Mildura Weekly : Friday February 14 2014 Vol 8 No 15
Mildura Weekly – 14/02/14 21 www.milduraphonebook.com.au IN THE RIVERLAND THIS WEEK Bev Story (08) 8588 7203 or email email@example.com JIM Joannou was 13, going to school in his native Greece while helping out on the fam- ily’s small sheep and goat farm in the mountains of Evia when his father George made a life-changing decision...he intended to migrate to Aus- tralia. George and his best mate, Con Logos, wanted a better life for their families. It was the late 1920s when the pair left their families behind and travelled by ship to Australia, but not before making a sol- emn promise to work hard so their wives and children could join them. They ended up in the Riverland, worked hard and saved every cent they could, but it was still seven years before the families were re- united, and only after Jim’s mother sold the farm at a bar- gain price to help pay some of the moving costs. Jim was the second child born of seven children. An el- der sister, Helen, and a young- er brother, Nicholas, are since deceased, twin brothers also died as children in Greece, and he also had twin sisters, Sophie, deceased, and Mary. In later years, Jim often told his children about his growing up years. He helped out on the family farm, mak- ing cheese from the milk pro- vided by small flocks of sheep and goats. Their father George was a fisherman, owning and oper- ating his own trawler to catch fish, as well as using it as a ferry to take passengers the short distance to and from the Greek mainland. Any spare food was used to bargain for family necessities - there wasn’t any spare money in those days. The family swapped wheat, goat’s cheese and olive oil for other essentials. Meat was a rare luxury, and usually available only at Christmas time, when a pig was killed, prepared and shared by the family, friends and neigh- bours. It was a tough life. The only vegetables available were cabbages and wild tur- nip weed. Katerina boiled the turnip weed in water. Jim told his family it was very bitter, but excellent for your health. Katerina was also the village midwife. Jim often said he couldn’t ever remember having a toy as a child, there were no birthday celebrations...only a ‘name day’ was celebrated... but he was happy. He went to school in the nearby village. The town’s Greek Orthodox Priest was also the school teacher, and if any of the kids missed a day, they would be caned in front of the class. Jim had often told the story of the decision his fa- ther George and Con Logos to migrate, working long, hard hours on Riverland fruit blocks and saving enough money to send for their fami- lies. It was 1935 before the families were re-united. They lived in Berri for a year, and then Renmark, and were be- lieved to be the first Greek mi- grants to settle there. They loved their new life, but it wasn’t always easy. As new Australians they copped the usual ethnic abuse, and Jim told his family he wanted to become naturalised as soon as he could, because he want- ed to feel accepted in his new country. He virtually gave up his Greek culture so that he felt he fitted in with the local community. But he quickly earned re- spect. He worked hard on Mr Seary’s fruit block in Renmark in his teenage years, as well as helping his father George out on the family block. One was a paid job, the other wasn’t. It was the done thing that Greek boys worked willingly for their parents for nothing in return, although his father later on did give him five pounds when he was mar- ried. That was a story that en- thralled the Joannou kids in later years. It was the World War Two years. Jim had enlisted for the army, but in the end didn’t have to go off to war. Jim was 21 when he met the love of his life Betty, 19, in 1944 at a Renmark dance. She had trav- elled to the Riverland to work on properties with the Land Army. They fell in love, and celebrated many good times with family and friends, being inseparable at local picnics and dance nights. But neither had counted on the Greek tradition of an arranged marriage. It was an emotional time as Jim ex- plained that his father was sending him to Port Pirie to meet his betrothed, and when Betty kissed him goodbye at the train station, she thought that was it, and returned home to Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula. But Jim had other ideas. He jumped trains, caught the one to Wallaroo, tracked Betty down and asked her to marry him. Betty was over the Moon. Jim had a bit of explaining to do with his parents, but they adored Betty, and she became a part of the family in Ren- mark, and married less than 12 months later. • Continued Page 22 Young Jim Joannou was like thousands of migrant kids from Greece who were happy to follow the lead of their parents in seeking a better life in another country. He was glad his Dad picked multicultural Australia, ‘the land of milk and honey,’ and was well aware how hard George Joannou worked to bring his wife Katerina, young Jim and the rest of the family out as well. The second-eldest of seven children, Jim migrated as a 13-year-old, and was happy to be re-united with his parents in the Riverland. He loved his school, his friends, life on the land, the work prospects, our easy- going lifestyle, sport, the weather and the people, stayed for life, and the Riverland became an even better place because of his decision. Jim Joannou was 91 when he passed away recently after a short illness, ending an interesting life that transcended international boundaries, multicultural experiences, being an ethnic pioneer in rural Australia, a mixed marriage that became a long, loving and successful union, hard work on the land, often daylight to dusk, and a firm commitment to sport and his community. His daughter Kathryn Carruthers, who adored her Dad, was with him in is final hours at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. She worked with the Mildura Weekly’s ALAN ERSKINE for this tribute to a highly-respected community leader. We lose a friend, and a man of the land OBITUARY Jim Joannou 1922 – 2013 • A MAN AMONG MEN: Jim Joannou in the tractor seat on the family block, and also pictured with Betty, the love of his life, ready for a night out to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. 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