The big reunion
Reliving Roccisano’s good ol’ days at the Overlander
BACK in the ’60s the world had The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones.
Don Roccisano had fruit orchards in the Shepparton region.
In 1969, as man landed on the moon, Don decided, along with his son, Cosmo, to launch Roccisano Transport.
From carrying fruit to the Melbourne and Sydney markets, the Roccisanos soon branched out into general freight.
Their big break came when Tucker Box dog food came to Shepparton, followed by Rosella, Uni Foods, Heinz, Reckitt and Coleman, Eta Foods, Allied Mills and Anchor Foods.
In no time they had built up a blue-chip clientele.
Don’s first drive was a Butter Box, a single-drive tray truck with a pusher.
He then went on to 1418 Benzs. He bought an S2 Kenworth followed by a Louisville then back to Kenworth, a brand he stayed with until the business ended in 1994.
Don had the first B-doubles in the Goulburn Valley. At their peak, Roccisano Transport ran more than 80 trucks.
At the end of the working week Roccisano employees let their hair down at the Overlander Hotel in Shepparton and it was here that past driver Barry Perry organised for about 100 of them to come together for their first reunion since 1994 when the company was sold to Scotts.
Peter Granada was one of the early employees, joining in 1977.
“Mick Argentino, who’s worked for them back in ’71, has come down from Tully for the reunion,” Peter said.
“Back then there was only seasonal work here so Mick would travel between states.
“They reckon Roccisano was hard to work for but when you went elsewhere you’d think to yourself he wasn’t that bad at all.
“From nine to five he was a type of bloke who when he said jump, you would say how high.
“As a business Roccisano Transport was very, very highly regarded. His presentation was next to none – the colours of the trucks, the mechanicals, the works.
“They used to go pretty well too.”
Ivan McCarthy used to sub for Roccisano in 1976, having grown up with Cosmo.
“I used to call him the dago who lived at the end of the street,” Ivan said.
“Well, he had the last laugh because he was my boss. We’re still good mates to this day.
“If you were ever short of a quid, you only had to go to the office and ask for a bit upfront, they never knocked you back.
“I bought myself a little farm and was spending money like water.
“I was often left short so would go into the office and ask for a sub for the subby. They always helped me out. They knew I wasn’t going anywhere.
“I still have that 1418 Benz I used back then.” “Gavin Frappel chipped in. “Back in the day Don would let us have our names on the side of the trucks,” he said.
“Maybe there was method in the madness as we all know that Kenworths all look the same.
“We had our moments. One day Cozzi is out running around the back of the trailers chasing me over something I’d done.
“Dead set, I raced into the workshop and shouted out for them to call the coppers.
“We would back-load tin plate out of AIS, Port Kembla back to SPC Ardmona and Tongala in the days when they used to make tins in this area.
“After that it was Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Newcastle, general run-of-the-mill stuff.
“Even though we were out on the road all the time we all knew each other well. We used to get together in this very pub often on a Friday night.”
The turnout to the Roccisano reunion was a good indicator of how highly regarded the company was.
“The joint will always hold a place in our heart and I think that’s shown by the turnout we’ve had here today,” Barry said.
“Some drivers have passed on but we’ve had their children turn up to represent them, which is fantastic.”
In 1994 Scotts bought into Roccisano Transport.
Things didn’t work out so Scotts took the lot and the Roccisano name passed into history – a history revived by those attending the reunion.
Given the attendance, we’re sure they’ll all come together again soon.
BACK TOGETHER: The group of drivers and operators enjoyed catching up and swapping stories.