submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 05.01.2004
The Clarence District
Athanasios Anastasios Samios came down from Murwillumbah in early 1908, by then an old experienced hand aged 20, and was possibly a waiter for someone or other until establishing/acquiring his own restaurant in High Street about 6mths later, at which time he also scored a 160 acre parcel of Crown land. But unlike a lot of other Kytherians in the district he didn’t find farming one of the great joys in life and is believed to have resettled in Sydney around 1911/12, perhaps with a short sojourn at Coffs Harbour.
His shop was acquired by the Potamos cousins Theo Harry and Mick Charles Catsoulis. Twenty six year old Theo landed in 1904 and went to Glenn Innes for a couple of years before moving to Grafton and subsequently to Whiporie, further up the road towards Casino, to become a dairy farmer. His daughter Maria, born at Bellingen in 1912, probably wins third place in the race to populate the north coast with Greek-Australians.
Mick, born in 1884, the son of Cos, the Potamos cop, and Marigo, nee Panaretos, worked for Mina Anthony Comino in Pitt Street until staked by Mina into a partnership with Harry Tsicalas and Jim Menegas in a café at Warwick in 1907. He went off to serve in the Balkan War and upon return in 1915 acquired the restaurant business of Victor Tsicalas at Goondiwindi, alternating between his business interests in Goondiwindi and Lismore over the next few years. He sold his café business to his nephews, Sid and Jim Nick Fardouly, in 1922 and after another year with his wholesale business, The Fresh Food Supply Company, moved to Brisbane where he died in 1927, leaving his wife Stella and 3 young sons with a bit of a problem.
In 1913/14 Theo, anxious to go back farming after Mick disappeared, offloaded the Bellingen cafe to Peter John Glitsos (Gleeson), trading as Peters & Co, and moved to the Scone district, but eventually settled around Urunga where his five sons went on to develop the largest tomato farm in NSW.
After the Gleesons came a branch of Arthur Emmanuel Samio’s expanding Coffs Harbour based enterprise, followed by Aroney Bros, until the late 1920s when Emmanuel D. Kolantgis (Lianos) and his new bride, Efrosini Calopadi, rode into town to provide a long-term presence.
There were so many Samios around Coffs in the early years that the place earned the nickname 'Samiosville'. The first was Athanasios Emmanuel Samios, born in Aloizianika in 1868, who landed in early 1908 and after brief stints in Sydney and Murwillumbah established the first of his shops at Coffs later the same year. His brother Jack is believed to have arrived a couple of years later.
Somewhere around the place was a more mature Samios, Anastasios, born in 1858, possibly the father of Arthur of Bellingen who is believed to have spent some time here around 1911/12 before settling in Sydney.
Yet another wise elder was 40yr old Theo Samio who came to town in early 1910. He had landed just over 3yrs earlier and spent about 6mths in each of Sydney, Casino, Inverell, Maclean and Emmaville before taking the seaside cure and, like a lot of the early Kytherians in the area, switching to farming.
A youngster, Cosma George Samios, who landed from Aloizianika in 1909, aged 21, turned up in early 1911. But he moved on quickly, spending some time in Muswellbrook in 1912 before settling in Nowra.
Mellowness returned when his place was taken by Nick Arthur Samio, born in Aloizianika in 1864, who came direct to Coffs upon landing in 1912 and remained for many years with his own business in High Street. His son Sotiri, born in 1897, joined him before the war and son Peter, born in 1908, sometime after. They, together with their brother Strati, had the Central Café into the 1950s.
Frequent visitors from South Grafton over the years 1916-26 were the Aloizianikans Paul, Alex, Milton and Peter Dimitri Samios (Foundas), later of Mullumbimby, Bangalow, Kyogle and Dalby, and George Peter Samios, later of Mitchell with brother Charles.
Post war also saw Peter Frageskos Samios from Trifilianika stick his head in for 17mths on his way to Cairns and a partnership in the Golden Vale Café with cousins Harry Samios and Mick Notaras (Norton).
The Melittas name, now immortalized as a street name in the centre of town, was introduced to Coffs by Peter Theo of Potamos in 1924. He was 13yrs old when he reached Fremantle in 1911, spending 4yrs in that growing Kytherain colony before coming to this stretch of the continent and passing through Sydney, Mullumbimby and Nowra prior to settling here. Eighty years later there are still Melittas around town.
In 1911 Peter John Glitsos (Gleeson), 23yrs old when he landed in 1908, finished his catering course with Emmanuel Panagiotopoulos in Sydney and came here with his brother Nick to establish what looks like the first Kytherian presence. He moved off to Bellingen in 1913/14 and left Nick, 12yrs old when he touched down in 1909, to take the reins. Nick carried on until 1919 when he sold out to the hotelier, Mick Nick Feros, and rejoined Peter for a few years at Bellingen until they both followed Mick’s example and became enterprising publicans at Urunga and Coffs Harbour around the mid 1920s.
Another Kytherian enterprise in defiance of the catering rule was established by Peter and Jack Demetrios Feros, the first cousins of Mick Feros, when, around 1917, they started an unusual carrier business, delivering supplies to the isolated logging camps by packhorse. Peter had come from Mitata in 1914, wandering around Brisbane, Dalby, Oakey and Bellingen prior to this career change. Jack, on his second trip to Oz, arrived via the USA in late 1918 after service in the Balkan Wars and spent a couple of months at Dorrigo, but seems to have spent most of his time at Coffs Harbour, perhaps running the depot side of the business. Both he and Peter went to Lismore in late 1919 while Mick, and later his brother Charles, remained.
Mick, 15yrs old when he landed in 1911, joined the Glitsos Bros partnership at some stage after moving up from Bellingen, becoming sole owner in 1919. In 1925, in association with Tooth & Co, he built the magnificent Hotel Dorrigo, described as the most modern between Newcastle and Brisbane at the time. It originally had 28 bedrooms, 10 downstairs and 18 up, and in 1936 was expanded by the addition of a further 16. There were two 60 seat dining rooms, one down and one upstairs, providing a silver service with 4-5 course menus.
He married Helen Haniotis in 1929 and together they ran the hotel for the next 40yrs until passing stewardship to their children. Since then the children have carried out extensive renovations, added motel units and established a Bistro eating area, all in keeping with the original 1925 building. Book yourself in for a weekend and check it out.
His 10yr old brother Charles landed in 1920 and went on to make a name for himself in the boxing arena with the Jimmy Sharman troupe. One anecdote has the troupe at Bangalow where Charlie, a very olive skinned Greek, and boxing under the name 'Oyster Feros', had to make a first selection from a number of amateur challengers. He chose to box with an Aborigine and signalled his choice with the statement "I'll take midnight here." The quick witted Aborigine, probably equally as quick with his fists, replied with "You look about half past eleven yourself mate"! No record of who won.
Nick Tzanitos Conomos turned up from Bellingen in 1929 to provide café continuity.
The first clearly identifiable Kytherian was George Comino when he opened the two-storey Sydney Oyster Saloon in Prince Street in mid 1905, with the city band heralding the event from the balcony. He is likely to be George Emmanuel Comino (Gialdelis), the brother of Peter of Lismore, but there's a remote possibility he is George Emmanuel Comino (Palethras), earlier of Wagga and later of Cairns, who passed through the district about this time. If Gialdelis, he probably installed a manager after a period, probably Peter Minas Aroney, as at this time he was also managing oyster saloons in Lismore and Casino in conjunction with his brother. [Then again, George Arthur Comino (Panagioteli) could be a contender. And yet again it could be another cunning marketer using the high profile Comino brand name, like the tricky Freeleagus Bros of Brisbane, amongst others.]
Whatever the circumstances, he sold out to the partnership of Catsoulis & Aroney in about 1907. Catsoulis is Theo Harry who went farming in mid 1909, and Aroney is Peter Minas who came to town from Lismore in late 1905. He was 21yrs old when he landed in 1901, spending 3 years in Sydney before going to Lismore for a stint with Peter Comino.
The business was passed to Lambrinos Notaras in 1909/10, but the Aroneys continued to have an association with Grafton for many years through Dimitrios George Aroney (Papadopoulos), earlier of Murwillumbah, who turned up in 1921 to acquire a couple of shops with his brother Harry. They moved on around 1930, leaving their cousins, Jim and Nick George Anastasopoulos (Langley), to maintain the family presence. The Langleys remained until 1961 when they in turn sold to their Castrissios (Spargos) nephews, who stayed through to1998.
Many others came and went but the Notaras family of Frilingianika remain eminent citizens of Grafton, with their Saraton Theatre, a National Trust jewel and Grafton icon, currently undergoing restoration.
Theo Samios is so far the earliest Kytherian identified in Maclean. He turned up in early 1907, but only lasted 6mths or so before resuming his walkabout and subsequently becoming a farmer at Coffs Harbour. Coincidental with his disappearance was the arrival of the Peloponnesian Carkagis Bros to acquire or establish a café. They moved north to Mullumbimby in 1910 and there is no further record of any Greeks in the place until Emmanuel Dimitrios Notaras turned up from Grafton in 1914 to re-establish a presence. He moved on to Lismore in 1915 and left the place in the management hands of young Peter Harry Flaskas, who was possibly being overseen by Anthony Lambrinos Notaras of Ulmarra.
Sixteen year old Peter had landed in 1914 and arrived in town after short stints in Sydney and Grafton. Towards the end of the war he too took himself off to Lismore to join or replace his brother Nick in partnership with Emmanuel Notaras at the Olympia Café. He eventually settled at Nanango while Nick staked a claim on Toogoolawah. (Coincidentally, Peter John Anthony Flaskas of Kapsali, later a cane farmer near Cairns, was at Grafton at the same time as Peter Harry, if that marks a family connection?) Emmanuel Notaras settled in Rockhampton after the Olympia was sold to Theo George Fardouly in 1919.
Themistoklis Copland of Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads had a cafe at Maclean from the early 1930s, but the identity of the interim Greeks remains elusive, although a mysterious Papaconstantinon family was here and at Grafton though the 1920s and 30s.
The brothers-in-law, George Zacharias Souris and Mick Emmanuel Psaltis, bought themselves a 250 acre coastal farm here in 1927 and proceeded to clear and plant out a portion for bananas. At this time bunchy top disease had destroyed the dominant plantations around the Tweed, Brunswick and Richmond, leaving the field open for the Clarence district growers to reap the rewards in the ensuing scarcity.
Twenty five year old George had arrived in 1923 and spent time in the café game around Kempsey and Gloucester before linking up with Mick at Aberdeen. Mick, 28yrs old when he landed in 1921, had followed the same route, pandering to café customers at Walcha prior to Aberdeen, until a joint decision that life as banana benders offered an easier lifestyle.
They were joined by Harry Emmanuel Souris in 1930, but whether he shared in the partnership or leased his own patch from them is unclear. He was 30yrs old when he left Kythera in 1922, serving an 8yr sentence in a café kitchen at Gloucester until he too decided swinging a mattock might be more fun.
All found themselves busting their gut trying to earn a quid off the place as the Depression deepened, so around the mid 1930s the partnership was dissolved and the farm, now zillion dollar real estate, sold.
George remained to acquire another property but Mick resettled up the road at Coffs Harbour where, sometime in the early war years, he again began fattening bananas on a small farm at Park Beach. As did Anthony Cassimatis, Mick’s other brother-in-law, Harry Souris, Sotiri Charles Aroney and many others. Coffs had Kytherians all over the place during and after the war, a lot reaping the golden bonanza.
[If John Peter Veneris and his son Peter, who were farming at Moonie near Coffs from ~1914 to ~1920, were into bananas, it puts them amongst the NSW pioneer growers, let alone the first Greeks into the game. However, they rejoined the caterers at Lockhart around 1920, coincidental with a series of gluts starting to give the industry a major shakeout. The first in Queensland appear to be Con John Kalokerinos, Theo Con Comino, Manuel Theo Patrick and Con Manuel Castrisos who bent bananas around Gympie from about 1926.]
Anthony Lambrinos Notaras seems to have established the first Greek presence here in early 1916 when he came across from South Grafton and opened another Notaras Bros outlet. He was 13yrs old when he left Frilingianika in 1908, settling in Grafton with his father and brother John a year later.
He leased the place in early 1921 and went to Rockhampton to join his brother Theo and cousin Emmanuel, but he and Theo are believed to have returned to Grafton a couple of years later to give their brother John a break, who in the meantime had his hands full looking after the various Notaras Bros interests around the Clarence.
A couple of the Notaras Bros buildings, housing a café being run by Miss Inmon and a billiard saloon under the management of Achilles Parsons Demetrius, went up in smoke in late 1928 along with half the CBD. Thereafter any Greek presence is uncertain.
The early café proprietors are still on the investigation list, but it looks like Arthur Samios of Coffs Harbour installed someone in a café in the mid to late 1920s. He/they seem to have passed the business to the equally mysterious partnership of Poulos & Anthony a year or so later. The Poulos half could be the Georgopoulos Bros, George and Peter Anastasios of Logothetianika. Fourteen year old Peter landed in late 1928 and came direct to Urunga, but moved to Denman about a year later. Eighteen year old George landed in 1922 and wandered all over the place, but with Grafton and Bellingen being the only places of any longevity. They both settled permanently in Ballina in 1936.
Early pub owners were Nick and Peter Ioannis Glytsos (Gleeson) from Kypriotianika who had the Ocean View Hotel from about the late 1920s, although it looks like Nick was the barman at Urunga while Peter was the bouncer at Coffs. Also sidestepping the café stereotype was the farming Catsoulis family who also had the picture theatre at some stage.
Urunga became the centre of worldwide attention in 1951 when a 32yr old bloke named Peter Catsoulis invented an electrical power source which seemed to defy the Second Law of Thermodynamics and a few other commandments. This device, with no moving parts, produced electricity without use of fuel or any other extraneous energy inputs and was demonstrated to the awestruck engineers of the Clarence River County Council and prominent citizens of Bellingen and Dorrigo, led by the Shire President, in a shed at the rear of his parent’s home at Urunga. Several companies then made substantial offers for the world rights, but the eventual outcome is shrouded in secrecy.
The Paraskos Bros of the Cyclade island of Syros turned up to acquire oyster leases in 1901 and a little later established an oyster saloon from where they retailed and wholesaled the beasties. They moved out around 1917 and the subsequent Greek presence is a mystery until the arrival of the Notaras Bros of Grafton to establish a theatre presence. Anthony was the main face of this venture and later moonlighted as an agent for spraying equipment used by the rapidly multiplying banana growers. His son Angelo had extended the agency reach to growers all over the north coast by the late 1950s.
Angelo earned distinction by developing the largest and most productive fully-irrigated banana farm in NSW. Thirty three acres is a heap of bananas and during his 10yrs in the game, 1952-62, he was innovative in reducing backbreaking labour. From importing and adapting time and labour saving devices he turned to designing and making his own. And the rest is history. By the late 60s he had become a full time professional inventor and his firm, Atom Industries, now designs and manufactures a wide range of stuff, with their novel lawn edger dominating the Australian market and conquering internationally.
(And long before the ubiquitous commercial surfboard made its appearance he had designed and built his own, introducing board riding to the region years ahead of the surfie cult. And winning all the girls with his fancy head stands. Grrrrrr….)
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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