submitted by Greekshops .com on 10.12.2010
Vic and Jack Castrission owned the Niagara from the 1930’s to the 1980’s. In the early days it was hailed as “one of the finest cafes in the country” and, following the opening ceremony by the Hon W.F.M. Ross MLA in 1938, the brothers donated the day’s gross takings to the Gundagai Hospital.
In 1942, just after midnight, Jack was locking up when there was a knock at the door. He opened it, prepared to tell an unwelcome visitor where to go, to discover Prime Minister John Curtin. Curtin tipped his hat and said he had a couple of mates in the car and they were all hungry and freezing. The ‘mates’ were future Country Party leader, Artie Fadden, and future PM, Ben Chifley. Vic cooked them steak and eggs and they ate around the warmth of the kitchen stove.
“How’s the war affecting you?” Curtin asked.
“Our ration of tea (28lbs a month) runs out real quick,” Vic replied.
For the rest of the war the Niagara received 100lbs of tea and the PM always dropped in for a cuppa when he was passing through. In those days there was a big difference between corruption and repaying a favour.
I was last in Gundagai on 5 January 2002. The Niagara hadn’t changed a bit. I remember the date because we were sitting in a booth, having a burger and a milkshake, when a Greek Orthodox priest in his robes emerged from the kitchen, splashing holy water about. It was the day before Epiphany.
I got talking with the new owner, Nick – well, he was ‘new’ to me, even though he’d taken over from the Castrissions 19 years before. We chatted about Greece, about Gundagai and about racehorses. I asked about the Castrissions. He stroked his unshaven face, shook his head and told me that the remaining brother, Vic, had died at 10:00am that morning in the Gundagai hospital.
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