Go to: Dino and Pam: family backgrounds | The original farm | From dairying to mixed farming | Weeds to lifestyle blocks | Beans, cucumbers and a lot of bananas | Cyclones and the Tornado | Resumed land, sales and policy changes | Peas, lychees and pumpkins | Bananas in the 1930s | Neighbours | The Future? | Working the farm today | The changing community | Italians and Australians | The growing family | A partnership
Cyclones and the Tornado
Dino: ’76,’77 and ’78 we got wiped out three times in seventeen months. Started off with a hail storm in October ’76.
Pam: Put all the fertiliser in to make them grow again.
Dino: May of ’77 a cyclone came down from the south.
Pam: North!! (laughs)
Dino: North, flattened them again, then in ’78 in March just one freak storm just got us and nobody else around, just wiped it here. The fella up above and I aren’t on very good speaking terms. (laughs) It’s just that saying, “Lord, I lay them down you stand them up” except it’s the other way around. I used to stand them up and he used to lay them down. (laughing)
And that’s the period of the seventies, have I got that right? It was sort of fairly wide spread with the weather really giving the bananas trouble. So just straight through your crop?
Pam: And that’s how it used to happen.
Dino: Yeah just a hail storm or a storm just gets strips, just strips. But in May it got the whole coast.
Pam: Yeah that cyclone.
Dino: Yeah everybody copped it. I don’t mind that, when everybody gets it!
Pam: You lose a bit – everyone loses a bit.
Dino: You lose a bit and for what’s left you might get a couple of dollars. When only one gets it, it makes no difference to the markets.
Did you get support in any way, government or?
Dino: Well I had to go deeper and deeper in debt.
Pam: We did.
Dino: We got government assistance …
Pam: That was after the third one, we didn’t get it straight away.
Dino: No twice. The big bank manager, he was a good fella, I already was in debt for the two farms, and there was a government assistance loan but you still had to pay it back.
Pam: Low loan.
Dino: Low interest, instead of eleven percent at the bank it was four or four and a half percent but you had to pay it back in four years. So when I got wiped out the first time they came out and assessed it. “ok, two thousand.” Five months later I got wiped out again, they came out again, didn’t even bother going up to the plantation. And the third time I said “I can’t go in any deeper!” you know so they put me on social services for ten months. And they reckon you can’t live on social service, we were getting $240 a fortnight and we were saving half of that to pay the debts off. They reckon you can’t live on the dole.
Pam: But we had kids at school and …you know… at that time… We didn’t go out of the house apart from having to go to the doctor or to do the shopping. For eighteen months we never went anywhere.
Dino: And beer, you know you’d buy a carton of beer at Christmas!
Pam: But it was hard, it was really hard. And then in 1991 the tornado hit the house and blew it up. So, you know, a rotten place. $60,000 to fix this house. I mean it; it ripped the house to pieces.
Dino: The roof landed up at the base of that hill over there.
And were you in it at the time?
Dino: Yep, yep and the only safe place was in the toilet. And that’s the only room that …
Pam: That’s that little lobby here.
Dino: I said “come in here.” Anyway Rodney was here and it was blowin’ and blowin’ and windows smashed because we had hail that big as well.
Pam: Glass flying.
Dino: Everything was just disaster. And the only room that never got damaged was in there.
Boy this house has seen a lot.
Pam: True, true. Now, you know…. one cloud in the sky. You never get over it. Never. Never. I don’t know why I’m still here.
Dino: Oh it makes no difference where you go you’re still gonna get a storm.
Pam: It’s true – that was terrifying.
Terrifying. What time of day was that, did you see it coming?
Pam: It was the twenty first of January definitely – it was our friend’s birthday so we called her Tornado Dianne, it was about 3.30.
Dino: Four o’clock in the afternoon.
Pam: Power lines were down, yeah it was about 3.30 in the afternoon which was a little bit early for storms actually but…
Dino: But you could see it was a twister.
Dino: Yeah just took a strip, just took a strip of our neighbours on the top of the hill. One fella at the top of the road, he just made a brand new shed, tin shed. Ripped it out, carried it across about three hundred metres, over fences, didn’t damage any of the fences, wrapped it around a row of mango trees inside out. Nothing done to the house, which was right beside it. (laughs) When you see a little cracker like that – Yeah!!
Wow. And just so I’ve got it straight, back to what was left – so once you finished with the cucumbers, then you just concentrated on the bananas?
Dino: Bananas and cattle. We didn’t employ any more labour so it was just by itself. Oh we’d still get – sometimes if we were stuck, we might have got someone for a couple of days or something like that. It’s too much rigmarole by – it’s not the wages, it’s everything else that’s involved with it; workers comp and god knows what else.
And then you went to the one patch of bananas too, is that right?
Dino: Yeah, as we’re getting older.