This is an edited version of a conversation between Eric and Marie Bazzana, and Jo Kijas, on 8 May 2013.
It contains stories about Eric’s family history | Bananas | Marie’s family history | The beginning of changes to the town | Transport and supply | Married life | Primary producers’ store | The Aquarius festival | The legacy of Aquarius | Changing Times
Eric’s family history
Eric: With a name like Bazzana – I’m from Italian descent. Dad migrated from Italy in 1925 because they were starving – and it’s in that little book [that Eric wrote] – they were starving in Italy and he heard about this wonderful land, and he came out. He spent his first seven years in the Port Kembla/Wollongong area, working in the steel smelters down there.
He made enough money to send home to Mum – he was married when he left Italy, my eldest brother was one and a half year old, and Mum was pregnant with my sister, who Dad didn’t see until she was seven years old. Because it was seven years after he came to Australia before he could afford for Mum and her two children to come out.
By that time, the Worldwide Depression of 1928/32 had arrived, and he was made redundant in the south, and with no dole and no social security or what have you, they were starving, so he heard about some Italians at Lismore. Somehow or other he got on the train and he got to Lismore, and he went to Mrs Nardi’s boarding-house – who was a descendant from the New Italy people – and she said that there were some Italians growing bananas at Whian Whian and living on the land. He had nowhere else to go, but he went out there amongst some of these Italians.
From there he cut cane for a little while to make some money, because it takes two years – from the time he went there, you’ve got to clear the land, plant, and it’s 18 months after you plant the bananas before they bear, so it was two years before you had any income. But in the meantime he’d sent money back to Mum and she’d had a little home built in Italy. Then she came out to Australia.
My elder brother is now dead, but my sister is still alive in Ballina, had her 88th birthday just the other day. When he got to Whian Whian he leased some land off Alfred Ernest Smith, and I have the portion number – I’m trying to find the place of my birth. Actually, I was born in Lismore but the family were living in Whian Whian.
Mrs Smith, the owner of the land, helped my mother, and it was her son that took me to Lismore to be born in the car, when Mum was in labour. Then she took me back home, and Mrs Smith helped carry me from the foot of the hill up to the plantation where this little house that Dad had built was. He borrowed money off the bank, and that’s also in the book, 100 pounds in 1930, to be able to build this little hut, shack or house or whatever type of house it was. He paid it and I’ve got the mortgage in my archives. He borrowed 100 pounds and he had to replay 50 pounds after six months, another 25 pounds after another three months – that was nine months – and then the final 25 pounds, plus seven pounds, which was the 7% interest in 1930, to the bank. Somehow or other he did this.
Then we shifted. I have no recollection of Whian Whian. We shifted to a place called Fox’s Road at Rosebank – well, I was probably one or two years old. I was born in 1935. Like, I omitted to say that. I was born in 1935 in Australia, and my younger brother was born four years after me, still in Lismore, so we’ve got two Italians and two Australians, and because Dad had to become an Australian citizen in 1931 – and I presume, I don’t know for sure, that he had to become a citizen to borrow money off the bank.
So my brother and sister were aliens when they came out. Mum was an Australian by view of the marriage, and because my brother and I were born here to Australian citizens, we were both Australians. During the War we had the elder brother and sister who were aliens, and we were Australians.
So we shifted to Fox’s Road at Rosebank, and then later on we went to Upper Cooper’s Creek at Rosebank, which is up the creek near Minyon Falls, and we were there until I was 14 and a half years old, and we shifted to Nimbin.
When we bought the farm in 1949, we went to Nimbin.