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General History

History > General History > Northern NSW - 4

949: History > General History

submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 20.01.2004

Northern NSW - 4

Mid North Coast

Bowraville


Looks like another rare town whose fortifications managed to hold out the encircling wagons of the Kytherians. Around 1914 a bloke named Arthur Kyriacos appears to have brought the first Greek café, although the farming sons of Michael Manousou of Mytilini and Mendooran had settled here earlier. George Hagepanos of Nafplia took over the café sometime during the war and George Theodoropoulos of Acrata sometime after.

Kempsey

Kempsey was the stronghold of the interconnected Lahanas, Christianos, Combes and Mottee families. Twenty Seven year old John Peter Lahanas sailed into Sydney in 1898 and, like most early arrivals, serfed for the Cominos at 36 Oxford St. In 1906 he was sent to claim Kempsey for Kythera, remaining for about 10yrs until posted to Hobart, leaving his younger brother Theo to hold the fort. Theo governed until 1920 when he passed command to the Mottee brothers of Warren and took possession of Woodenbong, where he died in 1936.

Meanwhile Mina Nick Theo Christianos had established a base in West Kempsey. He and his wife Maria landed in 1915 and came to Kempsey almost immediately to labour for Lahanas, acquiring their own café about a year later. Maria and their Kempsey born children returned to Kythera in the mid 1920s, followed by Menas a few years later, leaving the shop in the hands of Theo John Christiano of Tumut.

The eldest Motte, Peter Con Motis, was 13yrs old when he left Lianianika in 1898. He was followed by his brothers Jim and George a few years later and, after separately wandering all over the place, rendezvoused with military precision at Warren in 1913. Their brother Emmanuel joined them at Kempsey in 1922, straight off the boat, and thereafter they proceeded to reproduce themselves, such that today Mottee is the predominant Kytherian name in the district.

Macksville

The early Greek presence here is still a bit hazy, but it appears that the Corinthians won the race when John Harry Spero (Spyridon X. Oikonomopoulos?) rolled into town around 1911 to establish an oyster saloon.

He rolled out again in 1916, coincidental with the arrival of the Panaretto (Notos) Bros; Theo Basil from Manilla and Tony from Tamworth. Theo, 18yrs old when he landed in 1908, resettled in Crookwell after a year or so while Tony, 15yrs old when he came in 1914, stayed for a couple of years before moving off to spend time in Moree, Goulburn and Curlewis until returning to the region with a cafe in Scone.

The Kytherian presence is a mystery for the next 10 yrs until the arrival of the Andronicus Bros. They are more than likely of the coffee dynasty, but whether they staked someone who traded under their name, or an actual brother was present (perhaps Andy marking time between leaving Walcha and settling in Winton), is anyone’s guess. They/he were gone within a couple of years and the business passed to George Dimitri Galanis shortly after he returned from his second long holiday on Kythera in 1927. George died in 1932 and it seems one of his Sydney born sons, Jim, Peter or Spyro, then ran the place until George Emmanuel Potiri turned up around the mid 1930s.

George Potiri was 20yrs old when he came from Mylopotamos in 1902, settling in Walcha 6yrs later and subsequently becoming the first Kytherian pub owner in partnership with his cousin George Damianos Andronicus. He left Walcha around 1920 and had a pub at Grafton prior to coming to Macksville, although he also is believed to have had a café at Goulburn over these intervening years. (And is believed to have taken over the management of the Gleeson pub at Coffs in the early years of WW2?) Ah well.

Nambucca Heads

Too hard.

Port Macquarie

The Conomos appear to be the earliest Kytherian invaders, the first of whom were probably Tony, Mick and Nick who went the traditional cafe route sometime pre WW1. A contrarian was 24yr old Michael David Conomo who came to town in 1916 and elected to become a professional fisherman. After landing in 1906 he had spent all his time as a kitchen slave around Maitland and Newcastle prior to escaping to Port Mac. He was still chasing fish here in 1924, by which time the Kastellorizan Hatsatouris family had established a beachhead.

The next clearly identifiable Kytherian was Jim Charles Aroney (Theodoropoulos) who came down from Bundarra in 1934 to acquire the Niagara Cafe in partnership with his first cousin Peter Theo Aroney (Papadopoulos). Jim first landed pre WW1 and spent time around Murwillumbah and Maryborough until returning to Greece in 1916 to try a career change in the army. He came back in 1923 with his new wife Toula Nikolasou and settled at Bundarra, building a new café and theatre in the town and later, during the Depression, joining the squattocracy as a woolgrower. In 1941 he again moved out of the catering caper when he sold the Niagara to become landlord of the Panorama Guest House, which he renovated and held until the early 1950s when he finally hung out the Gone Fishin’ sign and semi retired. He died in 1991, just short of his 101st birthday, surviving Toula by 10yrs. He was the last surviving foundation member of the Port Mac Bowling Club, a foundation member of Rotary and an active member of the RSL.

Twenty four year old Peter Aroney arrived in 1927 and spent 7yrs exploring around Uralla, Cunnamulla and Tingha until being convinced by Jim that sifting sand through his toes at Port Mac was the way to go. A few years later however, he developed a taste for country and western music and was politely asked to move over to Tamworth to establish a permanent branch of their business around 1937/38. Jim did two trips a week to keep him supplied with fresh fish and endure the latest from Nashville.

Taree

George, John and Spiro Cassimaty, the sons of Mick and Christina (nee Aroney) of Frylingianika, came across from Dungog in 1912 to open the Elite Refreshment Rooms and establish what looks like the first Kytherian presence here. They became long-term residents and substantial landowners in the town.

Around 1920 they established another café and sold the Elite business, but not the freehold, to Mick/Minas Benardos, who in turn passed it to his employees and probable in-laws, Jack and George Emmanuel Zaunders, a few years later. Jack and George, from Vouno, were pre WW1 arrivals and roamed around the Darling Downs with their brothers Peter and Nick for many years until coming to town in 1920 to work for Benardos.

Sometime in the late 1930s George split from Jack and re-established at Forster. Jack, with his wife Katina Psaros of Inverell, remained at Taree for the rest of his life and sometime along the way passed the business to his sons Manuel and Jim.

In the late 1920s Jim and Greg Stavros Masselos of Fratsia turned up to provide some added competition. They landed in 1922 and spent a few years with rellies in Armidale and Uralla until spotting a niche in Taree and remaining for many years. They later expanded with a branch at Wingham.

Wauchope

Theo Peter Lahanas, 18yrs old when he left Potamos in 1900, seems to have established the first Greek presence here around 1910. He went to join his brother John at Kempsey just before the war and left the Cassimatis Bros of Drymona to continue to cater to the locals’ addiction to gourmet oysters.

Fifteen year old Tony Emmanuel Cassimatis was the first to land in 1905, followed by Con in 1910/12 and by17yr old Basil in mid 1913. In the early war years they passed the business to Peter and Stefanos Tsaousis who in turn passed it to George Emmanuel Calopades of West Maitland in the early 1920s.

Calopades had landed in 1903 and 3yrs later, aged 18, became manager of an oyster saloon at 661 George Street. This shop was in the caretaker hands of his cousin or uncle, Mina Comino, the son of Anthony and Kalliopi (nee Kalopaidou), while the owner, George Lianos, Mina’s brother-in-law, was on a surfing safari back on Kythera. [And the interconnecting trend continued - in 1917 George Lianos’s daughter, Stavroula, married Jack Aroney, the brother of Jim of Port Mac.]

Calopades remained at Wauchope for about 15yrs before returning to Potamos in 1938 with his wife, nee Tassi Harry Capsani, and 3yr old son Emmanuel. In 1949 he and his family, by then including 3 extra daughters, returned to Australia and commenced business at Randwick, where he was joined by his brother Tony from Casino in 1951.

The Wauchope business, the Crystal Café, was passed to his 24yr old cousin, George Tzanitos Megaloconomo of Casino, although it was a close run thing - Calopades’ employee and other ‘nephew’, Mick Harry Mitchell (Michalakakis/Tsicalas), was in with a chance, but elected to take up the Capitol Café in Queanbeyan with his brother John and partner Jack Cassidy (Cassimatis). (Mick’s mother, Metaxia Megaloconomou, was the niece of George Conomo’s father, Tzanitos/John, and George Calopades’ mother, Stamatia Megaloconomou.)

[And Mick’s first cousin, Bettina Comino, the daughter of Nick Stavrianos (of the Lismore Douris Cominos) and Eirini Tsicalas, married Nick Conomo of Dorrigo, the brother of Wauchope George. And Bettina’s sister, Eleni, married Charlie Emmanuel Comino (Palethras), the brother of Arthur of Wingham. And Mick’s first cousin, Eirini Andronicos, the daughter of Con Theo (of Muswellbrook) and Stamatia Tsicalas, married Zacharis George Kypriotis of Kempsey and Wingham (later settling Corowa.) And Eirini’s sister, Eleni, married Con Kalligeros of Boggabri. And Mick’s first Cousin, Jim Stratti Chicalas, kept an eye on them all as he roamed around Maitland, Muswellbrook, Kempsey, Gloucester, Casino, Ballina, Lismore… So there you go on interconnections. Kytherian settlement was certainly a family affair.]

George Conomos remained at Wauchope for about 12yrs, minus a few years missing in action with the army during WW2, until opening a milkbar at Tempe, where he died in 1957.

Kytherian café continuity was provided by Tony Peter Pentes, who had married Effie Jim Aroney of Port Mac in 1942 prior to a long holiday with the army. They sold out of Wauchope in 1961 and took over Paps Milk Bar at Epping, previously in the hands of Effie’s uncle, Theo Nikleas/Nikolasos, her mother’s twin brother. Sixteen year old Tony had landed in 1928.

Wingham

Wingham welcomed Arthur Emmanuel Comino’s wagon-load of rations into town in 1911. He had landed a year earlier, on his second mission to Australia, and spent some time delivering pastoral care to the communities of Murwillumbah and Lismore until somebody pointed out Wingham’s dire circumstances. Having established himself he then called for his wife Sophia (nee Souris) and children Matina and Emmanuel to join him, but around 1915, by then with Jack and Peter as new additions to the family, he received a call from Holbrook. And then in late 1916, after the birth of George, North Queensland beckoned, and so began a long meandering march with a wonky compass, finally ending with a reunion with his brother George in Cairns in 1918.

Thereafter followed a period of turbulence at Wingham, with Kytherians coming and going for short durations, until the Cassimatis of Taree provided a presence of greater longevity around 1920. It looks like Spiro, aged 16 when dispatched from Kythera in 1910, was the main face of the ministry. He had undergone a short novitiate with the Notaras of Grafton before joining his brothers at Dungog prior to the call from Taree.

Like Spiro, it seems nearly every Kytherian bachelor in the district became interconnected through marriage to the prolific Coroneos girls.

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1 Comment

submitted by
Phil Jorritsma
on 31.07.2011

1070:Peter, the section about Macksville mentions my wife's grandfather George Emanuel Potiri. After George sold Potiri's Cafe in Macksville in July 1958, he didn't own a cafe in Goulburn or Coffs Harbour. He actually moved with his son Emanuel (Mick) and settled in Canberra until he died in November 1958. He also owned the Post Office Hotel in South Grafton for a couple of years 1929-1930. Phil Jorritsma July 2011