The Catalan roots // Frank Power

Frank Power

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Frank Power's memoirs
Frank Power´s travel diary

“After he left Spain the family was to be separated for the next six years as the First World War started in 1914 and there was practically no private travelling between Europe and Australia for the four years that the war lasted”. Frank Power´s memoirs

Frank Power was born in Mataró, in the province of Barcelona, on the 7th November 1906 to Isidro Pou Plasias and Magdalena Campdepadrós. Frank was the second child in a family of four children.

The first house Frank lived in was called “Cal Hermos”, which roughly translates to “Pretty's Place”. Frank's father worked at the market garden, and kept a small herd of goats, which he milked as required for customers on the street.

In 1913 Frank's father left Mataró in search of a better life for his family in Australia. An old friend and co-worker, Puig, was already settled in Bendigo, Australia, and enticed Frank's father to come work for him. Frank was 6 at the time, and remembers tracing his father's initials in his trunk before he left. Due to the world war in 1914, Frank did not see his father again for another six years. He wrote letters to his father on behalf of his mother who was illiterate.

Soon after his father left for Australia, Frank's grandfather died and his mother, siblings and grandmother moved to a flat in the same street. This was a hard period for Frank's mother, who had to work to support the household, without the financial support of her husband. Frank recollects things being tight, but he can never remember going hungry even though they had very few luxuries. Frank's father returned to Spain in 1919, and began making plans to move the family to Australia. It took some time for Frank's father to find a ship with berths for the whole family, but on the 17th November 1920 Frank and his family left Mataró for their new life on the other side of the world.

In his diary, Frank tells us the stories of his trip on board the “Marathon”, from Southhampton to Melbourne and his first reactions once in Australia. They spent their first night at the Crystal Palace on Bourke Street, and next morning his mother went to a milliner to buy a new hat; the Australian lady was not properly dressed if she did not wear a hat. Lunch followed at Clota's restaurant.

Like many of the other Spaniards in the area, Frank's father bought a crop of tomatoes and settled permanently. They worked very hard on the land, but during the depression they ended up with a considerable loss. Frank became tired at the uncertainty of life, and decided to try his luck in Melbourne, where he had a fish shop on Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Frank broadened his skills in the trade, and he began selling fried fish and chips alongside the fresh fish, which became very successful. Later on, he sold his fish shop and went into business with Vincent Rosales, running “Maxims”, a very popular restaurant on Toorak Rd, South Yarra.

Frank was known for his writing skills (beautiful handwriting!). If you want to know more about his life from his own words, click on his diary.