Frank’s Foden is fantastic
ITALY was not in a good place following the Second World War.
In Calabria, Pasquale Latorre had heard from his brother, Giuseppe (Joe) who had immigrated to Australia in 1948.
There was opportunity on the other side of the world and his brother had secured him work if he wished it, via sponsorship from the owner of the farm on which he worked.
So, in 1950 Pasquale, leaving his wife and young children behind, packed his bags and boarded a ship to the land of plenty.
The following year, in July of 1951, he sent for his family which included Two-and-a-half-year-old Frank.
The work was in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley and the family initially settled at Ardmona.
One of Frank’s earliest memories is from that time.
“I remember Ardmona because I had a finger cut off,” he said.
“There was a chaff cutter to cut the grass for the horses. My brother (older by eight years) was turning the handle and I was feeding in the grass. My brother was stuffing around and bang, no more finger!
“My brother screamed out. Luckily we were near the house. The boss or his wife raced out, reversed the handle and got my hand out of the cogs. I wouldn’t have been three at that stage.”
Shortly thereafter the family moved to a farm at Kialla East where they were provided with a salubrious shack to live in.
“In the shack we only had two rooms. One room was a bed and a dinner table,” he said.
“We would put a piece of timber on the mattress and it was the dinner table, removed at night for a bed. It was an old tin Shanty.
“Mum had to cart the water for cooking and things like that. We only had a very small water tank.
“The following year the farmer bought a second-hand tram from Melbourne which was added to the shack. That was the good part of the house!”
Karma can be a good thing.
“At Kialla we had a very protective rooster that didn’t like kids. My brother got bitten on the Willie by this rooster. They had to take him to the doctor he was bleeding that much. Never heard of anyone else been circumcised by rooster. A bit of payback for my finger I reckon.”
Hard work pays off, and in the early 1960s the family purchased five acres in Shepparton East – moving from a two-bedroom tin shanty to a two bedroom fibro shanty.
With no power, light was provided by kerosene lamps and mum would cart water from the nearby channel.
“Back then they were crystal clear. You could see the tadpoles swimming on the bottom.”
The purchase of the five acres was likely possible because no-one else wanted the land.
“In winter it was so boggy you couldn’t go near it. We got flooded numerous times. In summer you’d need a bomb to break up the ground. But we made it work,” Frank said.
“There were a lot of immigrants – Italians, Albanians and similar in Shepparton. It wasn’t like anyone came with suitcases full of money but they worked bloody hard, made some money and bought their own land. Of course all those immigrant families are now second or third generation Australians.”
At 13, Frank left school to work the farm with his father and in 1964 gained a job at Campbell’s Soups, working on the spaghetti line.
There, he met Mattia, his future wife, who had also come from Calabria.
The work was seasonal so Frank’s time was split between Campbell’s and the farm.
Four years later he, with a bit of cheating, got his licence at age 17.
“I jumped behind the wheel of a truck as soon as I got my license. The first one was an S model Bedford.
“It was a cab over with a tray body and I hauled tomatoes and fruit to Melbourne for the Australasian Jam Company.
“That Bedford was the family truck. A couple of years later we bought a TK Bedford.
“I started, or really fell into my own business when a friend wanted to retire and I took over his job moving product for Rosella foods.”
A succession of trucks followed, including a Leyland, an AB International and a 1979 Atkinson, as heavier and bigger loads meant a better capital return.
“By this time the family had purchased 20 acres – which I later bought off them – and I still worked the farm as well as trucking.”
It was however, a 1965 Foden with a tray body that took Frank’s heart.
Found at Universal Wreckers in Shepparton, he had to tow it home, much to Mattia’s dismay. “I needed something stronger because the farm truck was too small. This truck was solid – well it looked solid from the road anyhow. So I checked brakes, repaired the cracks on the cabin and got it going for registration.”
With the fruit industry expanding and consequently requiring bigger and bigger trucks, Frank made the decision to change direction and work at Young’s quarry.
The Foden lost its tray, to be replaced with a tipper. Originally white, the body was repainted in its current yellow and green livery when Boral bought the business.
The oldest truck working for Boral, Frank found parts harder to get and in 2007 replaced it with an ACCO.
The Foden became Frank’s toy with the now covered tipper becoming his “camper van”.
Over the intervening years he has restored it to “as new”.
Airconditioned, thanks to OH&S requirements during its time at Boral, the Foden is seen at most of Victoria’s truck shows.
The cab is made of wood with fibreglass and the model ran from 1959 through 1968.
The truck has a Road Ranger – not the models original epicycle box.
“They changed them because the epicycle boxes were made by David Brown in England and Australia couldn’t get parts when they wanted them in a hurry,” he said.
Frank’s is the only Foden he knows of that travels around Australia.
“I’ve kept improving on it over the years. I have enough spare parts for another Foden but that’s what you have to do if you want to keep these things on the road.”
Frank retired at Easter, bought forward a little bit by the coronavirus outbreak.
Along the way he learned to count and then left school, at a young age.
He went out and did whatever he had to do.
He worked for the family, SPC, Rosella, Campbell’s soups, Young’s and Boral – whatever it took to put food on the table and provide a roof for his Mattia and their four children.
He bought 20 acres of land and built a beautiful home on it.
We think you deserve your retirement, Frank.
More time to Foden about.
PS: if anyone is interested, Frank has a 1949 FX Holden ute for sale.