Kyabram Free Press
Kyabram’s ‘Italian Aussie’
Sabatino Pulsoni couldn’t be more Italian if he tried — bocce is his number one sport, he lives on an orchard, loves pasta and makes his own wine and olive oil.
But he couldn’t think of a better place to have spent the last 65 years of his life than Australia, smiling broadly when he thinks back to his first job on the railways when he couldn’t speak a word of English, and, probably for the better — couldn’t understand much either.
A 27-day boat ride from Naples to Australia only a couple of months before the 1956 Melbourne Olympics saw him arrive in Melbourne.
Only a few years later he arrived on the 14-acre orchard just outside of the Kyabram township that he still calls home.
And later this month, Sabatino will celebrate his 90th birthday, the first he will spend without his beloved wife of 59 years, Carmelina.
The past few months have probably been the most challenging for the hard-working orchardist, but his four children and extended family have rallied around him in support.
Sabatino was born on October 28, 1931, in the village of Aragno in Abruzzo province of Italy, East of Rome, one of five children to a farming family.
He has a younger sister in Melbourne and a 93-year-old brother who still lives in Italy.
His decision, as a 25-year-old, to make Australia his life was in search of opportunity and a better life, paying 136,000 Italian Lire for his passage to the promise land.
Sabatino started with the railways on a Gippsland project, near Lakes Entrance.
He then played a part in the construction of bridges for the Sydney to Melbourne railway line.
He eventually found himself in Merrigum, at the invitation of another Italian who had made the decision to head down under. Sabatino worked at the Merrigum Carnation Milk factory from 1959 until 1969.
And six years after his arrival in Australia, he purchased his Roberts Lane mud brick home and orchard — plums, peaches and nectarines aplenty from that point onward.
Carmelina, who was to become his wife, was an identical twin and that caused some initial confusion in the courtship process.
Apparently Sabatino couldn’t tell the sisters apart and was apparently given the cold shoulder by Camelina’s sister, who he had mistaken for his eventual wife.
They were married less than a year after meeting, on July 28, 1962, Carmelina’s family owned an orchard at Ardmona to continue the theme of the storyline.
Once the fruit picking season would finish each year on the orchard Sabatino spent sometime from 1970 until 1975 working at the Tongala Nestle milk factory.
Their four children haven’t strayed not too far off the script either, all having at one time or another having had an affinity with the farming lifestyle.
Rosa is the eldest of the four children living in Tatura, Renzo lives not far from his father on an avocado orchard, with Angelo and Dario in Kyabram working on their own orchards.
There are eight grandchildren to continue the farming tradition, the eldest being Giulia, followed by Maddalin, Jacob, Gabrielle, Cristian, Amelia, Adam, and Emerson.
Sabatino is still working today, although he does a lot more reading than what he used to and is a regular at Kyabram Bowling Club, when COVID-19 conditions allow.
The strong Italian community of the Goulburn Valley has always meant he has stayed true to his roots, although there has not been a lot of time for socialising.
Apart from an annual two-week holiday, to a different location in Australia each time, he has worked every day of his life on the farm.
And forget flying, bus is his prepared mode of transport — or boat.
He has been on four cruises and only back to Italy on two occasions since he left in 1956.
He went back after 25 years in Australia and then again on his 50th anniversary.
His parents and sisters followed Sabatino to Australia, in fact, they were here for their 1962 wedding.
Italian is still the preferred means of communication between family members, in spite of Sabatino’s early decision to complete an English course by correspondence.
Rosa and Dario have had the opportunity to visit their father’s roots and meet the relatives still living in Italy.
Sabatino belies his 90 years on the earth with his sharp wit, work ethic, memory and, in particular, his ability to still whip up a batch of pasta and some of his home-made wine.
And the message from his family was clear for the head of the Pulsoni family — thank you for all you have done for us.