Resourceful is an apt description of Mario Marino. A stone mason from Pentone Catanzaro, as a prisoner of war in Australia, he nominated his occupation as ‘bricklayer’, a more versatile job. Throughout his life, he continued to work with concrete, stone and bricks in the construction industry in Morwell Victoria owning his own business and operating as Marino Bros.
Among the first 2000 Italian POWs to be shipped directly from Libya to Sydney onboard Queen Mary, from Sydney he was trained to Hay. He travelled with two compatriots also from Pentone, Salvatore Tarantino and Graziano Mustari.
As a ‘skilled’ POW, Mario was put to work in construction at Hay Prisoner of War and Internment Camp. Put to work making clay bricks, Mario spent over two and a half years at Hay before being sent to Cowra. He also had experience in surveying and did surveying for clearing and road building while at Hay. Salvatore was sent to Murchison and then V4 Leongatha while Mario and Graziano stayed together in Cowra then Gaythorne. Their Queensland farm allocations had them sent in different directions: with Mario going to the farm of R Brown at Bapaume in Q1 Stanthorpe area and Graziano to Q3 Gympie area.
Hay, NSW. 1944-01-13/14. Sergeant M. Marino an Italian prisoners of war stacking freshly made clay bricks in the drying shed at the 16th Garrison Battalion Prisoner of War Camp
(Australia War Memorial Image 062932)
It appears that Mario’s resourcefulness had him reallocated to a Victorian farm in the V4 Leongatha area. Interestingly, Salvatore also was at V4 Leongatha at the time and they both spent time together at V22 Rowville.
Repatriated to Italy in January 1947, it wasn’t long before he married Marietta and made plans to return to Australia. He left Italy onboard the Toscano in June 1949 and his first son Antonio was born in July 1949. It would be three years before he would meet his first born child, when his wife and child arrived in Melbourne in 1953.
The Carmody family of Leongatha had been Mario’s POW employer and sponsored his return to Australia. Settling in Leongatha, Mario was joined by his brothers Giuseppe and Angelo. All three brothers worked at the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine in the latter part of 1951. Giuseppe drove the horse and cart which took coal out of the mine on railway lines, Mario was a seamer, lying on his stomach in cramped confines shovelling out the coal and Angelo would stack the coal tightly in the kibbles. Vince Moranti was a family friend who also worked with the Marino brothers in the coal mine.
Built between 1953 and 1954, the Traralgon Hospital construction site became Mario’s new workplace. Continuing working in construction and concrete, he then established himself as a concrete contractor and won council contracts such as footpath building. By 1954, Mario applied for naturalization and in 1955 his naturalization was reported in the newspaper.
Not forgetting his POW compatriots, Mario sponsored Salvatore Tarantino in 1955 and in 1956 Graziano Mustari also migrated to Morwell. Graziano however returned to Italy in 1964.
A growing migrant community in the district opened an opportunity for Mario to branch out into a food emporium in Church Street Morwell, selling salamis, coffee, cheeses and other continental goods. He diversified further by taking his shop to the farmers of the district and his children remember the box of juicy fruit chewing gum kept in the truck.
Returning to construction, Mario continued to work in the industry until his retirement. A supporter of the local football club, the Morwell community held him in high regard and he would always be asked to join the trainer and coach at home games.
And of those days as a prisoner of war, Mario told his family that as soldiers in the sands of Libya, Mussolini gave them little hope and only a pistol with one shot and a rifle with another. The soldiers were half starved and they didn’t have a chance. But his time as a prisoner of war in Australia opened the door to a new start in life for his family.
Resourcefulness and optimism were trademarks to Mario’s life.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1849-1957) Thursday 17 November 1955