Interview with Erminia Carpene (nee Truccolo) 1987

Acknowledgement is made for the enormous research carried out by Jenny Keast for her publication "Valley of Solitude" from which information has been used in this family history.

Erminia Carpene was born at Marone, Province of Udine in 1906. She and her parents, Luigia and Francesco, lived with her paternal grandparents, Regina and Pietro Truccolo, on the grandparent’s farm. The farm was extensive (9Campi) and was worked by hired labourers. Crops of grain, vegetables and vine were grown and mixed livestock kept. When the sons of Regina and Pietro married, the land was divided. Three other sons, Umberto, Silvio and Pietro, had migrated to the Argentine.
When the land was split, Francesco received the land on which the family home was built but as he wished his parents to remain there, he built a three storied house in the town. Two of his sons, Bruno and Germano, built their own houses on their portion of the farm. The three, Bruno, Germano and Francesco, were builders by trade although Francesco also dealt in livestock.
Erminia loved her grandmother and hated to be parted from her so she walked the two miles to the farm to see her each day. Erminia had only two years of schooling, as the First World War began when she was in second standard, and later, when the war was over, she had to work. When the war began, the Austrian- German command took over their home as headquarters. The family were crammed into one small room with no facilities, no soap, no water or proper food. They were eventually covered with scabies and full of fleas. Some of the soldiers helped them a little. The commander advised the parents to stand their twelve children before the door when the advancing army came through the town so that they would not take away all their belongings. Before the town was occupied Farncesco had dug a large hole in the garden and buried as many things and as much food as he could.
Unfortunately, the troops tethered their horses over the filled in hole. When the horses urinated over the ground the goods beneath were exposed. The soldiers did not actually take anything from the pit but the family were not allowed to use any of the goods. The crops on the farm that year were excellent but again the family were not allowed to harvest them. The German army took all the grain and livestock. Erminia and her family were always hungry. It was a terrible time for her father, trying to feed such a large family. They were lucky to have one small meal a day. When the Italian and allied armies pushed the Germans back beyond the River Piave and across the border, it took at least a year for life to return to normal. All the crop seeds and work horses were gone and many buildings were damaged or destroyed.
When she was 12 years old, Erminia left home to work as a maid in Trieste. She and her older sister, Antonietta, went together. Erminia told her employer a white lie about her age. Later, when she was really 17 years old, she found work in Venice.
Her employer was a very kind lady who was a second mother to her. She encouraged Erminia to be confirmed into the church and stood as her Godmother. Erminia met Ernesto Carpene at a Sunday afternoon dance, which was organised by the local church. Ernesto was born at Porto Buffole, province of Treviso, in 1903. He was one of five children. They were married for only three weeks when Ernesto left Italy, in 1927, to travel to Australia. For the next three and a half years Erminia lived with her parents-in-law. They had decided to marry, even though Erminia would be left in Italy, because only married men were being accepted as immigrants at that time. Erminia is in no doubt that if she could turn the clock back, she would not have stayed in Italy, she would have taken her chances and travelled with Ernesto. Ernesto sailed aboard the “Viminal” and all was well until he reached Fremantle, where he promptly lost all his luggage. He and a shipboard friend left all their bags on the dockside and travelled into Perth, without leaving a forwarding address. The bags were sent off into the country and everything was stolen, leaving the two men with just the clothes they wore.

Ernesto found work at Karragullen, with Joe Scari, and he was still there when Erminia arrived in 1930. Erminia loved Australia as soon as she arrived. The Scari’s prepared a lovely meal for her and everyone was very kind. She could not believe the amount of fruit available and she was even more thrilled by the amount of firewood lying around the property!

A year or two later, Ernesto and Mario Tenusso formed a partnership to buy land at Chidlow. The land was all bush, and clearing it and trying to produce an orchard proved beyond the pockets of the two men. When things became too hard the land was divided and sold. Tenusso then worked at Watsonia before eventually settling at Karragullen. Erminia and Ernesto went to Illawarra Orchard to work. They lived in a little bush shack, full of holes that let in the rain but they were very happy. In 1935/6 they bought land at Orange Valley Road, Kalamunda, where Ernesto planted fruit trees and started a plant nursery. While the land was being developed, they lived in a rented house about a mile from Kalamunda, on the Mundaring Weir Road. One day, a Mr. Allen knocked on the door and asked Erminia if she had seen any pigs. He thought he was a butcher so he brought out a plate of meat from the house to show him and said “no meat, plenty’. He replied, “me no butcher, me no store. You know pig?” “Yes”! said Erminia. “You know fence”? “Yes”! He then proceeded to mime a pig climbing through a fence. Erminia then knew what he meant and said “Sorry, no pig here”.

A year later she went to his property to buy a chicken and surprised him by being able to speak very good English. She had learned the language quickly because she loved it, “it is so soft and slow, completely different from my dialect”.


The Carpenes named their property “Rose Valley” and while he was establishing it Ernesto worked for Mr. Brine, who owned a large block on Kalamunda Road. He built a small house, which is still standing although the property was later owned by George Melville, who has built a new house on the site of the original Brine home.
Ernesto planted a garden at Rose Valley that was to become the showplace of the hills. Tourist busses stopped regularly to see the garden. The family kindly allowed the catholic church the use of the garden for garden parties and fetes, to raise money to build a church in Kalamunda. The first fete, held in November 1949, raised one hundred and seventy pounds ($340.00). The church was built five years later, in 1954.
Ernesto grew lovely roses and exhibited them in all the local shows and in 1946 flew some to Melbourne, where he won a trophy for the “Best Rose in Show”.
On their first visit back to Italy, in 1951, Erminia and Ernesto visited an exhibition in Naples honouring “Italians who had gone into the world to work”. There was a large commemorative certificate in Ernesto’s name and a photograph of him cutting wood at Karragullen. Years before, the Italian consul had visited various areas and listed those who had made successful lives here. A copy of the certificate has pride of place in the Carpene home.

Ernesto and Erminia made several trips to Italy but would never return to live. They have raised three children very happily in Kalamunda. The two boys, Victor and Clarence, attended New Norcia College and Mary attended St. Brigid’s, Lesmurdie.
Ernesto died in 1970 and Erminia moved to a smaller house in Lesmurdie and lived there until her death. The house was surrounded by flowers, her sons planted another lovely garden.

Family Information:

Julia Da-Re married Sante Carpene.
          Children;      Luigia, Josephine, Umberto, Angelo & Ernesto.
Ernesto married Erminia Truccolo.


Luigia Santo-Rosa married Francesco Truccolo
          Children;      Antonietta, Matilde, Carmella, Alba, Maria, Erminia, Bruno, Germano,
                                Francesco, Umberto, Silvio & Pietro.
Erminia married Ernesto Carpene
          Children;      Clarence, born 1930. Victor, born 1931. Mary, born 1937.
Victor married Patricia Kelly.
          Children;      Peter, Terry, Paul, David, Andrew, Alison.
Clarence married Beryl Cutler.
          Children;      Lee, Arran, Mark, Serena.
Mary married John Bonomelli.
          Children;      Lisa, Michael.

Every endeavour has been made to accurately record the details however if you would like to provide additional images and/or newer information we are pleased to update the details on this site. Please click here to email us at We appreciate your involvement in recording the history of our area.

References: Article: Pickering Brook Heritage Group
The Kalamunda News

Image: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 13, 18, 19, 23, 24, 26 Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society
2, 6, 10, 15 Mac & Pam Beard
16, 17, 25 Kalamunda Library
9, 20, 21, 22 Lyn Poletti
12, 14 Gordon Freegard
27. 28 Peter Skehan
29, 30 Greg Bendall