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Peter Makarthis

The Peters Enigma - A Presentation at the Roxy Bingara 10 April 2011

The Peters Enigma

The name Peter has a long association with the naming style of Greek Oyster Saloons and Cafes in eastern Australia. The name Peter and Peters with and without an apostrophe, continued as part of the Greek Café scene from the inception of Peter Phacheas’, S.Peter & Co at Inverell in 1899 through many businesses including, Peters Café at the Roxy Theatre Bingara 1936.

Mrs Peters Refreshment Rooms at128 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, NSW, an inner suburb of Newcastle appears to be the first Greek shop to have the name Peter within the name. An early photograph of ‘Mrs Peters Refreshment Rooms’ dated 25 Feb 1896, advertised on the front window - ‘Ice Cream, Tobacco & Cigarettes, Lemon Squash.’ The premises were leased by the proprietor Hristo Zograffos Lefkithis. Hristo arrived in Australia in the early 1890’s with his wife Evthokia. It is not clear whether Hristos named the shop or bought the shop from a Mrs Peters and continued to trade under that name style.
Hristos is noted with an oyster saloon in Newcastle1905 without any reference to a Peter name style.

It has always been an interest to ponder where the apostrophe should be placed. Either Peters’(with an apostrophe after the ‘s’), belonging to a Peters family or Peter’s with the apostrophe before the ‘s’, possessive to Peter (….?) with a surname that did not roll off the tongue comfortably in the Anglo Saxon past sense.

Extensive research has ruled out the possibility of a Greek family named ‘Peters.’ The surname, ’Peters’ is associated with Scandinavian or German immigrants. A small number of Greek families adopted ‘Peters’ as their surname after their arrival in Australia.

During the festivities at the opening of Peter’s Café here at the Roxy, many , will have noted the difference in the signage; Peters-without an apostrophe - above the windows and Peter’s with the apostrophe on the neon sign.

Peters above the window is in relation to the business name Peters & Coof the Roxy complex.

Peter’s Café- with the apostrophe - on the neon sign is the result of the makers taking some licence and inserting an apostrophe as they did not understand the Peters & Co terminology.

Peter Prineas wrote, in Kateshamos and the Great Idea, “the partners of Peters Cafe (1925) at Bingara took the name Peters & Co because it had worked for other Kytherian business men…… as it had become an informal franchise among Kytherian shop keepers. If there was someonewho might have once claimed the rights to the name Peters & Co., he was either dead or returned to Kythera and did not care that he had spawned a shoal of imitators.”

The Inverell Times, Friday,7 September 1934 announced,
“The death has occurred(yesterday) at Maitland of a noted Greek
identity, Mr. Peter Emanuel Phacheas, founder of the well known firm of S. Peter & Co. The deceased gentleman, who was 79 years of age, wasthe uncle of Mrs Theo Psaros, of Otho Street Inverell, and Mrs KyriakosCassim, of Bundarra, and was well and favourable known in this district.”
(Mrs Theo Psaros, nee Calliope Phacheas, known as ‘Beatty’ was the mother of my wife Deanna)

Shortly after an obituary in The Greek Hellenic Herald, marked his
passing with respect.

Last Thursday 6th at West Maitland District Hospital, well known
businessman Petros E Fatseas died of heart failure, aged 79 years.
He came to Australia from Kithira many years ago and was involved in a variety of merchant businesses which enabled him to build a wide circle of friends.
The funeral was attended by many from the city and surrounding
districts, including Australians who admired his character and his
excellent gentlemanly manner.
We convey our sincere condolences to his immediate and extended family.

So, who was Peter Phacheas (Φατσεας)?
Peter Emanuel Phacheas from the village of Fatsadika on the island of Kythera, arrived in Sydney 1889 and commenced work with AthanasiosComino at 36 Oxford Street.

At this time several oyster saloons in CBD of Sydney and nearby
suburbs, operated by fellow Kytherians under the name of A. Comino. With experience gained in Sydney, Peter Phacheas opened the first Greek operated oyster saloon in country NSW in Summer Street Orange 1894 under the name style Comino & Co. The Comino & Co name became an iconic flag for Greek oyster saloons and cafés across eastern Australia for the next three decades.

Peter Phacheas opened an Oyster Saloon at Inverell 29 August, 1899 with the name style S. Peter & Co – Sydney Oyster Saloon, Otho Street,opposite the Post Office. He conducted the business in partnership with Spiro Panaretto at Moree - hence the ‘S’- until selling his share to Spiro Panaretto, 1901, with Panaretto maintaining the same name style.

The Sydney Oyster Saloon flag was short lived in Inverell, however it
appeared later, briefly on Comino & Co enterprises in NSW and

Peter Cosma Sourry, who was in the employ, of Peter Phacheas and
Spiro Panaretto, bought S. Peter and Co Inverell 1906 and under the same banner opened premises in Tingha. Later that year S. Peter & Co established another shop in Bundarra, managed by Peter Phacheas (recent of Goulburn).

During the ensuing years, a number of Kytherians, conducted S. Peter & Co at Inverell. The Gengos Brothers, Vassilios and Evangelos, together with Nicholas (Liapis) Aroney, including their cafes at Moree and East Moree,1910. Theo Psaros (1919) and Peter Psaros (1921) maintained an enduring partnership of S.Peter & Co until retiring 1969.

The success of the S. Peter & Co enterprise at Inverell “spawned a
shoal of imitators” using variations of the naming style developed by
Peter Phacheas in 1899.

The oyster saloon trade began to decline from c 1910, largely because the natural supply of oysters was being rapidly exhausted , the Greeks began to concentrate their energies from oyster shuckers and fishmongers to the broader refreshment trade as fruiterers, confectioners and cafe proprietors. A growing confidence in their own ability to conduct their business outside the patronage of the Comino banner led Greeks to seek
another name style.

The first Peters & Co style is registered April 1911 to Leonidas Gengos, Nicholas P. Aroney, Spiro Coroneos, Theo Crithary, Theo Georgopoulos and Michael Georgopoulos, at Grey Street Glen Innes.

Numerous Greeks included “Peter” in their naming styles during the
ensuing years, whether or not their first name was ‘Peter.’

Peter Phacheas (the founder of S. Peter & Co) with John Samios openedan Oyster Saloon , at Goulburn 1903 as John Peter & Co. Others adopted a similar format - John Peters & Company – Glen Innes 1903, M. Peter & Company – Goulburn 1906; A. Peter & Company Uralla 1909;Con Peter & Co – Tingha 1909; S.Peters & Co - Moree and East Moree, 1910, Peters & Co- Bellingen 1916; Peters & Co –Coffs Harbour (Mellitas)* 1924; M.Peter & Co–Trangie,1924; Peters & Co Bingara 1924.

These are not the only Greek business trading with the Peter name. ThePeters & Co name style was used Greek Cafes in the Central West of NSW as late as 1960’s.

The local populace mostly referred to these businesses orally as ‘Peters’ with scant regard of either the apostrophe or the owners names.

Another Peter factor became enmeshed with Greek Cafes as Peters Ice Cream – ‘The health food of a nation’- was emblazoned on their shop fronts.

The connection with Peters Ice Cream is not of Greek origin, rather, by association with Greek refreshment rooms, milk bars and cafes.

Frederick Augustus Peters (1866-1937), the founder of the famed firm, an American (USA) commenced business in Australia mid 1890’s
representing US agencies. With wife Elizabeth in the early 1900s he
manufactured 'Peters' Pile Cure'. Frederick and Elizabeth as F.A. Peters are registered at ‘Merton’ Ocean Street Bondi, Manufacturing & Sale of a Pile Cure , 31 March 1904.

Later, they leased two rooms in an ice factory to produce ice cream atPaddington and set up Peters' American Delicacy Co. Ltd on 27 August1907. New works to manufacture 'The Health Food of a Nation' were opened at Redfern in 1923 and business flourished. In 1927 he set up Peters' Arctic Delicacy Co. Ltd in Brisbane and opened a branch at Newcastle. In 1929 associated companies were established in Victoria, Western Australia , Townsville, Queensland, with a manufacturing branch at Rockhampton.

Frederick Peters was largely responsible for introducing to Australia the refrigerated cabinet, which he hired out to retailers. His marketing experience enabled him to grasp the opportunity presented by the spread of Greek cafes across Australia during 1920’s. Hiring of the refrigerated cabinet carried contractual obligations by the proprietors of cafes to stockPeters’ products only, and Peters mounting extensive advertising in the media.

The iconic Peters neon sign (as seen on Regent Cafe, in Bingara)
was erected on the front of cafes establishing a synonymous connection with Greek proprietors and Peters Ice Cream across the country. Peters recruited Greek salesmen to promote their product. Well remembered is the notable sales manager Nick Feros at Newcastle.

Nick Feros became the face of Peters Ice Cream in the New England
Region, resplendent with red carnation in the lapel of his jacket on alloccasions. Ice cream wedding cakes would appear at weddings of clients families,respecting their loyalty to Peters.

Deanna and I were such recipients at our traditional Greek wedding at Inverell , 1962 in respect of her father, Theo Psaros’ long term
patrontage of Peters Ice Cream through S.Peter & Co, Monterey Cafe.

Peter Phacheas, the corner stone of the Peters Enigma, is buried in
Maitland Cemetery. The wooden marker on his grave has long since decayed, with the grave now unmarked, as are the many Peter’s enterprises that bore his mark.

He may be well remembered in these lines from The Land of the
Budgeriga by Hugh Stone (E. McDonnell) in 1936.

"A noble life, but written not
In any book of fame;
Among the list of noted ones
None ever heard his name.

For only his own household knew
The victories he had won;
And none but they could testify
How well his work was done."

Author and Presenter- Peter ‘Skoulandris’ McCarthy
Roxy Theatre, Bingara, NSW Australia April, 10, 2011

© S.Peter & Co April 2011

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