Pineapple farm at Montville
(Picture Queensland, State Library of Queensland)
Much of the history of the Montville district has been lost as the farms have disappeared to make way for progress.
I was a young teenager during the war and remember well the Italian Prisoners of War on Cliff Dart and Artie Glover’s farms. I am not sure if the Italians were billeted with Cliff Dart and then loaned to Artie Glover, but there were a number of them during that time.
Pineapples were farmed there and the Italians were good workers. I suppose they did all the jobs around the farm including picking and packing.
I remember the Italians as being decent fellows. They were docile and peaceful and never any trouble. Cliff Dart had a spare house on his farm so the Italians lived independently. They had their beds and everything set up for cooking. So they had it pretty good. One fellow, I remember as being short and fat, probably the cook. Sometimes, at night, they would come down to our farm. They seemed to be able to move around freely.
They liked to tell stories. I remember there were many conversations and the Italians made it clear that they did not like the war. They were interested in learning about the history of the district and they would tell us stories about life in Italy. There was never a feeling that they were dangerous. When the war ended and peace declared, they were very excited to tell us that the war had finished. They were good singers too. It was like they were trained opera singers with their tenor voices. You could hear their singing and music from our farm.
Cliff Dart would take them to the Catholic Church in Nambour as there wasn’t a church in Montville. I remember the orange coloured uniforms they had to wear and the Army Supply Truck that would come around to the farms about once a month. The Italians could get lots of items that we couldn’t buy what with food rationing. They would always say after canteen day, “we give you some” as they offered and shared chocolate with us kids. The idea that Italian POWs could buy items like tinned peaches, did not sit well with the locals. They had more than they could eat, so we would swap tinned peaches for bananas we grew on our farm.
I can’t remember exactly when they arrived, but it was almost like one day they were there and then they were gone. It was a bit like that when the army set up camp with new recruits on the sports ground. There was a lot of military activity during the war in the district. An army camp would be set up, the soldiers would undergo their training and then overnight, they would disappear. All tents and equipment just gone.
Montville had four guest houses at the time and army and air force personnel would come up to Montville for R & R. They would come up with their girlfriends and then after they left, the pilots would fly over or buzz over Montville to say goodbye to their girlfriends. I have the Yankees to thank for not becoming a smoker. A couple of my mates and I obtained a packet of Camel or Lucky Stripes from the Yankees. Between us, we smoked the whole packet. I was crook. I never had a cigarette again. My parents didn’t say anything, but I am sure they knew what I had been up too.
The war had an impact on schools as well. Slit trenches were built in the school yard and air raid drills were held. There were about 70 pupils at the school and the younger kids would go in the morning and the older kids would go to school in the afternoon. It might have had something to do with us going from two teachers to one teacher during that time.