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Ernesto Angerame, Italian Migrant & Barber, 1937

Hand Razor

Image: Hand Razor

Source: Museum Victoria

Ernesto Angerame was born on 7 March 1920 in Viggiano, a province of Potenza, in the region of Basilicata, Italy. He migrated to Australia in 1937 on board the ship Remo, leaving from Naples on December 1937, arriving at Station Pier, Port Melbourne on 16 January, 1938.

In Italy, Ernesto was working for the local office of the Revenue Department. He did not want to come to Australia, but his mother asked him to take the place of a brother who at the last minute had changed his mind. He was sponsored by his brother Giovanni who had arrived in Australia in 1927 at the age of 16. Giovanni had learned the trade of barber on board the ship that took him to Australia and opened a barber shop in Melbourne. Soon after his arrival in 1938, Ernesto began an apprenticeship in his brother's barber shop. Many customers were Italian migrants who lived in Carlton, Fitzroy, Brunswick and North Melbourne.

Ernesto was not naturalised, when Italy entered into World War II (10 June, 1940), as only those who had been in the country for a minimum of 5 years could apply for naturalisation. So in 1942, Ernesto and his brother were conscripted into the Civil Alien Corps to cut wood for the Forest Commission in Yea to help with the war effort. After 12 months in Yea he was sent to Myrtleford and from there to Ballarat. He served in this Corps for three years, although his brother was released earlier. The majority of the men cutting wood in the Civil Alien Corp in Australia were Italians. These men were well treated and paid a salary similar to that paid to the POWs. Once a month they were allowed to go home to see their families and stock up on personal needs. During the 1940s there were many Italian migrants in Myrtleford involved with tobacco growing.

When he was released in 1945, Ernesto went to work for an Australian barber in Collins Street, opposite the Australia Hotel. He then ran a barber shop in East Brunswick for a year. In 1949 he opened his own shop at 330 Lygon Street, Carlton, where he worked for 35 years, until retirement in 1984. In the early 1950s the shop was renamed the 'Sportsmen's Saloon'. Amongst his customers were many Italian visiting boxers, international and national cyclists, local cyclists and soccer players of the Juventus Soccer Club, as well as footballers. Ernesto was also the official barber of the Carlton Football Club for many years.

In the shop Ernesto also sold tobacconist and hair care products and Italian playing cards, such as the Napoletane. These cards were and still are quite popular in Italy for playing traditional games in cafe bars, games such as scopa, tresette, briscola and settebello. These games were a popular form of entertainment and gambling amongst Italian migrant men in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and were played in the Italian cafés of Carlton and of other suburbs of Melbourne where Italians settled.

In 1947, Ernesto was naturalised. The same year he married Giuseppina Toce at St George's Church (Sacred Heart) in Rathdowne Street, Carlton. Giuseppina had arrived in Melbourne with her parents on the Remo on 1 January 1939. Her family was from Gromento Nova, a town close to Ernesto's birth town of Viggiano. After opening his shop in Carlton, Ernesto became an active member of the Melbourne Italian community. He was one of the founding members of the Juventus Soccer Club, and for many years he was a member of the executive committee and president of Italy's oldest club, the Cavour Club. He was also a fundraiser for the Royal Melbourne Children's Hospital.

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