A 1921 Carlton membership wasn't the only thing the Pescia family discovered after the death of their father.
A lifelong supporter’s act of generosity towards the Carlton Football Club has been rewarded with a deeply personal discovery - the heritage-listed grocery store and dwelling his great grandfather first occupied in 1885, which still stands within walking distance of the old Princes Park ground.
The chain of events was triggered two Tuesdays ago when Blues enthusiast Barry Pescia, at the urging of his wife Alicia, contacted the club with the offer of his late father’s 1921 Membership ticket for inclusion in its ever-expanding collection – an offer welcomed by Carlton.
The following Thursday, Barry handed over the ticket with the following letter carrying his and Alicia’s signatures.
The enclosed 1921 Carlton Membership ticket has been in my late father’s writing desk for many years. It has been brought out occasionally and shown to visitors, but otherwise has simply remained in the desk. We came across it again and my wife Alicia suggested that the Carlton Football Club might like to have it.
The Pescia family have been Carlton supporters for five generations. Three brothers came to Australia in the 1860s looking for gold. They didn’t find much and one, Carlo, opened a wine shop in Carlton – and thus the Carlton connection began. His son Charles, then my father Cyril and then I have always followed Carlton. My brother’s children, even though they live interstate, also barrack for the Blueboys. No one would dare do otherwise. When Carlton lost the 1949 Grand Final to Essendon I suggested that I may begin to support the winner. I was quickly enlightened and have never wavered since.
Anyway the ticket may be nice to have in your collection on memorabilia. Leaving history aside – we may even go all the way this year.
It is here that the tale turns to the life of Barry’s aforementioned great grandfather.
Carlo Pescia, son of Carlo Pescia senior and Maria Narri, is thought to have been born in the former municipality of Gerra, district of Locarno, in the Swiss Italian canton of Ticino - the region from which Ron Barassi’s great grandfather Carlo Barassi hailed - in 1839.
Carlo, it seems, was the youngest of the three brothers – following Antonio who was born in 1829 and Pietro in 1836. Though it is not known whether Carlo joined his siblings in migrating to Australia, archival records reveal that Pietro decamped the clipper ship Tornado in Melbourne on or about April 5, 1859.
The lure of gold prompted the Pescia brothers to make the trek to Daylesford – and it was here, on October 10, 1865, that 26 year-old Carlo became a naturalised British subject in the State of Victoria.
Nine years later, Carlo married Johanna Shanahan and a son Charles, later the Secretary of the Coachbuilders’ Employees’ Federation, followed.
Having failed to stake a claim in Daylesford, Carlo and his family saw their future back in Melbourne where, through the 1870s, Carlo worked as a fruiterer in the Eastern Market. The Pescia found digs at nearby Ridgway Place, by the Melbourne and Lyceum Clubs where, in 1877, they were cruelly robbed of £126 in gold and notes in a break and enter.
While Barry Pescia always knew that his family’s allegiance with the football club was based on Carlo’s presence in the local area, the exact locale of his great grandfather’s Carlton shop had always remained a mystery.
Archival records reveal that more than a decade before the Carlton Football Club took occupancy of Princes Park, Carlo Pescia took ownership of the new grocery shop, complete with cellar and stables and proudly carrying the name “C. Pescia Buildings” on its rooftop.
One hundred and thirty-five years on, that gracious Hawthorn brick premises still stands at 435 Canning Street at Macpherson Street corner.
In 1992, Carlo’s shop was also the subject of an article penned by historian the late Charles D’Aprano. Entitled “Pescia’s Place”, the article appeared in the Italian Historical Society journal.
D’Aprano wrote that in 1881, with the prevalence of a number of neighbouring bluestone quarries, residential development north of Macpherson Street was only four per cent of the 1861 residential concentration - “so that Carlo Pescia . . . must have been one of the earliest settlers in the quarry filled area”.
With the passing of time, Carlo diversified his business interests. By 1892, he was running a wine hall at 110 Lonsdale Street and by 1907 was officiating as a confectioner at 257 Sydney Road, near the Brunswick Town Hall.
D’Aprano noted that the old Canning Street corner store was purchased by an Italian family in the 1950s, which converted the shop into a dwelling and frequented the premises for many years. D’Aprano noted that the shop had recently been renovated “and made into a charming residence”.
“The young Italo-Australian owner, Joe Donnoli, has insisted on retaining the veranda over the footpath with some of the original posts still in position; the bricks have been cleaned and taken back to their original colour,” D’Aprano wrote.
“The young owner’s love of the house and tasteful renovations have maintained for posterity, at least for some time, a little corner of history”.
In his twilight years, Carlo vacated the old shop and returned to Daylesford, to a quaint doubled-fronted Victorian weatherboard at 17 Vincent Street – and there he died on December 31, 1916.
By then, the Pescia kindred links with the Carlton Football Club were well and truly forged – and through son Charles, grandson Cyril and (to this day) great grandson Barry, remain unbroken.