Paparo Ilario

Paparo Ilario (Larry)

By Vince Paparo

When Vince Paparo’s father planted roses at his family home, he was doing more than growing flowers – he was also cultivating his children’s love of education.

The time was circa 1960 and the place was at the end of Union Road, Carmel, where I lived for the first 16 years of my life. My Dad, Ilario, had just planted some roses for my mum, Rosa Maria. I was quite young but I remember how excited he was. Roses for Rosa.

Ilario and Rosa Maria married young; Ilario was in his early twenties, Rosa just 16. Both came to Australia as children from impoverished towns in Calabria, southern Italy, just before the outbreak of World War 2. They built a good life on Union Road, in a small wooden house on 10 acres of land, and had seven children.

Their plan was to use the rich Carmel soil to grow fruit and vegetables for market. Tomatoes, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, cauliflowers, beans and peas were all grown with varying success, the vagaries of weather, pests and markets all taking their toll. Many of the orchards and market gardens in Carmel and the wider Bickley Valley area were owned and run by Italian migrants, and most children were required to join the family business by the time they reached second year at high school, to help make ends meet and hopefully make a fortune.

In our family, however, leaving school was unthinkable. I had the impression my parents would have worked themselves to death rather than cut short our schooling. We knew there was a family pact in play, a fundamental understanding education was the key to our future.

The roses Dad bought for my mum had come from a nursery in Carmel, three miles from where we lived. It was run by a Mr. Melville, and Dad would always tell us how the nursery owner had a degree in agriculture from ‘the University’. That was of course The University of Western Australia, the only one in the state in those days.

While I was growing up, Mr. Melville was the only person I knew of with a degree, and Ilario said if you really wanted to be an orchardist or market gardener you had to get a university education first, just like Mr. Melville did.

Decades late, I learnt the Pythagoras had spent a significant period of his life in the Caulonia area of Calabria where Dad was born (although more than 2,000 years earlier), Plat, too, spent years among the olive groves of what is now southern Italy. I don’t know whether Dad knew about Pythagoris or Plato, but I do know that when he spoke of Mr. Melville and the idea of learning, it was with a reverence both would have applauded. He had a conviction that developing the mind, learning new things and reflecting on ideas was vitally important to human existence, and that even the children of Italian peasants could aspire to that.

Foot Note:
As it turns out, Vince Paparo did obtain a degree from UWA, the first of the seven children in his family to do so – an amazing tribute to their parents. “We were an eclectic lot, too: medicine, law, arts, economics, science and mathematics,” Vince says, “At the age of 57, Ilario lost a desperate fight against cancer. However he died knowing that the importance of education had well and truly taken root in his family, and that the ideas he and Rosa had planted in the rich Carmel soil, were flourishing.

Our records show that George Frederick Melville completed a Bsc (AG) in 1936 and a MSc (Ag) in 1939. While the original ‘Mr. Melville’ who had six children of his own, is deceased, Uniview managed to track down his grandson, Robert Melville who is keeping history alive and runs a third generation rose farm, Melville’s Rose n Garden, in the Perth Hills.

Reference:                           Article:        “Uniview Publication” Autumn Issue 2018

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