They were glo­ri­ous days

Glo­ria Geeves hails from one of the most well known lo­cal fam­i­lies whose his­tory in the district echoes those many Ital­ian pi­o­neers. She spoke with Pam Willis Bur­den

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

In July it will be 75 years since a bomb was dropped on Miallo, slightly in­jur­ing three-year-old An­gelina Zullo. Gen­er­ally it is thought the plane which dropped the bomb was Ja­panese, but Glo­ria Geeves, who lived nearby, be­lieves oth­er­wise.

She was told by Irene Taffs, daugh­ter of the lo­cal min­is­ter and a war-time sur­veil­lance of­fi­cer on top of Crees Hill, that the sound of the plane was not Ja­panese.

‘Aunty Rene’, as Glo­ria called her, said the plane was re­turn­ing from New Guinea to the Ma­reeba air­field but still had two bombs on board. It dropped one near Snap­per Is­land, and think­ing they were still over the ocean, the crew mis­tak­enly dropped the sec­ond near Miallo.

At the time, Glo­ria was 11 years old and liv­ing on the Sco­maz­zon fam­ily farm near the Newell golf course.

Her par­ents, Se­bas­tiano Sco­maz­zon and Rosa San­ta­cat­te­rina, were born in north­ern Italy, and af­ter mar­ry­ing in Mel­bourne, came to live with Rosa’s par­ents in Cas­sowary in 1931.

There wasn’t enough room in the farm house, so the young cou­ple with baby daugh­ter Lau­retta lived in the empty fowl shed. Glo­ria said “When Mum went to Moss­man Hospi­tal to have me, the nurses couldn’t work out what the marks were on her body. Then they re­alised they were lice bites. Mum didn’t speak enough English to ex­plain them.”

Af­ter a while, Se­bas­tiano who was a stone­ma­son, moved his fam­ily to Valese’s farm on Cooya Beach Rd. He built the arches that are still at the house.

Glo­ria re­mem­bers: “In 1934 Dad bought the Sco­maz­zon farm that is still in the fam­ily from ‘Chun­der’ Berzin­ski and had to clear the bush with dy­na­mite for more cane fields.

“In the cy­clone of that year, Mum put blan­kets over the kitchen ta­ble and a mat­tress un­der­neath and we three kids hid there. Dad put eight-gauge wire over the house al­though Mum was stressed about him fall­ing off the roof. Luck­ily there was no dam­age.

“The house had cor­ru­gated iron walls and roof and sapling posts on the corners. It had only one room with cur­tains as di­viders in­side. The floor was clay which came from the well that we dug by the creek. The toi­let was a ‘thun­der­box’ away from the house. At night we kids took a hur­ri­cane lamp and hoped to good­ness there wasn’t a snake in there.”

On Glo­ria and Lau­retta’s first day at St Au­gus­tine’s School, she said: “We didn’t re­alise there was another lan­guage other than Ital­ian. We never came to town and only mixed with other Ital­ians and we didn’t have a car or phone.”

Dur­ing WWII sol­diers were camped on the cor­ner of Syn­di­cate Rd. Some­times a jeep would give the chil­dren a lift to school. Oth­er­wise they walked.

Once a sol­dier asked Lau­retta: “Are you the old­est in the fam­ily?” and she replied: “No, my fa­ther is.”

Se­bas­tiano was in­terned in 1942. Glo­ria said: “The po­lice came and just took Dad away. There was no in­for­ma­tion about why he was taken, but he had served in WW I in Italy and was not nat­u­ral­ized un­til 1946.

Mum had six kids in eight years: Lau­retta, Glo­ria, Ben, Odette, Vixie and Bruno. She was left to look af­ter them all and the farm too.

Glo­ria re­mem­bers: “A man would come to help haul the cane out and throw it onto the truck to go to the train line. Mum would help to burn and cut the cane and she had two cows to make cheese and but­ter. She had a mar­ket gar­den and the kids would take a cab­bage to the shops to ex­change for ap­ples and pears.

“Dad was taken to a NSW in­tern­ment camp, then Love­day in SA. A few others from Moss­man were sent away too.

“Fi­nally he worked on the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­way line un­til he be­came very ill and Mum was sent to bring him back.”

Af­ter the bomb at Miallo, Rosa kept the kids at home for a year. She didn’t want them sep­a­rated if the Ja­panese in­vaded. She couldn’t speak English so she taught them to read and write in Ital­ian and Glo­ria still speaks it.

“Once an MP came to Moss­man and Mum took all us kids into the Royal Ho­tel lounge to show him what the gov­ern­ment had done by tak­ing her hus­band away and leav­ing her with the chil­dren. But it didn’t do any good. Dad was away for 28 months.”

Glo­ria left school early to look af­ter her youngest brother Peter, who was born af­ter the war.

When she was 16, brother Ben found her a job at the mill. She would take a sam­ple from sugar juice to cal­cu­late the CCS, the per­cent­age of pure sugar.

She was the first girl to do that job and she worked for Mr Sta­ples, the chief chemist. Mum made her over­alls and a cap.

Dur­ing the slack sea­son, she be­came a ‘hello girl’ on the post of­fice tele­phone ex­change switch­board, which was next to the Post Of­fice Ho­tel. Mr Sta­ples told her it was a much more suit­able job than at the mill, but when she mar­ried Brian, the rules said she had to give up work.

Brian Geeves worked at the mill in the sugar room, where the bagged sugar ar­rived on a con­veyor belt to be stacked un­til the boat came into Port Dou­glas to take it away.

They mar­ried in 1951 in the Methodist Church in Moss­man and had three chil­dren, Kerry, Ju­dith and Ter­ence.

From 1969, Brian and Glo­ria man­aged the Ex­change Ho­tel at Moss­man. It was a de­mand­ing job be­cause there were itin­er­ant cane cut­ters in town. Glo­ria said: “A 300-man in­flux made Fri­day and Satur­day nights very busy.”

One night Glo­ria saw the up­stairs cor­ri­dor full of smoke. She re­mem­bers: “A boarder had gone to sleep smok­ing with the mozzie net down. Luck­ily I saw it be­fore the flames broke out or the whole place would’ve gone up in smoke. It was the scari­est thing that hap­pened while we were there.”

In 1972 Glo­ria took over the Moss­man TAB which op­er­ated from a shop that was for­merly Mrs Maxwell’s dress salon.

Then the TAB moved to the Cen­te­nary build­ing. Be­fore com­put­ers, she did all the cal­cu­la­tions by hand. She had a win/place book and one each for the daily dou­ble and the tri­fecta. “We had to add up how much was on each horse in each race and tele­phone through to Cairns. You would hear how much to pay out from the ra­dio. When the telex was in­stalled, it be­came much eas­ier.”

Glo­ria and Brian moved to Weipa in 1974 and she ran the TAB there while Brian worked at Co­ma­lco.

When she re­turned to Moss­man in 1991, she helped son Ter­ence’s photo de­vel­op­ing busi­ness.

“We did one-hour pro­cess­ing but dig­i­tal killed it and killed Ko­dak too.”

So the busi­ness closed in 2011 and Glo­ria, by now a widow, re­tired to take up bowls af­ter a very event­ful work­ing life.

A boarder had gone to sleep smok­ing with the mozzie net down. Luck­ily I saw it be­fore the flames broke out or the whole place would’ve gone up in smoke. It was the scari­est thing that hap­pened while we were there

Glo­ria Geeves

Main pic­ture: Glo­ria Geeves to­day. Above left: The Sco­maz­zons in 1950. Right: Glo­ria’s sib­lings in their school days

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