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General History

History > General History > Northern NSW - 8

1067: History > General History

submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 29.02.2004

Northern NSW - 8

Central New England

Armidale


Nick John Veneris (Hellen), 16yrs old when he landed from Gerakitianika in late 1900 with Anargyros Zakharis Panaretos of Gunnedah, could be the bloke advertising himself as ‘N. Venares, fruiterer’ in 1902/03. If so, he spent a couple of years in NSW before trekking into Queensland to establish an outpost at Bundaberg in 1903.

Coincidental with his disappearance was the arrival from Moree in 1903 of the Cordatos Bros, 22yr old Kyriakos and 21yr old Anthony, to build a campus on behalf of Comino & Panaretto next to the New England Hotel and introduce the very ’latest American machinery for making drinks…’and ‘…3d milkshakes…from 7AM to 12PM.’ Later in the year they were assisted by their uncle Denis Cordatos, the son of Kyriacos and Marouli, nee Panaretos, directly off the boat from London. But he clocked off after 6mths and hiked onto Glen Innes and thence Dubbo, where he was joined by Tony in 1909. Hot on Denis’ heels was Kery’s older brother Simon who also came to town directly off the boat and remained on the roster for 3yrs before cantering off to Casino to join his brother George. Denis, and allegedly George, returned to Kythera around 1911, the same year the youngest brother Jack turned up and a couple of years after Cordatos Bros had acquired the business from Comino & Panaretto. Two years later they sold out to George Peter Comino (Galanis), whereupon Kery took the loot to Tenterfield to acquire the Andronicos business while Jack went down the range to Casino to say hello to Simon.

Eighteen year old George Comino had landed from Dourianika in 1906 and spent a couple of years with his cousins in Cairns until being lured to Guyra to cook for Cordatos. In 1910 he bought the Guyra business, at the same time sponsoring out his brothers Anastasios and Chris. Three years later he and Chris came to Armidale, leaving Anastasi on duty at Guyra.

The next Comino brother, Nick, landed in 1922 and was mainly based at Guyra until he went back to marry in 1933 and, upon return in 1935, resettled at Warialda with his wife Georgia.

In 1923 brother John turned up and is believed to have worked with George in Armidale until 1934 when he too decided a Kytherian wedding was the way to go. He returned a year later and after a short period at Uralla he and Legerie bought a mixed business in West Armidale, which they ran for the next 40yrs.

In 1926 16yr old Emmanuel was the next brother to arrive. He stayed for just over 30yrs before moving to Brisbane with Basil, the last brother to land in 1937.

The Comino’s IXL café, one of the oldest buildings in Armidale, became the favoured hangout for generations of students from the University, Teachers College and schools. It was sold in the late 1980s and the site redeveloped.

Other long term residents were the picture show men, Peter Charles Souris of Agia Anastasia and Alex Andrew Coroneo (Psomas) of Potamos, the Feros Bros of Mitata with the Waratah Café from the mid 1920s to the late 1950s, and the Tzannes Bros (Pateros) of Kato Livadi with the Nectar Café from the late 1930s to 1976.

Armidale became the focus for Greeks in the wider district and in its heyday in the 50s and 60s had a community of around 300, predominantly Kytherian and Kytherian descent. In late 1934 it was also the venue for the second coming of AHEPA and attracted 200 Greeks, again predominantly Kytherian, from Northern NSW, Sydney and South East QLD, and made the local hoteliers very happy people.

Guyra

It’s believed Tony Cordatos, the fourth eldest, born in 1881, was the brother who established the Cordatos Bros branch here around 1907/08 (although there’s a faint suspicion that John K. Cordatos was the culprit.) At the same time either he or Kery at Armidale was overseeing their branch at Hillgrove and figured something had to give. So he seems to have lost the toss and sold out to George Comino in 1909/10 and joined Uncle Denis in Dubbo, trading as Cordato Bros from the Criterion Refreshment Rooms.

George Comino also left his brothers, Anastasi (Archie) and Chris, to mind the shop when he moved to Armidale, although a few months later he had the assistance of Chris, leaving Archie to unravel the mystery of culinary expression alone.

Nick, the fourth Comino brother, landed in 1923 and chose to study Archie’s new artistry, and having got the knack by late 1924 teamed up with Chris to terrify Ballina when they took over the Bon Marche Sundae Shop from Andrew Nick Venardos. This venture didn’t turn out so well and within 12mths they had offloaded to Nick Peter Panaretos and returned to the Tablelands; Chris back to Armidale and Nick back with Archie.

At what stage Archie became the sole arbiter of taste is unclear, as he traded through to the early 1930s as Comino Bros before the shingle registered A. Comino & Co, coincidental with Nick’s move to Warialda. It’s possible George Anthony Comino, 16yrs old when he evaded olive picking duties in 1912, was also part of the menu design team, unless he had a separate café in town. He turned up from Armidale in 1914 and by at least 1922 was calling himself a Guyra café proprietor.

Archie and his wife Stratoula continued with their Red Rose Cafe until 1953 when they moved to Armidale and purchased a small business in Rusden Street, but sometime later retired to Sydney where Archie died in 1965.

Hillgrove

Comino & Panaretto of Moree began feeding the miners here around 1905/06, perhaps earlier, and likely installed Manolis Zantiotis as the manager/lessee/partner until he moved on a couple of years later, when it seems that Cordatos Bros shouldered the burden. But which Cordato is too tricky. They definitely had a branch here by early 1908 and perhaps had a manager installed (unless this is where the elusive John K. Cordato was hiding out.) Tony probably spent some time here during his 7yrs at Armidale and Guyra, while George, who is alleged to have returned to Kythera after leaving Casino around 1910/11, could have been ensconced here all along. It seems he attempted to re-establish the Cordatos back at Armidale around 1920, but gave it away after a couple of years in favour of a holiday back on Kythera. He came back to join his brothers at Coonamble in 1926.

In early 1911 a likely rellie, 17yr old Mick John Megaloconomos, landed with Jack Cordatos and came straight to Hillgrove. He spent 3yrs here before wandering off, probably about the same time the Cordatos Bros pulled out, although the last identifiable Kytherian employee was Angelo John Diacopoulos who moved onto Parkes around early 1916. Thereafter there appears to be no Greek presence, and not much of anything else for that matter.

Large-scale mining commenced about 1880 and 20yrs later the place had built to a peak population of around 3000, from where it was all downhill. All the mines were closed by 1921 and the town’s buildings dismantled and relocated to Armidale and other Tableland centres. Today there are 95 people and no cafes, so bring your own picnic lunch.

[A bloke who probably walked all the way to a new job at Warburton, Victoria, was Jack Lewis (aka Glous and allegedly Gerakitis, born 1893 Potamos.) He regularly went for an afternoon stroll to Armidale and back, helping to build his muscles and stamina to become a champion marathon athlete. In 1921 he won the Victorian 22 mile championship and in 1926 took out the Australian 50 mile title.]

Uralla

The earliest Kytherian so far identified amongst the Urallians was Theo George Andronicos when he came to town from Boggabri in late 1904/early 1905 and bestowed his blessings for 18mths before reporting back to Sydney. He was the son of George Emmanuel Andronicos and Panagiotisa Panaretos of Potamos, (although his father is believed to originally have been a Kousounarian), and landed in 1897, aged 16. He had spent a few years at the Comino noviciate in Sydney until proceeding to Narrabri with his graduation certificate in mid 1901, trading as, or working for, Victor Comino, which could be a corruption of the trade name Comino & Panaretto, sometimes advertised as Victor Panaretto & Comino.

Next identifiable arrival was James Cosma Sourry, the nephew of Spyro Peter Panaretos of Inverell, who rode into town in late 1908. He had leapt onto Circular Quay in mid1905, agile at age 18, allegedly after a couple of years in San Francisco, and immediately caught the coach to Inverell to join his brother Peter. He is believed to have spent time with Peters & Co at Tingha, followed by a sortie into Orange before coming to Uralla to acquire or establish the White Rose Café in Bridge Street, trading as A. Peters & Co, perhaps implying his brother Anthony was the principal.

He just pipped Tony who caught the next Cobb & Co coach from Inverell a month or so later, but in early 1911 took a cutting to Orange to plant another White Rose. He seems to have sold the Orange Rose to King Gerakiteys, later of Cessnock, around 1918 and gardened in Armidale for a while until discovering the fertile soil of Queensland.

The next brother, 16yr old Samuel, came to town straight off the boat in mid 1914. He spent 4yrs here, with an interim 2yrs with brother Peter at Walcha, prior to joining the academics in Armidale.

James Sourry died at Uralla in 1943 leaving his wife Maria (nee Masselos) and daughters Eleni and Katina to carry on the business until 1947 when it was passed to Jack Theo Feros (already wearing the Order of the Rosette through his days as proprietor of the White Rose at Tamworth.) And it’s understood that Jack subsequently retired in Uralla and presented his new Rose to nephew Nick Psaltis, son of Cosma and Maria (nee Feros) of Mitata, who tendered it for many years. [Nick and his brothers, Theo and Peter, had landed before the war and slaved for Archie Caponas at Mullumbimby, with equal time in his café and on his banana farm, until acquiring their own banana patch at Burringbar. Archie’s café ended up in the hands of Jack’s other nephews, Peter and Theo Psaltis, Archie’s brother’s-in-law and the sons of Dimitri Psaltis, Jack’s on again/off again partner over the years. During one of his many trips to Australia Dimitri and Jack are alleged to have been in partnership in an earlier Uralla Café.]

Walcha

Andrew Damianos Andronicus, 19yrs old when he showed up in Sydney in 1899, drove his horse and cart across from Tamworth in early 1906 to provision a shop on behalf of Comino Bros. In mid 1908 his cousin, George Emmanuel Potiri, came from Barraba to share the management burden, but in 1912, shortly before his brother George arrived in town, Andy decided it was time for a visit back home, perhaps with a tour of the Balkan’s playground, but more importantly to woo the sister of his earlier employee, Peter Emmanuel Condoleon. He is believed to have come back sometime pre WW1 to participate in the new hotel partnership between Potiri and George, but returning again in 1915 to engage in the WW1 goings-on. He reappeared in town in 1922, hanging up his uniform and once again donning hotelier’s attire, but sometime around the mid 1920s deciding catering garb was a better look for a new career at Winton, perhaps with a showing at Macksville in the interim.

Meanwhile Emmanuel and George, having discarded their fruiterer’s aprons in favour of publican’s regalia in 1913, had had enough of bar room brawls and allegedly dissolved their partnership around 1919. Emmanuel subsequently acquired a pub at Grafton, although he may have moved off to the Goulburn/Queanbeyan area to join his brothers in the interim. George handed the beer gun to Andy and went into the skin trading business, dying in Walcha in 1929.

The café business had been passed to Stavros D. Marselos and Ioannis A. Marentos who traded as Comino & Co until the early war years when they retreated in the face of the spreading tentacles of Peters & Co, being massaged by Peter Cosma Sourry.

Peter, 16yrs old when he came in 1900, had become the senior partner in Peters & Co at Inverell upon his uncle Spyro Panaretto’s return home in 1905. He too returned to Kythera in 1912, perhaps with Andy Andronicus, married Marika Coroneos, the sister of Alex of Glen Innes, and upon relanding came to town to put his stamp on the local café, the place re-emerging as the Red Rose after a makeover. Towards the end of the war he left the place in the hands of his partner and brother-in-law, Emmanuel Harry Conomos, the consort of Katerina Sourry, and moved to Glenn Innes to start a new career in the theatre business with his other brother-in-law, the above Alex Coroneos.

Emmanuel Conomos remained for many years, but sometime during the Depression decided it was prudent to recolour the Rose from Red to White. Another Conomos, Michael John, a likely rellie of the Cordatos, and earlier of Hillgrove, arrived in 1918, around the time Peter Souris moved out, and stayed for a lengthy period caring for the schizophrenic Rose.

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