- Property Developer
- Year Joined:
I was born in Giarre, in the province of Catania, Sicily, near Mt. Etna. When I was one year old, my father left Sicily and came to Australia to cut sugar cane at Innisfail, in far north Queensland. Six years later, my mother and I joined him. We were to have gone to Queensland but Dad decided to come to Marsfield, where we 'share-farmed' with friends.
I attended Marsfield Public School without a word of English. The teacher, when told my name was “Rosario” said, “Oh! That’s too long; we’ll call you Ross!”
So, ‘Ross’ I became. I later attended Ryde Public School and finished at Holy Cross College. In 1938, my father bought five acres of land and a little weatherboard cottage in Small Road, Ryde, for the sum of 640 pounds. He had a deposit of 250 pounds and a mortgage of 400 pounds and only 40 pounds to clear the land and plant his crop. We started market gardening – growing vegetables, then expanded to poultry farming, with approx. 3,000 hens as there were several big brick sheds on the property, which were too good to go to waste.
Because we had no motor vehicle, the farm produce was taken to the city markets by a carrier, Phil Higginbotham, whose shop and residence was at Top Ryde, where the shops are now. At 4am, I would walk from Smalls Road to Ryde and travel to the market with Phil. My father had already caught a tram, (cost threepence) at about 3am, so he could secure a place for his vegetables at the markets. After helping Dad until approx. 8am, I would catch a tram and return to Ryde and go to school.
During the war (1939–45), many Italians were interned as ‘enemy aliens’, in concentration camps. My father was fortunate not to have been interned as we were growing vegetables for the army. As a compensation, Mum and Dad had to report twice weekly to Ryde Police Station and have their identity cards, which had "ENEMY ALIEN" printed over their photographs, stamped.
After the war, my father purchased approx. ten acres of land in Quarry Road, Ryde. When family members migrated to Australia, he made this land available for them to carry out market gardening at the token cost of 50 pounds per annum. This gave the family members a good start, enabling them to purchase their own properties later on.
About 1958, we subdivided the Quarry Road property and gained approval to build a Service Station (Neptune) and four shops and so began the Midway Shopping Centre. My parents worked extremely hard but were so happy to have had the satisfaction of achievement in this wonderful country.
Why I joined Rotary: Pending