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MY LIFE HISTORY AT CANNING MILLS

By SILIO DIMARCO

 

I was born on 20th May 1926 at Bagni di Lucca, Tuscant, Italy.

When I was just 2 months old, my father Dante, migrated to Australia on the ship "Caprera". It was such a small ship that at Fremantle the passengers had to climb up a gangway onto the wharf. A few years later my father had saved enough money (fortysix pounds) for the fare for my mother and I to come to Fremantle. We arrived on the 18th August 1936 on the ship "Orford". I was 10 years old when I first met my father.

BAGNI DI LUCCA, TUSCANT, ITALY

 

PASSPORT FOR PALMIRA DI MARCO

 

PASSPORT FOR PALMIRA DI MARCO

 

We arrived at Karragullen on my fathers 1930 Chev Truck. Everything was so different to the town I lived in when I was in Italy. I was asking all sorts of questions - Whether there were elephants, lions, tigers, monkeys, etc in the bush, and of course I knew no English and could not understand what people were talking about.

In 1933 my father bought 100 acres from the Canning Mills Timber Company and he and my Uncle Ugo Bovani, began clearing the bush with the aid of the horse, mattocks, shovels and kangroo jack. They then began planting fruit trees, mainly apples.

 

OUR HORSE "LILY"

 

We lived in a shed built of bush timber and galvanized iron, next to the railway line that extended from Canning Mills Station to the Karragullen Township. There were 13 people living in the shed. Myself, my Mother and Father, my Uncle Ugo and Aunt Gina, my four cousins Anda, Liliana, Vianna and Roy, also a third partner - Modesto Poletti, who later married my cousin Anda. The shed was divided into three rooms, one for the men, one for the women, and one for the kitchen in the middle. We had one door only, so we entered in single file - the first one in was the last one out. In the summer it was hot like an oven, and in the winter we had to cover the beds with newspaper so they would not get wet from the condensation dripping from the iron roof.

 

FORD V8 UTE

DANTE & PALMIRA DI MARCO  1960?

 

In 1936 I began attending school at Cannning Mills. The School teacher was Mr. Robert Forrest. His family lived in Fremantle but during the week he boarded at Mrs. Hamburys' in Canning Mills. The pupils consisted of Australians, Italians and Yugoslavs, but in order for me to learn English quickly, the Italian children were prohibited to speak Italian to me. I recorded an interesting incident that happened then. We were mad about playing cricket and we would turn up at school early to play - the first one there would get the bat. One day after school, one of my school mates, Wally Sharp, came to see me at the orchard and asked me if I would come and play cricket with them. Of course we had no running water in the hut we lived in, so one of my chores that I had to do after school was to cart water in kerosene tins from the dam up to the shack. I said to him "me water home, back cricket". He excitedly told Mr. Forrest about the incident. Later Mr Forrest included this in his book "The History of Robert Forrest" which I recently read and it brought back so many memories.

At Canning Mills school I did my Junior by correspondence (1943) and then went to Perth Senior Technical School, gaining my Leaving Certificate with a "Distinction" in Italian. In 1936, be fore leaving for Australia, I had completed Grade 4 at School. At that period Mussolini had declared war on Abyssinia and under fascist Rule we were issued with a uniform, a musket with a fold-over bayonet and after school we had to do elementary military training. England declared sanctions on Italy and as a result Mussolini became short on gold reserve so he "asked" - demanded that every married woman donate their gold wedding ring towards the war effort and would be substituted with an aluminium one. When the Second World War broke out and Italy sided with Germany, we became "enemy aliens". We were finger printed and issued with an Enemy Alien Card. One day three detectives came to our house, they found my Italian School Books which were based on fascism and my mother's aluminium wedding ring. These items were enough evidence for my father to be taken away on that same day and interned until the end of the war. In 1944 and 1945 I needed to have a special permit from the Intelligence Department to study at Perth Technical College and stay in Perth five days a week.

SILIO'S ENEMY ALIEN CARD PHOTO

 

DANTE DI MARCO'S ENEMY ALIEN INTERNMENT PAPERS

 

DANTE DI MARCO'S ENEMY ALIEN INTERNMENT PAPERS

 

DANTE DI MARCO'S ENEMY ALIEN INTERNMENT PAPERS

 

In 1946 after I had finished college, I went into the orchard business with my father. Apple growing wasn't profitable at the time because of the lack of export markets, so we concentrated more on growing vegetables. We used to grow peas, runner beans, tomatoes, gherkins, potatoes and sweet potatoes in the summer and cabbages and cauliflower in the winter. In 1949, after the Apple and Pear Board was removed, the price of exporting Granny Smith (variety of apple) trebled and therefore we began concentrating more on apple growing. About 14 growers from Karragullen and Pickering Brook got together and formed an Export Association called "K & P Brand" and began exporting apples to England and Germany using an Exporter's Licence. Two years later we were able to obtain our own Export Licence and I was President of that Association for three years. During this period I got involved with Archie Cruckshank who was secretary of the Perth Market Gardeners Association, and we opened a branch at Karrgullen. I became President and Louis Ghilarducci was Secretary. We had our own floor at the West Perth Markets to sell our produce and was also able to save considerably in buying in bulk.

ROY BOVANI & SILIO DI MARCO

 

FORD V8 TRUCKLOAD CAULIFLOWERS

DANTE DI MARCO DIGGING POTATOES

 

BRUNO BAISI & DANTE DI MARCO DIGGING POTATOES

 

In the late forties we formed a Soccer Team and built a Soccer Ground opposite where the old Karragullen Hall used to be on O'Meagher's Road. The event became very popular with the metropolitan soccer teams as they used to book ahead to come to play a game with us on a Sunday and then afterwards combine it with a family picnic. Later Mr. Spriggs Senior convinced us to amalgamate with Pickering Brook to play at their sports ground which had better facilities.

SOCCER PLAYER SILIO DI MARCO

 

In 1955 I met my dear wife Celestina, she was the eldest daughter of Florindo and Agnesi Giorgi, of West Perth, and we were married in St. Bridges Church, West Perth on the 5th June 1955. We have two sons and one daughter. My eldest son, John and wife Maggie have two sons, Benjamin and James and a daughter Alana. The second son, Daniel and wife Susan also have two sons, Alexander and Matthew and a daughter Grace. My daughter Luisa and husband Jim have one son David and two daughters Alyce and Julia.

 

SILIO & CELESTINA ON THEIR WEDDING DAY
 

 

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SILIO & CELESTINA GOLDEN WEDDING ANNIVERSARY 2005
 WITH CHILDREN: LOUISA, JOHN & DANNY

 

In 1954 began a project of building a Catholic Church at Karragullen. I was elected President of the Building Committee and a year later in 1955 we had completed the building and it is now known as the Sacred Heart Church Karragullen. I was also in the first building committee of Mazenod College, Lesmurdie. I often remember that Saturday morning when I turned up at their Grounds with a full kerosene tin of explosives and the Priest and I blew up all the stumps to clear the area where the first building was to go up. In 1977 my eldest son John finished his University studies and obtained his Bachelor of Business Degree but came straight into the orchard with me. Ten years later we were joined by our younger son Daniel, after he completed Year 12.

OPENNING OF KARRAGULLEN CATHOLIC CHURCH  1955

 

In 1980 I built a house in Lesmurdie and my Wife and I have lived there ever since. I enjoy going back to the orchard at Canning Mills where I still have some wonderful memories of my childhood days. My Wife and I have returned to Italy on two occasions and now live happily with my two sons and grandchildren, who have built their homes close by.

 

SILIO DI MARCO GRADING FRUIT 1980

 

SILIO DI MARCO RECEIVING PIONEER MEDAL 2002

 

 

Every endeavour has been made to accurately record the details however if you would like to provide additional images and/or newer information we are pleased to update the details on this site. Please click here to email us at info@pickeringbrookheritagegroup.com We appreciate your involvement in recording the history of our area.

Article:        Silio Di Marco 2010

Images:     Silio Di Marco 2010

 

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