Rouse Hill - Jack Iori (OAM)


Interviewee: Jack Iori OAM, born 1934

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 5th June, 2006

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Nov 2006

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee

Now, when did your father arrive from Tuscany to live in Australia? How old was he when he came here?

He was 21 (Jack's brother Edo thinks he was 22). I think it was 1925 (Edo thinks it was c.1928) that he arrived here in Australia (with another male relative, Ugo Burlati).

OK. So where did he settle when he came here?

Well, there was a company called "Bettingtons", and they were very well off - they had major property at Merriwa. They (Guiseppe and Adolfina Zampelli) met him down at Circular Quay and he got on the back of a truck, a utility and he (eventually) got taken up to Merriwa where he worked for about 5 to 6 years (Edo says 10 years) digging out thorns and things like that. It was very hard for him because he came out by himself. My Mum didn't come out at that time. And he couldn't speak, and it was very difficult when you got put on a farm like that and just told to go and do a certain job so it took him a long while to get Mum... it took him about six and a half years before Mum arrived.

Did he have to save the money for her fare?


That wouldn't have been cheap?

Those days, no, later on, you could come over here with ten - well the British, I'm not sure about the others - could come over here with ten pounds at one stage. Well actually he borrowed the money from a bloke called Fellini who was a well-to-do man in those days and he borrowed money off him to bring my brother, who was born before my father came to Australia.

Right, so your mother and your brother came out?

That's right. Correct. (Actually in 1933).

Right, Ok. So how did they like this new country - their new adopted country?

Well I think Mum and Dad always - they had it terribly hard. When Mum had come out here, Dad had moved over from Merriwa to the coast, a place called Smith's Lake, and we both got weekenders there because it runs in the family sort of place. But we put in a fowl shed there and mum was saying that when it rains you had to keep on moving me because the water kept on coming in. So, they had it hard, but I think to be that long apart in your early days and then to join one another, I think they would have been happy anywhere. And they had their family there and they were quite happy I thought.

So when did they actually leave Smith's Lake to come to settle here at Rouse Hill?

Well, I was born in '34 and I was about 18 months when I come, when I arrived in Rouse Hill, so it would have been roughly 1935 that they arrived here in Rouse Hill. (Edo thinks Jack was 4 years old, and they arrived in Rouse Hill in August 1938).

'32, wouldn't it have been?


Oh you were 18 months old when they arrived?

When I arrived in Rouse Hill I was 18 months, so I was born in '34, so mid-35's was when they came to Australia (Actually Rouse Hill).

Rouse Hill Cemetery 1989 is now surrounded by houses

What do you think the conditions would have been like at Rouse Hill? Can you describe what might have been here in those days?

We only had one tarred road that I can remember - it was Windsor Rd that was tarred. Garfield Rd, going to Riverstone was all potholed. Mile End Rd was a little laneway. When people go crook about Rouse Hill now - "there's nothing here now" -by God, they should have seen it that time - there was nothing here. They came over here for a new living and Dad was good at what he done - he was a good farmer, he worked hard. he taught me how to work hard. And my brother Edo. It was one of the things he instilled on us - if you want to get anywhere in life you've got to work.

What did he do here at Rouse Hill?

Firstly, he had to go and get a job, because he had no money and he worked at Riverstone Meatworks for quite a few years. And at weekends, he used to accumulate some building... like some timber. Well mainly he used to cut the trees and have his own poles for his sheds, get some iron and he started producing eggs, and growing vegetables at the same time, but all with horses. You know, he always had two draft horses. Betty was one - I saw him with one of them because she was always popular - Betty was her name. And he also built his first dam, just 100 metres from here with a horse scoop, so I still remember all that. So, he worked terribly hard for what he got, but it was a way of life in those days.

So he started with raising chickens, did he?


Eggs, yes. What did he do with the chickens once the eggs were...?

 Chickens at Iori poultry farm late 1960s

Funny thing, in those days you'd get big money because there was no chickens as such for table, so much, so those days you'd get a premium... you'd get a dollar - I'm going back - you'd get a dollar fifty today for them. Today they can't sell them, they've got to give them away. Yet those days it was great we were all finished - like we used to keep those chickens for about two years to lay eggs. Today you'd only keep them 18 months, not even that. We used to keep them two to three years. Today you've got to give them away. You've got to pay them to virtually come and get them. In those days you could get big money because there wasn't that many about.

Right, so they finished up as boilers did they?

They did. Well, people who knew how to cook them in those days, they used to boil them and then roast them, and they used to come quite nice. But people don't want to do that - you know, time today, and chicken is much more tender and people (don't) want to do it as quickly as they can so those sort of thing went out. Like, Mum and Dad used to make their own cream. They used to make all their cheeses. I remember Mum standing there for hours making a cheese roll - you know how you'd get a piece of tin about that high and that long, and you'd put it around the cheese and you'd keep on pressing it and pressing it, to make it narrower. She used to spend hours doing it. Beautiful cheese, it was really great.

What kind of cheese was it, Italian Cheese?

Well, I suppose you'd say it was Italian. It was a beautiful, soft eating cheese - it didn't have a name, I don't think, in those days. But I used to love it.

And talking about the chooks again. How many chooks were there on your father's property?

When he started or when he finished?

Yeah, well, give me both...

Well, he started with 500 and he got a disease called Loringo and he got completely wiped out - he was crying. I remember him crying, taking Havasack bags down to bury them. Then we learnt that you had to innocculate them. After that we started again and he went from 500 chooks to - we worked as Iori and Sons for about thirty years and we grew to one of the biggest poultry farms in the district. We had forty-odd thousand birds. Today that's not a lot, but in those days it was a big farm. We employed seven girls alone in the egg room, and another three or four on the farm and then there was a lot of other people we used to employ, so we probably use to employ the biggest lot in this district, of people.

Iori dam surrounded by potato and cabbage crops mid 1950s

Wow, that's a big operation. Did your father also grow vegetables or fruit?

We did, in our early years, when we couldn't afford all the sheds and that, and it took us time to build the egg game up, yes, we grew a lot of vegetables. We grew... I remember picking cucumbers all day, and packing 80 cases and sending them to market and getting a bill of four pounds back, because they didn't sell.


Yes, it was very difficult. See, this area here, when you've got a good crop, everybody's got a good crop. And for that reason you had to be pretty lucky to strike a good market. But, it was the hours you'd put in. Forget about making it work if you did eight hours a day - you may as well give it up. You had to put in double that. And we reared our family and did quite well but we had to put a lot of hours in - you got paid very little for the hours you put in. But that's farming. It's a way of life. In a lot of cases you work for yourself. The more you worked the more you made. And it's probably the way to go.

Now, how did your father acquire the land to grow his vegetables on and to raise his chooks? Did he buy the land?

Well, he bought the land with his brother-in-laws in about 1932 and then we came down here and as I said before we split it up into three 15 acre blocks. Later on in life we got bulldozers in and we built dams, we put pumps in there and we pumped from the creek as well.

 Pump shed on Iori property 1990s

Right. So your father grew both vegetables, fruit and raised chickens?

Not fruit, Frank. We were never in the fruit game.

Right. What were the vegetables?

Our main vegetables were potatoes, we used to grow a lot of potatoes here. We grew cabbages, cauliflowers. I remember picking cauliflowers at two o'clock in the morning. It wasn't very good when the trickle of water would go down your back but that's what it was like. We used to dig them with a hurricane lamp to make sure... especially when it got cloudy and rainy. If you know... cauliflowers grow quickly when it's cloudy and rainy and you've got to pick them. You think you're going to finish at maybe nine o'clock at night and sometimes you'll still be there at two o'clock and then you had to go straight to the markets. We had a lot of lettuce and beans early on in life.

So when you were young a small boy and so on were you helping your parents running the chooks?


Did you have to build cages and things for the chickens?

No we built sheds ourselves and we had a lot of sheds I mean for forty thousand chooks you had to have a lot of sheds, we built all our own sheds, my brother welded all the steel and we built all our own sheds but we got other people to put in the cages, they were fiddly and it was better that somebody that knows what they’re doing put them up. As a matter of fact I had to have a big argument with my father in those years, he was old fashioned at this point and he always had the range chooks that ran outside and he didn’t think that you could do any other way so I still remember, it mightn’t sound much today but we spent seventeen hundred pound and my Dad said “you’ll run me broke, we’ll be broke” we had to borrow a bit off the bank and coming out in the Depression he was very careful and he didn’t like to borrow money, but when we all got it going and we made him a cart, it was all concrete footpaths, we made him a cart to go and gather the eggs,he gathered all the eggs and he come back and he said” boys I gathered all those eggs in half an hour” and he thought they were so good we never had a bit of trouble with him from then on. He let us do our own thing and we put cages all up everywhere.

Chook sheds behind 49-53 Mile End Rd late 1960s

So you changed from open range to cages?

We did yeah, you couldn’t make money out of open range. You couldn’t get the money that you’d want to pay.

What sort of water was there available for him to run his farming and so on?

Unfortunately there was only dam water and we used to have a lot of trouble because all the nipples used to get blocked because it wasn’t clear like city water and we had a lot of trouble. Even in the heat we had sprays everywhere and we had to continually go up and clean out the sprays and that when it was hot weather and gave us a bit of trouble.

So looking at Rouse Hill in those days and talking now probably the nineteen forties and nineteen fifties what was here at that time? Tell me describe the Rouse Hill village as it was then.

Very little Frank, there was a few Italians had bought. There was Zampellis, Burlatis and Massanos they were all farmers and they all started up and they all ended up mainly in egg production. What you could hear here in summer time you could hear a heap of pumps going it would be just pumps, pumps, pumps, pumping water and that’s how it started off. I suppose fifty percent or maybe sixty percent of the people were farmers and the rest had jobs at Riverstone Meatworks, here and there but it was too far to go to work in a lot of cases unless you worked at Riverstone Meatworks, you’d either have to go to Parramatta and they never had transport here. We started off with a horse and sulky and I think we got our first car in 1945 we bought a little Singer which I remember quite well, my brother used to drive it.

Mile End Rd east of Withers Rd looking north west from Iori property 1940s

There were buses running at that time?

No the buses started running when I left Rouse Hill School there was an old mate of mine Joe Massano and myself we used to push our bikes from here to Kellyville we used to get all wet on the frosty mornings with the fog and the buses used to come then at nine o’clock leave here and back here at four o’clock and they were the only buses they had running and it was no good for us. So I got to tell you this story my bike broke down so being a bit cheeky I went down the road and Joe went off on his push bike and I got a lift. I never rode my push bike again because everybody used to stop for you. They knew you were going to school, they knew there was no other transport. That was in 1949 and Frank you couldn’t believe this we had to wait anything up to five minutes for somebody to come along the Windsor Road and because of the open paddocks I could hear the truck five miles away changing its gears and we had to wait from two to eight minutes for a car to come along and the first bloke that come along would pull up for you. So I didn’t ride the bike anymore, I thought it was the right way to go and my friend also joined me after that.

You should try that now.

It’s a little bit changed, Frank, from those days.

Now there seemed to be other Italians in the egg game were they all from the same area or the same village?

Two of them were Zampellis and Burlatis well alongside the village. Yeah within five kilometres of one another there was two villages and they both came from there. I don’t know Massano came from up a bit higher in Italy up somewhere on the topside of Italy, I’m not quite sure where he came from originally. But there was four Italian families and they were all farming. There was a few Australian ones not a lot. Rasmussen was one who had a good farm because he was one of the first ones to buy a car in the area. At Box Hill there was Hessions, but the people were scattered there wasn’t that many we were far and few between in those days. I mean Rouse Hill if you just go a bit beyond here it’s still pretty open. Suburbia has come right up on our back door, so to say.

Now your father being an Italian and when the Second World War came along many Italians were interned because they were deemed to be a security risk. Did your father suffer the same fate?

Almost but he never quite got interned. We had a neighbour who was not kind to us next door and he tried to get him interned. They used to have what they called a Flying Squad in those days and they came up and they went around the district and Dad was, I think he was an extremely good man, and the people seen it that way and they did take his rifle off him, his twenty two rifle, why I remember quite distinctly that part of it was that after the war finished I went up in the horse and sulky with him and I’ve never seen a cell before and I never seen one since I’m happy to say. But I seen this cell and there was the lone rifle in the corner and the Sergeant went and got it and gave it to us and we came home with the horse and sulky. That must have been in 1945 or 1944 when the war finished.

Dr and Mrs Money of Aberdoon July 1968

Right, OK, he was lucky, then, your father?

A lot of Italians did get interned for a little while no he didn’t get interned.

What were the relations like between the Italians say and the Anglo Saxon Australians?

That’s a bit of a soft spot with me, I got called “dago” in our years. But look I think you had to overlook it. It was only some odd people here and there, the majority of Australians have been great people, I think the Italians are probably one of the best loved people in Australia today. I think they’ve become very good Australians, I think they’ve mixed in well. They’ve got beautiful food and I meet a lot of Australians just love Italian food. So my family could cook, my Mum and Dad were great cooks. I think that the Australian people opened their arms very, very wide for the Italian community.

Were there also Greeks and Chinese and other ethnic communities?

Funny thing you say that, not in Rouse Hill, we did end up there was Coopers who was a vegetable grower and he lived on the corner of Withers Road and Mile End Road and he sold out early to Greeks. They weren’t good farmers they were very wild with their things, but they were nice people I got on very well with them.

Talking about the neighbours or the people who lived in Rouse Hill especially those along Mile End Road, can you name who they were?

I can name nearly all.

Dr. Rex Money with his pigs at Aberdoon 1954

Can you do that?

There was Mr and Mrs Mills they were the oldest people that lived in Rouse Hill, there was the Dirksons, there were the Shields, there was Doctor Money, there were the Taylors, Coopers, Massano's, Burlati, Zampellis, Ioris, Jennings, Lelands, Chicks and Pikes, I’ve started at the end of Mile End Road Frank and I’ve worked my way up and that’s how I can remember all of them.

Were they all in the egg or vegetable growing business?

No as I said I think that sixty percent of them trying to run a farm, some of them were working and running the farm weekends, trying to build their farm up. Wasn’t easy those days either. We had no transport here and we relied upon a man called Jack Peterson who was a great bloke. He's been here for a long time and he took all our stuff in and he was pretty reasonable, he was a good man.

What he used to take the produce to the market you mean?

Not only ours he used to take all of Box Hill’s there was a few little farms and fruit farms oranges and that. He used to take theirs, he used to take all the old chooks and he used to take the eggs and vegetables, he used to take the whole lot in. That was his full time work and he brought us back feed for the chickens.

He was a nice guy?

He was an excellent man.

Now all those people who had those farms along Mile End Road what size farms did they have? What would the average acres have been?

We were probably one of the smaller ones because we bought two other properties after that. Fifteen to fifty I’d say.

Land behind 85 Mile End Rd 1990s

Acres each?


What’s happened to all that land now? What state is it in? Is it all subdivided?

If you go up Mile End Road on the right of us, it’s all subdivided and all sold. On the left of us it’s going to be light industrial and there’s talk about Box Hill going to be released for homes so I think this area will be a pretty big area and with the Nor(th) West sector the regional shopping centre that’s going to be one of the biggest in Australia eventually, it’s going to be bigger than Manly Warringah, yes I think it will be a very big area, there’ll be very big changes.


I’m one that doesn’t stop changes I believe changes have got to come and whilst I still love especially my wife she loved it like it was with the open paddocks, most of us would like it to be like that but you can’t always have things as you want them along those lines.

Now let’s go back again to the forties or fifties when raising chooks and eggs, where did those eggs get sold, where did your father sell them?

They had what you called an Egg Board, those days, it’s gone out now, about eighteen, nineteen years ago it finished and we sold some to the Egg Board, but you had what you call a P A Authority that used to get authority to supply certain shops and we had a great run that we used to deliver to many, many shops over the years. I actually ended up being a director on the Egg Board for thirteen years towards the end of its days and I’ve found a lot of people didn’t like the Egg Board but as far as a farmer were concerned it was a great thing.

Jack Iori in high school uniform 1940s

So your father was engaged in raising the chooks and you were helping him were you?


When did you actually leave school Jack to help your father?

Well my brother was working on the farm, growing vegetables at that time. My father had a little farm but only enough to support himself, right. Well I got to be honest , I was never much good at school so I went to the Marist Brothers in Parramatta and I failed in first year and I had to redo it and in about May I just didn’t want to go to school, full stop and my brother said “why don’t you leave and come and join me and we’ll grow vegetables” so I picked up courage and I still remember every Brother that was there Brother Anselm was the head Brother and they were having their lunch underneath the big fig tree which is still there and I went up to them, I built up a bit of courage and I said to them “Brothers I’m going to leave school”, they said “what are you going to do” I said “I’m going to grow vegetables with my brother” and they all looked at one another and the head Brother said “son you might as well do that because you’re not doing any good here”(laughs) so that was the long and short of it all, so we grew vegetables, I think I grew vegetables for close to twenty years, eighteen, twenty years I never made much money, Frank. I reared my family and worked long hours and I didn’t have much when I finished than when I started, I suppose. It was very hard.

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