Greeks In Our Lives

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.

Vic Castrissian holding the Maher Cup, with local member Billy Sheahan. Source: Photo. on wall of the Niagara Cafe

Vic Castrission holding the Maher Cup, with local member Billy Sheahan. Source: Photo. on the wall of the Niagara Cafe

George Minos of West Wyalong.

George Minos of West Wyalong. Source: Wyalong & District Family History Group. Tales from the Grave.

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.

firstmatchadvertisement

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

Laurantus

 

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.

Barmedman
Store – Xenophon N. Karandreou (1914)
Fruit & Fish Shop – Bill (Martin) Georgattas  (1916)
Silver Bell Cafe – George Samios & George Kaloutsis (1927, 1938); later Gregory Samios

Boorowa
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)

Cootamundra
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’

Inside Nicholson's Silver Star Cafe Cootamundra owned by the Nikolidakis family. Source: Deidre Winters on Cootamundra Remembers.

Inside Nicholson’s Silver Star Cafe Cootamundra owned by the Nikolidakis family. Source: Deidre Winters on Cootamundra Remembers.

Cowra
Garden of Roses Cafe – Spyros Chatziphotiou (1938); Satouris family
Gardenia Cafe – Stathopoulos family
Paris’ Milk Bar – Con Paris
Regent CafeGeorge Katounis (1934)
Fruit Markets – Nick Cretan (1938)
City Markets – Yannis Pavlakis (1938)
? Cafe – Photios (1946)
Lyric TheatreKouvelis (1921)
Palace Theatre – Kouvelis (1921)

Grenfell
Garden of Roses CafeMichael 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

Gundagai
Boomerang Cafe – G. Bizimis (1951)
Broadway Cafe – Spiro Mylanos
Niagara Cafe – Castrission Brothers (1938)

Harden-Murrumburrah
Australian Cafe – Emanual Bernados (1924)
Paragon & Garden of Roses  – Nik Antonios and Theo Flaskas (1938)

Junee
London Cafe – Basil Georgantopoulos (1938)
Allies Cafe – Peter Prineas (1934)

Temora
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.

Tumut
Excelsior Cafe – Prineas & Theodore (1929, 1950)
Olympia Cafe – Mallos Brothers (1920), previously Theo Christiano
Minerva Cafe
Tumut Cafe – Boujoukos and Zeppos (1935), Con Bennett (1941)
Montreal CinemaPeter Stathis – previously had the Garden of Roses Cafe at Canowindra.

West Wyalong

From the Wyalong Advocate April 1918

From the Wyalong Advocate April 1918

Golden Bell CafeNick 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 Cafemy parents’ wedding reception was here.
‘Minas Kalopaidis in 1911 acquired shops in Wyalong and Temora’

 

Young
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 PicturesKouvelis (1921)
Strand Theatre – Kouvelis (1938)
‘Oyster Saloon’ – Georgios Aronis (pre-first world war)

 

 

drysdale

Joe’s Garden of Dreams by Russell Drysdale

Print Friendly

6 thoughts on “Greeks In Our Lives

  1. Hi Neil
    I am following up on your comment on the Gundagai & Its people page on Facebook
    My name is Peter Castrission (correct spelling of our surname). I am Vic Castrission’s nephew and I live in Canberra. I am 59 and a retired public servant so I still spend alot of time in Gundagai. I would like to give you some information about the Niagara Cafe in Gundagai and my uncles and fathers involvement in Rugby league, group nine and the Maher Cup. The Castrission Brothers acquired premises where the Niagara cafe stands in 1916. After renovations in 1919 it was renamed the Niagara Cafe. Initially (prior to WW2) there were 5 brothers and an uncle involved in the business however after the war, 3 brothers left Gundagai and Jack (my father) and Vic ran the business as a partnership. Both dad and Vic were involved heavily in the Gundagai community including the Gundagai Rugby League club serving on the committee. It was amazing that they had time to do this as the cafe ran 7 days a week, opening at 7am and closing at midnight. They worked a roster system doing about 8 hours each a day. Mind you the cafe had 14 staff on at its peak in the mid 60’s and mum and Vic’s wife May, may a big contribution. Vic was president of the Gundagai Rugby league in 1963 when the Tigers won the group nine premiership and held the Maher Cup for a record stint. I was 8 years old at the time. A vivid memory at the time is of the Maher Cup and the premiership trophy standing proudly in the front window of the Niagara with the Black and Gold ribbons adorning the trophies. John (Bronc) Jones, a Gundagai native was the captain coach at the time. Vic, in his slight Greek accent (he and dad came to Gundagai as young teenagers and never left) would say,” Bronc, make sure you bring the blooda Maher Cup back to Gundagai”. To this day, many older Rugby League followers in the town still refer to the cup as the ‘Blooda Maher Cup’!. It was a similar story after games in Gundagai where all the women and children would pile into the Niagara for sodas and sundaes and there were no males in sight. The only give away to where the blokes were was the slight din eminating from the rear bar of Foleys Gresham Hotel opposite the Niagara where the football ‘function’ was held. As there was no Sunday trading at hotels then you had to be a ‘bonafide’ traveller to get in. I’m not sure how the Gundagai blokes got in but there were plenty of them in there! Vic had 3 sons, Paul, Jim and George who all played Junior footbal for Gundagai in the early 60’s. It was a wonderfully simple life in those days and the saturday/sunday football of Maher cup and competition games consumed the entire community with huge crowds at Anzac park for both days. I hope this information is useful. Jim and George Castrission, Vic’s sons also live in Canberra and may have more information/ photos from Vic’s time as president of Gundagai Rugby League. Vic’s wife May is stil alive at 93 and lives in Uralba Retirement home in Gundagai. Shs still sharp and possibly could tell you more interesting stories. Cheers, Peter

    • This is really lovely – I could imagine the scenes at that time! My grandfather was Nicholas Stathis and he ran a cafe at Queanbeyan after leaving Tumut.

  2. I am the daughter of Nick CRETAN, who worked, then leased the Cowra Fruit Markets 1932 – 1941. He was also employed at the Cowra Garden of Roses Cafe in 1931. Prior to that he worked for a short while in West Wyalong and Ardlethan (1920s).

    I would like to find out more information about those cafes, and what is there today.

    Googled Cowra District Historical Society & Museum but ‘Unlock the past’ link and other links were not direct to Cowra Historical Society. Impossible to find address on internet, so…. .

    Where and how can I obtain further information?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Helen Cretan

    • Hi Helen

      Phoning or emailing the Cowra Public Libary could be a good start. They will know the local sources of information.
      If you search http://www.kythera-family.net/ you will find references to the Cowra Garden of Roses – also a good contact point for people in the Greek community who are interested in cafe family histories. I see at that site that Nick Cretan’s name was Nicholas Ioannis Stavroulakis If you have a more general interest in Greek cafes the following book may be useful to read: Aphrodite and the mixed grill : Greek cafés in twentieth-century Australia / Toni Risson. There are also some links at http://trove.nla.gov.au/.

      When I was last in Cowra I noticed that the Garden of Roses was now converted into a Chinese takeaway, although it was there a couple of years ago – but just a greasy take away not a real old fashioned country cafe. Sorry I know nothing about the Cowra Fruit market

  3. I just want to make a few small changes to some details in your lovely article about Kytherians and their cafes. The Casimatis brothers you mention at Temora were Mick [ Minas ], Jack [ Lorthos ], Theo [1937], Emmanual [ Manuel 1936] and Andrew [1937 / 38 ].
    My dad 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 1945. Andrew also served in the AIF whilst Theo was exempted to run the business.
    If you wish to know more details please contact me on my email address gcasimatis@gmail.com and Casimatis is with one s in our family’s case.

  4. Regarding the photo of Billy Sheahan holding the Maher Cup with Vic Castrission —–
    It was my wife Margaret Daley (nee Sheahan -daughter of Billy) who gave the photo to the Niagara Cafe. We’d called in to the cafe just a few years ago and noticed there was a photo of her brother Terry on the cafe wall but none of her Dad so decided to donate one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *