by May Butko
“Everything I learnt in my homeland I was able to do here to survive.” Ruza Loncar, Kamen-Most, Imotski.
Early Croatian migrants to Western Australia brought with them a rich and varied tradition of food production in difficult, harsh and in many cases adverse conditions.
The earliest migrants who came at the turn of the twentieth century and pre- World War One (WW1) experienced the harshest conditions. Between the two wars the depression made life difficult but there was more support from fellow countrymen. Those arriving after World War Two (WW2) experienced the most prosperous period of market gardening.
Market Gardening as a profession is now in decline, not just for Croatians but for all who are in the industry. A labour intensive industry once involving many people, including women and children, and simple tools like a spade and hoe has evolved into a highly mechanised and specialised area where only a few people are required to produce large quantities of food.
Almost all Croatians who migrated to Western Australia before WW2 have a direct connection to market gardening. The main areas that we will explore in this chapter include the areas of Kalgoorlie, Spearwood, Osborne Park/Wanneroo and Carnarvon with some smaller areas such as the Hills and special farming receiving a mention.
Background of Food production in Croatia during early 1900’s
“My father died of pneumonia before I was born (1909). My mother was left with 8 children so you will know how hard life was. She made shoes (opanke) for people and in return they would work a day for her. She worked and dug and sowed wheat and potatoes…. it was hard work.” Ana Kosovich, Zaostrog.
Croatia has a long coastline which borders the Adriatic Sea and enjoys a mild, sunny, Mediterranean climate with dry summers and cool, rainy winters. This climate is very similar to the climate which prevails in Perth and the southwest corner of Western Australia.
There are three main land regions: a narrow coastal plain fringed by many islands, a white-rock mountain range running parallel to the coast and a fertile inland plain.
The fertile plain is the most prosperous region of Croatia where the grain crops of wheat, oats, barley and corn are grown. Also large numbers of livestock like cattle, pigs and goats are produced.
The sunny coastal region and islands produce olives, grapes and figs. The stony and mountainous nature of this region and poorer soils meant that it was more difficult to grow crops.
“To gain some arable land, it was necessary first of all to rid it of vegetation, then to dig out the stones with a pick. At the same time, scrub stumps and roots were dug out. Stones were gathered and dry walls were built to define a parcel of land or act as a barrier to stop the soil erosion on sloping parcels of land.” Bart Srhoy, p19, Journey Beyond Origin, 1998, Hesperian Press.
The greatest numbers of people who migrated from Croatia during the 20th century came from the coast from Crkvenica to Zaostrog, the nearby mountains and the islands (mainly Korcula, Hvar, Brac, Solta, Prvic and Vis) and did so for economic reasons…..they weren’t able to make enough to live on in their homeland. They wanted a better life.
“My father had a hard life, his father died of Tuberculosis at age 51 years and his mother died of overwork at 50. They had 12 children who were left to fend for themselves in Vela Luka, Korcula. My father made up his mind to come here to make money to help them to survive.” Frances Bucat (Zuvela), Spearwood.
There were no industries in the surrounding areas where people could obtain work and earn money. Education was very basic in the early part of the twentieth century if you were lucky enough to be able to attend school. Many children couldn’t be spared as they were needed at home to shepherd the animals. Agriculture was the main way of surviving in those times with all the family involved in food production.
“People who didn’t have children found it hard to survive. Children were needed to take the animals to pasture and bring them home in the evening. They also helped in collecting and carrying ‘brime” (leafy branches), grass and leaves to be stored for feed for the animals during winter. Many would take a child from a poor family that had many children to live with them and help.” Ljube Pavlinovich, Ljubec, Rascane.
“Dad considered himself well off in Dojni Humac, Brac. He used to talk about his “gomile” (stone walls) and he said you’d have to dig a little patch here to plant a couple of vines and another little patch to plant an olive tree. I would say, “Couldn’t you have a tractor or something digging?” “No”, he said, “it’s all very rocky”. I couldn’t believe this till I saw it with my own eyes and then I knew what he meant.” Katie Katunarich, Osborne Park.
The people of this region were subsistence farmers and they were self sufficient. They grew everything they needed; vegetables (potatoes, cabbage, beans, carrots, tomatoes, blitva (spinach) or Dalmatinski kupus (leafy cabbage), figs, wheat (flour), grapes (wine), olives (oil), tobacco.
From animals (goats,sheep, pigs) they had wool, meat, milk, cheese, prsut (smoked ham like the Italian procciuto) and kastradine (smoked and salted meat used mainly in winter to flavour food). On the coast fishing supplemented the diet.
“We had olive trees, fig trees and grape vines. It was very poor country up a hillside. When the heavy rain came all the soil would wash away. It was two hours walk to the place we had the grapevines. It was a big struggle. We had nothing. We had to survive on greens and vegetables we could grow. Every now and then we had some bread. There was no soil for wheat. Occasionally we could afford to buy a bag of flour then we had bread. If we had been able to get bread we may not have come to Australia.” Dumina Frzop, Tribunj.
If they had any surplus produce such as wine or olive oil they sold it in the nearby town. They were then able to buy cloth, clothes, shoes and other necessities. Sometimes goods were bartered or exchanged if money wasn’t available.
Many families had nothing to sell or trade and if crops failed they went hungry. In earlier centuries there were fewer people but as generation succeeded generation the population grew. With each generation the plots of land were divided until they got too small and very inefficient to work as they were scattered.
“Often our family ate at night because we worked all day away from home. Our land holding , like those of all other villagers, was divided into small parcels quite some distance apart. Therefore it was necessary to rise at one or two in the morning to reach the place of work by dawn. We worked there all day, often with only bread, onions and sometimes a little cheese or bacon fat for our midday meal. Before dusk we would set off on our return journey, to our evening meal which mother had prepared. It usually consisted of potatoes dressed with olive oil. Then straight to bed unwashed and drenched in perspiration.” Mate Alach, “Into the World,”1992, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, p1.
Eventually, when they couldn’t grow enough to feed everyone, it became necessary for some members of each family to leave, seek work elsewhere and send money home to help the family.
“My father (Ivan Bojanich) came from Vrsnik on the island of Hvar. He was very proud of his home village and would tell me about his home life. Wine, figs, and olives were their three main crops. Wine was the most profitable crop till end of WW1 as the rest of Europe had diseases in their vines. He told me the story of a woman who was able to exchange an apron full of wine grapes for an apron full of meat, that’s how precious it was. However, because of politics after WW1, boundaries changed and they lost their markets. Large families, which before were ok, now found themselves struggling to survive. Now some had to leave, so the strongest and smartest were sent. Father left in 1928 and his financial support to his mother was crucial.” Steve Bojanich, Balcatta.
Once a family had someone who had a job that was bringing in money they were able to live much more comfortably. They no longer had to rely entirely on there own crops for survival. With cash they were able to purchase goods which they previously had to do without.
Methods of Food Production in Croatia
Food production methods in poorer areas worldwide, changed very little over the centuries until after WW2 when there was a dramatic change to mechanisation.
Up until that time the main ingredients required were manual labour and simple tools like a motika (hoe), lasun (pick) and sickle. In places that had larger and flatter areas of arable land horses and oxen were used to plough land. Donkeys and mules carried goods and people and pulled carts.
“We had to walk two hours to get to our land and two hours to get back. If you don’t have a donkey or a horse you have to walk.” Dumina Frzop, Tribunj
Crops were grown organically; no artificial fertilizers or poisons were used in early times. Animal manure was taken into the fields to enrich the soils. Villagers used hoes to keep plants free from weeds. Everything was done manually as the terrain was rocky and hilly and the parcels of land were small and uneconomic.
“Women worked hard. In the mountains they cut and dried grass for the animals in winter. This was taken down to the village on their backs and stored. They also carried brime (leafy branches) for winter feed and kindling for fires. Sheep were sheared and the women washed, combed and spun the wool for knitting and weaving during winter. Men dug the soil and chopped wood which they carted with a horse or mule to be stored for winter. They also cut a log for Christmas, this was about 4 feet long and was burnt on the hearth. They carted the manure to the polje (fertile flat area of land where everyone owned plots to grow crops like wheat, vines, potatoes). Both men and women helped grow and harvest the crops. During the winter men would go to “Primorije” (coastal area by the sea) to dig around vines and olives for a couple of months to earn some money to buy cotton, soap, olive oil. It was too cold for olives here.” Iva Ozich, Rascane.
In his book, Journey Beyond Origin, Bart Srhoy speaks of working conditions in Loviste where he grew up. The time he was referring to was about the mid 1930s.
“During busy seasonal work, like hoeing the vineyards or picking grapes, it was the custom to hire a number of villagers for one days work. It was done on an exchange of labour basis. In lieu of monetary payment, you would be owing each one of them a day’s work. The group of workers so employed was referred to as Tezaci (Tezhatsi). Nothing but the best of food one could afford was served that day. So if you were lucky to be one of the team of Tezaci, you were assured of a good feed that day, which did not happen often during normal working days. By the time I was fifteen, I replaced my father on these Tezaci exchage duties, and in addition to toiling with him daily, I assumed a number of other duties – fishing at night, once or twice a week, and grafting young vines”. Bart Srhoy , p20, Journey Beyond Origin.
The grafting that Bart refers to was a skill that the people from this region took with them all over the world. It became famous and is written up by the Department of Agriculture and named the Dalmatian Green Graft. (Refer to the “Vine, Grapes and Wine” chapter of this book.
People lived in family groups and over several generations the family grew into a large extended family. This had advantages in terms of division of labour. Instead of just a husband and wife working team there could be a father with several sons and grown up grandsons as a working team. By pooling their labour work could be completed quickly and in a team effort as described above with the “Tezaci Exchange”. Camaraderie and competition enabled work to be completed more efficiently. Women also divided their tasks with older women minding toddlers and cooking so mothers and young women could work together completing their tasks of gathering feed, “brime”, shearing and preparing wool, hoeing, cutting and threshing wheat, carrying water and baking bread.
There was always support in good times and bad, in sickness and health. The loss of the support of the extended family was one of the major changes that the people who left had to adjust to in their new country.
Introduction to Market Gardening areas in Western Australia
“The young men of Dalmatia had to be resourceful and adaptable, ready to leave home and turn their hand to any job, if they were to win their independence. As a nation also, the Dalmatians had a long tradition of strong independence and individuality which had been gained in their centuries-old struggle against more powerful neighbours.” Michael Berson, Cockburn, The Making of a Community, published by the Town of Cockburn p.156.
The qualities of endurance, independence, resourcefulness and adaptability were to stand the new migrants to Western Australia in good stead as they tried to establish themselves in this industry. Here, like in their homeland, the conditions in the early years were primitive and basic but their determination to succeed saw them overcome extreme odds to become successful and worthy members of their communities.
“In the early 1890s the blight of Phylloxera laid waste great areas of vines in many districts and a series of bad fishing seasons brought great hardship to coastal villages and island ports.”…..
“From 1894 onwards many Slavs from Central Dalmatia arrived on the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia and found their first work alongside Italian woodcutters on the wood-lines that radiated from Kalgoorlie.”…… “As the Italian migrants had done the Slavs quickly established themselves as sought after workmen and many began to move into boarding houses on the Boulder Block where they found work on the mines.” Michael Berson, Cockburn, The Making of a Community, published by the Town of Cockburn, p.157
With very few exceptions, the early migrants found themselves, at first, working in the mining and timber cutting industries. This brought in money quickly as tickets had to be repaid and money was required to support families at home. As soon as debts were repaid and a little money was saved their thirst for land of their own drew them to areas like the Swan Valley, Spearwood and Osborne Park.
In these areas larger parcels of land, which were previously used for dairying, grazing, poultry and pig farming, were being subdivided into smaller lots suitable for market gardens, vineyards and orchards.
As water was crucial to growing vegetables the land most suited, in those early times, was situated in the swamp and lake areas. Here the water table was high and it was possible to grow crops during the summer months without irrigation. Later, with the aid of wells, motors, pumps and irrigation systems, it was possible to grow vegetables in sand making previously useless land suddenly productive.
Particular attention will be given to the earliest settlers in each area discussing their conditions and how they developed over time. As it isn’t possible to mention every individual person in this chapter, tables showing lists of as many growers as possible during various periods of the 20th century will be included which will assist those wishing to trace their family ancestry.
The development and changes to farming methods, particularly the impact of mechanisation, and the development of communities and community spirit will also be included in this chapter.
Kalgoorlie Market Garden Area
Kalgoorlie is famous for its gold and its mining activities. It is not usually associated with the market gardening industry. However it was crucial that the large population that resulted from the goldrush (beginning in the 1890s) had its own supply of fresh produce. The first Croatians to own market gardens were Marko Levis (Laus) and …… Chetkovich. Also there in the early days before WW2 were —— Tomich, Sam and Anne Rodanovich, —— Bukarelli.
“Dad came here from Korcula to find work. People told him, before he came, that it was harder for foreigners to get work so he changed his name (Laus to Levis) by deed poll after he had served three years in Australia.” Mark Levis, Mandurah.
Marko Levis’s daughter, Mary Cebalo, tells how, after completing his national service in the Austro-Hungarian army, he applied to come to Australia like many of the young men of his age were doing at the time. He wanted a better life and saw how much easier life was for his mother’s family when his grandfather sent money during his several trips to America. In the meantime he met and married Margarita Radovanovich from his home village of Zrnovo Prvo Selo on 23-10-1909. Forty days later he left for Australia. He joined many of his countrymen from Korcula already at the Lancefield Mine (Beria) near Laverton cutting wood.
His wife, Margarita, joined him two years later and by 1914 they moved to Boulder where he worked on the mines for a period until he had an accident which resulted in him being compensated because he was no longer capable of working underground. In 1915 they bought a market garden.
“The market garden was in Somerville, it was right behind the racecourse. There were 9 acres altogether, 5 acres was for the garden, the house, cellar, shed, water tank and windmill. On the other side, the 4 acres, we had a dam, a big drain running from there right across the racecourse where the water used to come down and the rest of the paddock used to be for cows and horses. Part of it used to be fenced off to grow wheat. A lady used to come with horse drawn machinery to sow it and later to cut and make it into chaff for the cows.
It was already a small market garden when dad bought it from an Australian called Tyler but they did a lot more themselves. Dad planted vines, he had a lot of vines and we grew all sorts of vegetables. There was a mixture of everything – cauliflowers, cabbages, carrots and parsnips, all the root vegetables, celery, beans, tomatoes and onions. They grew a lot of onions.
When they first started on the garden dad wasn’t well enough to do any hard work, mum did most of it at first and later they were able to get somebody in to come and help them, but that was much later. Peter Poklepovich was one of the first that I remember that was working for us when he was about 16 years old. He later married my sister Jakobina (Beenie).
Besides the vines dad also planted some fruit trees, we had peaches and figs and in the summer there were rockmelons and watermelons for the markets as well as for us. Mum made jam too, she was a good jam maker.
Mum had a very big enamel bowl that she filled with milk and put on the wood stove at night. She would bring it almost to the boil, then take it off, put it on the side and by morning, when it was cold, she would skim off the cream, very, very thick cream. We did not have butter; that was our butter. It was beautiful. With the rest of the milk she made cheese. At night she would dissolve the rennet in the milk and warm it up and leave it on the side till the morning. Then she would collect up all the curds and put the cheese into a ring which was tightened as the moisture drained out. If you wanted it fresh you could eat it the same day or next week. Gradually it would get drier and in the end it would be dry enough to grate.
She used to sell them on the Kurrawang Woodline to the people that lived there for 2/6d a cheese. She used to send milk to friends that lived in town, George and Mary Maras, they had a boarding house. We used to take some milk to them every day.” Mary Cebalo (Levis)
Marko and Margarita Levis had the market garden from 1915 till 3rd September, 1939 when they sold it to Mate Jujnovich. Mate worked next door for the Parer family who had a market garden as well as a flower nursery growing flowers for their florist shop.
My brother, Mate, came to Kalgoorlie in 1924 from Kozica, in the Biokovo Mountains, when he was 21years old. Our land was very rocky but we grew things in patches of ground between the rocks. We didn’t sell anything, there was nothing to sell. We survived because Mate was away earning money with which we bought flour/wheat, rice, spaghetti and things we needed.
He worked for an Australian family, Parer was their name. They were next door to Levis’s place. Mate didn’t feel the depression because he was constantly with this family working. He ate at the same table; she treated him as part of her family. Besides Levis and Chetkovich, who were the first there, there was Sam and Anne Rodanovich who were there during the depression.” Vinko Jujnovich, Kozica.
Spearwood Market Garden Area
By the early 1900s some of the earliest arrivals to Western Australia had enough money to look at buying property and settling down. Some had boarding houses in Kalgoorlie/Boulder while others looked further afield and began returning to Perth to take up land that was becoming available in Spearwood, Osborne Park and the Swan valley.
One of these people was Matt Kazea from the island of Zlarin, near Sibenik, where many of the men were seafarers who had the opportunity to see the world. By 1900 Matt had enough money to take his Irish wife to her homeland to visit her family. From there they travelled to France for the Paris Exhibition, Venice, Germany (to visit his wife’s sister) and then to Zlarin to visit his own family.
While there he asked his widowed sister-in-law (his brother, Andrew, had died of consumption 10 years earlier) to send 11 year old Tomasina to live with them in Western Australia to give her a better chance in life.
“My mother’s name was Tomasina Kazea. She was born on an island called Zlarin off the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia and her uncle, Matt Kazea , arranged for her to be brought out from Yugoslavia. She said she had her eleventh birthday when she was passing through the Red Sea.” …… “Where my mum comes from, most of the people were captains, lawyers and doctors or worked on sailing ships in those days (circa 1900). Andrew Kazea (her dad) was a stoker. Because it was hot they would lay on the deck and he got pneumonia and consumption and died when she was a baby.” …….. “They (Matt Kazea and his wife) reared her from 11 years old – they never had any children themselves.” Manuscript Glimpses of Jean -The story of Jean Zuvela-Doda, Edited by Jenny Kroonstuiver, P.2
After a short time in Fremantle they took Tomasina to Boulder and from there to Gwalia where Matt worked on the Sons of Gwalia Mine. After Tomasina was married at 18 they returned to Fremantle where they had a wine saloon and rooms (boarding house) on South Terrace near Collie Street.
“My mother got married in 1907 in Gwalia. Her husband’s name was Fortunata Ljuba, but everyone called him Frank. Then he got killed when I was five months old in October, 1909. Killed in an underground skip accident.” ……… “So when everything was finalised mum, aunty and uncle left Gwalia they went down to Fremantle very close to Collie Street. They had rooms as well there. Mum used to work with aunty and uncle, and help them in the wine saloon.” Manuscript Glimpses of Jean -The story of Jean Zuvela-Doda, Edited by Jenny Kroonstuiver, P.3
Matt and his wife were generous and friendly to all who came in contact with them. Their place was a haven for new arrivals and countrymen who needed a helping hand, advice, a job or just to hear their language spoken. He was amongst the first to purchase land in the Spearwood area.
Landgate records show that the first land purchase by Croatian migrants for market gardening in the Spearwood area was made by Stephan Dobra (Sepurina) and Jerolim Stupin on 5 July, 1913. (NB. By 28 November 1913 Jerolim Stupin died intestate and his share passed to Stephen Dobra.) They were closely followed by Matthew Kazea (Zlarin) on 11 July, 1913 and Todor Gericevich (later simplified to Ted Gerovich) (Solta) on 2 September, 1913.
The blocks, Lots 56, 57 and 58, were part of Cockburn Location 561 owned by John Healy and referred to as “Healy’s Paddock subdivision”. The 980 acres consisted of approximately 100 lots fronting onto Phoenix Road and Rockingham Road and includes the site where the Phoenix Hotel now stands.
With the outbreak of war in 1914 many Dalmatian settlers on the goldfields lost their jobs as they were Austrian subjects and now considered aliens.
“Anti-foreigner feeling flared again and under union pressure several mine employers refused for some time to employ Dalmatian miners and some families remained in considerable distress for many months.” Michael Berson, Cockburn, The Making of a Community, published by the Town of Cockburn, p.158
Mrs Perena Rocchi (Vis), who after her husband’s death in 1904 ran a boarding house near Boulder’s Horseshoe Dump to provide for her family of six, found that her boarders (about 30-40 shift workers at the mines) were unemployed and her business now in distress. She decided to move to Spearwood and bought a block (5 acres) on the corner of Kent and Sussex Streets in 1914. Her block, previously owned by Bill Strand, had a house and was half orchard and half vineyard.
Sons, Sonny and Tony, quickly found work in Fremantle and the other children went to Spearwood School and after school helped their mother in the newly established market garden. In addition to her family she was accompanied by Mrs Ilich (her sister) and Ivan Ivicevich (daughter Annie’s fiancé).
“My mother’s aunty, Katica Kordic (Vis), migrated to Kalgoorlie to help her brother Jakov run his boarding house. A few years later he was killed in a mining accident leaving Katica to manage alone. In the meantime a young Austrian sailor, Andrija Zemunik (Vis), jumped ship in Fremantle in 1906 and worked his way to Kalgoorlie. He later met Katica and married her in 1912. They stayed with a family called Rocchi and worked in Kalgoorlie. When Perena heard that land was for sale in Spearwood she bought 5 acres on the corner of Kent and Sussex Streets. The Zemunik’s also wanted to get land so asked Perena to find them a block. They bought 10 acres over the road from the Rocchi’s.” Len Mihaljevich, Spearwood.
“Perena Rocchi’s decision to leave Boulder was a significant one for the Cockburn District, shifting as it did a large cell of Dalmatian settlers, and those who were to later join them, from the goldfields to Spearwood.” Michael Berson, Cockburn, The Making of a Community, published by the Town of Cockburn, P.159
Like Matt Kazea, Perena Rocchi had the reputation of being a compassionate person who could never turn anyone away. They, together with Zemuniks, Gerovichs and others were to be the ones to whom newcomers turned to on arrival.
While the Rocchi’s had a house built by Bill Strand the Zemunik’s weren’t so fortunate. Their first home was a bag and sapling shed with an iron roof. Life was difficult for them as Andy tried to find work in the face of anti-foreigner feeling in Fremantle. However there were those like Isaiah Wauhop who gave him his first job trenching on his block in Hamilton Hill and the compassionate mounted trooper, Frank Chandler, who would drop off a parcel of meat from time to time. It wasn’t until the Fremantle Districts Road Board rejected the motion to bar aliens from employment that Andy got his first permanent job knapping stone for the board.
“At the early stage my father, (Andrija Zemunik), was so concerned for the family that he asked the authorities to intern him so his family would receive help. Later he worked for the roads board and then for George Dixon, in the quarries in Healey’s paddock, carting stone by horse and dray to the siding at South Fremantle. As well as working out, he proceeded to clear his own block by hand and put down a well (Bob Morton of Barrington Street did the job). He bought a Gray pump and petrol engine about 1918-19. Later he put down another well and built our first house.” Anthony Zemunik, Palmyra
“With very few exceptions the established settlers at Spearwood accepted the new Slav families as people like themselves, independent and self sufficient and prepared to work hard for that privilege.” Michael Berson, op. cit.
Independent, self sufficient and prepared to work hard were the qualities that Vica Garbin (Solta) needed as she joined her husband Anthony who, after working in Kalgoorlie for 3 years after his arrival in 1908, had bought a fishing boat and nets with a partner and begun fishing off Fremantle in1911. Tragically, a few months after Vica and children (Ramie (11), Semie (8) and Victor (5) joined him in 1911, both he and his partner drowned while fishing off Carnac Island. Left destitute in a strange country with a family to support she was advised by Matt Kazea to go to Kalgoorlie where she would find friends. Leaving Ramie and Semie in St Joseph’s orphanage in Subiaco she moved to Boulder with son Victor. Five families donated money and built her a bag and sapling home. Now expecting her fourth child, Lucy, Vica took in washing, ironing and mending and worked hard till she was secure enough to reunite her family. By 1914 Ramie, now 14, was able to join her and in 1915 she married Marin Bavich and the family moved to Spearwood.
“Matt Kazea helped them select a block in Rockingham Road at Spearwood. The clearing of the block was slow and hard but prospects were good and friends were nearby and before long the reunited Garbin children were joined by Martin, Jean and Jack Bavich.” Michael Berson, op. cit. p.161
“Mum and dad (Vica and Marin Bavich) came here to Gerald Road in 1915. They bought 2 blocks together, 350 pounds a block. We had veges in the early days, we grew onions mainly and had a lucern patch. There was a windmill first for pumping water and later a jack-pump that goes up and down. There was no electricity when I was born (1922); I remember the lamps on the wall. The road was a hard track. I remember a man with a horse and scoop scooping up the roadside and blokes cracking stones for the road and then rolling them flat. I must have been about 6 years old. My elder stepsisters, Ramie and Semie married the Gerovich brothers Jack and Len around about the time I was born.” Jack Bavich , Spearwood.
There was a steady stream of settlers from the goldfields during 1915 and 1916. Antony Vladich, Ivan Huljich and Tom Duzevich, both from Hvar, came down and bought land as partners, Nick Spiriljan (Sepurina) found work at Watson’s factory, Furlan and Kinkella families and also Frank Strika, a contract cutter, who had met and married Tomasina Ljuba (Kazea).
“Mum (now Tomasina Strika) used to make beautiful homemade bread when we lived on Peel Estate, and she used to bake bread in a camp oven. We had three tents there; one was our bedroom for the kids, that one was made out of wheat bags, we sewed them up and dad made a tent there, then the kitchen was in between and the other one was mum and dad’s bedroom.” …….. “In the winter months when it was cold they made a wagga …. sewed the bags up ….. a bit of rope on the end, and mum used to tie it down so the blankets wouldn’t fall off.” Manuscript Glimpses of Jean -The story of Jean Zuvela-Doda, Edited by Jenny Kroonstuiver, P.9
With Tomasina now married, Matt Kazea sold the wine saloon in Fremantle and moved in semi-retirement with his wife to their block in Spearwood, on which he had planted a vineyard. While he never became a market gardener as such he continued to be a pivotal part of the small community he helped to establish.
In 1916 Tony Evas bought a 5 acre block on Rockingham Road. Arriving from Vodice in 1912 he worked on the Kurrawang Woodline before buying a small boarding house in Boulder. Tony and wife, Luiga, together with four children lived under hessian in the early days till they were able to establish themselves. Like many others he worked in the nearby quarries belonging to Morton and Tylee and road-making for the Roads Board.
He developed his block after work and on weekends, 7 days a week for 4 or 5 years till the block was cleared, trenched and prepared for planting. To get a quick return a mixed vegetable garden was put in first then vines and fruit trees were planted.
Once the garden was established the whole family was involved in planting, weeding, irrigating and picking the crops.
This was the process by which most of the early settlers in Spearwood established their market gardens. The area was covered with large tuart trees, limestone outcrops, banksias, blackboys and scrub. Limestone quarries sprang up everywhere and early loggers were working the area long before it was settled.
According to Fred Santich, in his book “A Battlers Experience” published in 1986, when Spearwood was first settled it began as a fruit growing area. This accounts for the many anecdotal stories from early settlers who bought land with fruit trees already established. They found, however that it wasn’t successful as the fruit was infested with fruit fly larvae and so orchards were grubbed out and vegetables planted. This area was also a dairying area supplying milk for Fremantle and people living south of the river.
The subsistence farming origins of the early Croatian migrants was in tune with this area coming as they did from the rocky, coastal region of the Dalmatian coast where their families grew everything they needed to survive.
In 1917 Tony Santich and Nick Marich came down from Kalgoorlie to enlist in the A.I.F. Tony, who was born in 1888, had arrived here in 1907 and after working on the Kurrawang Woodline and Kalgoorlie decided to join up.
“While on leave dad met and became engaged to Mrytle Irene Ellement of South Coogee. I was born in Beaconsfield in 1919, the first of their 8 children.” …… “My parents had applied as a right, for a block under the Soldier Settlement Scheme. In 1920 they were allotted a five acre block of black or grey dusty sand in a hollow. On it there was a three roomed jarrah weatherboard house. It was situated on Newton Road and Shallcross Street on the eastern fringe of Spearwood. Newton Road branched off the main Rockingham Road, a white, limestone carriageway in those days. Likewise, Newton Road was unsealed to the top of a rather steep hill, where it became a sand track, negotiable only by horse and cart.” Fred Santich 1986, A Battlers Experience, p.9.
Nick Marich, who had come to Kalgoorlie to work on his uncle’s fresh water condenser, worked at night, washing dishes in hotels and restaurants, to be able to put himself through night-school and learn to speak English proficiently. Once the war finished he bought Furlan’s block on Phoenix Road and established a vineyard and his English language talent was recognised when he was appointed Consul for Yugoslavia. While he was never a market gardener he did establish a fine vineyard and in his position of Consul he was able to assist many members of this new community with their problems.
With the end of the First World War Ted Gerovich, the first of the slav settlers in Spearwood, died at his home after years of back breaking work. He was succeeded by his two sons Jack and Len. Within a few years they married the Garbin sisters, Ramie and Semie and the three families lived and worked together in the big house.
“My elder stepsisters, Ramie and Semie, were married and each named a son Ted after the father. So they called them Big Teddy and Little Teddy. Later Jack went further up the road and bought a block and Len and Semie stayed there on his father’s old block.” Jack Bavich, Spearwood
In 1918 Tony Vladich, who bought his property in 1915, died and his partner Ante Ukich went sleeper cutting in Boyup Brook for two years. On his return he bought a 27 foot fishing boat (Dalmatia) and joined a small group of Croatian fishermen who fished off Woodman Point in Cockburn Sound. After buying Tony Vladich’s block on Rockingham Road in 1923 he was able to send home to the island of Sepurina for his wife and 3 sons, Roko, Jure and Grgo. Then while he fished his sons pulled out the 2 acres of vines and fruit trees which were infested with fruit fly and established a market garden. The well was cleared and a Southern Cross Kerosene engine installed together with long arm sprinklers for irrigation.
Another of the market gardeners come fishermen was Spiro Novak who arrived from Vela Luka in 1924. He came from a boating background also; his father took cargo up and down the Dalmatian coast. He was advised to go bush and try wood cutting to earn money as fishing was too difficult. So after working in the Harvey/Brunswick area for 2 years he returned to Spearwood in 1927 to buy land (2-3 acres) at South Coogee where he established a market garden while working with Ante Zuvela in a quarry in Winterfold Road. Spiro and Ante Zuvela became partners in the quarry and for the next 2-3 years they supplied limestone for the retaining wall on the Swan River near UWA. He married Katarina Separovich in 1933 and she worked the market garden for him while he cycled to the quarry in Hilton Park everyday and then helping in the garden on weekends. In 1934 they sold the Coogee property to buy one on the corner of Rockingham Road and Newton Road in Spearwood (4 and half acres) which he cleared and developed part-time. He brought out his brother Peter to help, both of them quarrying and market gardening.
Ante Zuvela arrived from Vela Luka on a French cattle boat in 1925 and, after finding no work on the goldfields, found work clearing land in the wheat belt area for several months before returning to Spearwood. Together with a partner he bought a block on Railway Parade. In 1926 Ante married his fiancée, Frana, on the day of her arrival with her uncle, Esav Padovan, and together they moved out to Spearwood to start their new life. While Ante worked in Kiesey’s quarry in Coogee, Frana put in their first onion crop. The resulting 30 tons of onions were pulled and then buried as they were unsaleable due to one of the many market gluts to hit the district.
“Ante Zuvela was to continue to work as a quarryman, eventually buying a large quarry on the Winterfold Estate with Spiro Novak, but the lesson of that first year was not forgotten and he was to play a prominent part in setting up the District’s first Onion Marketing Board.” Michael Berson, op. cit. p.164
Also arriving in 1925 from from Vela Luka, Korcula, were Jeri Separovich and Paul Prizmic and, as many others before them, they proceeded down Market Street, Fremantle, looking for a fellow countryman.
“Jerko (Jeri) Separovich , my father, was born in 1886. He arrived in 1925 and after 11months at the goldfields he received a telegram from Tony Zuvela to come down as building jobs were available (he was a stonemason by trade). He bought his own block in May, 1926 (Loc. 561, Lot 6 Rockingham Road) at a cost of 420 pounds. It was very rough and stony. During the day he went out building in Applecross and Fremantle and at night he would burn stumps and clear the block with an axe, mattock and shovel. He took out 2,500 yards of stone from two and a half acres and sold it to the Roads Board for one shilling a yard.
It took 6 years to develop the whole block. My brother, George (aged 14 years), came out in 1927 to help and in 1929 my mother, Mara, brought Katie and myself out to join dad and live in the little weatherboard house. When the block was part cleared they put in onions, which at that time were fetching 40 pounds a ton, and long-arm sprinkler irrigation. In 1930 the depression hit just as the garden became established. Onion prices went down to 30 shillings a ton and it cost 12 shillings and sixpence a ton to get them to market.
There was no building work available so the garden helped the family be self-sufficient. We produced enough to keep the family going. Rates were only 12 shillings and sixpence a year and banks were reasonable about payments on the block. GW Bailey & Son, produce merchants, advanced produce and stores on credit and helped carry many families through the depression.” Ivan Separovich, Spearwood
From this time forward and through the depression of the 1930s the stream of settlers to the Spearwood area quickens. Family and friends came to join those that were already here. Andy Zuvela, Nick Prizmic, Mark Separovich, Ante Oreb and Tony Dragovich from Vela Luka. Gerovich’s home hosted those from Solta and Korcula. Visko Garbin, Nick and Bob Bavich, Nick Cukela, and Jeri Jakovich. Also Steve Radonich, Michael Bozanich, George Jugnovich and George Blaskovich came to settle.
“The post-war (WW1) Slav settlers in Spearwood found that they were quickly accepted by their Australian neighbours largely because of the good reputation that earlier Slav settlers had established. …………having become recognised as being absolutely straight in business dealings, law-abiding and hard working and having the capacity to play as hard as they worked.” Michael Berson, op. cit. p.166
Two people, destined to meet later, arrived separately in 1925 and 1927. They were Lukra Vodanovich (Marinje Zemlje Polje, Vis) and Ivan Mihaljevich (Butina, Vrgorac). Lukra (born 1906) and her older sister Marija (later to die from Spanish Flu) were sent out to their Aunt Katica Zemunik (Kordic) to have a better chance in life since their family had become impoverished after WW1.
“My mother always resented being sent out to Australia. She came to her Aunty Katica Zemunik to help in her boarding house where migrants came who didn’t have work or a place to live. They had vineyards and quarries and were well off. The Rocchi family across the road had 3 girls about her age so she went everywhere with them. They took her to Perth, His Majesty’s Theatre, the football (their brother won the Sandover Medal in 1928) and so she had a good time.
In the meantime my dad, Ivan Mihaljevich, who was born in Butina near Vrgorac in a family with 5 brothers and 4 sisters, wanted to come to Australia but his family were reluctant to let him come as he wasn’t very strong and was only 17 years old. His father mortgaged his land (at 25% interest) to buy his ticket. Dad worked very hard to pay him back. When he arrived in Fremantle he was deserted by the countryman to whom he had been entrusted and left destitute. Most migrants went to Silich’s boarding house on arrival and someone from the ship noticed that dad wasn’t there. They found him on the Monument, he had wanted to see where he was from a high spot. Later at the Fremantle Markets, where people came with their vegetables, he met a man who wanted someone to help him on his garden, so dad went with him and began his career in market gardening and quarrying.
Eventually he came to work for a family, Townsend, and he loved going fishing and picnicking with them and learning to speak English. He also did a bit of contract clearing in the country and like others encountered those that wouldn’t pay the cutters. Later he worked in the quarries (Tylie, Kiesey’s lime kiln, Zemunik). When he had enough money and had paid his father back he wanted to go back home. Len Mihaljevich, South Coogee
However destiny took a hand in his affairs when one Sunday morning, his day off, he was chatting to some friends who congregated outside a shop near the corner of Rockingham Road and Carrington Street. A man driving past on a motorcycle hit him with his side-car and broke his leg.
“He was taken to Fremantle hospital and spent 12 months there because he slipped and fell while learning to walk, after his leg had healed, and broke his leg a second time.
While he was in hospital the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Mother) who were touring Australia came to Fremantle. The Rocchi girls took my mother to the Fremantle oval where there was to be a parade. While the Duchess was there her car stopped a few times, once in front of mum, she spoke to my mother (who couldn’t understand her) in English and mum answered her in Croatian. From that day she became a devout follower of the Queen Mother till she died. Meanwhile, her husband, the Duke of York visited Fremantle Hospital and spoke to my dad in his bed. Mum and dad had not yet met.
By the time dad was ready to come out of hospital his money had all gone and he was destitute. Young Rocco Zemunik (14), who had heard of this young man who had broken his leg and had nowhere to go begged his mother to go and get him and bring him home. She did, and he lived with them till he got stronger. Later he worked for them. He met my mother there, fell in love and later (1934) married.
The Zemuniks had a market garden, vineyard, olive trees (made oil). Andrija and my dad would go to the country (Northam, York, Beverly, Toodyay) to get horse manure. They would clean out the horse stables and send the manure back by rail trucks to Spearwood where Andrija would sell it to other market gardeners.
Later (1932/33) my dad bought a block of land in South Coogee. At the time he was working for Tylie (who had a contract to supply stone for the University of WA) in his stone quarry. Each night after work he would roll down the stones that were condemned for the University and when he had a big enough heap he asked Joe Jeffries (Stonemason) to build him a house that is still there today. In July 1934 they were married in St Jerome’s Church which dad had helped build. (Zemuniks had supplied the lime and stone for it.)
Dad cleared the land while still working in the quarry. Then in the autumn or early winter they’d plant peas as they didn’t need irrigation. Later on they got a well. They’d sell more peas and buy a motor, pump and pipes. Then as they got more money they would get more pipes and increase their work area gradually.
In the beginning they didn’t have a horse or anything like that. A chap called Charlie Hollis did contract ploughing at 2 shillings per bed. As they got more irrigation they grew more vegetables. They started with a quarter of an acre then half and so on till the 4 acres was established. It took about 5 years or so.” Len Mihaljevich, South Coogee
In the first few years Mrs Zemunik would walk to the kerbstone market in North Fremantle carrying a 30 pound bag of peas and her young son. Other kerbstone markets were in George Street, Fremantle and Bay View Terrace, Claremont.
Later produce was taken by horse and cart to Simpers at the Fremantle Markets.
As the gardens expanded there was a glut at the Fremantle Markets and Perth buyers came to Fremantle to buy cheaply. Zemuniks and Rocchis decided to take their produce to the Perth Markets in James Street.
“They needed 2 horses and would use Mrs Rocchi’s horse as lead. They left at 6pm and rested the horses outside the Swan Hotel in North Fremantle near the traffic bridge. Then they’d move along White Road to be at the markets when they opened at 4:10 am.” Anthony Zemunik, Spearwood
“In 1940 dad bought a Ford A truck and took his own vegetables to market in Fremantle. Before that he used carriers like Straugheor, Brenzi Bros, Marchese Bros, Ellement Bros. He still continued to use carriers for the Perth markets.” Len Mihaljevich, South Coogee
“By 1939 men who were carriers, like Guidice and others, did this as a business. It was economic to use them than get up early in the morning for market.” Vini Kenda (Bavich), Snake Gully
The early market gardeners grew a variety of vegetables to minimise the effects of the depression and frequent gluts that occurred when marketing their produce.
“During the depression years many had no work, they lived with other families. Mrs Duzevich had boarders and Snowy Huljich had about 6 boarders. They would kill a chicken for meat and grew vegetables to survive.
I began to garden with Sinkovich in 1931at Jack Duzevich’s place. I grew carrots, parsnip and cabbage but mostly onions.
1st year 30 tons of onions @ 4-5 pounds per ton
2nd year 70 tons (we sold 3 tons to pay expenses and the rest we buried)
3rd year grew enough to pay debts
After few years work we only had 7 pounds each profit which we put down as a deposit on a property in Sussex Road, Spearwood. The land belonged to the agricultural Bank which dealt with returned soldiers.
After a couple of years Tomasevich bought Sinkovich’s share and together we put in butterfly sprinklers to replace the long-arm ones that were there. When I moved to my new property in Rockingham Road Tomasevich and I had a verbal agreement to settle the property we shared. Payments were agreed and made regularly. Their son, Miro, would bring the money every 3 months.” Vid Marinovich, Spearwood
With the start of WW11 people working on the land and in other essential industries were “manpowered” to produce goods for the armed services.
“The Australian government made a decision that all those who are not Australian citizens must register for military service and have identification cards with a photo, nationality, country of origin and also have fingerprints taken. I was one of them.
“On 2nd April, 1942 we had to report for a medical check-up at the Claremont Showgrounds at 9:00am. The ground was like a little tent city. Every doctor had a tent to himself; for instance Dr for chest, Dr for heart, Dr for nose, throat and ears and a dentist.
We were notified of the results a week later; I was found A1 fit for military service, but because I was still in the bush when the war broke out and then when I came from the bush I went to work on the land I was manpowered. That means we have to work on the land and grow vegetables for the government army service. We have to grow mostly what the army tells us; carrots, cabbage, silver beet, turnips and other vegetables.
They would come and check that we are growing the vegetables we had contracts for. When they were ready to pick we would ring and they would tell us where and when to deliver them. Mostly we would take them to Plaistowes and Fremantle Department.
All of us that were market gardeners then worked primitively. For instance, we ploughed the ground with a horse, spread manure from a truck with a pitch fork, sprayed chemicals with a back knap-sack, spread top dressing with our hands, and planted vegetables by hand. Not like today, they have tractors, potato diggers, carrot washers, onion cutters and machines for planting and other gadgets to make life easier. When spraying crops we never took protection like they do today; there were no plastic trousers, no raincoats and rubber boots. We used to put a chaff bag across our shoulders and spray.” Sam Cukrov, Spearwood.
The area colloquially known as “Snake Gully” was situated in Beaconsfield approximately 10 kms from the Fremantle Town Hall. This small market garden area centred round Jean and Annie Streets.
“Dad, Nikola Bavicevich (Bavich) from Gornje Selo, Solta, arrived in WA in 1926. He first went to Erikin, where the Garbins and Niklas Cukela had wheat farms, clearing land before coming down to Spearwood in 1929/30. It was the depression and he couldn’t afford to buy land so he started working in the quarries. He rented a market garden in Sussex Street, Spearwood, after he married my mother (Marija Srhoj, Loviste, Peljesac) in 1932. The house had no floorboards so mum would put wet bags on the floor in summer. They grew onions but couldn’t sell them so dad buried them all. They grew vegies and kept chickens so we were self sufficient but not making any progress.
In 1936 they bought 2 and three-quarter acres of land in Annie Street at the same time that Ante and File Jakovich and Visko Garbin bought theirs. They paid 35 pounds an acre. In the meantime the market garden in Sussex Street fell through so my grandfather (Franjo Srhoy) built 2 rooms next to his house and we stayed there till we moved to Annie Street in Snake Gully.
Snake Gully isn’t the proper name. We did have plenty of dugites and tiger snakes there but at that time there was a radio serial called “Dad and Dave” and they lived in Snake Gully so people called it that for a joke but officially it was the Winterfold Estate in Beaconsfield. He owned the land and divided it into 2 and 3 quarter acre lots. The Jakovich brothers bought 2 blocks and Garbin and my dad bought one each. We were the first ones to start market gardens here.
They began from scratch; there were huge tuart trees, limestone and capstone which was murder to get rid of (particularly on Jakovich’s block which was higher up, the end bit was solid stone). We had topsoil for the market garden but always there was limestone underneath. Like all the other gardeners of the time they cleared by hand using crowbars, pick and shovel. They threw the stone on the sand track, which was used by the trucks which carted stone from the surrounding quarries, to make a road. There were 3-4 quarries around them, the soil had been washed into this gully and this is where they made their gardens.
The men all worked in the quarries for a living and in their “spare time” they cleared their blocks and the wives (my mum and Mrs Jakovich) planted winter crops of peas. With the virgin soil their peas always won 1st and 2nd prize at the Royal Agricultural Show. It was a standing joke as to which family would win 1st prize for their peas. We would sell the peas at the Fremantle markets (agents Scanlon & Simper). I was 4 at the time, my dad made me a billy-can and I had to go in front of mum and pick the biggest ones in my billy and when we packed the bags for market my peas would go on top so we would get a better price.
They couldn’t begin market gardening till 1939 because they needed power to pump water for irrigation. Even then they had to buy the poles before they could have electricity. Before that they had rainwater tanks for drinking and cooking. The well water was for washing and hand watering any vegetables they grew. They used a winch and bucket to get the water up.
The houses were basic 2 room structures of asbestos with a tin roof sometimes unlined from the inside until they could afford it. First a kitchen and a bedroom with more bedrooms added when children were born. The houses were built on stumps and limestone added around the outside of the house foundations to keep out the wind and snakes.
Until a proper washhouse with a bricked-in copper and cement bath could be afforded they had makeshift fireplaces of limestone and brick built outside in the open. Here the women boiled the clothes in a kerosene tin. Bathing was done in the kitchen in a tin tub which would hang on a hook outside near the back door. At least there was no shortage of firewood with all the felled trees.
They had an incredible debt with the bank to put the motor, pump and pipes in for irrigation. By the time we got irrigation in Snake Gully everyone had gone to Butterfly sprinklers which were much easier than the long arm sprinklers that my mum first saw when she arrived in Spearwood in 1931. Then the women had to lift the arms off the stand and go to the next section to be watered and attach the arms. Now they just had to turn on the tap to water the next section.
They grew mainly onions (30-40 tons), runner beans and carrots in winter. They rotated their crops, like where they had onions they would later have beans. The crops were grown using natural manures mainly. When things were slack in the garden my dad and Tony Jakovich used to go to Erikin to collect horse manure. They used to send wagons of it down by train; some for themselves and the rest they would sell to others and this paid for their freight.
Dad didn’t work in the quarries after he lost the sight in one of his eyes; he just woke up one morning and couldn’t see and his eye never recovered. He didn’t have his market garden going then so all the men in Spearwood came down to work and cleared the rest of his block. The wives brought all the food and someone brought their horse. They were there for a couple of days till they cleared it all. People were great like that they always helped each other. Vini Kenda (Bavich), Snake Gully
There was no bus service to Snake Gully; they walked through the quarries to South Street and caught a tram to Fremantle. This didn’t happen very often as it cost 3 pence to get to town.
“…… and you didn’t always have 3 pence.” Vini Kenda (Bavich), Snake Gully
It could be several months between shopping trips. Groceries were delivered by Scally’s store near the Fremantle hospital. They wrote orders on Tuesdays and delivered 2 days later. He would keep a tab and people would pay it off when they sold vegetables. The butcher did the same. Goats were kept for milk, and chickens for eggs and meat.
“When dad had a truck, if he was going to Fremantle for some reason, he would find out from everyone else in Snake Gully if they needed anything like meat or something perishable. He would collect orders and then stop on the way and pick up the orders. I remember when Visko was still a single man dad had bought him a steak, mum put it on an enamel plate and told me, “take this to Uncle Visko.” I was only 3 years old, my brother wasn’t even born yet, the steak fell in the sand. I didn’t pick it up I went to his door and knocked and said, “Uncle Visko your steak is in the sand,” and he got it, washed and cooked it. These were the depression years; it was poverty No. 1. They all did the same, they helped each other out. There were no coolers in the summer so if you had butter or something like that you would put it in a bucket and lowered it down the well because it was cool down there. Later when you winched it up there would be a couple of frogs in there too.
The worst time was before the war when most people couldn’t afford vehicles, then whoever had a truck would go around and collect everyone and we’d all go together. I remember when we would visit Larry Ursich’s parents place up in the hills. Word went around that it was on such a weekend and everyone would be ready and whoever had the truck would go and pick everyone up on the Saturday morning and go. We slept there overnight and then came back Sunday afternoon. These were the days when there was no TV, few radios and movies and many couldn’t understand English anyway, so they all stuck together and made there own fun.” Vini Kenda (Bavich), Snake Gully
Even though they lacked transport during the depression years they managed to join in community activities. The Fremantle Club, Nada, and the Spearwood Club, Naprednik, held dances, concerts and had drama and singing groups.
“Nada was more into plays, we also had a choir and string band for young people. We would perform at the dances. I played the Bizerka in the band, sang in the choir and played in plays when I was about 13.
Mr Kovacevic would come from Perth to teach us to read music and play. We played songs like La Paloma, Viennese waltzes and all the songs of the day. My father, with others, helped organise plays and act in them. Someone would give them a script, if they decided to do it they would scout around and find people to play the parts. They would meet in the Rekabite Hall in Parry Street, Fremantle. It was only a small club. The worst time was before the war when there weren’t many vehicles. Then whoever had a truck would collect the others and they’d go together.
Families also went fishing at the Quarantine Station with their gidgies and they’d catch octopus and cobbler. We even had snails roasted over the fire. The men made bowls (boce) from wood. In good “Soltanski” language they were called “balote”. They would start with a cube of wood and then with a rasp they would curve it till it was round. All the men from Spearwood would come down on a Sunday afternoon to Jakovich’s place, because they had the best stretch of flat ground, and play bowls.” Vini Kenda (Bavich), Snake Gully
There was no school nearby so the children went to White Gum Valley School on the corner of Watkins and Wood Streets about 4 kilometres away.
“It was all bush then and the kids had to walk across the paddocks past Caesars dairy. The cows and bulls frightened them so they checked the fences to make sure the bulls couldn’t get out and none of them would ever wear red jumpers for fear of being chased.” Ante Jakovich, Snake Gully
“I was the first to go to school, 2 years later the eldest Vicich boy, then Peter Jakovich, my brother Leni and Eddy Garbin. Dad took me to school on the first day, I was 6 and couldn’t speak English. He showed me this older Australian boy who lived in Curriedale Street near the quarry where dad worked. He told this boy to collect me after school and bring me to the quarry so I could go home with him. At the end of the first day this boy came to me and said something to me in English and walked away. He actually told me that as my father worked till 5 o’clock that he would have a game of cricket first and then come back for me. I didn’t know what he said so I sat down on the veranda and cried. Some girls (Walsh was their name and they lived at the end of Fifth Avenue) had been through the quarries and knew where I lived so, together with the Headmaster, we drove to their house in his car and then they walked me home through the quarries and bush to my place. Yes, there was great panic, dad didn’t know where I was, the boy got into trouble from his mum and dad and from then on I went home with the Walsh girls.” Vini Kenda (Bavich), Snake Gully
Sister Fulton delivered most of the children in Spearwood and Snake Gully till they started going to hospital. When labour started someone would ring for her to come. Too bad if the baby came quickly, but usually there were other women there to help. She would make a note of when the baby was born for you to take to the registry office later, when you had decided on a name.
“My brother, Leni, Eddy Garbin, Peter and Veronica Jakovich were all born at home. In 1936 when Jean Jakovich was in labour during the night mum went up there. The next morning when I woke up I remember going to their house and Peter had just been born. I was only 3 then but I can still visualise that baby boy lying on the bed clearly even after all these years.
When my sister was born in 1942 she was born in hospital. My dad had saved up some money and bought this car. Mum blew her stack and said “we can’t afford a car.” He said, “It’s to take you to hospital when you have the baby. I don’t want to shake you up in the old truck.” When she started to have labour pains he went to start the car and it wouldn’t start because the fuse had gone on the lights, so she had to go in the truck after all.” Vini Kenda (Bavich), Snake Gully
With the start of World War 2 market gardening became profitable and the residents of Snake Gully got out debt and were able to upgrade their houses and buy vehicles.
The land where South Fremantle High School stands was resumed by the Government around 1958-60. Winterfold Primary School was built in 1966 and by the mid 1960s the “Snake Gully” area was developed into housing and market gardening ceased.
Residents of Snake Gully
– Annie Street
Nikola & Marija Bavich, daughter Vini
Ante & File Jakovich, brothers. Tony married Jean Bavich in 1936
Visko Garbin, brought out and married Delfina Petrich in 1937
Joe & Mira Brozicevich
Frank & Maria Bilcich
Stanko & Anka Vicich
Grgo & Darinka Pesich
– Jean Street
1937/38 Nikola & Danica Covich
Antisa & Mladenka Ruich
Others who came later
John and Maria Bilcich, Frank Sikanich (Matiasevich), Ned Baskovich, Nikola Kolich, Srhoj, Brbich, Delich, Blagaich, Tony Cerenich, Andrijich
Early History of this Area
The area of Osborne Park began to develop at about the turn of the twentieth century as a result of the natural expansion of Perth and its suburbs. In 1906 Town Property Ltd constructed a tram line along Main Street to a terminus at Royal Street where they built a hotel (a landmark for many years, a new hotel stands on the same site). Main Street was lit by Kerosene lamps in 1910. Mount Hawthorn and Osborne Park supplied mainly shoeing facilities, domestic supplies, schooling and entertainment.
Business transactions required a visit to the city by horse and sulky or cart all the way or as far as main street to connect with the tram.
“The early settlement was centred between the Njookenbooroo swamp and Herdsmans Lake in the vicinity of King Edward Road and Government Road (now Odin Road). Dairymen, market gardeners, pig and poultry farmers followed the lakes and swamps that run parallel to the coast, seeking water for growing crops and for the stock.” Maud Thomas, 1989, Along the Plank Road, p.2
By 1912 a plank road was constructed as far as the Njookenbooroo bridge forming what is now known as Scarborough Beach Road but originally known as North Beach Road. Oswald Road and Frobisher Road were other early plank Roads, the rest remained sand tracks for many years.
The government developed drains and a tunnel to the sea just north of Floreat Beach by 1921 in a bid to drain the swamps of this area and reclaim land which continually flooded in winter and make it available to gardeners and farmers supplying much needed produce for a fast expanding population during the early 1900s.
“Running through the swamps of the Osborne Park district is a permanent flowing creek or “Main Drain” as it was originally called. It crosses Karrinyup Road near Waldeck’s Nursery. From there it takes a right hand turn and crosses King Edward Road near where the Muir family lived – then crosses Hertha Road and runs through the middle of the Njookenbooroo Swamp. It runs into Herdsman’s Lake after crossing Scarborough Beach Road near Oswald Street and then Pearson Street, near Liege Street, and so on into the lake.
Settlers who took up land in King Edward Road, Hertha Road, or Oswald Street, had the back part of their properties running into the swamp, with the drain as the boundary line, and this drain played a big part in their livelihood as they depended on it for irrigation of the swampland. Sprinkler irrigation was not yet in vogue and small channels, or drains, were dug from the ‘Main Drain’ to run between the various beds of vegetables or crops of feed etc. and water was manually sprayed onto beds with watering cans.” Maud Thomas, 1989, Along the Plank Road, p.7
Early Croatian Migrant Settlement in Osborne Park Area
Just prior to the outbreak of WW1 early Croatian migrants who had earned enough money in the goldfields and wood cutting found themselves in a position to put down roots and buy land which was becoming available in the Osborne Park area.
In addition after the war broke out Croatians on the goldfields suddenly found themselves unemployed and interned as aliens as they were considered to be Austrians. Of those who weren’t interned, many came down to Perth and found their way to Osborne Park where their countrymen were beginning to settle themselves on land.
Tony and Annie Marinovich built their first home in King Edward Road in 1913 and conducted a market garden on the property. It is built of weatherboard and iron and is still standing in a dilapidated condition and is unoccupied.” Maud Thomas, 1989, Along the Plank Road, p.98
Records of rate books for the Osborne Ward show no evidence of land ownership by early Croatians till the 1914/15 financial year. Here Toni (Tony) Marinovich’s name appears as owner of Lot 3 King Edward Road (5 acres). Also in the same Street were Ivan and Anton Loncar (Lot 15/16 – 15 acres).
In Hertha Road were Jabuka and Vladich (lot 58/60 -7 acres), Rubinic and Buzolic (lot 24/26 – 18 acres), Jabuka L Muja (lot 29/30 – 13acres), Franin S and M (lot 31/32 – 10acres) and on North Beach Road Anton and Ivan Loncar had a small piece of land (lot 251).
While these names appear in the Rate Books as land owners there is anecdotal evidence of other Croatians living and working in the area. They boarded with relatives or friends and either worked as labourers for them or others or rented land and worked for themselves.
Stories of the Early Croatian Settlers
Ivan Loncar’s story tells of humble beginnings and the struggle to survive, each step on the path leading on to something better. By the time he died he owned about 50 acres.
“Ivan Loncar was born 14th March, 1893 in the village of Podbablje Kamen Most, Imotski, Dalmatica, Austria.
He came to Australia by ship (Sharon – not sure of name) from Marsielles on 9 April, 1911 to Fremantle.
When he arrived he worked on woodline in Collie, DayDawn, Nella Nella near Kalgoorlie. There wasn’t much money around and he was lucky if he got paid or food. When he came from Kalgoorlie to Perth he had to get permission as it was wartime, he had to report to police all the time. He went to King Edward Road to work with some Slav friends and get some money.
He bought some land from Mr Stubberfield who had a lot of land. He worked hard during the day (for other people) and then worked on North Beach Road (property) early in the morning and in the evening. He would trench for a vineyard and market garden. Very hard (work) and not much money.
Then he met George Brajkovich, he had a nice sister, Mara. He saw a picture of Mara so he sent a photo of himself (to her) and she came Fremantle and they got married in St Mary’s, Leederville on 20 Nov. 1925 and had 10 children.
Again hard times. They built a house (4 rooms, no bathroom or toilet inside, made out of bags painted with lime and tin roof) in Osborne Park now known as Gwelup.
The family was never hungry but were poor. Then in 1940 they built a lovely brick and tile house on the corner of March and North Beach Road (it’s still there). They also helped with the church and the Lake Gwelup School.” From handwritten script in possession of Neven Smoje.
Ivan’s story is similar to the stories of many others who settled in the Osborne Park area in the early part of the twentieth century. He came at 18 years of age to escape the army with a group of other young men and was naturalised on 18 September 1923.
Anton (Tony) Loncar, his brother, was 20 years old when he arrived in 1923. They lived and worked together until Tony married and settled on his own land.
The Vladich brothers were early migrants (1905) to Western Australia. After working in many other areas Ivan (John, Jack) Vladich settled in The Osborne Park area in 1913. The family was first recorded in the history of the settlement of Koorda in the wheatbelt in the early years of the 20th century. (See Special Farming Chapter)
Ivan Vladich (1881-1934) and Tomica Lucev (1885-1971) were born in Prvic Luka. On arrival in WA in 1905 aged 26, Ivan worked on mines or chopping wood for mines at Day Dawn, Beria and Sandstone until he had saved enough money to bring out his wife in 1908 and take up newly issued land in Dowerin. Times were hard and they had to abandon the farm returning to the goldfields (Day Dawn) before going to Osborne Park with their children (Anne 1911 and Vera 1913).
They began market gardening in Curtis Street near the Rosalie Nursery (now Waldecks) where three more children were born, Mary 1914, Bert 1916, Rita 1917.
Working in the swamps and watering with buckets hanging from a yoke was very hard work so Ivan took his family to Spearwood to try his luck there.
“During their stay in Spearwood two more children were born (George 1919and Millie 1921) They then moved from Spearwood to Glendalough, again to another market garden. This is where Dorrie was born 1923 .” Rita Viskovich (Vladich)
“At Glendalough dad worked a garden that belonged to the Catholic Church. Dad got very sick, the hospital told him that he hadn’t long to live. He wanted to settle his family and found land in North Beach Road. The property belonged to the Government, they were issuing it to returned soldier settlers, no one was using this one so dad took it. It had a 3 bedroom weatherboard house with shingled roof.” Vera Rosich (Vladich)
With their family of eight children Ivan and Tomica began the enormous task of clearing the 6 acres of land.
“With the help of his children he cleared the virgin land, started a poultry farm, built a large shed and bought an incubator to hatch chickens.Each and every child in the family had certain jobs to do and we all pulled our weight as times went by. The land was trenched in rows and grapevines were planted. While the grapevines were growing it was decided that a cellar was also needed.
Dad had a two-handed scoop, quite a large one. He harnessed Chummy (our horse) and in our back yard began ploughing deep into the earth to hollow out the ground as it was to be an underground cellar. The work was very hard but eventually it was finished.
Above the cellar he built a barn where later mum had up to six men boarders. The cellar was built of stone, the floor concrete, the walls were very thick. It had two windows and about ten steps leading down into it. It was always very cool down there.” Rita Viskovich (Vladich).
His vision was to make his family self sufficient before he died. He completed his vineyard with a concrete vat, grape press and 27 barrels for claret, sweet and dry sherry, port and muscat. The Licensing Court granted him a license to sell wine by the bottle and gallon.
To water his vegetable garden he dug a deep well lined with timber to which was added a windmill and very large galvanised tank on a tank stand.
“We grew onions, potatoes, peas, beans amongst many other vegetables which were taken to market on horse and cart. We also grew lucerne in rows for the chooks. There were two cows, Dolly and Bunty
We cut grass and mixed it with bran and pollard for the cows and with bran for the chooks. They also needed shell grit to make the egg shells hard.
At that stage there was no running water so we carried 4 gallon kerosene tins of water to the hens, cows and horses every morning and evening.” Rita Viskovich (Vladich)
The felled trees were used for firewood. He also built a shop to sell groceries and poultry supplies, enlarged the house, made a bakers oven in which Tomica baked up to a dozen loaves at a time and a new wash house with new copper and three cement troughs.
Tomica made butter and cheese and scalded cream. After Ivan died in 1934 she carried on with winemaking, tending to the boarders and garden work (the vegetables now being for home use only).
The Buzolic family was another of the early settlers. Janko (John), Margarita Buzolic with their young son Bartholomew (Bart, Bert) left their successful 800 acre farm in Tammin when wheat prices fell at the beginning of W.W.1 and bought land in Osborne Park. Rate records show him owning land (18 acres) in Hertha Road in partnership with Rubinic. After W.W.1 records show that he had moved and now owned land (62 acres) in Government Road and Bryan Road.
“He started a vineyard and later on added a piggery; this farm was very successful,” Joanne ? ,Great grandaughter, Brisbane (Extract from email sent to Neven Smoje.
Janko was born (1880) in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar where his parents had a vineyard and olive trees. They used to wholesale olive oil to the mainland and also supplied herbs and lavender oil. At age 17 (1897) he left his homeland for New Zealand where he spent 3 years digging gum resin at the base of Eucalyptus Viminalis trees growing in swamp areas before coming to Australia on his way back to Croatia.
After 18 months he returned to W.A. working on gold mining in Laverton before again returning home in 1908 to marry.
It was a double wedding with Janko’s sister, Nina. He married Margarita Franetovic while his sister married Margaritas cousin Filip Franetovic. Together they came to Fremantle where they bought a wine saloon before once again going to the goldfields and mining gold at Beria near Laverton.” Joy Buzolich
Janko’s experience in broardacre farming in Tammin stood him in good stead when he established himself in Osborne Park. Although the conditions were different he had the ability to see a bigger picture and, because he had money at his disposal, was able to employ workers to establish a larger concern. He planted a vineyard, olive trees, established a market garden and a piggery. In doing so he returned to his roots on the island of Hvar where his father had olives and vines and sold olive oil and wine.
They were a considered a leading family within the small community that was progressively getting larger. Many new comers were fostered by them as boarders and workers, assisted in finding jobs and getting established on their own land.
His son, Bart, was well educated and had advantages that others didn’t at that early time.
“I was born in Fremantle on November 11th 1909 and spent my early years on my parents’ farm at South Tammin and in the mining town of Beria. I went to Osborne Park State School and later to Christian Brothers College in Perth.
I was keen on sports especially football. I represented the College from the under 14s to the seniors. I commenced rowing at 16 and represented CBC in winning the Head of the River (fours) twice; joined the Swan River Rowing Club and had wins in Junior and Senior Eights; advanced to the Kings Cup Crew and had a win in Sydney. I played with West Perth for several years and won a Premiership Pennant.”
Bart Buzolic, Extract from article printed in The Target (Newsletter of the AIM over 50 Archery Club, March, 1997.
Bart later joined the Police Force and during WW2 his knowledge of the Croatian language (also some Italian) saw him stationed in Perth as an Alien Registration Officer.
During the 1atter part of the 1920s Janko and Margarita sold their property in Government Road and moved to Carnarvon where he had established a banana plantation (“Pioneer Plantation”) which was to be his last and most successful venture. (see Carnarvon section)
Settlers Arriving During the 1920s
The pre-WW1 settlers were joined by many more countrymen during the 1920s forming quite a large group of settlers. Those who bought land are listed below.
1924/5 Dume Rodin, Simon Bumbak, I. Vranjican, M. Yurich,
1925/26 Peter Drpich
1926/27 Anton Budrovich, Jack Skender
1927/28 Joseph Rodin, Anthony Marinovich, L. Lucev, Thomas Lucev
1928/29 J. Martinovich, M. Marinovich, Jakov Babun, Bukranich, Rinaldo Pavicic, Ivan Zrinski
Getting Started in the Early Years
Buying land and paying off debts were the primary aims of the Croatians. Land meant security, independence, ability to grow food to feed your family, putting down roots. Having left the extended family behind they set about creating a stable environment in which to bring up their own families.
Many of these early land owners, and others that came later on, brought out and fostered family members and relatives who lived and worked with them till they were able to either get a job or buy land for themselves. In the case of women till they married.
“He was 20 when he (Ante) went to his brother, Ivan. They lived together and his brother helped him buy his land. The blocks were together. Later we paid him back.” Ruza Loncar
“After four years in the SW work was getting harder to get so he (father, Ivan Zrinski) returned to Perth. This was pre-depression time. He heard of a young woman, Ivanica Jareb, who had arrived from Prvic Luka with her married sister, Mara Rodin, and her younger sister, Karmela. They became friends and he married Ivanica at St Mary’s church, Leederville in 1928.” George Zrinski
“My grandfather, Dume Rodin, wasn’t interned after WW1 but lost his job like many others. He found his way to Osborne Park and bought some land in Hertha Road. Later on he brought out his wife, Boza, and two of his four daughters. One of them ,Milka soon married Roko Parin an early settler of Wanneroo. My mum, Marija, had married Ante Rokic in 1920 and stayed behind as did the eldest sister. My grandfather brought my mother, father, myself and my brother to Australia in 1928. Dad also brought our half sister with us.” Milly Bumbak (Rokich)
“Dad (Marin Marinovich) came here in 1927. His brother Ante (Tony) was already here and he brought dad out. At first they lived together in the little corner house in King Edward Road for a while. Then Uncle Tony lent dad some money and he bought a block further down in the same street and this is where he had his market garden. He brought out mum and Vlade in 1929. Later dad brought out a cousin also named Tony Marinovich (the one that married Millie Grubelich). He was in his early 20s and he stayed and helped on the garden before he went out on his own.” Connie Grgich (Marinovich).
Wherever they settled they developed a reputation of being hard working and honest. Australians who dealt with them were generous with terms when it came to buying land and offering them jobs as the following comments illustrate:
“Later we bought 2 acres of land from Mrs Dee who went to join her husband in Kalgoorlie. The bank wouldn’t give us money so she said to pay her when we could. In later years her children would always visit and pick figs to make jam and bring us some jam too.” Ruza Loncar.
“They (Joe Durmanich and my father, Ivan) went to Hector Street and bought a property off and Irish guy named Thompson. The whole block was 12 acres and had four road frontage and he wanted to fence the whole block. They did part of it and when he came and saw what they were doing he said, ‘put a fence around the whole property and take the lot’. They said that they can’t afford to pay for it because they didn’t have any money. He said, ‘it doesn’t matter, you can pay me five pounds every 3 months without any interest on the condition you find others to take rest in 4 acre lots.’” Tony Frzop
“ The Arbuckles had a lot of land, a family of 5 sons, they were expanding and needed a reliable workforce. What better is there than if someone is working at an ajoining place (my dad was working at the Karrinjup Country Club which had very strict working conditions) than to offer work to the best workers. They offered him 10 shillings a day and expected six and a half days of work. It was good for those times (during the depression) when some people were just working for their keep.” Steve Bojanich.
It was relatively easy to start up a market garden in these times; all that was required was land, tools (spade, mattock, axe, hoe, watering cans) and a strong body. Once market gardening became mechanised the start-up cost rose dramatically.
Market gardening in Osborne Park was particularly hard in the beginning as they were working swamp land only. Growing vegetables in these conditions was very different to the experience and knowledge of vegetable growing that they brought with them when they migrated.
They soon learnt how to manage from the early Australian and Chinese settlers and also the Italians who arrived just prior to them.
The swamp land couldn’t be worked in winter as the water level rose and flooded the fields. When the water finally receded they were able to trench and plant crops. George Zrinski, Ruza Loncar, Rayna Antulov and Steve Bojanich made the following comments:
My parents (Ivan and Ivanica Zrinski) had no experience in gardening but got their knowledge from Chinese market gardeners in Osborne Park. They bought 6 acres of land; 2 acres of swamp and 4 acres of sand. They cleared the swamp first, it was very fertile.
In November when the water receded they worked the swamp. You couldn’t use horses as it was too soft so you had to dig by hand. There were no tractors in those days.
To “trench” the land you dig a trench 2 foot (60cm) wide by 2 foot down, then you would turn the next trench into the first trench. This would get rid of the weeds and roots.
Trenching was done when the soil was new then every couple of years to get new soil to the top. To get rid of eelworm infestation you had to dig deeper.
This was done till 1948 when Shell DD fumigant was used to control eelworm. Kerosene was used to control weeds.”George Zrinski, Osborne Park.
“There were rushes in the swamp, we would dig it out. We sowed cabbage or beans. You couldn’t plant vegetables like parsnip down there, but beans, potatoes and cabbage.” Ruza Loncar, Osborne Park.
We mostly grew celery and we used box them up with timber so they would grow white. Now they have got the stringless variety which is totally different. Ours were the green ones which had a bitter taste. We also grew cabbage, sweet potato, silver beet and parsley. The cabbages were sent to market in big chaff bags and weighed about a hundred-weight. You would help lift them onto the men’s backs as there were no trolleys at first. Eventually we got a trolley and a track all the way down our block.” Rayna Antulov (Vlahov).
“We used a scythe to cut down the rushes then burn off the rest. Then the soil was turned with a spade. Then you’d dig a drain and irrigate with watering cans. Everything was done by hand.” Steve Bojanich, Osborne Park.
Drains were dug dividing the land into garden beds. They served to drain the soil and could be blocked off at the main drain to hold back water. This enabled them to hand water the crops in summer using watering cans suspended on a yoke across their shoulders.
“The soil stayed wet because they banked up the drains and the water would seep into the soil. Each plot was just as big as what a sprinkler 22 feet away would be now. It was divided into blocks or beds with drains on each side and when you jumped on it it was springy. To think of it now, that field, it was filled up with rubbish later and the City of Stirling was built opposite it.” Rayna Antulov (Vlahov)
Living conditions were difficult. It must have been hard to adapt to living in a swamp coming, as they did, from Croatia with its rocky terrain and dry Mediterranean climate. Milly Bumbak describes what it was like.
My grandfather (Dume Rodin) had bought a place in Hertha Road, Osborne Park, in the swamp area. When we arrived (1928) he had a house built out of timber on it. But being in a swamp they had put it up on stilts. In the winter time the water would rise and be practically at floor level.
We lived with grandfather for quite a few years until his youngest daughter married. He then decided to divide his property between his two daughters. We stayed in the old house while he moved into a new house on the other half of the land with the other daughter.
As soon as we arrived in Australia we had our chores. Before we went to school we worked and when we came home we worked. It was helping weeding, picking, carrying, watering, whatever was required. We all worked.” Milly Bumbak (Rokich)
When Simon Bumbak finally bought land in King Edward Road it was a soldier settlers block with a weatherboard house of 5 rooms only 2 of which were lined. His son, Evarist describes the conditions like this:
“We were excited on arrival in Fremantle. We came by hired truck from Fremantle to Perth where there was a horse and cart waiting in Wellington Street at a horse trough. When we arrived in Osborne Park at the poultry farm and market garden dad had bought I saw a few hundred white hens and thought snow had fallen. We were isolated in the sand of Osborne Park and swamp, it was hard for mum to adjust and her health declined over the years. She missed her family and friends back home.
There were 5 acres of dry sand and 3 acres of swamp. The swamp was cleared of rushes and tea tree using a mattock, hoe and axe. In winter the wind whistled through the boards of the unlined rooms in the house. We used corn sacks for blankets; three bags were sewn together for each single bed.
In summer the sand scorched our feet as we didn’t have shoes to wear. There was no bathroom or laundry. We washed in a basin. There was a copper and washtubs to wash the clothes.
We children all helped on the farm. Dad had incubators and chickens. It was our job to scrape out the foul sheds of manure. The cow shed was Victor’s job. I was in charge of egg production. We carried water from a well.
The eggs were taken by horse and cart to the market in Stirling Street, Roe Street and James Street in 1928. This was before the West Perth Market. The price was four pence per dozen and one shilling for each hen or rooster. We made no progress during the depression.” Evarist Bumbak
Major Developments in Osborne Park
The depression years slowed down progress in the development of market gardening.
The first major progress was the buying of a truck. This gave the families some independence and enabled them to take their produce to the markets more quickly and comfortably than by horse and cart.
“A friend down the road used to take dad’s vegetables to market. Then he bought his own truck in the early 1930s. Wishart Street was a bush track but in the 1930s it became a plank road. Odin Road (previously Government Road) was stone until it was sealed.” George Zrinski
“We had a truck over at my Uncle’s (Ivan Martinovich) property before we moved to our place in Hamilton Street. He used to take the vegetables to market. Later dad got a bigger truck and he did a lot of ‘carting’ or carrying to the market for other growers and got a percentage from that. It was heavy work but he felt he had to do something more because a lot of the time you’d take your vegies to market and they wouldn’t get sold.” Katie Katunarich (Martinovich)
“This man, who worked for Grubelich, said to my dad, ‘If I win the charities I will lend you some money to buy a truck’, and that is how he bought it. He bought an old truck, a Rugby, and we used to go out to Wanneroo. We used to think it was miles but now it’s a stone’s throw. It was plank roads then.” Mary Crouch (Grbelja)
Some had difficulty getting a drivers license so their children had to drive. This was the case for young Milly Rokich and her brother, Joe. As a child she was already going to market with her father with the horse and cart because the horse wouldn’t tolerate handling by men. However, when her father bought a truck, things didn’t change.
“Later we got a truck, a little, old Rugby truck, a 1 tonner. Father tried to learn to drive it but, not being able to talk the language very well, he couldn’t get his driver’s licence. So I had to learn to drive and get my license so I could take the produce to market. So there again I was going to the market as usual. We still had the plank road and if you weren’t very careful and went off the planks into the sand you’d bog. You had to be a pretty good driver.
My eldest brother took over driving when he was 18 and got his license. He was the driver and I was the ‘pilot’ as he called me, so I still had to go to the market with him.” Milly Bumbak (Rokich)
Those who had trucks would take others on outings to the beach, picnics, visiting the Swan Valley or Spearwood.
“They used to have dances on a Sunday night, one week it was at Osborne Park, next it was Swan and occasionally it would be Spearwood. They would take it in turns. You’d get a truckload of people and you’d all go together, it was good fun, you mixed with people. Later we had cars and we did the same. That’s how we got to know people from the Swan and Spearwood. They were good days.” Tony Frzop
Another entertainment that was particularly attractive to the young men of Osborne Park was the Speedway.
“When you got your license you’d go in your father’s truck if he’d let you have it. You’d pick up all your friends and neighbours. They’d all pile into the back of the truck and go to the speedway. It was a boys’ night out, not many girls went out on a Friday. In Osborne Park there were a few people who were involved in the speedway; car racing and motor bikes. There was Mick Geneff who was just up the road, Laurie Gazetti used to drive the stockcars and later on George Markovich who drove ‘migets’.” Tony Frzop
The next significant development in market gardening in Osborne Park was the advent of sprinkler irrigation. This was a major cost to gardeners and for many it was impossible until they established themselves.
The earlier, more established settlers were the first to be able to afford to put in sprinkler irrigation. Like Spearwood, they were approached by companies selling pipes. The very first sprinklers were the long arm variety previously mentioned in the Spearwood section. These were heavy and required shifting but were useful for irrigating land bordering the swamps. But the real jump in irrigation came with set pipes and butterfly sprinklers.
Sprinkler irrigation meant that a whole lot of land, previously not used for gardening, was now suddenly useful. The sandy part of their blocks could now be used and they were no longer tied to the swamps. It also meant that sand land which was previously worth less than swamp land was now valuable. It changed the nature of gardening in Osborne Park.
“At first dad had to earn enough money to support himself before he could afford to put in irrigation (galvanised piping). Before about 1933 people used water from open dams. In 1934 the Cruikshank family in Main Street were the first to irrigate sands. That opened up the land. Dad didn’t like working the swamp, it was too hard. He had experienced working in sand at Arbuckle’s so he quickly moved to that way of working.” Steve Bojanich.
“People said that they (my uncle, Joe Durmanich, and dad) would never grow anything on the sand because it was hungry and had no water. But one of the irrigation companies in Perth (William Adams) said to them that they would supply them with pipes to trial it on sandy soils to see how it would go. They were the first (Croatians) to grow vegetables on sand with irrigation.
When they cleared the first part of the block the first crop they put in was peas without irrigation. Then they put irrigation when William Adams supplied the pipes. It took a few years to build it up a bit. Then everyone started moving off the swamps and onto the sand. They could use it (the land) year round and they could see the benefit of it.
When they first started there wasn’t enough work for both of them so my uncle stayed at home and dad worked for Jack Lukan and Joe Rodin for part of the time. In those days it was important to get a job somewhere and even though the wages were low (about one pound or one pound ten shillings a week) that was money coming in.” Tony Frzop.
This development increased the amount of land under crop, extended the varieties of vegetable grown as well as the volume of produce. The down side was a glut of produce on the markets.
During the 1930s the population increased substantially and continued to increase during the 40s and 50s when market gardening really started to become profitable.
Wanneroo Market Garden Area
“Explorer John Butler led the first recorded excursion into the area now occupied by Wanneroo in 1834. A party of four with two ponies travelled about 55km north from Perth in search of lost cattle and apparently passed east of Lake Joondalup.”The Story of Wanneroo, Guy Daniel and Margaret Cockman, p.1
In his report to the Governor he recorded seeing large lakes and stated that there was “an abundance of game of all descriptions.” By 1838 land was taken up around the southern shores of Lake Joondalup but was not settled. It became popular as a sporting venue with hunting as a major attraction.
Development was slow and amenities were few before 1900. Landholders were principally farmers and graziers and a cattle stock route north passed to the west of Lake Joondalup. The hotel at Balcatta (now known as the Seven Mile Inn) was well used by travellers for refreshments.
“At times the refreshment overtook interest in stock and cattle ran loose over market gardens and vineyards.” The Story of Wanneroo, Guy Daniel and Margaret Cockman, p.13,14.
By the turn of the century market gardening had taken a strong hold and the area was starting to attract attention among growers.
In the Inquirer and Commercial News of January 7, 1903, a firm known as Frank Smallpage and Co., connected with the markets advertised.
“Farming Property, Wanneroo Road, Freehold lands.
Magnificent Swamp and Grazing lands, 18 miles from
Perth, Area 1,118 acres. Well fenced and improved,
30 acres rich swamp land, grow anything.”
The Story of Wanneroo, Guy Daniel and Margaret Cockman, p.20
Wanneroo Road remained a block road with some plank sections for many decades and travel to Perth was slow. The lack of a good road held up the growth and development of the district as a market gardening area for many years.
“Had Wanneroo been en route to the north along a good surfaced road or connected by rail to Perth its development rate would have doubtless been accelerated by decades. But there were other things, such as gold, in other directions that attracted the rail builders.” The Story of Wanneroo, Guy Daniel and Margaret Cockman, p.20
In 1903 the published Post Office Directory shows that there were more than 30 market gardens already in the Wanneroo area.
Early Croatian Settlers in Wanneroo
“It was in 1920 that 14 year old Bill Duffy started work, driving a horse cart for local market gardener Steve Chokolich. ‘I was paid seven shillings and six pence per tripto market in James Street, Perth and given one and sixpence for breakfast’, said Bill early in 1979. ‘I remember the road was blocks and you had planks nearer into Perth. You had to go quite a long way into town before you had a metal road’.” The Story of Wanneroo, Guy Daniel and Margaret Cockman, p.29, 30.
Matt and Vinka Martinovich arrived from the island of Brac in 1910 and spent several years in the goldfields, where their daughter Mary was born in 1914, before settling in Wanneroo in 1920 to grow vegetables. Their son, Tony, tells the story of his unexpected birth on the side of the road at Tuart Hill.
“At 9.30pm on 30th July, 1921, my father was taking my mother to Perth in the horse and cart. Mum was expecting me to be born at any moment. It was a stormy windy night as the horse made its way down the old block road in pouring rain. My father could see from Tuart Hill that the road through Dog Swamp was flooded, so he decided to pull off the road. Unfortunately, when the sulky wheels came off the road blocks they sank into the sand and mum fell from the cart. Minutes later I was being born in sand on the side of the road.” Tony Martin, Wanneroo. (The Story of Wanneroo, p.113)
Luck was on her side because she fell outside Mrs Blanche King’s place. She was a Cockman from Wanneroo and assisted during the birth. Tony claims to be a ‘true sandgroper’ because he was so slippery that Mrs King dropped him in the sand. When they got him inside they found he wasn’t breathing so Vinka kept him alive with mouth to mouth resuscitation, a technique which had been practised in Europe for centuries. When the doctor arrived two hours later all was well. She stayed with Mrs King for a week before returning home.
Taking up land where the Paul Conti winery is now, Matt and Vinka set up a market garden.
“Our home then is now Conti’s Restaurant. Dad bought the house and property from two Italians. The bushland on the other side of the main road would eventually become part of Mr Luisini’s vineyard, and after that, the Wangarra Industrial Centre. In my father’s time it was covered in White Gum and Tuart trees, some 100feet high.” Tony Martin, (The Story of Wanneroo, p.114
“After 12 months the two men wanted the property back, but dad wouldn’t sell, this made them angry. Sometimes they followed and harassed him when he took his vegetables to market in the horse and cart.
Dad always left for the market at two in the morning, stopping for breakfast at the Seven Mile Hotel. Sometimes I went with him. One morning after breakfast we were climbing back on the wagon when we heard rifle shots and bullets whiz past overhead. The wagon had deep sides so we ducked down for cover while dad gave the horses their head and they made their way down Wanneroo Road. After that, dad carried a gun when he went to market. The men responsible were investigated by the police and not long afterwards returned to Italy.” Mary Higgins (Martinovich), (The Story of Wanneroo, p.89)
Once the land was cleared and the market garden established everyone had a job to do.
“When mum was in the garden it was my job to look after the younger ones, at least while they were small. When they were bigger they helped too. I planted the tomato seedlings and the men did the heavy work. We had three grades of tomatoes. The grading was done very carefully because when you had a name for top quality you would get good sales. If you didn’t have a good name no one wanted your stuff. We always gave quality. Dad’s vegetables were sought after at the market and he always got a sale.
Dad decided to experiment growing cauliflowers, so he sought advice from Mr Arbuckle, who grew nice caulis in Balcatta. Mr Arbuckle showed dad what to do and dad learnt well. He was the first to grow caulis successfully in Wanneroo.” Mary Higgins (Martinovich), (The Story of Wanneroo, p.91)
Water was carted by hand from a windmill 300yards from the house. Water was boiled outside in kerosene tins and Vinka washed clothes there in an old washtub. They had a baking oven made from limestone to bake bread and cakes.
We baked bread twice a week until motorised transport became available. Then the men bought bread when they went to market.
Dad made his own wine and kept it in a cellar under the back verandah. He was a good winemaker and I was good at trampling grapes. We all trampled grapes, even the little ones did that.
We trampled grapes in wooden barrels that were cut in half; dad used a press as well. We put the crushed grapes into a crusher and crushed them again. Then we put the wine in a wooden barrel.” Mary Higgins (Martinovich), (The Story of Wanneroo, p.91)
Being the eldest child and able to speak English meant that Mary was able to assist her parents and carried responsibility beyond her years. When Matt decided to go into the carting business in 1925 he bought a Chev 4 truck and Mary went along to help when he had driving lessons. A year or two later he had two trucks and drivers to help.
“I learnt to drive when I was 11 by watching while dad was taught. I always went with dad when he had driving lessons. When he finally drove without an instructor I went with him and told him what to do until he was ok by himself.
Our first truck was a Model 4 Chev. It was reasonably easy to drive and only had three gears. Every now and again I took our vegetables to markets by myself. Some men at the markets had trouble reversing their trucks, so I used to hop in their trucks and do it for them.
When I was 14 dad had a couple of Wanneroo men driving. Then he won a contract to cart gravel in York and Northam for road repairs, but after he left for the country one of his Wanneroo drivers left, so I had to drive. There was no one else and dad had an important contract to cart limestone for Wanneroo Road. It was up to me to keep the contract going.
I carted limestone from a quarry at Joondalup, which is now called Edgewater. The quarry men loaded the limestone and I helped with the smaller stones. Mum was worried about me driving and carting limestone, so sometimes she came too. We’d both climb on the back and throw the smaller stones off. Mary Higgins (Martinovich), (The Story of Wanneroo, p.89)
According to the authors of ‘The Story of Wanneroo’ Mary didn’t bother to go for a Drivers License until she was in her late 40s which would have been in the 1960s.
During the depression many of their countrymen came looking for work, they were in difficult circumstances and many couldn’t speak English.
“Dad helped those he could by giving them jobs in the garden. He had a little shack alongside of the house, where four or five men stayed. Further down the road, about where Sam Conti’s place is now, other workers camped in tents. They had nowhere else to go.
From our home we would drive our four horse wagon to the Stirling Street market in Perth. The trip took four hours. My father would have fallen off his cart had he known that one day his son, Frankie, who became a jet fighter pilot in Korea, could do the same distance in seconds. To think that happened in one lifetime.
He had tremendous strength; I can remember dad getting under the wagon and raising it on his back while my uncle Chris, who was staying with us at the time, took a wheel off. My brother and I greased the axle and when we finished Uncle Chris put the wheel back on.
When I joined the police force a Sergeant Ahearn told me that as a young constable he had met my father when he was sent to investigate a fight at the North Perth Hotel. Someone pointed my father out saying that he had been involved. Sergeant Ahearn asked my father if he had been in the fight. Dad told him no. He told him that if he had been in the fight he would have ‘keeled’ them all. To prove his point Dad took the young policeman to his wagon, grabbed a horseshoe and straightened it with his bare hands. ‘I’d keel them like this,’ he said. The policeman replied, ‘I believe you,’ and left.” Tony Martin, Wanneroo (The Story of Wanneroo, p.114)
Tony shortened his name from Martinovich to Martin when he joined the Police Force in 1948 because he was worried that if someone called him a ‘dirty, ding cop’ he might do something he shouldn’t. In 1954 he was appointed to patrol the Wanneroo district and tells many tales of his adventures during that time. He was well known for his ‘common sense’ approach to policing with initiatives like the Snake-pit in Scarborough to kerb fighting between ‘bodgies’ and ‘leatheries’ and establishing several surf lifesaving clubs.(see Sport Section)
The Parin Brothers
Peter Parin was 15 years old when he ran away from home (Sepurine on the island of Prvic) in 1905. On reaching Trieste he joined a merchant ship and spent three years at sea before arriving in Fremantle in October, 1908. Like many before him he found work cutting railway sleepers and wood for shoring up goldmines in Kalgoorlie. In 1911 he had saved enough money to bring out his brother, Roko (16) to join him.
In 1912 Peter, now 22years old, returned home. He met and married Maria Antich in January 1913 and a month after the birth of their daughter, Rose (January, 1914), he returned alone to Fremantle. The brothers were sleeper cutting in Manjimup when WW1 broke out but weren’t interned as many others of Austrian citizenship were but were required to report to the Manjimup Police Station once a week.
“Dad spoke fluent Italian and was often mistaken for an Italian. My cousin, Lucy Stampalia (Parin), said that Uncle Roko couldn’t speak Italian so when they were in public they only spoke English. If they were heard speaking Croatian or Austrian it could have invited unwelcome attention.” John Parin, ‘The Story of old Wanneroo’, p.121
In 1922 the brothers bought 50 acres of crown land at the 10 mile peg of Wanneroo Road and Peter sent for Maria and Rose to join him.
“When the First World War ended, dad tried to have us brought out through the immigration system, like the English migrants, but that wasn’t possible. The Australian Government had different immigration rules and regulations for different countries.
Dad met us at Fremantle and we set off by horse and cart on the main road to Wanneroo. It was a bumpy, wooden road that lead through miles of bush. When we got to Wanneroo mum was very disappointed. Our new home was a tin shed. A well for drawing water was at the back of the shed.
The shed was divided into three rooms; none with any lining. One bedroom was for my parents, the other for Uncle Roko, and a dining room was in the middle. I slept in the kithchen which was a bit of an add-on. It was freezing in winter.”
Mum and I were used to a close-knit community where people almost lived on top of each other but in Wanneroo there was so much space, so much bush and so few neighbours. Mum had a few cries when she came, it was all so different and disappointing for her. We couldn’t speak English and that made it harder.
I went to Wanneroo School and quickly made friends there. There wasn’t any hatred or racial bias at school and I learnt to speak English very quickly. At that time Mr Bob Steel had a two horse wagon, which he used as a school bus; his motor bus came later. His property was about a quarter of a mile from our home. I had some good times going to school and we girls really enjoyed lunch times; one girl would bring milk, one would bring tea, one would bring the billy to boil over a small open fire and make cups of tea.
A Yugoslav boy came to school a year or so after me, he is Father John Chokolich now. Mr and Mrs Spiers, who were the teachers at the time, said to him,’Johnny, if you are anything like Rose, you will be fine, she learnt to speak English in three weeks’.” Rose Vlahov (Parin), ‘The Story of old Wanneroo’, p.107
Maria Parin’s previous experience in giving birth was to be at home surrounded by family and relatives. Here her experience was quite different.
“When it came time for mum to go in to her midwife in Perth, she and dad set off in the horse and cart. However, they only got as far as the 7 Mile Balcatta Hotel. By the time they reached the Balcatta pub I was already on the way. Mum was rushed inside where dad and Mrs Neaves, the lady who ran the pub, brought me safely into the world. Dad also acted as midwife to Mrs Sinagra.” John Parin, ‘The Story of old Wanneroo’, p.122
John Parin gives this account of the family getting established in Wanneroo. Although Wanneroo was primarily known for market gardening they were the first to prove that a successful vineyard was possible on the sandy soil and paved the way for other successful wineries to follow.
“They set to work clearing their land with clearing their land with spades picks and shovels making it ready for a vineyard. Before planting vines, however, dad sought advice from the Agricultural Department. The department wrote back and said that the land wasn’t suitable, but if he went ahead anyway he would have to water the vines daily.
Dad and Uncle Roko planted the vines. They must have known their land because the vines prospered and they made excellent wines. The property was where Canham Way is now and south along Wanneroo Road.
The year I was born Dad and Uncle Roko bought another 20 hectares of crown land. Later in the year dad bought five hectares from the church of England where the remains of Wanneroo’s first school stood.” John Parin, ‘The Story of old Wanneroo’, p.121
Roko married Milka Rodin, whose father (Dome) was an early settler of Osborne Park, and both families lived and worked together till the brothers split their partnership in 1929. Roko’s eldest son, Tony and his sister, Lucy, tell of the division of property.
“They were at loggerheads for 20 years before they made it up. Although our fathers weren’t talking we kids still visited each other and remained the best of friends.” Tony Parin, ‘The Story of old Wanneroo’, p.127
“Dad told me that they worked it out so that it was very fair. They drew lots in the company of an observer and neither knew what he would get. But whoever won got first choice. Dad stayed with the original house and Uncle Peter moved to Napier Road (now Canham Way) and built a weatherboard house.
The original cellar stayed with our side of the family. Parin Park is named after Uncle Peter, and is on the part of the property he owned. Dad continued to develop his vineyard after the split and went on to grow the most vines. Dad had the monopoly of the wine trade in Wanneroo although Uncle Peter made a very good Vermouth. When Wanneroo and Osborne Park held their Show days dad always took the top prizes for winemaking. Some of the other producers stopped competing because they couldn’t beat dad’s wines.” Lucy Stampalia (Parin), ‘The Story of old Wanneroo’,p. 128,130.
Rose Parin married Pasko (Harry) Vlahov (also from Prvic) in 1933 and began married life in the Wanneroo timber cutting camp. When he arrived in Australia he was 16years old and began cutting railway sleepers with his father.
“Pasko was given a broard axe, an ordinary axe, a crowbar, a mallet, some wedges and then told to go to bed. It was a wet and windy May night. It rained and rained and rained. Pasko’s bed was a rough camp stretcher, two poles through the ends of three bran bags and supported by four forked sticks stuck in the ground. It rained so much the creek ran over its banks. Pasko was drenched by the rain and surrounded by water on all sides. He felt miserable and homesick.
The next morning he had to cut trees and carry his axes and things wherever he went. The work was very hard. Years later he told me that every now and then he went behind a big tree and wept.” Rose Vlahov (Parin ) ‘The Story of old Wanneroo’, p.110
They met when he came to work for George Leach in Wanneroo and visited Rose’s parents who were from the same village in Croatia.
My husband rented swampland from the Cockman’s and grew vegetables. He built a small hut from wood and bags. He white washed most of the bags and put other bags down on the earth to make a floor. I had my second baby while we lived in the hut in 1935 and then another. ” Rose Vlahov (nee Parin), Stories of old Wanneroo As told to Bill Marwick 2002, p111, 68.
Rose and Pasko left Wanneroo and later established and garden at Duffy Road in Balcatta and another later in Main Street.
Wanneroo developed ………………….new settlers
Road –check when improved
Carnarvon Market Garden Area
Carnarvon is located on the coast at the mouth of the Gascoyne River 904 km north of Perth and is a large regional town surrounded by banana plantations. It was gazetted a townsite in 1883 and owed its early prosperity to wool which was transported by Afghan camel trains from the surrounding sheep stations and shipped out through the port.
The area, described by the WA Department of Agriculture as “mulga scrubland” became an efficient wool producing area reaching its peak about 1934 when the Gascoyne was supporting 1.4 million head of sheep. However, from about 1922 there was interest in tropical agriculture in the area.
It must be acknowledged that there were many people experimenting with the growing of tropical fruits and vegetables in Carnarvon during the 1920s but research points to Janko (Jack) Buzolic as being the first to succeed in this enterprise. Information on Carnarvon sourced from the internet supports this. His son, Bartholomew (called Bart or Bert) Buzolic, confirms this:
“Many were experimenting at that time, but Frank Wise said that Buzolic was the first to grow bananas commercially”. Bart Buzolic
Quoting from information available on the internet:
“It was a man named Jack Buzolic who changed the economic nature of the town. In 1928 he wrote of the town: ‘At present Carnarvon is a small place with four hotels, six stores (four held by white people and two by Chinamen), three drapery shops and one boarding house, and consists of about six hundred people…. Now the whole of Carnarvon and surrounds make their living by the sheep stations in the district….My opinion is that, of the tropical fruits, bananas would grow to perfection if cultivated properly.’
He acted on his opinion, planted banana suckers in 1928 and by 1930 had picked his first saleable crop. Although there had been interest in tropical agriculture since 1922 no one had really bothered until Buzolic decided to develop bananas thus broadening the economic base of the town.”
Janko (Jack) Buzolic was born in Stari Grad, Hvar in 1880 to parents who had a vineyard and olive trees. They wholesaled olive oil, herbs and lavender oil to the Dalmatian mainland. At 17 years of age he emigrated to New Zealand to dig gum resin for 3 years. He returned to Hvar via Sydney and Fremantle in 1901 only to return to WA approximately 18 months later to successfully mine gold in the Laverton area with a partner. Leaving his partner to stake the gold claim for them he returned home in 1908 to marry Margarita Franetovic. In fact he had a double wedding with his sister Franina (Nina) who married Margarita’s cousin Filip (Philip) Franetovic on the same day. Both couples left immediately for WA only to find on return that he had no means of support as his partner had lodged the claim in his name only.
‘In 1908, with no mine to fall back onto, he purchased a wine salon in the port (Fremantle), but this proved to be unsuitable for newly-weds, they sold out after a few months. Their first child was born Bartholomew John on the 11/11/1909. They purchased 800 acres at Tammin, he cleared the land by axe, mattock and horse and grew wheat. This farm was quite successful until WW1.” Joanne Falwood (great granddaughter)
“They all went to Kalgoorlie, Filip and Nina stayed there while Jack and Margarita went to Beria (near Laverton) to mine gold. Bart was a small boy then. After that they went farming at Tammin.” Joy Buzolic (Bart’s wife)
“It was wheat mainly with some sheep. They ploughed with horses, dad cleared the land”. Bart Buzolic
“They decided to sell in 1916. They moved back to Perth and bought land in Osborne Park and started a vineyard. Later they added a piggery. This farm was very successful”. Joanne Falwood (great granddaughter)
This background of successful experience in different fields of endeavour and differing types of farming show Buzolic to have gained a great knowledge in the business of farming as well as being resourceful and capable of turning his hand to any new enterprise.
So, while there were other countrymen (including those who were employed by him at his property in Osborne Park) who went up to Carnarvon at the same time as he did to try growing various crops, Buzolic had more resources, knowledge and experience than others who had emigrated more recently than he.
In writing her recollections for her family history Mary Pavicic (the daughter of the pioneering Vladich family also of Osborne Park) tells of her husband (Andrija) and brother-in-law’s experiences as young men (Andrija was 16years old on arrival), newly arrived in WA when they too went to Carnarvon to experiment with growing bananas. When they returned after 3-4 years they came in company with several other countrymen showing that there were many involved with these early experiments.
“They (Andrija and Jim Pavicic from Vrbanj, Hvar) arrived in 1924 not knowing anyone. When they arrived in Fremantle they met some Slav chap on the wharf who told them he knew a man (Mr Buzolic) in Balcatta who was looking for some workers. Mr Buzolic had a vineyard and they worked there for a short time. He got dad a job with Mr Brandt who had a poultry farm on the corner of Odin and Karrinjup Roads (then Government and Curtis Roads).
After about a year Mr Buzolic gave him back his job at the vineyard. While working there he came into contact with an Australian man who asked him if he would like to go to Carnarvon with him to start a banana plantation. Dad jumped at the chance. They were the first to import banana plants from Queensland. He spent 3-4 years there and came down with Musterija, Ivan Kunicic and Nade Pavicic.” Mary Pavicic (Vladich), from “Family History” donated by Nena Katnich
Janko read a lot about the Gascoyne area according to his great granddaughter, Joanne Falwood. In 1926 he travelled to Carnarvon by ship to see for himself and became engrossed with the potential for growing out-of-season fruit and vegetables to supply the Perth markets.
Subsequently he and two others joined together in a trial to see if it was possible to grow bananas successfully.
Dick Cornish (a local publican) financed the trial. Frank Wise (the minister for Agriculture in WA) gave expertise and helped import the first plants. My father was the farmer; he grew the bananas on land belonging to the department of agriculture. After the trials were successful father bought land and established the ‘Pioneer Plantation’. It was named after dad because he was the pioneer”. Bart Buzolich
In 1927 when the government released land, and the trials were successful, Buzolich bought 55acres on the north side of the river, halfway between the crossing and the bridge diagonally opposite the ‘experimental station’ owned by the Department of Agriculture. His wife (Margarita) and son (Bart) joined him on the plantation in 1929. Bart (now 20years old) left behind a very successful sporting career in Kings Cup Rowing and Football with this move.(See Sport chapter)
“The first banana crop was picked and packed in handmade timber crates and shipped to southern markets on 10/10/1930 by Dalgety Shipping Company”. Joanne Falwood
“It started with shipping at first but if the ship was delayed the produce rotted on the wharf resulting in large losses. Later when the rail was extended to Mullewa it was sent by rail”. Bart Buzolic
“He also experimented with various crops like grapes, mangoes, paw paw, citrus fruits, dates, figs, pomegranates and many others”. Joanne Falwood.
“Bart’s father tried growing peanuts but there was no market for them. He also tried tomatoes and beans in the late 40s and early 50s. I read entries in Janko’s diaries where he wrote that he got sixpence/lb for beans with threepence/lb return –‘can’t do that anymore- it’s not viable’. He had beautiful copperplate handwriting ”. Joy Buzolic
Bart Buzolich left Carnarvon in 1938 to join the Police Force becoming Alien Registration Officer for the duration of the war.
“I got on well in the Police Force. I was stationed in Perth but travelled all over the state in the course of my duties. Alien registration became necessary, it had to be done. They didn’t get interned but had to register and check in every so often. I was 29 years old when I joined with skill in languages and interpreting. I spoke Slav (Croatian) and a bit of Italian”. Bart Buzolich
Janko and Margarita stayed on in Carnarvon with Barry Buzolich their grandson carrying on with the plantation. The current owner of the property is growing grapes under cover.
Bumbaks Skenders Divich
Vegetable growing…. Cvitan, Babun, Frzop etc
Growing under mesh …grapes, capsicums
Hills Market Garden Area
During the 1930s in the hills above Gosnells, in the area now known as Martin, there was a unique settlement of people from the island of Solta off the Dalmatian coast. It was often referred to as being in Kelmscott as there was originally no road leading up there from Gosnells until many years later.
Woodcutters had been working in the area since about 1860 as the Darling Ranges had valuable jarrah timber which was cut into railway sleepers and exported to India. The bush was crisscrossed with their tracks and it was difficult to tell the main road from the side tracks in early times. The Victoria Dam was built in the State forest a little further on from the settlement and opened in 1891. It was Perth’s first water supply.
The settlers lived in two valleys and referred to the people in the other valley as being in “the other gully”. The gully closest to the state forest (the second valley) was settled by the Ursich and Buktenica brothers. A creek ran down the centre of the valley; the land on the north side was owned by Lovre and Anton (Tony) Buktenica while Anton and Toma Ursich owned the land on the south side. The first valley was settled by Petar Lendich, Milan Ursich, Frank Garbin, Delfina Matkovich, ? Bumbak and Mijo Lendich. All were from Solta except the Lendichs and Bumbak.
“After his eldest brother, Tony, came back from America he came to Australia and brought dad (Lovre) to come out, he was only 17. When dad came he worked for Buzolich in Odin Road. His best job was weeding at the Karrinjup Golf Course because he was paid a lot more than at Buzolich’s. Later on he and Tony got some land in Kelmscott where they built a little humpy and lived in that at first. In 1934 he married Annie Garbin from Erikin.” Gerald Buktenica.
“I started school at age 6 in 1933. At that time we lived in a gully in the hills 5 miles from the nearest town of Kelmscott. We had no electricity, scheme water or motor vehicles. We had kerosene lanterns, rainwater tanks and wells for water and our only transport was a horse. We built a wooden sled, similar to an ice sled used by Eskimos. On this sled we carried all the heavy goods from the sheds to where it was needed. Money was so scarce that our produce merchant used to give us credit from year to year for our seed and fertiliser. Our main crop was peas, where most of our income came from. We also grew cabbage, beans and tomatoes for market. We had our own hens, a cow for milk and every year dad bred a pig for bacon and ‘prsut’ and mum made jam from apricots we grew.
On the first day dad walked us to school, a distance of three and a half miles. There were no made roads, only wood cutters bush tracks. It was scary as there were plenty of wild horses, kangaroos and snakes in the summer time. Dad got us to Canning Mills School okay; it consisted of a room in a fairly big farm house with verandahs all around. There was only one teacher for all grades in one room, as there were only 10-20 students. Everything went well until it was time to find our way home alone, as dad didn’t come for us. On the way home we came to a fork in the road and we didn’t know which one to take, so we turned and went back and told our teacher. Fortunately, she had a little old Austin Tourer and knew approximately where we came from. She gave us a lift to a place we recognised close to home. So the next day dad took us to school again and told us to break off Black Boy stalks and mark the route we had to take which was smart thinking and worked very well.” Jack Ursich
The land was heavily timbered with jarrah and red gum trees. Clearing the land was hard work. The best land was the swamp because it was made up of a rich loam. With drainage it was very productive.
Miro Cecich’s family came to live with Toma Ursich and help establish their garden and Mijo Lendich came as a worker to help clear the jarrah trees on Tony Buktenica’s land. After a few years he had saved enough to bring out his wife (Matija) and 8 year old daughter (Ljube). As soon as he was able he bought land in the next valley and settled there with his family. Others who came to work were Mate Vidan and Marin Garbin. Frank Garbin married Anjelka Ursich and came to work in partnership with his father-in-law, Milan Ursich.
Lovre Buktenica married Annie Garbin (from Erikin) and they were the first to buy a truck and provide a carrier service to the people in both valleys. He only charged for taking produce and bringing agricultural supplies. His Fargo truck was the only transport in the two gullies for many years and whoever wanted to go to Perth for business or shopping would go with him at 3am when he would leave for the markets.
He brought their meat, groceries, newspapers, mail and bread free of charge. Dropping off the orders on the way to market and picking them up on the way home, stopping at each house to deliver the goods as he passed. The valley people also went to dances and entertainments on his truck till they purchased their own vehicles.
The Buktenicas returned to the former Yugoslavia at the end of the war, Toma Ursich and Milan Ursich, Mrs Matkovich and Bumbak all moved to the Balcatta area leaving only Anton Ursich as the only original settler from Solta.
The decendants of Mijo Lendich are still living and working in the two gullies today. Ljube Lendich married Frank Pavlinovich and they purchased Tony Buktenica’s land when he returned home in 1945. Ljube and son, Mark still work the property which for many years has been an orchard. Her sister, Mary, married Tony Begovich and together with their two sons have developed a large packing business supplying fruit and vegetables to the mining camps in the Pilbara region of WA.
In Gosnells …..area of fruit growers….Nikola Ozich, Jerko Prgomet, Antunovich family, Vlasaljevich, Erceg Camparovich, Zloich
Maddington ….Joze Maras (Lakeville Winery)
Orange Grove …..Beppo Buktenica, Pecar, Radojkovich (Jadran Wines)
(include Erikin, Manjimup)
Anton Garbin of Erikin
“Dad (Anton Garbin) was born on 17/11/1882 in Gornje Selo on the island of Solta. He had heard about Australia and the gold and so decided to come out seeking a better life.” Remy Beus, Osborne Park
He spent two years on the Kurrawang woodline in the eastern goldfields before making his way to Erikin in the Bruce Rock district in 1908 where newly released virgin land was open for selection. Anton and two partners, Marin Cukela and Grgo Jakovich applied and were granted 1mile x 3 miles of land and a homestead and the three families lived and worked together at first. Later each was given their own grant. The government subsidised them while they cleared the land and got established.
My grandfather (Anton Garbin) was sent by his 2 mates to Perth with 30 pounds (which was about 30 weeks wages) to buy groceries and he came back with a wife.” Gerald Buktenica, Balcatta
In 1909 he married Annie Civran from the island of Brac but she was tragically lost 6 months later while walking home after visiting her neighbour, Mrs Zis.
“After a friendly chat Mrs Zis gave her a bottle of olive oil and walked more than half way back with her. This was towards evening and when Tony Garbin arrived at Zis’s to enquire for his wife, he was surprised to find she had left an hour or more earlier.” Bruce Rock – The Story of a District, p.62
She was missing from Friday, February 11, 1910, till Wednesday, February 16.
“Her tracks showed that Mrs Garbin had wandered to within two miles of Kerkenin Well, about the same distance from Wulyaling Spring and not far from the dam at Yarding – in all, a distance of over 50 miles. Yet her body was found only about 4 miles from her house.
It appears that after leaving Mrs Zis, the young woman who was 22years of age and had been in the country only six months, took a right-hand instead of a left-hand turn in the fairly well defined track between the two farms.” Bruce Rock – The Story of a District, p.63
Then Anton brought her two sisters out from Brac and married Marica, the elder one. They were married in Boulder and stayed there for two years working on the mines before returning to Erikin. Anne, the first of their 8 children was born while they were there.
In these harsh times a man’s success is not always due to careful planning but in his ability to adapt himself to circumstances as they occur.
“The men who took up virgin land in the Bruce Rock area from 1908 onwards did not know what lay ahead. They did not know there would be a drought in 1914, the year in which many of them planted their first really big crop. They did not know that the first World War, 1914-1918, would cut across the plans of many of the younger ones. Nor could they foresee the depression of the 1930’s, when the prices of wheat and wool were, for many years, below the cost of production.” Bruce Rock – The Story of a District, p.62
Add to this, unpredictable seasons, unknown soils, plant and animal diseases and the ravages of insect or animal pests.
Anton and his partners weren’t wheat and sheep farmers but they brought with them skills learned from their subsistence farming background in Solta and they used them here to survive when many others fell by the wayside.
They worked together at first, helping each other clear land and get established. Anton brought out his brother so there were 4 families. Everything was done by hand and horse power.
“They (my grandparents) had wheat farms up in Erikin, wheat and sheep. They had 2 acres of vineyard for wine and olive trees for olive oil. Also pigs (for making prsut and sausages), cattle (mainly for milk) and in the beginning it was all done by horse on the farm.
As a small boy (circa 1940) I remember the first tractor they bought second hand. Even after the Second World War there were still farmers who had horses.” Gerald Buktenica, Balcatta
Remy Beus (nee Garbin) was born 25/1/1921 the 5th of Anton and Marica’s 8 children. She remembers her life on the farm during the 1920s and the depression years of the 1930s.
Life was very hard at first and her mother, Marica, found it hard to settle to her new life.
“My mother said that she cried for 3 years when she first came to Australia. She came from a well-to-do family where they had servants and here she lived in the bush. She had to carry water on her head for 3 miles to have drinking water. Out of her sisters trousseau she made clothes for her children.
I never heard my mother complain – she just accepted it. She was always happy. She was the one who told us about her sister – dad never spoke of it.
We didn’t see much of dad, he was always out in the paddocks working hard from 3:00am to 8:00pm. There were a lot of horses to attend to.
Those memories of the farm were good ones. We had running water; my dad surveyed for it. We had a well with a windmill and huge tank on top. During the summer season neighbours who ran short would come and get water from it; it never ran dry, there was always enough.
There was running water in our house, like in the city, and we had a toilet where you pull a chain a long time before Osborne Park did.
Dad planted vines and we made our own wine (trampled it with our feet). Also we had fruit and olive trees.
Before going to school, my sister Mary and I would milk the cows (2 each) and separate the milk then walk 3 and a half miles to school and think nothing of it – all in a days work.
Bruce Rock was the nearest large town and it was 17 miles away. There were no cars in the early days – it was a horse and sulky. There were no cars till 1937.
Coming home from school one day I noticed a snake curled up near a log. Next day I thought I’d be a smarty-pants, so I was running ahead of the others and shouting ‘snake, snake,’ and trod on it accidently, we took no notice of things like that. My brothers would be cutting the hay and we girls would have to stand up the bundles to dry, it was nothing to find a snake in it, it was an everyday event. No one ever got bitten.
Men would stay and work on the farm during the depression and earlier (1920s). Mum cooked for them and they helped on the farm. They grew vegetables for themselves and to sell. I remember Matt Vidan would get us girls to help him pull his onions up.
It was the same during WW11 when Italian prisoners of war were billeted around the farms. It was nothing for mum to have 18-20 of them.
Dad got sick and died in 1938 when I was 17. The children ranged in age from 23 down to 8years. They were old enough to run the farm.” Remy Beus, Osborne Park
The Vladich Brothers in Koorda
Like the Garbin family, Ivan, Tony and Chris Vladich, from Prvic Luka on the island of Prvic off the Dalmatian Coast, also took up virgin land in the settlement of the Koorda district in 1908. Ivan (Jack, John) Vladich (b.1881) arrived in Western Australia in 1905 aged 26 years and spent time in the goldfields at Day Dawn, Beria and Sandstone before moving to Koorda.
Their background was similar to that of the Garbin family. The experience and knowledge of growing food and being self sufficient in their home country made them very resilient and able to adapt to new challenges. Their brute strength and tenacity is described in the following extract from the writing of Eva Braid.
“Adjoining Greenhams were Anton, John and Chris Vladich. The Vladich’s came from an island on the beautiful Dalmatian coast but were usually known as Austrians and for many years the corner at the top of Drumin Hill was known as ‘the Austrians corner’. Two huge strainer posts at the corner, carried there for miles on their shoulders, demonstrated the brothers’ strength.
Except when Johnny Rowles baled some out of his tank as he went by, the only water the brothers had was carried in bucket and yoke from Badgerin or Cullimbin. A dam was excavated with pick and shovel and the earth carried out in kerosene tins on homemade shoulder yokes.
When Jack Vladich sent home for his wife, Tomica, she arrived by train at Dowerin two days after arriving in Fremantle.
At Dowerin the sun was still high in the sky and it was very hot. At sundown Jack tied a parcel of groceries to Tomica’s tin trunk, hoisted the lot onhis shoulder and said it was time to walk to the farm. They set off along the Cowcowing Road to the north-east. Every time Tomica asked ‘how much further’, her husband said ‘just a little more’. This was repeated many times during that long night and the sun came up the next morning and still they walked on through the bush.
At last, after fifty odd miles, Tomica arrived at the little hessian hut at the Austrians corner. A sister-in-law joined her months later and both were as hardworking as their husbands.
When young Tom Metson contract seeded for them in 1911, the Vladich men went on clearing all day. At night they divided the seed and Super (fertiliser) into lots of about 20 pounds, which their wives would carry out to the paddock to fill Tom Metson’s drill boxes the next day. The Vladich’s planted hundreds of vines in 1910, but they all died even in that wonderful year.
The Vladich family survived to own vineyards and Tomica and John brought up seven daughters and two sons who all prospered.” From Afar a People Drifted –The Story of Koorda”, Eva Braid, p51
While the drought conditions caused them to abandon the farm in 1911 and return to the goldfields to earn some money it didn’t crush their spirit. They went on to have large and loving family of 9 children and have a very successful market garden and vineyard in Osborne Park.