By PAUL MENSCH
ANYONE in the front bar of the Gol Gol Hotel on a Friday night will be sure to find Arthur ‘Arch’ Modica selling raffle tickets to raise money for his beloved Gol Gol Football Club.
It’s a job he has done for the past 12 years, with everyone in the bar offered the chance to win a meat tray or pub voucher.
Arch and his wife Margaret are stalwarts of the Gol Gol Football Netball Club, and have been involved since the club’s inception in 1980.
And while their efforts have been appreciated, the history of the Modicas in Gol Gol actually dates back to 1937, when Arch’s father, Mario, bought a share of 29 acres with his uncle-in-law Ross Minuto.
Mario and his son Tommy moved onto the property near Moontongue Creek (now known as Gol Gol Creek) and built glasshouses and planted vines and citrus trees.
“Tommy’s mother had died during childbirth, and Dad married his second wife, Antoinette, my Mum, three years later,” Arch said.
The couple raised nine children, three boys and six girls, on the Gol Gol farm. All nine children are still alive today, with Tommy the oldest at 83.
“Other than three years in Melbourne and two years in Buronga, I have lived my entire life on this family farm,” Arch said.
After serving in World War 2, Marg’s father, Jack Nolan, moved to Mildura and bought a little market garden near the Riverside Golf Course. He then got into mail contracting, undertaking deliveries to places like Menindee, Renmark, Wentworth and Ouyen.
Marg’s family bought the original Buronga shop that sat where the car park for the Caltex service station is today.
“It was the newsagent, post office, café, milk bar and grocery store, and my sister and I worked there after school,” Marg recalls.
Arch and Marg were married in 1967, and moved into the old family home that Arch had grown up in.
“Mum and Dad had built a new house nearby in 1964, leaving the old home vacant, so we moved in,” Arch said.
Arch and Marg were to raise their four kids in the old house until they built their dream home on the banks of Gol Gol Creek in 1999.
The couple still live there today, enjoying visits from friends and family.
To say that the couple have helped sporting clubs in Gol Gol would be an understatement. The list of accolades, life memberships and certificates of appreciations is long to say the least.
Arch was vice president of the Gol Gol Football Club in its first year, and president in its second. He held the job for four years the first time, and has served a total of eight years in the top job.
He has also served as president of the Alcheringa Junior Football Club, was a foundation member of the Alcheringa Cricket Club, (now known as Workers Gol Gol Cricket Club) and was a foundation member of the Buronga Gol Gol Lions Club.
He was part of the committee that built the Gol Gol Oval, and it was designed on the dimensions of VFL Park in Waverly.
“At the time the VFL had a push for ovals to be the same size, and that is why it is so big,” Arch said
Initially home games were played at Wentworth and training was at Nichols Point until the oval became usable. Wentworth Shire Council supplied the irrigation pipes, and Arch organised local people to install them for free, plus a pump on the river.
As the club was being established, the decision on what jumper the team was to wear was a hot topic.
“There had been junior teams participating in the Sunraysia league in the under 14 and 16 divisions called Alcheringa, and they had worn St Kilda colours,” Arch recalls. “Bambill already had these colours in the Millewa league, so it was ruled out.
“Mick Murphy designed a jumper inspired by fires in the district in the late ‘70s and it was burnt orange and green! We had one made and it was bloody terrible, so the committee decided to go with the Hawthorn jumper.”
In fact, Arch still has the prototype of the suggested jumper that he decided to keep for historical reasons.
He has been named clubman of the year (Mr Gol Gol) three times, and has been awarded life membership of the footy club – the Gol Gol 100 Club – and has an appreciation award from the AFL.
Marg has also worked hard behind the scenes, and has also been awarded life membership of the Gol Gol footy club for her efforts.
She worked the canteen every year up until two years ago.
“In the very early days of junior footy, and before the current home ground was built, I would tow a caravan to Wentworth every home game and operate it as the club canteen,” Marg recalls. “We sold hotdogs, pies and soft drinks.”
Marg can still be seen courtside at every home game, supporting the club’s netball teams, and was also involved in the Alcheringa Basketball Club in its early days.
“When my family owned the Buronga shop the kids from the local school asked if we could help them with their basketball,” Marg said. “My sister and I were at the first meeting at the Buronga Scout Hall that set up the Alcheringa Saints Basketball Club.”
Marg played for the club for many years, and coached many of the junior sides. She has since been made a life member of the basketball club and the Sunraysia Basketball Association.
Both Arch and Marg take great pride in seeing where their beloved footy club is today.
“We have seen the footy club win 11 grand finals in 37 years, which is not too bad!” Arch said.
They have been instrumental in helping the club get funding for the clubrooms and amenities they have, but are both very quick to point out that they were not alone in doing this.
“Many good people in the Gol Gol community have, and continue to help, make the club what it is,” they said.
While Arch has retired from the land, he still has a small plot of land set aside for his vegies. Known around town as the ‘Gollywog’ – being an Italian bloke from Gol Gol – you can still pick up some of his tomatoes at the vegie shop at the corner of Eleventh Street and San Mateo Avenue, or call into his place at the end of Wilga Road.
“Peter Cameron called me the original Gollywog one day and I decided to get signs made up and embrace the name,” Arch said. “I even have a collection of golliwogs at home.”
The family also takes great pleasure in getting together annually for salami making – a pastime that is now a 20-year family tradition.
“It has been trial and error but we have it down pat,” Arch said. “It’s funny how each batch is different even though you do it the same each time.”
Arch and Marg see it as family bonding and a lot of fun. They also make their own pasta sauce, olives, pickled onions and pickled eggplant, while also making their own spiced-vinegar.
“I have got hold of the old Heley’s soft drink recipe from Ian Heley, as they used to make it,” Arch said. “We use it for cooking all the time.”
With all their community involvement, it is no surprise that their kids are also community-minded. Their youngest daughter Emma has dedicated a lot of time to netball over the years, and is now involved in umpiring netball.
She also served as secretary of the Millewa Netball Association for two years.
Their oldest daughter Lisa lives in Melbourne, and works for the Justice Department.
Son Jason is a Mildura Councillor, and has served a term as Deputy Mayor, while their younger son Mario recently organised a charity walk and raised nearly $5000 for Sunraysia Cancer Resources.
So if you ever find yourself in the Golly pub on a Friday evening, make sure you say G’day to Arch and pick up a couple of raffle tickets – you just might win a meat tray!