submitted by Peter Makarthis on 18.05.2007
The Australia Café and Jim Boutieris
A Touch of Greece in Otho Street
The attrition of time has also taken its toll and little remains to mark many café sites of the past in Inverell. Jindabyne House (Williams & Son 1902), Byron Arcade (A.B.C. Tea Rooms 1904), Phoenix Chambers (S.Peter & Co1914), Grove House (Strand Café 1916) and The Regent Café site in Byron Street have been left standing that housed these businesses. The old Royal Hotel building on the corner of Otho and Evans Streets which housed the Black and Green Bar and latterly the Transit bar is now vacant and destined soon for demolition. The last known purpose built building for a café is the site of the Australia Café at 28 Otho Street. (now Telstra Shop)
Many site locations are unknown due to the lack of a street numbering system until the mid 1930’s. Advertising defined the street name and the sites were sometimes identified by their proximity to adjoining or opposite businesses of significance.
Conflagrations, wreckers and redevelopers have claimed the others and the only evidence of their existence is in early advertising, old photographs and fading memories. Most proprietors leased premises. Legal records such as leases have largely disappeared due to the ravages of time, flood and fire.
Significant sites that have been redeveloped include Burge Brothers ( S.Peter & Co /Alhambra Café) in Byron Street, the Queensland Insurance building( Johnny Harrison’s Marble Bar)in Otho Street, the old AMP Building (Central Cafe) in Byron Street and the development on the corner of the Bryon Street and Swanbrook Road. The latter site attracted business in earlier times as it was in close proximity to the original showground and the bustle of the railway station.
Arthur James Asher and wife Mary Josephine Asher built substantial premises
on the site of 26-28 Otho street Inverell in 1936. They retained the No 26 site for themselves having previously traded as jewellers for some years in Byron Street. The site of No 28 was leased to a partnership of Greeks who established the Australia Café
Mr.B.M.Wade was responsible for the fine building, the interior work od the café being placed in the hands of a metropolitan specialist. The electrical equipment and refrigerators were installed by Mr. H. Brissett.
The Australia Café was opened on Friday 23 October 1936 by partners
Jim Boutieris , Evangelos Coutsonikolas (aka Angelo Nicholas), Achilleas Detsikas (aka Archie Dickens) and Constantine Pavlakis
Bold advertising in the Inverell Times 19 October announced the opening of the Australia Café – ‘This up to date café will be opened on Friday morning next, the 23 instant. A Cordial Invitation is given to all to inspect this modern Café. The Management will devote Six guineas of the first days takings to the District Hospital. All patrons are assured of receiving the very best of service at all times at this LUXURIOUS CAFÉ.
A comprehensive report of the premises is recorded in the Inverell Times 26 October 1936
Trade was vigorous and competitive with existing established cafes including four conducted by Greeks in the main streets. Harry Fardouly conducted the Regent Café in Byron Street. The Psaros brothers - Theo and Peter - conducted the IXL( Jindabyne House) and S.Peter & Co (Phoenix Chambers) in Otho Street with Steve Mitchell the proprietor of the Black and Green Bar on the corner of Otho and Evans Street . In April of 1936 the IXL Café was severely damaged by fire and at the time of the opening of the Australia Café, the IXL was being extensively refurbished as the Monterey Café and opened a few weeks later.
The partnership flourished and in 1939 Jim Boutieris left for Greece to marry with the intent of returning to Inverell. WW2 intervened with Jim and his wife being stranded in Greece for the duration of WW2.
The remaining three partners continued to conduct the Australia Café until December 1940 when they sold the business to Sid and Harry Zantis (from Warialda).
Michel Coutsonikolas, an employee and relative of the original partners, was retained by the Zantis brothers. Sadly Michel was drowned in tragic circumstances when swimming at Deans Rock in Jan 1942. His family did know of his death until after the liberation of Greece in September 1945.
Norm Merchant was employed by Sid Zantis after WW2 as were a number of young women from Inverell as waitresses.
In 1953 the Zantis families moved to Canberra and the café was operated briefly by the Parmenter family as the Little Dutch Inn
Luka & Sophia (nee Coutsonicas/Cominos) Radovanovic conducted the Café from 1954-56.
George Cooper (‘Uncle George’) and Kerry Demosthenous(arrived Australia per SS Misr 20 Apr 47) acquired the Australia Café on 5 Dec 1956.
Peter Giannes worked at the café from 1968-1972 ~ Bought the Black & Green Bar from Steve Mitchell.
Kerry Demothenous, wife Helen and family moved to Sydney 1968 and the café was conducted by George Cooper
Australia Café closed July 1975 and resumed in the Monterey premises at 52 Otho Street July 1975.
The research of the history of our community reveals the evolution of the past and on occasions the character, personality and life of individuals is opened for us to acknowledge. Jim Boutieris and his WW2 experience is no exception.
The Inverell Times of 5 December 1949 featured an article on the front page headed –
“INVERELL GREEK HELPED TROOPS, GETS REWARD”
“Quite a lot of Inverell people will remember Jim Butery, a Greek who once held a partnership in the Australia Café Otho Street.
Many of them will wonder what happened to him during the war but few of them know of the wonderful work he did under constant threat of death in helping Allied prisoners of war.
When war hit Greece, Jim Butery who had enough money in Australia to have a trip home was there.
He was caught there by the invading Italian and German forces, caught like a lot of AIF men, New Zealand Expeditionary Force soldiers and British troops.
Jim Butery knew whose side he was on.”
The feature article continued with Jim’s frustration of his return to Australia in 1946 and difficulty with the arrival of his family to join him in Australia.
Walter Wilson, accountant of Inverell and Ross Smith who had served in the Greek campaign were assisting with the return of the family to Australia with the support of the RSL sub branches at Inverell and Mungindi.
The article concluded –
“ Jim Butery’s wife and family are migrants we’ll be proud to have.”
The Battle of Crete has been described as Hitler’s most costly victory in World War 2 and on this occasion we pay tribute to those who took part in events following this campaign in Greece.
Winston Churchill acknowledged the contribution of the Greeks with his statement –
“We will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”
‘Kyriakos”’ Charles Jager a generation later wrote of his experience in this historic event.
“We could not have survived without the protection and the courage of the Greek people.” Vlll Acknowledgement
“Kyriakos” Charles Jager ‘Escape from Crete’
On this occasion we acknowledge the life and courage of Jim Boutieris one of the Greek men that established the Australia Café in Inverell during1936.
Three years ago my daughter, Catherine (from Tasmania) gave me a book “Escape From Crete” by Charles Jager and wrote in the front cover:
“Dad, Hope this helps you in your search.”
Little did she know the importance of her wish as she had not read the book.
“Escape From Crete” is an account of the escape of a group of Australian and New Zealand servicemen from Crete during World War 2 written by Charles Jager, one of the escapados.
This book recounts the logistics, the risks, and the bravery required for the escape and gratefully acknowledges the courage and daring of the Greek people involved.
I am currently in the final stages of writing a book of the pioneering Greeks of Inverell and District and came across the name “Jim Boutieris”, a partner of the Australia Café at Inverell in 1936.
I subsequently found a photo in the Devine Collection of the Greeks who established the café in Otho Street and an extensive report in the Inverell Times featuring the opening of the premises - but there was no mention of the proprietors.
Following a number of enquiries, Norm Merchant, a long time stalwart of the Inverell RSL, was able to provide a hazy account of Jim Boutieris’ association with the Australia Café and his return to Australia after World War 2, made possible with the assistance of the RSL.
It appeared, at the time, that this was going to be the extent of my research in this regard.
It wasn’t until I continued reading Escape from Crete that, to my amazement, Jim Bouteris and his heroism emerged in the latter half of the book.
I was immediately inspired and motivated to accept the challenge to find the family of this extraordinary man - (almost a story within itself.)
Demetre Theodore Boutieris was born in September 1905 in the village of St Nicholas (Ayios Nikolaos Vion) situated on the southern tip of the mainland of Greece.
The village on the lower slopes of mountainous terrain overlooks the Straits of Kythera and the island of Kythera to the west and the Sea of Crete to the south. On a clear day the White Mountains of Crete are visible on the horizon to the south. The Bouteris family lived in this picturesque village and tended their farm on the outskirts of Agios Nikolaos.
The economic and political climate in Greece during the late 1920’s was volatile and Australia beckoned as a place of opportunity for young men willing to work and establish themselves in business.
A significant number of the young men from the nearby island of Kythera for some decades had immigrated to Australia and word had reached the village of the success the Kytherians had achieved in re-establishing themselves.
Jim made the decision that it was in his best interests to leave Greece and set out (accompanied by several other Greeks from same locality) on the long voyage halfway across the world.
Jim was able secure passage to Australia via Piraeus, the port of Athens, Port Said in Egypt, through the Suez Canal and across the Indian Ocean to Australia – arriving on the French ship “Ville De Strasbourg in Sydney on 3 November 1927.
Fortunately the reports were true and employment opportunities for enterprising young men did exist with particular demand in the café scene in Sydney with building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Jim Boutieris and his fellow passengers worked in Sydney until employment opportunities wound down as the bridge neared completion.
The Perivolaris brothers, who had accompanied Jim on the voyage, had purchased the Paragon Café in Moree c 1931 and had offered Jim a job working at the Paragon Cafe which he took up in 1932 and continued through to mid 1936.
Jim Boutieris with partners Con Pavlakis, Evangelos Coutsonikolas and Achilles Detsikas aka Archie Dickens opened the Australia Café in Inverell on 23 October1936.
The business venture proved very successful and with confidence in Australia as a nation he applied for naturalization as an Australian citizen on 10 March 1938. In due course his application was approved with his Oath of Allegiance sworn at the Inverell Court House on 6th May and his Certificate of Naturalization issued on 10 June 1938.
Now Jim was almost 33 by this stage and understandably keen to start a family. In keeping with Greek tradition he returned to his home village to marry Matina and planned to return to Inverell after the wedding.
Things didn’t quiet go to plan with events of the world intervening and in the words of Charles Jager he found himself (and his young family) “wrong footed.. when war broke out.”
Early in 1941 the Axis forces invaded Greece with British, Australian and New Zealand taking refuge on the island of Crete.
Jim Boutieris knew where his allegiances lay as an Australian citizen. At great risk to his own life and also that of his young family - he joined a local resistance group who gathered information about the occupying forces and passed this on to British Intelligence. He is known to have made a number of journeys to Athens as a courier during the occupation.
From the vantage point of the village overlooking the Straits of Kythera, he witnessed the airborne invasion of Crete and the sinking of HMS Gloucester.
*HMS Gloucester a light cruser saw heavy service in World War II. On May 22, 1941, while helping defend Crete, the Gloucester was dive-bomed by German Stukas and sank, having sustained at least four heavy bomb hits and three near-misses. 723 lives were lost, with just 82 survivors. Her sinking is considered to be one of Britain's worst wartime naval disasters.
The survivors were held on the island of Kythera until they were taken to POW camps in Germany. These survivors were housed at Kapsali a village on the southern tip of the island and were fed and cared for by the Greeks on the island.
The drone of Junkers troop carriers, strafing Messerschmitt and screaming Stukas in the Straits of Kythera and the Sea of Crete reinforced Jim’s resolve to return to Australia with his family at the earliest opportunity.
The invasion of Crete had been swift and the occupying forces were stretched to contain the vast numbers of POW’s.
Consequently a considerable number POW’s managed to escape with many utilising the long established smuggling routes in the region. The resistance group soon found themselves involved in screening and assisting escaping Australians and Allied escapados from Crete.
Charles Jager- escapado and author - recounts the arrival at St Nicholas:
Read from p 266-7
“Late afternoon we make a landfall in a cove below a village called Ayois Nikolaos ……….
…………In the cave is a rough looking bunch in cast-off clothing , about half and half Kiwis and Australians.”
Charles Jager’s recollection of Jim Boutieris
“Jim Bouteris is a Greek I haven’t met but I have heard a lot about. He is an Australian citizen wrong footed during a visit back to his village when war broke out, and yet another Greek who would put his neck on the block for us. Hosking, [a fellow escapado] has told me of this bloke – so proud of his Australian passport and command of English – and escapados who landed along the coast and claimed to be Australians, were directed to his cottage and vetted before being guided to our cave.” p 276
With the situation becoming even more volatile, members of the resistance group were able to commandeer a caiiquis (a traditional fishing / smuggling sailing boat)
on 3 October 1941 for escapados to sail to Egypt.
The group that escaped included the late Noel Park MP of Tamworth.
Stories of the escape were circulating around the village and soon spread to collaborators. It was not long before the village was the centre of intense scrutiny by the occupying forces from nearby Neapolis.
With his own life under threat Jim was forced to escape on a British patrol boat to Cyprus where he remained until the end of the war.
It was not possible for Jim’s wife Matina and their young family to escape with him to Cyprus. Matina and the children stayed in the village.
The island of Kythera was the first landing place for Greek and British forces for the liberation of Greece in September 1944 – with the nearby mainland (including the village of Ayios Nikolaos) liberated shortly thereafter.
“Peace did not come the day the Germans evacuated Greece but civil war.”
Jim was still a “man of interest” to collaborators who had taken the offensive in the civil war. With this situation prevailing on his arrival from Cyprus, Jim Boutieris set about seeing his family, ensuring their welfare and returned to Australia alone.
The Allied Screening Commission, a body established to provide assistance to, and recognition of partisans, were only able to provide only token assistance.
With the help of Jim’s friend and accountant, Walter Wilson of Inverell and Ross Smith of Inverell RSL sub branch, it was possible for Jim to return to Australia on the Kominos in 1948.
Upon his arrival, Jim wasted little time in establishing himself. Utilising funds from his portion from the sale of the Australia Café at Inverell, Jim purchased the Café De Lux in Mungindi in 1948 from Pippos Bros.
Representations by the RSL sub branches at Inverell and Mungindi saw Matina and their children return to Australia, arriving in May 1950.
Jim and Matina operated the Café de Lux until 1962 and moved to Sydney..
Jim passed away on 23 January 1998 at his home in Maroubra. His funeral was attended by ‘Rusty’ Priest President of the RSL of Australia, a contingent of surviving escapados (including Charles Jager and Charles Hosking) formed a “Guard of Honour” with their relatives including the Park family from Tamworth.
Charles G.S.Hosking a surviving escapee addressed the remains at the graveside :-
“We who joined common cause with Greece in resisting the invader, address you, who made common cause with us in adversity after our capture and escape.
Goodbye friend we shall meet again in the Hall of Heroes.
For now Farewell Friend faithful and fearless
Greater love hath no man”
Jim is buried in Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park Sydney.
Matina, Jim’s devoted and loving wife passed away, aged 84, on 28 July 2005 at Maroubra.
Jim and Matina’s children - Maria, Christine, Theodore(dec), George, Joyce and Joanne must be very proud of what their parents have achieved and endured in their lifetime.
On a recent visit to Greece in 2005, my wife Deanna and I visited the village of St Nicholas and drove to the higher ground where the escapados were harboured by the villagers during the escape and shared the scene that those escapados a generation ago had experienced.
We later sailed across the dedicated war grave of HMS Gloucester deep below us in the Sea of Crete on our journey to Crete from our ancestral island of Kythera.
We also crossed the path of the escaping caiiqui. We joined in the Oxi Day (Greek National Remembrance Day) celebrations on 28 October 2005 in Freedom Square in Iraklion.
Jim Boutieris was a humble man and was reluctant to tell this incredible story.
Now a lifetime later we acknowledge his courage.
Inverell Times 1936,1948.
National Archives of Australia
Devine Collection – Inverell Library
Escape From Crete – Charles Jager March 2004
Remember Greece – Dilys Powell 1941
History of Mungindi to 1988
*www.Wikipedia.- HMS Gloucester 1941.
Anzac Day Luncheon Address - 2007- by Peter McCarthy
Norm Merchant –Inverell 2003-2007
Joe Hughes – Inverell 2003-2007
George Bouteris – Sans Souci January 2005
Angelo & Katina Zerevos – Uralla 2006
Angelos Zantis Goulbourn 2005
Maria Nikiforides – Canberra 2005
Selby Dean – Inverell 2006
‘Kyriakos’ Charles Jager – Sydney July 2005
Mrs D.P.Hosking Glen Iris VIC 2007
George Cooper – Sydney 2003
Yanni Radovanovic – Brisbane 2005
Peter Giannes – Inverell 2007
Mark Demothenous Sydney 2007
Lorna Enchalmier Inverell 2007
Ayios Nikolas Vion Greece October 2005
Iraklion Crete Greece November2005
Jim Boutieris – George Boutieris Sydney
Australia Café 1936 – Devine Collection Inverell
Mungindi RSL 2007 – Peter McCarthy
Editing Melina McCarthy
© S.Peter & Co May 2007
27 Inverell Street
Delungra NSW 2403
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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