Home Roland Rocchiccioli Chapter 67 AND BE HOME BEFORE DARK – a childhood on the...

Chapter 67 AND BE HOME BEFORE DARK – a childhood on the edge of nowhere.


Mazza’s store was a mini-emporium. The two glass showcases displayed watches, crockery, English china dinner

sets packed in pine boxes filled with straw, jewellery, and a comprehensive range of men’s felt and straw hats. Mazza’s carried two perfumes: The German cologne 4711, and Mitcham Lavender which came from one of the great lavender growing areas of southern England. Beria used Gemey – ‘the perfume that captured five continents’, Goya carnation talcum powder and Angel Face powder. For men they stocked 1808 Brilliantine, Potter and Moore lavender hair oil and Crystalline rapid hair restorer.

Mazza’s sold the best and charged accordingly. The fruit and vegetables arrived twice-weekly by train from one of the leading Chinese market gardener, Ah Sam, Wellington Street, Perth. The peaches, plums and apricots were hand-packed in slat jarrah boxes lined with white butcher’s paper; pears and apples were hand-wrapped in a square of pale-green tissue paper. The onepound bags of Watery Hall grapes from the Sandalford vineyard in the SwanValley were packed in airflow plastic bags. The single Italian men bought and ate them sitting on the benches outside the shop. We only had cherries on Christmas Day; big dark and juicy, they were a taste explosion in your mouth. The refrigerated smallgoods section catered for a migrant population. Watsonia legs of cured ham; Hutton’s pineapple ham packed in oats or wheat husks and wrapped in a muslin cloth. The Tibaldi and D’Orsogna air-dried gnarled fat-oozing Italian sausages and salami were looped in overhead swags. The pork and beef mortadella di Bologna sausage was the genuine article; the Roman and pecorino provolone cheese came in small wheels. The gorgonzola was imported, and Bel Paesie was the most expensive. Mazza stocked Soprano pasta and Ciro’s tomato paste. The giant dried apricots, peaches, pears, and Five Crown juicy Australian prunes – packed in seven-pound tins – were sold loose, wrapped in greaseproof paper. We had fresh fish once year – Good Friday. Roll mops and pickled herrings were for the Dutch

The staff needed a ladder to reach the top of the ceiling high wooden shelves stocked with tins of camp pie, Swift’s sardines – which sold by the gross, Imperial and Globe brand corned beef in a pyramid-shaped tin with an attached key, braised steak and onions, and sausages and vegetables. Tinned spiced ham was the best seller, especially with those living out on the wood line. The family-owned cake company, Mills and Ware’s made madeira, sultana, and thickly iced rainbow cake. The Swiss roll, coated in fine castor sugar, made a perfect base for wine trifle. The moist one-pound Ritz fruitcake was cellophane wrapped and weighty with fruit. My father ate it spread with butter or slices of Roman or goat’s milk cheese. The centres of the coconut macaroons were wet to perfection. Mazza sold the full Rosella range of products, including the lumpy solus apricot jam which I ate straight from the tin. Beria loved Mira dark plum and my father ate only Rayner’s chunky fig jam. Rosella’s award-winning green tomato pickles were always amongst Mazza’s top-selling items the Europeans spread it on their cribs of well-buttered cold lamb or pork sandwiches.

Peak, Velvet and Sunlight soap came in 12-inch knife-cuttable bars. Solyptol and Liptol disinfectant soaps prevented minor cuts and scratches from turning septic. The most popular hair oils for men were Brylcreem, Californian Poppy, Vaseline, and Potter and Moore. Faulding’s setting lotion held the most unruly hair in place, and Richard Hudnut and Toni were the preferred hair permanent curling solutions. Beria used green Herco hand lotion which came in a circular glass container with a flat base and the screw cap on the side.

Mazza’s had a ‘gallon licence’ for the sale of beer, wine and spirits. The licence allowed them to sell any combination of alcohol providing it totalled a measure of one gallon. Valencia No. 1 claret was their best seller to the Slavs and Italians. Matured in ten-gallon oak barrels, it came from two Slav brothers in the Middle Swan. Mazza sold it in crudely corked recycled beer bottles and it was the job of the after-school spud boy to fill the bottles, first rinsing them in a galvanised tub of cold water at the back of the shop. The claret dregs in the bottom of the beer bottles attracted cockroaches which climbed in and had to be carefully flushed out with rinsing and scooped off the top of the water with a cupped hand. Mazza also used recycled beer bottles to store kerosene and the pungent thick black disinfectant phenyl, used lavatories pans. The spud boy was under strict instructions to smell each bottle to make sure the two lots remained separate. In the summer the syphoning was sometimes risky work. The combination of his tippling, the claret fumes, and the build-up of heat under the tin roof was so overwhelming, the spud boy needed regular breaks in the freshair to stop from passing out.

AND BE HOME BEFORE DARK is available direct from Roland. Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30. Contact: rolandroc@bigpond.com