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Di Benedetto Family, Italian Migrants, circa 1950s

Asset

Image: Asset

Source: Museum Victoria

Vito Luigi di Benedetto was born on 2 January 1923 in Sicily. One of nine living children, Vito's mother died giving birth to her twelfth child and he was raised by his father, who was a bootmaker by trade.

Vito and his three brothers all entered the army and fought during World War Two. The entire family managed to survive the war, although Vito was taken prisoner and didn't return to Sicily until three years after the war had ended. Forced to sell all their possessions during the war years to survive, following the war the boys managed to enlist the assistance of a shoe warehouse owner who knew their father. They set up a family business and by travelling, making and selling shoes, they were able to sustain the whole family and pay off their debt. The family was soon back on its feet and employed nine people.

Vito was offered a lieutenant's position in the Italian army but he declined. The War had made him an angry man and he was enraged by what he saw everywhere as corruption, injustice, inequality, discrimination. He also yearned for independence, as his father managed all the finances, leaving the children dependent on him.

These issues inspired Vito to migrate to Australia, which he did, in the early 1950s. He worked long hours and nights at various jobs, including Dunlop Tyres. Vito then continued the family tradition in the shoe business, working at Koala Shoes and also working in and then owning a shoe repair shop in High Street Northcote in the late 1960s. He also worked at the SEC but repaired shoes for people at home.

Living in the western suburbs he regularly sent money home to his family, as originally they had planned to follow him to Australia. However Vito's father died and the rest of the family were reluctant to immigrate. In the end Vito wrote to the family urging them to come as he needed support. Finally a brother and two sisters migrated. Over the years other extended family arrived until some eleven family members congregated in Coburg, all contributing to a deposit on a house in Thornbury.

Wine making was ensconced in the di Benedetto family's Thornbury home, with all the activity occurring in the back shed. They used a crusher made for Vito by a family friend, and a grape press purchased in the mid 1960s. The grapes were sourced from the Agosta family in Dundas Street Thornbury. Wine making was very much a family affair, with everyone contributing to the annual ritual, which involved preparation in April, fermentation from April to June and finally decanting the wine in June.

On 14 December 1968 Vito married Maria Antonuccio at St Marys in Thornbury. Maria (born 6 September 1931) had migrated from Sicily in 1958 to join a sister in Brisbane. There she would have happily stayed but another sister, who migrated to Melbourne six months after Maria arrived, requested her presence in Melbourne to assist with her young family.

As the family dispersed, Vito continued to make wine once every three years, with the assistance of Maria and often their daughter Angela (born in 1970). Angela recalls the pungent aroma of the grapes which was quite overpowering. Vito was not a great wine drinker himself; mostly he produced wine for family and friends. He generally produced red wine (from the muscatel grape) but his daughter Angela's requests for white wine also saw him produce from the Waltham grape as well. Vito passed away in 1991.

Items per page: 10 50 (showing 1 - 10) 18 items

  • Barrel on Stand - Whisky, Wooden, circa 1990 Object

    Barrel on Stand - Whisky, Wooden, circa 1990

    Wooden whisky barrel on a stand. It was used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto family at their home in Thornbury, circa 1990, and is similar to original barrel the family ...

    Images: 5
  • Pliers - Metal, circa 1960s-1990s Object

    Pliers - Metal, circa 1960s-1990s

    Metal Pliers, circa 1960s-1990s. They were used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto family at their home in Thornbury, from the 1960s to 1991. In the early years the wine ma ...

    Images: 1
  • Funnel - Metal, circa 1960s-1990s Object

    Funnel - Metal, circa 1960s-1990s

    Metal funnel, used for pouring wine into wooden barrel, circa 1960s-1990s. It was used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto family at their home in Thornbury, from the 1960s ...

    Images: 1
  • Hammer - Wood & Metal, circa 1990 Object

    Hammer - Wood & Metal, circa 1990

    Hammer used to knock in tap into wooden whisky barrel, circa 1990. It was used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto family at their home in Thornbury, circa 1990. They began ...

    Images: 2
  • Grape Crusher - Wood & Metal, 1960s Object

    Grape Crusher - Wood & Metal, 1960s

    Home made grape crusher, known as a Macinano, it was probably made by a friend of the di Benedetto family in the 1960s. It was used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto famil ...

    Images: 2
  • Grape Press - Wood & Metal, 1960s Object

    Grape Press - Wood & Metal, 1960s

    Grape or wine press known as a Torchio, made circa 1960s. This grape press was used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto family at their home in Thornbury, from the 1960s to ...

    Images: 3
  • Barrel - Plastic, Italy, circa 1980s Object

    Barrel - Plastic, Italy, circa 1980s

    Plastic Barrel made in Italy, where it was possibly used in an orchard or winery. It was used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto family at their home in Thornbury, circa 19 ...

    Images: 3
  • Crate - Wooden, Large, circa 1960s Object

    Crate - Wooden, Large, circa 1960s

    Large wooden crate, circa 1960s. It was used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto family at their home in Thornbury, from the 1960s to 1991. In the early years the wine makin ...

    Images: 1
  • Weights - Wooden, 1960s Object

    Weights - Wooden, 1960s

    Twenty wooden block weights used with a grape or wine press known as a Torchio, made circa 1960s. This grape press was used in domestic wine production by the Di Benedetto family at the ...

    Images: 3
  • Handles - Grape Press, Metal, 1960s Object

    Handles - Grape Press, Metal, 1960s

    Handles for turning mechanism of a grape or wine press known as a Torchio, made circa 1960s. These hollow metal tubes can be slotted over the existing metal turnscrew to lengthen them a ...

    Images: 1
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