7 The  Camillo Story


Dino Camillo

Dino, first-born of Celeste Camillo of Nervesa, attended an agricultural school in nearby Conegliano, doing a specialist course in winery (enologia) at the Istituto Tecnico Agrario G.B, Cerletti, which was to remain a hobby with him all his life. He even occasionally distilled his own grappa in the cellar. While still at school, he was a keen footballer and captained the team.

The ship that was carrying Dino to Australia was held up in mid-Indian Ocean by a telegram, stating that war had broken out and that it had to await further instructions. Fortunately for Dino and for his fellow travellers, the ship was allowed to proceed for Australia. Most of Dino's classmates were killed on the Russian front, so Celeste's foresight was in fact providential for Dino ... and for his future offspring.

At 17 years of age, Dino landed in Melbourne and immediately went to Werribee to work at his uncle's vegetable farm, harvesting cabbages. Later on he worked in a weaving factory in Melbourne and eventually found his way to Myrtleford in central Victoria, where there was a small Italian community.

As the second world war proceeded, Italy became more and more hostile towards England and as a consequence, towards its former colony, Australia. It wasn't long before the Italian migrants were considered to be enemy and therefore, as a safeguard, they were interned in work camps in various parts of Australia. Many Italian soldiers captured by the allies in Italy and Africa, were shipped to prisoner of war camps in Australia, one of these being in Myrtleford.

Dino, along with his Italian friends, was required to attend work camps in the pine forest hills around Myrtleford, doing plantation work.  Far from the horrors of the real war in Europe and working in a fairly relaxed atmosphere, Dino enjoyed his "imprisonment". He lived in a tent in the bush and sang around the camp fire at night, after a solid days work.  
Dino Camillo - Click to enlarge
Dino, a young farmer in Albury    Click here for more photos

Here he made many friends and in Myrtleford met Rina Rigo, who was soon after to become his wife, in 1944. Dino was 22 and Rina, being only 20, required special permission.  They were a musical couple, Dino playing the banjo, mandolin and violin, whereas Rina was good on the guitar and drums.

At wars end, in February of 1945, their first son was born at the Wangaratta hospital. Shortly afterwards they moved to a vegetable farm in Albury on the New South Wales border. Their farmhouse, many years later, became the changing rooms for the Nurial Park football grounds. Dino tilled the soil there with a horse drawn plough and drove the produce to market, piled high on an old truck.

Dino had met a German Prisoner of War, Heinz Brunken, who was not a soldier, but a very distinguished civilian working in England as a wool classer, when he was arrested at the outbreak of the war. Once released, Dino hired Heinz on the farm in Albury, who arrived very elegantly clothed and courageously affronted the hard manual work that farm life requires. Dino visited Heinz in Germany many years later.

There was also a POW camp in Albury and truckloads of Italian prisoners passed Dino’s farm every day. In the evening many of these sneaked out of the camp and visited Dino, always bringing gifts of meat and cream cakes, of which they were abundantly supplied. The regulations were very relaxed and Dino even took AWOL prisoners to the local public swimming pool. One POW borrowed a suit from Dino with which he attempted to escape, but he was soon found and returned to the camp.

After Albury they moved to Weribee, always in market farming, where Ivana was born in November 1947. Rina was not happy here, so one day, already seven months pregnant with Jiannina, she determinatively set off for Melbourne to seek help from the Archbishop, whom she had met as a schoolgirl. Having just missed the train, she hitched a ride to cover the 60 miles and went straight to Saint Patrick's Cathedral, where, with insistence, she managed to be received by Archbishop Dr. Mannix himself. He appreciated Rina's determination and promised to vouch for her at a bank for the necessary financing, once she had found a suitable investment.  

Dino and Rina at a reception on a visiting Italian passenger ship

The Camillos later moved to Melbourne, where they purchased two shops in High Street Saint Kilda, a milk bar and a fruit shop, with the bank loan that the Archbishop had kindly arranged. Dino had chosen well and soon after sold the milk bar, recovering most of the purchase loan and continued working in the fruit shop. Jiannina was born in July 1949. The profit from the sale also permitted a trip to Italy in 1952 and the purchase of a "flashy" car in England and a motor through Europe, which was quite a treat for that time. Dino's evident financial success as a migrant, was probably a strong incentive for his brothers and other relatives to follow his footsteps in migrating to Australia, as many subsequently did.

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    Copyright L. Camillo 2000