Felicia Ferrone, nee Picariello

Hello, my name is Felicia Ferrone, nee Picariello. I come from a family of 7 children, I am the second oldest, the eldest having died 6 years ago, on 10 November 2015. I came to Australia on 23 July 1983 with my father’s uncle, he was already living here and I went to stay with him for a holiday. After having settled into the city of Adelaide for a short while I met my future husband.

My first impression of Australia was that of a nation with houses much different to those in Italy. In Italy we used to live in an apartment while in Australia houses are mainly single storey and with a garden front and back. We were married on 29 October 1983 and we began our life together living just south of Adelaide, in Unley. Through a cousin of my husband’s cousin, who worked for an electroplating company, I found work.  It dealt with painting, or rather electroplating entire fences or tubs and the smell was such that it didn’t agree with me so I had to leave that job and found another one working at Adelaide’s very first Fasta Pasta. After only working a short time in the kitchen I fell pregnant with my first child. I kept working right up to the eighth month and a half!  After only two months of the child’s birth  however, I returned to work and soon enough I fell pregnant a second time and this pattern continued on until I had my fifth and last child.

The children were growing up, they went to school and life passed like a breeze and then I decided to leave work to dedicate myself to my growing family. It was when my first born began high school that I started work at the Italian Club in Carrington Street, in the city. Initially, I would only work weekends. It was not easy but I can safely say that there was such an endearing group of workers that it did not feel like hard work on account of the friendships and much laughter!

Before coming to Australia I used to work in the countryside at Salerno at the age of 14 along with my sister, picking fruit and vegetables: This work entailed picking artichokes and tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, apricots and lemons…I liked the countryside. We’d go to work by bus and return home at 7 in the evenings. At a certain point my sister and I were invited to change jobs because the word got around that my sister and I were good, hard workers and so they took us on in a factory that dealt in the processing of chestnuts and all kinds of seasonal fruits.

Even before starting however, around the age of 12 I wanted to become a nun together with three other girl-friends. We were very close and it was quite normal to think about one’s future as a group, or at least to discern one’s vocation of a religious. This dream of mine never came to fruition because there was a greater need, that of earning one’s keep, there were 7 children in my family with as many mouths to feed, so there was no way that I could go off to become a nun. In fact, two of the three girlfriends returned after spending only a couple of weeks in the convent citing not having the stuff to go the whole hog and become fully-fledged nuns. Let’s just say that their expectations didn’t match their experiences. They settled with returning home to the countryside.

Soon after I worked at a cheese making factory. Both men and women who worked there turned milk into cheese and other by-products, namely ricotta, butter, bocconcini and trecce (both mozzarella style cheeses).  Some of the milk was sold in tetra packs and the fat from the skimmed milk was used in the butter making. I liked this work, I was 14 at the time and the owner took a shine to me wanting to adopt me, perhaps he was childless, but of course my parents would not hear of it and it was after this work that I went to work in that other factory wherein we cleaned chestnuts with the aid of a machine that produced vapour and I was charged with keeping a close eye on the temperature because the success of the cleanliness of the chestnuts depended on the heat coming off the vapours.  From here it was the turn of packing and then expediting the finished product to France. If my work was not up to scratch the supervisor had the power and authority to send me to another section, but, since I was good at my work and not anxious with the responsibility of keeping a close watch on the temperature, it never happened, for I really liked that job.

At around 18 years of age I began to take stock of my life. I asked myself if the routine that my life had taken, home-work, work-home, was how I wanted my life to play out for the rest of it. I really felt like leaving this vicious circle to see a bit more of the world.

As fate would have it, a great uncle in Australia had come to Italy on holiday.  He asked if I wouldn’t like to return to Australia with him. I had said that it depended on my parents. They didn’t want me to go and leave the family unit; it meant a lot to them. In truth, neither did I wish to go to a faraway place, but since it was only meant to be for a three month holiday, I first asked my boss if I could take three months’ leave so that I would still have my job upon my return. I was given the okay and so I left for Australia with my father’s uncle. As soon as I arrived in Australia my great aunt had taken ill, and since I was a guest in her  house, and not having much to do, it fell to me to look after her, and that’s in effect, what happened for the duration of my stay. But there is a positive side to this:  By staying there I had the good fortune of meeting my future husband and within a month I had fallen in love.

I am happy with my life spent in Australia despite the break-up of the extended family. The thing that I miss the most from the separation from my origins in the countryside is the village lifestyle, the one that is essentially attached to the parish, because every couple of months or so there would be a saint’s feast day celebrated, so there was always something to look forward to, a good excuse for socialising, and so moments of joy, of good music, as well as good peasant food made usually by the ladies of the village.

December 2021