submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 15.03.2004
North Western NSW – Walgett Plains and Backa Beyond
By common consent Bourke is where the line in the sand defines the start of the outback and where the locals boast that NSW’s highest official temperature of 51.7° C was recorded in 1910. Charlie Sklavos seems to have been the first Kytherian brave enough to chance it when he brought oysters here in the early years of WWI, but looks to have hightailed it back to Sydney for therapy sometime post war. Probably afflicted with the same genes was Peter Sklavos who wore a broad brimmed hat down the track to Cobar around 1905.
The Calopedes Bros, Peter and Theo Mina of Potamos, turned up in ~1924, but left Anthony Nick Megaloconomos, late of West Maitland, with the sun cream and fly spray 3yrs later. They re-established at Mendooran, but it looks like Peter, who was 15 when he touched down in 1914, was the main face of the business, lasting into the 1950s.
By the time they pulled out Bourke was becoming a dustbowl and a touch inhospitable and, like most rural towns, beginning to fill up with itinerants searching for work and a cheap feed, but Conomos seems to have hung on for a couple of years, passing the environmental aids to N. Poulos, whoever he was, who seems to have lasted into the mid 1930s when the Ithacan Pippos Bros turned up to add another branch to their bush property portfolio. The principal, Stratti Pippos, moved to Goondiwindi via some banana madness at Mullumbimby in the late 1930s, passing management of the Elysian café to his compatriot, Theofanis John Maroulis of Brewarrina. Sometime post war Theo took some R & R at Mudgee and left the Elysian to his brother.
A man with a thirst for firsts was the vagabond Peter Emmanuel Phacheas who turned up here for a year or so in the early 1920s before resuming his walkabout. He was amongst the very first to establish a Greek café in rural NSW when he brought oysters to Orange in 1894, earning him a prominent position in the Kytherian Hall of Fame. He returned to Greece from Inverell in early 1901, coming back to Fremantle later the same year with his brothers, George and John, and 13yr old nephew, Alexander Spyro Phacheas of Smyrna. After periods in Fremantle, Maitland and Goulburn, he and Alex acquired the café of Peter Lemnos (Polychronis), the father-in-law of Theo George Fardouly of Narrabri, at Gatton in 1910. Alex returned to Smyrna a couple of years later while Peter hung on until 1919 before moving on, exploring around Dubbo and other places as well as Brewarrina, prior to resettling back in Maitland.
Following an interlude by Charlie and Theo Conomos of Walgett, Anthony Emmanuel Careedy came from Queensland to take command in 1928. He was a 10yr old when he went to Egypt in 1907 and 9yrs later was another of the rare breed that managed to sneak into Australia during WW1. He remained into the early 1930s when once again it was the Ithacan Pippos Bros who became the dominant occupying force. George and Thalia Pippos stayed with their Cafe de Lux for the rest of their lives, despite concerned calls from their banana bending brothers around Mullumbimby and Murwillumbah. The Café de Lux is still going in the hands of their son Angelo.
It’s a fair bet that Emmanuel Mina Fardouly, probably with his younger brother Charles, and probably on behalf of the Melitas Bros of Gunnedah, opened the first Greek café here around the beginning of WW1. But he continued to move around various Melitas branches, leaving the Junction with a succession of conductors for a few years.
There appears to be an intermittent Greek presence through to the early years of WW2 when the last, one of the Trahanas of Acrata, moved out. Thereafter counter lunches at the pub were the go. Today there are still 150 people who call the place home.
[Psst: During the Greek Alien Census of 1916 the Fardoulys found themselves in honourable company when the Lebanese Mulckey family was classified as Greek. ‘Alien’ was the popular umbrella term of endearment to cover a multitude of non-British sinners until the geographically challenged became familiar with such sub categories as Wog/Wop/Dago/…, after which the Lebanese were generally filed under ‘Hindoo’. Don’t ask.]
Carinda seems to have been a deprived community until the mid 1930s when the Conomos of Walgett dispatched Theo, George and Vasilios Emmanuel Conomos to the rescue. Theo and Vasilios (Bill) remained for many years, branching out from the original café to practically own the village, becoming theatre owners, butchers, service station owners, ice manufacturers, cordial makers, hairdressers, billiard room proprietors, drapers, electricity providers, electrical goods and hardware suppliers and general store owners.
There are no Conomos out there now and Carinda barely registers a blip on the radar.
Denny Victor Panaretos, born at Moree in 1903, missed the smell of wattle and came back to Australia around 1920, deciding to settle near his old stamping grounds by establishing what looks like the first Kytherian presence at Collarenebri - ‘place of many flowers’. He is believed to have been joined by his brother Arthur shortly afterwards, but around the mid 1920s Arthur moved to the big smoke and, apart from a nostalgic stint back at Moree around 1930, spent the rest of his life in Sydney (where, do wa diddy diddy, he was later immortalized in a photo with His Holiness, Saint Gough, at Farmers Restaurant.) Denny hung on until 1927 when he sold out to Elias Emmanuel Cassimatis and went to hassle Lismore.
Elias had come from the metropolis of Portalamianika in 1922 and spent time amusing himself in the hamlets of Walgett, Moree, Ballina and Casino before choosing to try his first business venture here. He resumed contact with the urbanized in the early 1930s upon passing the cafe to Emmanuel Basil Petrochilos, late of Alexandrades and Manilla, who remained for many years until retiring to Bukulla, north of Inverell.
Dr Archie Kalokerinos started practicing his witchcraft here in 1957 and over the next 17yrs drove the medical bureaucrats nuts with his table-thumping calls for action on the alarming health problems within the aboriginal population. In frustration he chucked it in and went opal mining at Coober Pedy for a few years until returning with a different focus. Nevertheless, slow progress once again got the better of him and he eventually threw in his lot with the revered Dr Fred Hollows. In 1982 he continued his crusade from a new practice at Bingara.
The place still has a population of around 500, 35% Aboriginal.
Peter Frageskos Lourandos (Louran) brought a different sort of sustenance to the 150 citizens of Goodooga in 1941, feeding them a steady diet of Hollywood movies for the next 20yrs. He had landed in 1923, aged 15, and in the early 1930s found himself working for the Conomos at Walgett, who eventually pointed him in Goodooga’s direction, from where he managed to attract the attention of Thalia Fatseas in 1957. Like the Conomos of Carinda he became the village squire.
[Psst: According to Google, Goodooga was voted the most boring town in Australia in 1980, promptly galvanising the local men's bowling team to go out and put the place on the map by winning the State pennant competition. It still has a population of around 300, about 80% indigenous Australians.]
Too hard too, but the record shows a bloke named G. Skevos, perhaps a corruption of Sklavos, brought gourmet cooking to this timber town in the late 1920s. However, he only seems to have lasted a year or so and thereafter Pilliga looks like it became another deprived community until the late 1930s when G. Poulos led the relief column. He appears to have lasted through the war and beyond.
Today Pilliga is a village of 200 and the café doubles as a general store for provisioning eco tourists.
An oyster saloon bearing the proprietorial name ‘Z. Comino’ appeared here by at least 1907. Whether he was a genuine Comino or someone taking advantage of the well-known Comino brand name, or someone staked by Z, is still a head scratcher. If staked, the benefactor could be Zakharis of the Oyster Kings family who returned to Greece pre WW1.
What’s for sure is that Peters & Co of Inverell had a branch here by 1908, although it looks like Comino & Panaretto of Moree had an earlier foot in the door. It seems Vasilios Gengos, who came to town in mid 1908, managed it for 18mths before moving to Moree, while his brother Angelo was here until at least late 1908 until settling at Inverell.
The cousins Nick George Calokerinos and Peter Nick Calligeros took command after Vasilios was promoted to head office. Nick, 18yrs old when he landed from Alexandrades in 1905, had come to town from Moree in late 1907, while Peter, born in Strapodi in 1883, turned up directly off the boat from the USA in late 1909 with the new fangled catering idea that, shudder, too much tomato sauce is not enough ketchup (except on the chicko roll.) Allegedly Peter’s younger brother Arthur, who landed sometime pre WW1, was also a partner.
Nick moved on to Canowindra in 1916 leaving Peter and Arthur on door duty until relieved in mid 1919 by Archie Harry Paspalas, who became the proud owner of the grandly named ‘Olympia Café and Picture Show’, perhaps the rebranded ‘American Picture Palace’ established by Angelo Peter Crones in 1915. Nick was 14yrs old when he left Potamos in 1912, scouting around most of NSW and QLD until morphing into a film fiend.
Turning up around the same time were the stayers, Lambros and Manuel George Megaloconomos of Kalamos, followed by their 14yr old brother Jim in 1922. Together they started showing movies at the School of Arts in 1927 and 10yrs later built the Luxury Theatre next to their Barwon Café. A long serving associate was Cos Nick Tony Megaloconomos, the brother of Tony of Bourke, who came to Walgett in 1927 and remained into the late 1930s.
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