AFTER a journey from Sicily to Mundubbera, award-winning songwriter and author Carmelo Cacciola met the love of his life, Lynda, working at the Commonwealth Bank.
Mr Cacciola, also known as "Charlie", grew up in a small town at the base of the majestic Mt Etna volcano in Sicily.
He migrated to Australia with his family in 1954 as a young boy.
Going from city to country life was an eye-opener.
"It took a while to adjust to the hustle and bustle of city life, predominantly due to the language barrier," he said.
Educated in Brisbane, after leaving school he worked in his parents' fruit shop for a while before joining the Commonwealth Bank in 1967.
It was in 1968 when a young 17-year-old rolled into Mundubbera on a Monto-bound goods train for a three-week stint as a bank teller.
Charlie recalled how, back then, it was the duty of the bank to exchange cheques locally.
"It was bank practice for the country banks to exchange cheques locally every day rather than send them to Brisbane and then have them sent back again," he said.
Charlie said there at the bank he met the love of his life, Lynda.
Charlie and Lynda, the daughter of local dairy farmers Allan and Joan Ruthenberg, later married and returned to Brisbane where Charlie pursued his career in banking.
Their story is told in the song Jacaranda Lane, which Charlie wrote.
It was sung by Jim Harding.
Charlie said from the first time he smelled a gum leaf and the dust, he was captivated by the Australian bush.
A fond memory of his early years in Australia is having his first sparrow bath at the homestead on the Ruthenbergs' dairy during the drought of 1969.
Towards the end of his corporate career, at almost 60 years of age, Charlie decided to pursue a life-long passion for writing and it wasn't long before he began writing songs about the Australian bush and the country way of life.
Writing in various genres, he is the co-author of the true crime novel, The Second Father, author of children's novels James, Emily and the Stormbird and Zachery and Nonno go to the Races.
He has written 16 songs recorded by different artists.
Charlie began writing country songs after he met singer/songwriter Jim Harding in 2010.
"Jim was a rugged old cowboy who had knocked around Biggenden and Gayndah in the late 1960s, breaking in horses, competing in rodeos and singing a country song or two," he said.
They didn't know each other then and Charlie said divine providence was the only explanation he could give for a chance meeting with Jim at the Sundowners Country Music Club in Brisbane more than 40 years later.
Charlie and Jim wrote several songs together before, sadly, Jim died of cancer in 2014.
Many of the songs sung and recorded by Jim are based on adventures in the Burnett area, including City Boys and Cowgirls, Wonderful You, The Second Time Around, Nothing Compares to your Smile and Our Journey of Love.
Charlie continued to write country songs after Jim died and achieved first place in the 2015 Australian Songwriters Association Lyrics Awards with Memoirs of Vietnam.
This song was also nominated for the prestigious Rudy Brandsma Australian Songwriters Award in 2017.
He has accumulated an impressive 17-long list of songs in finals and semifinals at Tamworth, Australian Songwriters Association and more.
Four of these songs were recently released by John Abbott on his album High Time Rollin'.
Five of Charlie's songs advanced to the 2018 Tamworth Songwriters Awards semi-finals including Four brothers from Riverleigh, dedicated to Mundubbera-born Anzac Cyril Ruthenberg of the 36th Battalion, who died in New Guinea in 1942 at the age of 22 during World War II.
As well as writing songs, Charlie now gives speeches to seniors' groups, and at libraries about his amazing journey.
Lynda and Charlie have three adult boys and seven grandchildren.
The song A Lifetime of Loving You, sung by John, was a semi-finalist in the Ballad of the Year and TSA/APRA new songwriter awards at Tamworth 2018, and is dedicated to the dairy farmer's daughter Charlie met in Mundubbera 50 years ago this spring.
A Sicilian-born and Australian-raised son of a migrant cane-cutter, Charlie is living proof that there is no age limit to pursuing your dreams.
Have a listen to Jacaranda Lane, inspired from the jacaranda trees on Mundowran Rd in Mundubbera at http://bit.ly/2sps33y.
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