In Maher Cup country Greek families, mostly from the small island of Kythera, contributed significantly to community life and to football. Pictured below is Vic Castrission owner of the iconic Niagara Cafe at Gundagai, and as the president of the Gundagai Rugby League Club, the holder of the Maher Cup.
The golden age of the Greek cafe was from the 1920s to the mid 1960s. This parallels the days of Maher Cup passion. These cafes were part of our lifestyle – the social centre of the community – a place for children, teens and families to socialise. While Dad may be in the pub this is where the rest of us were.
As teenagers we loved to crowd out a cubicle after school, on the way home from the baths, before and after the pictures, and chomping on hamburgers, chips and a spider after playing football. Lou Bezos and family of the ABC Cafe in Grenfell are etched in my memory, as are the etched glass mirrors, the big ladles that reached deep into the milk containers, the juke box, the pin-ball machine, the trouble we caused and the drink we called a ‘fruit X’.
Similarly at Wyalong I remember Georgie Minos and his famous ‘four-in-one’ fruit drinks – worth dreaming about when working in the paddock on a boiling summer day. According to Wyalong & District Family History Group’s Tales from the Grave. ‘Georgie was also a keen Rugby League follower and committee member and could always be seen on the sideline supporting at regular ‘Maher Cup’ matches, always ready with half time oranges for the players’. The Valvis family were warm loving folk who had a store at Toppy. Bessie Calligeros who like my Dad had come into town from Tallimba, was at the Luxor Cafe. He admired her. Miss Winsome Coomber my kindergarten teacher married Peter Bylos. His parents Con and the kind Mrs Bylos, owned the Tivoli Picture Theatre – our own piece of Hollywood and a fine palace for our dreams. In the summer evenings we enjoyed their outdoor cinema – the Reo. On one such night a sudden storm erupted and we all walked from the Reo, which was at one end of the main street to the Tivoli, at the other end, where the film was restarted.
Kevin Cork (in his unfinished Ph.D thesis) has captured the atmosphere of the cinema and cafe in conversation with John Tzannes of Boorowa.
The interesting thing about the picture show in the small country towns in those days was this. It was the social place where the people would gather. And from about – the pictures started about 8 o’clock – from about 7 o’clock we used to put all the lights on [ie under the street awning]…Now that was the time when the girls wanted to show themselves …surprising how well-dressed they were then because they knew they were meeting their friends. Once a month there was a little local band and they used to come and play before the pictures started. And the payment for that was free entrance to the picture show. Now, the most pleasant thing of those days was how well the girls and the people were dressed. Properly dressed. The girls wore always the gloves, even the working class girls. And I remember when we were passing them the change from the little box, they had a bit of a trouble to pick up the change and we used to pick them up and put it in their hand. And after the pictures, there was three cafes very close to there. I’d say between them they would have about 100 seats. And it was then that they would all go for a cup of tea or coffee and meet there and talk there and discuss about the pictures…It was the night of their pleasure. Such was Boorowa in the late 1940s and 1950s.
All Maher Cup towns had Greek cafes, most as far back as 1920. The announcement for the first Maher Cup match ever played is immediately preceded by advertisement for Mallos’ Olympic Cafe at Tumut.
Greeks not only moved into fruit shops, cinemas and later supermarkets, but some also had hotels. The extract below has been posted on the Kythera Family Net site
In 1918, Nicholas and George Laurantus sold the Railway Hotel in Koorawatha, and returned to Grenfell.
They had bought the Albion Hotel, an imposing building on a corner block in Main Street, almost opposite the Thermopylae Cafe. Nicholas [middle row far left] was pleased to leave Koorawatha, for some of his customers — in the main, shearers — drank too heavily with unpleasant results.
Going back to Grenfell was like going home again. Nicholas knew the people and they knew him, welcoming him back as an old friend. He began to borrow books again from the Literary Institute library in the School of Arts and resumed his support for the town’s athletic clubs.
He became patron of the football club whose members made the Albion Hotel their regular drinking place. A contemporary photograph shows the team in their striped jerseys, having successfully defended the Albion Cup — possibly donated by Nicholas….
Source: Pages 23-24, Jean Michaelides. Portrait of Uncle Nick. A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus MBE. Sydney University Press, Sydney. 1987.
There were many Greek business people in Maher Cup country who are most fondly remembered. I’ve started a list, partly based on a directory of Greek businesses from 1938. I wondering if we could build this and add recollections.
Store – Xenophon N. Karandreou (1914)
Fruit & Fish Shop – Bill (Martin) Georgattas (1916)
Silver Bell Cafe – George Samios & George Kaloutsis (1927, 1938); later Gregory Samios
Fish & Oyster Saloon in Marsden St. – George Demos (1912) became the Boorowa Cafe
Boorowa Cafe – Con Pappas (1918); look like moved to the Patroni buildings in Marsden St. in 1937; Yannis Tzannes (1938) – he joined the RAAF during the World War; Leo Ploudias (from about 1949); Doulgeris (1950s), later Sam Cassims.
White Rose Cafe in Court St.- Con & Jack Pappas (at least 1926-1948).
Cafe de Luxe Marsden St – Con Pappas (at least 1921-1935).
Empire Cinema (in the Guild Hall) – Yannis Tzannes (1940s)
Silver Star Cafe – Nikolidakis brothers (known as Nicholson)
White Rose Cafe – Peter Ignatios & Tom Varos (1938); Bill Bahles (1950)
Popular Cafe – Nick Theodore (1947, 1954)
California Cafe – Con Pappas (1954)
‘Minas Koumbis in 1904 acquired a shop in Cootamundra’
Garden of Roses Cafe – Spyros Chatziphotiou (1938); Satouris family
Gardenia Cafe – Stathopoulos family
Paris’ Milk Bar – Con Paris
Regent Cafe – George Katounis (1934)
Fruit Markets – Nick Cretan (1938)
City Markets – Yannis Pavlakis (1938)
? Cafe – Photios (1946)
Lyric Theatre – Kouvelis (1921)
Palace Theatre – Kouvelis (1921)
Garden of Roses Cafe – Michael Psalidas (1930); Stratos Triantafyllou & Kosmas Theodopoulos (1938); Pavlakis Bros. (1946)
ABC Cafe – Bezos (1960s)
Allies Cafe – Kovelis
Warratah Cafe – Ferris
Monterey Cafe – Jerry Bonos (1935-1938), Nick Lertas (sold 1949), L. Bonos (1949). Possibly sold to Nick Fouzas (1950)
Fruit shop – Emmanuel Aroney (pre-world war one), Peter Limbers (1919)
Grenfell Delicatessan – Theodosiou
Grenfell Fruit Mart – Theodosiou
George’s Milk & Hot Food Bar – Raftopoulos
Korinthia Cafe (later Admiral Cafe) – Nick Fouzas and later Parashos
Fish Shop – Psalidas Bros (1936)
Blue Ocean Fish Shop – Stephanis
Boomerang Cafe – G. Bizimis (1951)
Broadway Cafe – Spiro Mylanos
Niagara Cafe – Castrission Brothers (1938)
Australian Cafe – Emanual Bernados (1924)
Paragon & Garden of Roses – Nik Antonios and Theo Flaskas (1938)
London Cafe – Basil Georgantopoulos (1938)
Allies Cafe – Peter Prineas (1934)
Silver Star Cafe – Tony Kaloutios and Kosmas Samios
White Rose Cafe – Built for Peter Caligeros in 1909. The Casimatis brothers: Mick [ Minas ], Jack [ Lorthos ], Theo , Manuel and Andrew owned it from 1933. Manuel also owned the White Rose at Ariah Park with Theo and Andrew. He later owned a cafe at Chatswood after he was discharged from the army in 1945owned it from 1933. Jack Stamatis owned it in 1950. This cafe is still open and a fine milkshake can be had.
? Cafe – P. Semos (Samios?) (1935)
Strand Theatre – Kouvelis (1921), Peter Caligeros (1947)
Minas Kalopaidis in 1911 acquired shops in Wyalong and Temora
The Caligeros brothers – Dimitri, Panayiotis & Spyridon – and Mr G. Calopedis in 1916 already had businesses in Temora and West Wyalong. The also owned businesses at Tallimba and Lake Cargelligo.
Excelsior Cafe – Prineas & Theodore (1929, 1950)
Olympia Cafe – Mallos Brothers (1920), previously Theo Christiano
Tumut Cafe – Boujoukos and Zeppos (1935), Con Bennett (1941)
Montreal Cinema – Peter Stathis – previously had the Garden of Roses Cafe at Canowindra.
Golden Bell Cafe – Nick Lourandos (1940s)
Acropolis Cafe – Peter Caligeros & Minas Calopidis (1911), Peter Caligeros & Peter Tambakis (1918)
Luxor Cafe – Mr Favero, then the Casimatis brothers of Temora from 1940. Later Peter & Bessie Caligeros, followed by Peter Drakakis.
Paragon Cafe – George Mallos (died 1934). He originally had an oyster bay he bought from Mr Aroney – burnt down in 1920. The Paragon was initially a partnership of George and Steve Mallos and John Paspalas. In 1930s sold to Theo Brown and in 1941 to N. Coumbis. Later owners were Dassos, Anangnustou, Koumania and Poulos .
Tivoli Theatre & Reo Gardens open air Theatre – Con Bylos (1933)
Victory Cafe – my parents’ wedding reception was here.
‘Minas Kalopaidis in 1911 acquired shops in Wyalong and Temora’
Golden Key Cafe – Kon Koutsopoulos (1938), later Alvanos.
Town Hall Cafe, California Cafe – Peter Skorinis (1938)
Hollywood Cafe – Pappas
Monterey Cafe – Mitchis (1941)
Astor Cafe – Gavrilis
Imperial Pictures – Kouvelis (1921)
Strand Theatre – Kouvelis (1938)
‘Oyster Saloon’ – Georgios Aronis (pre-first world war)