and thankfully Dad did.
The voyage was long and tiring, but the ship finally arrived on 31st May 1962 at Station Pier in Port Melbourne. It had first passed through Fremantle, Western Australia and then through Sydney. Dad remembers it being around dusk. He told me that friends from his hometown in Bitritto, Bari who had arrived in Australia earlier had come to greet him with open arms. He was so happy just to see someone that he knew.
He was first welcomed into the home of an amazing lady named Giustina who even though had her own family, took care of Italian migrants. This was at 14 George Street in Dandenong. She helped them to settle in and encouraged them to look for work. Dad found a job after a few weeks at the Ordish Brick Works on Stud Road, Dandenong. It must have been so hard for him with not knowing anyone or not being able to speak English, but he was a hard worker and they could see that. When I talk to Dad about this adventure, his eyes swell up with tears, as the memories are so fresh as if it only happened yesterday.