When Dino Polese was three years old, he went looking for his father Angelo in the banana crops at Naughtons Gap. He got tired and fell asleep under a tree.
“They came and found me,” Dino said.
“They” refers to the Italian community who settled in Naughtons Gap near Casino between 1945 and the late 1970s.
“It was a close-knit community and such a safe place for kids,” Dino said.
The houses were about 150m apart so when Dino was lost in the banana crop, word spread and soon everyone was looking for him.
World War 2 had hit Italy hard and to escape the hardship of poverty many Italians travelled by sea to Australia to forge a new life.
For the Polese family it was the lush fields of Naughtons Gap – where they grew bananas, tomatoes, peas and pineapples.
Paul Ramaldini was one of the first Italians to settle in the Gap – in 1945.
Dino has collated the stories of Paul’s family and others in the settlement into a book.
Father Peter Slack from St Mary’s Church in Casino urged Dino’s sister Caterina Gunther and the Ramaldini sisters Rosie and Gracie to record this Italian history before it was lost.
That was six years ago. Through many meetings, the stories of 27 Italians and three Australians tell of life in the post-war days.
“Naughtons Gap is a grassland now,” Dino said.
“There is no trace of this era.
“This book is to mark this history.”
The book Memories of Life at Naughtons Gap or in Italian Ricordi della vita features many stories including one about Narciso and Maria Ono Degno.
“That one made me cry,” Dino said.
The stories are heart-warming. They tell of the struggle the Italians left behind in their own country through to the adventures and challenges they faced in Australia.
Dino asked Casino resident Tony Hennessy to write an introduction to the book.
Here is an extract:
“Of all the regions in the world, why would a significant group of Italian people leave their beloved Italy and move to a small regional community in Northern New South Wales?
“Who would know why so many came to Naughtons Gap, but a community will attract people who feel comfortable in the region, and Italians will make other Italians feel settled.”
Any money made from book sales will help to restore a monument on Ramaldini Rd that marks the time of the Italian families.
The book will cost $30 and preorders now will help pay for the printing. There will be a book launch in Casino in March with details to come.
Preorder the book from Dino by email: email@example.com
This article appeared on indyNR.com on 31 January 2023.