submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 06.03.2004
North Western NSW – Namoi Valley
Andy and Nick Samios appear to be the first Kytherians to have discovered the place when they followed the swaggies’ trail from Narrabri in 1926. Nineteen year old Andy, his two brothers, Nick and George, and their father, Peter, had landed in early 1923 and gone direct to Narrabri to work for Archie Gavrili. Unfortunately Peter died a couple of months later, putting his sons on a fast track to independence. Upon Archie’s move to Lismore the brothers split up; George moving off to Perth while Andy and Nick decided to put Bellata on the map. In addition to the prestige of a Greek noshery they also gave Bellata a new carrier business, and carted the local football team, of which Andy was a fiery member, as well as wool and wheat for the local farmers. The folklore goes that Andy took great umbrage over any breaches of on-field etiquette, assisting the referee, whenever one was game enough to volunteer his services, to maintain discipline.
Sometime in 1931 they passed the business to Theodore & Co and Nick moved onto Garah, north of Moree, to acquire a cafe, again trading as Samios Bros, while Andy returned to Narrabri to go into business with one of the Aroney brothers.
The Aroney & Samios partnership was a Depression style business in which they moved around the region buying up bankrupt shops and on-selling the stock at auction. Andy had gotten to know the region well during his carrier career and knew which businesses in which towns were shaky. But by the mid 1930s their business was drying up with the economy stabilizing so they had a final swansong at Ballina, after which they dissolved their partnership and Aroney returned to Narrabri to join his brothers. Andy remained in Ballina and opened a large general store, trading through to 1950 when he moved to Stones Corner in Brisbane where his enterprise eventually grew into a substantial hardware and earth moving equipment business. During the war Ballina dubbed him ‘The Cement King’ for his ability to track the scarce stuff down on demand.
The mysterious Theodore & Co (probably they of Khalkis, Euboea) relocated to Gunnedah in the late 1930s and passed the business to the equally mysterious Mick Finos (perhaps Finaldelfinos of Chios), who in turn moved out during the war when a third, and apparently last, mystery man, Cyril Samios, turned up with food hampers. At last count 186 people were still awaiting the second coming of a Greek tuck shop.
A bloke with a fruiterer’s license in the name of A. Comino was trading here by at least 1907/08, but the archaeologists are still digging for clues on his identity and circumstances. Around 1910/11 the license was re-endorsed in the name of John George Samios, a staggering 50yrs old when he left Aloizianika in 1901, who made up for lost time by quickly proceeding down the path of expansion and property acquisition. By the time he returned to Kythera in 1914/15 with his eldest son, George, he allegedly had three outlets around the traps.
George, who had landed in 1906 aged 11, attempted to join the Greek army but ended up riding a camel for 3yrs with the British forces in Egypt. He came back in 1919 to resume business with his brothers, Theo and Peter, but two years later they sold out to the Cochineas Bros and went their separate ways; George to Brisbane and the other two probably to become part of the Cochineas & Samios partnership at Hillston.
Cochineas Bros had branches elsewhere at this time, and while James George Cochineas, the consort of Irene Panaretos, seems to have been the initial face of the Boggabri outlet, it was his brothers Emmanuel and Chris who became the stayers. Chris was the last to leave in 1929 when he sold out to George Peter Crithary and tried his luck with Jim in Corowa, and thence onto Wangaratta with Manuel.
George Crithary, the nephew of the Cordatos, had spent a year or so in the west upon landing at Fremantle in 1914, aged 17, before coming to this stretch of the continent. In 1924 he married Natalia Megaloconomo at Glen Innes, probably in a dual ceremony with Nick Kalolerinos and Maria Megaloconomo. They seem to have sheltered in Narrabri by the early years of WW2.
Shortly after George turned up the Christian Bros of Kempsey established a rival cafe to give the locals a wider choice, including, bless ‘em, the beetroot-free hamburger. Stamatios Nick Christianos (Steve Christian), with his spouse, Eleni John Andronicos of Moree, seems to have been the main face of the business through to at least 1950, around the time Con Kalligeris arrived to acquire a café (and 2 theatres in 1952.)
Con and his bride Eleni, nee Andronicos, the daughter of Con Theo earlier of Muswellbrook, remained through to 1968. Helen is immortalized on the local bowls club roll-of-honour board, starring as the women’s champion and club champion from the day of the club’s inauguration in 1957. She still continues her championship run in retirement at Bondi.
Around 1903 Comino & Panaretto of Moree cut the ribbon to launch their nth branch here, leaving the place in the safe managerial hands of Anargyros and Vretos Zacharis Panaretos who, it’s understood, bought the business shortly afterwards. Anty (1877-1962 Potamos) returned home in 1905 with his cousin and next door neighbour, the Peters & Co entrepreneur, Spiro Peter Panaretos (1877-1964 Potamos). While Spiro courted Eleni Gengos Anty caught a Zantiotis lass and begat five children, only one of whom, Jim Panos, came Aust (and elected to be baptized a Tasmanian.) Conversely, the children of Vretos, who had returned a couple of years after Anty, all came to repopulate northern NSW. And all except one of the 9 children of their sister Stavroula, who married a Fardouly, probably Anthony of Narrabri, did their colonizing duty.
Probably connected was 13yr old Emmanuel Con Fardouly who landed in 1907 after being left by his father to cool his heels in Egypt for 18mths. He was met at Circular Quay by his cousin Minas Levonis and promptly bungled on a train for Gunnedah to link up with his father, who had apparently come directly to town upon landing. They moved out a year or so later, probably when Vretos sold up, and subsequently settled in Tingha.
Employees who didn’t move out were the Melitas Bros, who bought the business. James Peter Melitas arrived from Melitianika in 1903, and, like the Samios of Boggabri, went down the property accumulation route in partnership with his brother Emmanuel. By the time he returned to Kythera in 1919 they owned considerable real estate in Binnaway, Coonabarabran and Gunnedah, with various partners installed in businesses elsewhere.
One such partner was Emmanuel Mina Fardouly who arrived in 1910, aged 16, and remained for about 11yrs at Gunnedah, with sorties into Melitas Bros branches at Burren Junction and Coonabarabran, until taken in as a partner and installed at Coolah.
Another was John George Marcellos who turned up in 1912, old-aged at 26, and remained for 5yrs before moving to Coonabarabran, where he was trading as Melitas & Marcellos by the 1920s.
Also arriving in 1910 with Manuel Fardouly was 15yr old Angelo Peter Melitas, who was based at Gunnedah for about 13yrs while he worked in various Melitas Bros branches, but mainly at Coonabarabran. His older brother Emmanuel was the mainstay at Binnaway.
The Melitas association with Gunnedah seems to have come to an end in 1922/23 when Emmanuel Theo Kepreotes and his partner, Peter Nick Veneris, 10yrs old when he ran away from home in 1905, staged a coup. A couple of years later Kepreotes opened a branch at Narrabri and installed his brother Jack, 11yrs old when he kissed his mother goodbye in 1907, as manager.
Gunnedah dominated the front page of most NSW newspapers on 15Sep1926 when the state’s worst train smash occurred down the line towards Murrurundi. Peter Vaginias of Gunnedah was killed along with 25 others, while Manuel Kepreotes and Nick Zographos of Gunnedah and Andy Samios of Narrabri were amongst the 60 injured.
Victor Comino, maybe the genuine article like A. Comino of Boggabri or perhaps a corruption of some trade name combination of Victor Panaretos & Comino of Moree, established a restaurant here in the late 1890s. And then in 1902 Harry Conomos went bankrupt at Narrabri, suggesting he was the owner of a separate shop. All too hard.
Whatever the early circumstances, 20yr old Theo George Andronicos, the son of George Emmanuel and Panagiotasia (nee Panaretos) of Kousounari, turned up around mid 1901 after completing his 3yr apprenticeship with John Comino of Oxford St., Sydney. Three years later he’d had enough and went walkabout, marking time in Boggabri, Uralla and Sydney prior to taking over the Coonamble business of his brother Emmanuel, who had succumbed to TB in 1910. Shortly afterwards Theo passed Coonamble to Cordatos and took on Brisbane.
At the time he left Narrabri along came a bloke named Anthony Fardill, more than likely the Fardouly brother-in-law of the Gunnedah Panaretos, to hawk fruit. A few years later he passed the barrows to the brothers-in-law, Theo George Fardouly and Kyriakos Ioannis Baveas.
Theo, the son of George and Adriana (nee Conomos) of Potamos, landed in 1909, aged 23, and came direct to Narrabri, remaining for 9yrs until rushing off to Lismore to bid for the Olympia café. Kyriacos, 28yrs old when he landed in 1908, came to town to join Theo after a 12mths stint at Inverell. He returned for the Balkan Wars in 1913, came back a year or so later and then again returned for some more fun during WW1. The second time around he wasn’t so lucky and copped a bullet in the chest. He reappeared in 1923 with his 15yr old son Jack and re-established at Tingha. Jack later moved to Lismore.
In 1917, while Theo was minding the shop, the cafe went up in smoke, along with 16 other buildings in Narrabri’s worst fire. He hung around for a while, but eventually decided to take the insurance money and run, leaving the rights to the site to his employee and koumbaros, Archie Theo Gavrily. Twenty two year old Archie, the first cousin of Kery Baveas, had donned the akubra at Narrabri in 1912 after 5yrs wearing a fez in Alexandria. He had allegedly taken over one of the Fardouly & Baveas shops in 1916 after Kery went off for more war games, and in taking over the second site took in Jack Nick Bavea as a partner.
Jack Nick, who previously had sampled the delights of Barraba, Muswellbrook and Manly, traded as Bavea & Gavrily until1923 when he too was attracted to the nightlife of Lismore, where he partied for the rest of his life.
Two to three years later Archie followed him to this den of iniquity to sublet Theo Fardouly’s Olympia nightclub. Theo by this time was a well-known Lismore identity and the driving force behind the formation of the ‘Northern Rivers Retail Refreshment Room Employers’ Association’ with membership from Coffs Harbour to Tweed Heads. He was also the proprietor of the local ice and ice cream manufacturing business in the centre of town, the final closure of which marked the end of an era, but was met with a sigh of relief in Lismore. When the compressors fired up the noise could be heard all around town and caused all the nearby buildings to vibrate to the tune.
Archie’s brothers, Jack and Spyro, carried on the Gavrily name at Narrabri into the 1930s.
In 1928 Minas, Emmanuel and Nick Vasili Aroney (Mayonesou) established the Aroneys here for the next 70yrs. Their name lives on through Aroney’s Arcade in the middle of Maitland Street, while the local pub is believed to still be in family hands.
In 1910 40yr old James Andreas Megaloconomos of Mylopotamos was delighted to discover the wonderfully named town of Wee Waa, and way over the moon to light upon the White Rose Café in Rose Street. Such a droll community was for him, a quest that had taken him as far as Albury in the years since landing in 1901. So in company with his 14yr old son, Andreas M. (aka Big Andy) Conomo, with whom he was reunited in early1910, and his 13yr old nephew Andreas M. (aka Little Andy) Comino (Palavra), who arrived from Perlegianika a few months later, he proceeded onto Wee Waa and joined in the spirit of the game by introducing his catering team as Comino Bros, a conundrum that continued to confuse the citizens for over 60 years.
James was fondly farewelled to Cerigo in 1919, leaving the Andys unrestrained. ‘Little Andy’ was so named because of his smaller stature, while ‘Big Andy’ was a mountain of a man, mention of whose name still brings forth tales of his legendary strength. He was once witnessed lifting 15 telephone poles onto a truck that he had rebuilt himself, and at another time won a bet when he raised the front of a Buick car. Little Andy didn’t compete and wisely concentrated of the management side of the business.
Over the following years the Comino Bros holdings grew to include the picture theatre, which was run off batteries and a Lister diesel motor, the Plume petrol agency and fuel depot, a cordial factory, newsagency and a farm of 1000 acres carved off Boolcarol station and named ‘Kythera’.
In 1924 they were joined by Little Andy’s 21yr old brother, Theo, who, upon completion of a 4yr reorientation course, was dispatched to Gulargambone, just when the Depression was starting to get seriously depressing, to take over the management of a shop the partnership had acquired and leased out. The shop had ceased to earn its keep during the tricky process of taking it down market as a Depression marketing strategy, and whilst Theo fiddled with fine-tuning it was eventually sold at a loss. From there he started to branch out on his own.
The Andys meanwhile were undeterred by Depression setbacks. Comino Bros had been awarded the contract to redeem food chits earned through the work-for-the-dole schemes, which turned out to be a nice little earner despite carrying debts and the lingering fear that the Government was broke and couldn’t afford to pay. A relieved Jack Lang subsequently presented them with an award in appreciation.
In 1934 the newsagency and general store were passed to Nick Charles and Margarita (nee Galanis) Comino whose two nieces subsequently married the two Andys.
The Andys eventually retired, dissolved the partnership and split the assets. Little Andy Comino took his super to Sydney where he died in 1969. Big Andy Conomo remained in Wee Waa and upon his death his sons, Jim and John, inherited the property Kythera, which is now very productive in the lucrative cotton industry.
[For the trivia buffs: The first Kytherian to wear his heart on his sleeve in northern NSW was probably Nick Calligeros of Kalokerines who opened the Kythera Café in South Lismore in 1922. But his timing couldn’t have been worse. This was right at the start of the in/famous, and hilarious, ‘Great Barrow Wars’, when the Greeks had begun to dominate the wholesale and retail fruit trade and the Deputy Mayor, Alderman White (sic), was exhorting people to ‘Trade with white people…the Greeks were the cause of high rents in Lismore today…bom diddy bom bom.’ Nick Calligeros went bust, Peter Feros and Peter Bavea left town in a fit of pique and the remainder stuck with safe café names - Gardens of Roses, White Roses, Busy Bees, et al - for many years.]
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