submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 10.03.2004
North Western NSW – Moree Plains
Anthony Emmanuel Travassaros tried his first café venture here, and gave the locals their first and only Greek experience, around the mid 1930s. He had heard the distress call in Travassarianika in 1924 and immediately caught the boat to Australia, following the signposts through Parkes, Trangie, Gilgandra and Cobar before finding the place. He seems to have ministered manna through to the 1950s, apparently leaving an unmanned mission thereafter. Today 200 converts still live in hope.
Around mid 1928 Harry Dimitri Faros of Karavas, probably in silent partnership with a Kepreotis of Gunnedah, came to the rescue of the Garans. Like Travassaros, he had received his parents’ blessing for missionary work in 1924, aged 21, and followed the usual acolyte’s route until setting up his first food distribution centre at Deepwater, but soon after deciding that the SOS from Garah indicated a community in greater need.
Nick Peter Samios assumed responsibility in the early 1930s upon coming up from Bellata. He and his soulmate, Kyrani Psaros of Inverell, continued to provide for this outpost of civilization until resettling in Bankstown sometime post war. Today a depleted flock of 300 still awaits the second coming.
Jack Theo Gavrily seems to have won the honour of being first to bring Greek food parcels to the Gravenders. He was 15yrs old when he landed in 1914 and hiked to Narrabri to join his brother Archie at the Fardouly & Bavea eatery. He went to Lismore with Archie around 1925, but seems to have come here, perhaps with a short diversion back into Narrabri, about 3yrs later when Archie shifted to Moree. However, he only stayed for a year or so before vacating the kitchen for Archie and returning to Narrabri, where he had a café through to around the mid 1930s.
Archie and family are believed to have tended the Enders for about 10yrs or so, perhaps with R & R breaks in Moree, until relocating to Barraba, after which it looks like the congregation had to resort to counter lunches at the local pub. The place is now home to 150 people and the publican is a very lonely bloke.
Victor and Jack Dimitrios Panaretos were amongst the very first Kytherians to bring the joys of the Greek Oyster Saloon to country NSW when they established here in the late 1890s, possibly after the death of their brother Polychronis, who lost an argument with a Sydney tram in 1898. Twenty four year old Victor had sailed into Sydney in 1892 and a year or so later had his own restaurant at 197 Oxford St, later the headquarters of the Andronicus coffee merchants. Jack, younger by a year, arrived in 1895 with his cousin, Spyro Peter Panaretos, the latter taking oysters down the line to Inverell a few years afterwards. Between them these canny Panaretos subsequently owned, part owned, staked, or had some sort of interest in, half the Greek cafes in Northern NSW as they rode the huge wave of prosperity from the end of the Great Drought in 1903 and, at least for Victor, culminating in the Great Flood of 1910, when Moree was completely submerged, prompting his permanent return home shortly afterwards. His brother Jack had returned a few years earlier, Victor having bought him out.
The prosperity came from the rapid expansion of the wool and wheat industries. Cotton is now king, but Moree remains the centre of one of the richest agricultural districts in Australia. The catalyst for Inverell was minerals.
Victor and Jack traded as Comino & Panaretto, sometimes Panaretto & Comino and other combinations, and were probably staked by the Comino Oyster Kings until they quickly paid them out. Nevertheless, family folklore has it that they were initially very under capitalized, with seating in the café consisting of fruit boxes until they got their act together, which occurred with startling rapidity. Victor did a quick visit to Kythera in 1900/01 to successfully charm Marouli Arthur Aroney and within 10yrs of their return allegedly held the freehold of 4 shops in Moree and possibly still with interests in other cafes around Northern NSW, enabling early retirement into a cosy Kytherian lifestyle.
The folklore goes that Victor had to pay an excess baggage charge to transport the loot, all brought back in the form of gold nuggets and sovereigns, to build his Potamos mansion. Alas, Mrs Panaretos had a heavy cross to bear. None of her 10 children became doctors. (Although Paul has a deft hand with a bandaid.)
Allegedly most of the branch shops still in Panaretos hands were sold to the remaining lessees/partners prior to departing, while the Moree portion of the loot probably came from selling to the punter Nick Peter Aroney, notwithstanding that the Spyro Panaretos group had its fingers in the pie somewhere. At this time the prominent firm of S. Peters & Co, still boasting two shops in its hometown of Inverell, also had two outlets in Moree; one in Balo Street and one in East Moore. (Spyro Panaretos wasn’t at the helm however. He had returned home in 1905, perhaps with cousin Jack along with cousin Anty of Gunnedah, and married Eleni Gengos, eventually farewelling 5 of his 7 children back to his old fiefdom.)
Aroney had landed from South Africa in 1899, aged 26, and spent 3 to 4yrs sussing out the neighbourhood until opening a shop with Panos Coroneos at Glen Innes in early 1903. He returned to Kythera in 1906 and upon relanding some unknown time later came to Moree to acquire a shop, trading as Peters & Co, probably around the same time Peters & Co of Inverell also opened a Moree branch under the management of Leonidas George Gengos. Whether they were one and the same company at this time still has people scratching their heads. Sometime along the way he joined the horse racing fraternity and, according to fishy rumours, was one of the rare punters to have beaten the bookies. He left Moree in mid 1921 and went to Dungog for a while, but is probably the same Nick P. Aroney offering odds from the White Rose Cafe at Gunnedah through to about late 1926 when he pinned the Rosette to Andreas Anastasios Zantiotis (Zantos) and disappeared somewhere.
Leonidas Gengos opened the Peters & Co branch in Balo St around late 1908, breaching the previously well-fortified defenses of Comino & Panaretto, although as intimated above there probably was some tricky commercial treaty negotiated between the two Panaretos groups. He had landed in 1902, aged 18, and spent 6yrs dallying in Quirindi, Tingha and Glen Innes with Spiro Panaretos before launching the Moree assault. He apparently leased the shop(s) to Nick Aroney and returned to Kythera just before the war and upon escaping back to Australia shortly after the armistice elected to become an agent at the Sydney fruit markets.
His 28yr old brother, Vasilios, landed from San Francisco in early 1908 and joined him in partnership about 2yrs later. He went off to play in the Balkan war games in 1912 and reappeared in town in early 1914 with his new wife Calliopi Coroneos, the niece of Victor and Jack Panaretos. However, he only stayed a few months, apparently deciding to leave Nick Aroney and son with the shop(s), before relocating to Inverell to go into partnership with his brother Angelo, again trading as Peters & Co. He reappeared at Moree sometime post war and remained for many years, allegedly in partnership with Nick Aroney initially until linking up with John Andronicos. By then the various branches of Peters & Co seem to have been independent entities.
Twenty three year old Angelo George Gengos landed with Tony Cosma Sourry, the nephew of Spiro Panaretos, in 1906 and tarried around most of the Tablelands towns until becoming a partner in Peters & Co at Inverell in late 1909. He and his family returned to Kythera in 1932.
A great number of Kytherians who settled around northern NSW and further afield did their Australian familiarization course at Moree, giving the Greeks a significant presence around town over a long period. Amongst the more permanent early residents were the Coroneos and Andronicos families.
The first Coroneos appears to be the 41yr old widower Peter, who turned up with his 3 sons in early 1901 after many years in Smyrna and stayed for a year or so before linking up with Panos Coroneos at Inverell. After various adventures he settled in Sydney while Panos decided to savor the delights of Glen Innes with Nick Aroney prior to becoming a sand groper.
James and Peter Coroneos, the brothers of Calliopi Gengos, also passed through, the former working for Bill Gengos pre war at Inverell, and the latter with Bill at Moree post war. Con Mena Coroneos, later of Scone and Muswellbrook, also started his apprenticeship here upon landing in 1913.
John Andronicos, born 1872 Milopotomas, the son of Nicholas Peter Andronicos and Efrosene Gengos, landed in 1912 after a year or so in the USA and went initially to the Snowy before turning up here in 1919/20 via a stopover in Inverell. He is believed to have been in partnership with Bill Gengos prior to branching out on his own. By the late 1920s he had his own restaurant in East Moree and by the early 1930s had built a new café and theatre in the CBD.
In 1922 John sponsored out his daughters, Anna and Evanthia, who married the respective Peter Kalligeros of Temora and Archie Gavrily of Narrabri in a double wedding in 1923. Two years later he brought out his 12yr old son Nick and two daughters Alexandra and Eleni, the girls respectively marrying Jack Feros of Barraba and Stamatis Christianos of Boggabri in a dual ceremony in 1934.
John died in 1936, never having seen his wife or remaining children again, an oft repeated Greek tragedy, and a year or so later Nick leased out the shops and theatre and moved to Boggabri and thence to Grafton. He married Zapheria Aroney, the daughter of the illustrious Peter of Brisbane, and both now enjoy retirement in Sydney. He still owns four properties in Moree, none of which have returned him a quid for many years as Moree went through troubled times, although things are now starting to look up.
His first cousins also found Moree congenial. George Harry Andronicos turned up from Kempsey in mid 1919 and about a year later bought into the Peters & Co partnership in Balo St. They were burnt out in late 1923 but rebuilt, only to lose the lot again in late 1928 when most of Moree’s CBD went up in smoke. All the owners then got the message and rebuilt in brick. In 1925 he was joined by his older brother Nick, fresh from 18yrs of café experience in the USA, who only stayed for a short period before wandering off to see the rest of Australia prior to settling in Scone and becoming the driving force behind the formation of AHEPA. George then sponsored the rest of his family, brother Con joining him at Moree in 1935 after many years on walkabout.
Moree retained its place in the hierarchy and with post war immigration was still the third most popular town for Greek settlement in northern NSW after Lismore and Tamworth. The record shows that as of mid 1954 there were 44 Greek born citizens at Moree (27 males and 17 females), making up 0.8% of the population, a higher density than Lismore and Tamworth, where each had 52 of the trouble makers, and only exceeded in percentage terms by Mullumbimby, Queanbeyan and Scone.
[For comparison: In 1954 the Greek born made up 0.3% of the population of Sydney, but with higher densities in individual suburbs, and 0.3% of the population of NSW overall. Mullumbimby, inclusive of the banana growers living in the surrounding hills out of town, and contributing to the population density of 1.5%, probably wins the prize as the town with the highest Greek profile in NSW after Queanbeyan, where a large slice of their 1.9% density was made up of Macedoslavs who finally elected to call themselves Greeks. Scone, mainly Kytherian, came in at 1%.
Psst: Archie Caponas and his mates suffered a collective rush of blood to the head during the visit of Archbishop Tsaucalas (Ezekiel) to Mullumbimby in 1959 and formed the Greek Orthodox Brotherhood of the Northern Rivers, causing apoplexy within the Lismore and Murwillumbah communities, both of which had been lobbying for sometime to have their towns nominated as the site for a church. At this time the Northern Rivers, exclusive of the Clarence, boasted around 600 Greek Orthodox adherents, the Australian born by then far outnumbering their Greek born progenitors. A resident priest was eventually installed in Lismore in 1963, but by 1968, with no answer to his prayers for a recovery in the banana and café industries, and the continuing flight of souls, the practice was discontinued.]
Angelo Corones/Crones established a café here around 1913/14, but he remains an elusive character. He is one of the Smyrna born sons of Peter Coroneos (Kambouris) of Moree and Inverell and wears the distinction as the first Kytherian movie mogul. He was also a bike rider of some renown, earning a heap of prize money at races around the traps and returning briefly to Smyrna in 1915/16 to try out for the Greek Olympic team.
Peter allegedly had settled in Sydney from Inverell in 1906, but it’s understood that both he and Angelo were the Goondiwindi café proprietors, trading as Comino & Co, from whom Victor Tsicalas acquired his business in 1908. He and his sons then seem to have had ventures at Hay, Merriwa and Weston before he resettled in Sydney and the sons went their separate ways, although it’s likely that at least one of the brothers, perhaps Cosma, accompanied Angelo to Mungindi and kept an eye on the shop through to at least post WW1 while Angelo bicycled around Smyrna and exhibited films around the countryside.
[Perhaps it was some fiery stuff in the Goondiwindi water supply that sparked Angelo off. James Nick Fardoulys also caught the Goondiwindi show biz bug in the early 1920s and ran away with a travelling carnival, later settling in Brisbane to become a well-known bohemian artist.]
The Pippos Bros of Ithaca turned up in Mungindi around the mid 1920s and dominated the place through to the 1950s. (And also partook of the Goondiwindi waters, becoming part owners of the mighty Gunsynd, the Goondiwindi Grey that went on to capture the imagination of the nation with its many race wins against the odds.)
It appears Pallamallawa (meaning ‘dry waterhole’ for the buffs) wasn’t congenial to the Kytherians and didn’t get deliverance until about 1930 when Angelo Parthenis of Elefsina, west of Athens, turned up from Collarenabri to try his first café venture. He lasted through to the late 1930s when relief was provided by a character named Contis. Three hundred optimistic gourmands still camp around the waterhole.
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