submitted by George Kanarakis on 30.12.2005
Harry (Haralambos) Corones
On 14 June 1965 people poured in and out of the Hotel Corones in Charleville, Queensland all day. “The barmaids were run off their feet, the telephones ran hot and the local telegraph boy nearly wore out his bike”. Drinks were on the house for everyone, and everybody in the town was celebrating. The reason? The much-loved Harry Corones (or “Poppa” to everyone who knew him) had that day been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, (M.B.E.) in recognition of “his remarkable services to the people of Western Queensland over a great number of years”.
Sometime during that day a jovial and exuberant Harry, now eighty-two years old but still with brown eyes twinkling beneath his curly white hair, may have paused to remember that fateful day on 10 August 1907 when, without speaking a word of English and at twenty-three years of age already responsible for his twelve-year-old nephew Demetrios (Jim), he landed in Sydney from his native island of Kythera.
Harry (Haralambos) Corones was born in the village of Frylingianika, Kythera on 17 September 1883 to Panayiotis Coroneos, a fisherman, and his wife Stamatia. Harry’s mother, Stamatia, was a member of the Frylingos family, an extended family so large that the village in which many of them lived had been named after them, and one which was very close-knit - something which would help Harry later in life.
Little is known of Harry’s childhood and youth on the island until 1904 when, at the age of twenty-one, he began two years military service as a first-aid-orderly attached to a military hospital. This part of his life completed, a decision had to be made about which direction his future would take. On the small island of Kythera there were few opportunities other than fishing or tending the family’s plot of land, and so the family reached the conclusion that Harry would have to emigrate. Moreover, it was decided that he should take with him his young nephew Demetrios, in the hope that they would both be able to build a better life overseas.
Harry’s first choice was America but for medical reasons his application was rejected and so his hopes turned to Australia where, after all, his mother had relatives, in Brisbane. And so it was that the following year Harry and Jim embarked on the long trip towards an unknown life in the foreign land.
When the ship sailed into Sydney harbour and docked, Harry and Jim disembarked with few possessions other than their meagre luggage and Harry’s pocketful of change, with no English at all between them and so their real adventure began.
Harry’s immediate concern was to find work. He had the name of a Kytherian, Mr Aroney, who might give him a job
and so, leaving Jim on his own on the wharf to look after the luggage, Harry set off in search of his fellow-islander.
Despite being a total stranger in the city, he finally found Aroney who did indeed give him work in his fish shop. But Aroney had nowhere for Harry to stay and so finding accommodation for himself and Jim was Harry’s next priority.
Walking in the streets near the docks looking for a room was a daunting task when he could neither read the street signs nor seek information from passers-by, but eventually he came across a fellow-Greek who was cleaning the window of a shop. Harry helped him to complete his task and was introduced to the owner of the shop, who turned out to have a place where Harry and Jim could stay.
Evening was now falling, so Harry, elated by his achievements, rushed back to the wharf to collect Jim who by this time was feeling lost and afraid.The hours that Harry had been away had seemed very long to young Jim who had been unable to buy anything to eat or drink, or to converse with the strangers who had tried to help him.
This long day over, their new life began. But it was to be a hard life in Sydney with Harry working extremely long hours gutting and filleting the fish and opening oysters, with Jim working there, too, on the weekends and in the school holidays.
After about a year had passed, Harry decided that they should move on to Brisbane where, after all, he had relatives on his mother’s side.
This was to be a fortuitous move, for the Frylingos brothers (or Freeleagus as they were known in Australia) not only gave Harry a job in their oyster saloon on George Street but would help him in a venture which wotild be the start of a long and very successful business career.
At the oyster saloon Harry continued to work long hours, yet such was his care and concern for Jim that he lodged him with an Australian family, named Ballard, where he would not only be looked after but also improve his English, and then sent him to a school in Bundaberg.
But a life as an oyster opener, working for others, was not what Harry had in mind for his future. He wanted to start a business on his own and began to think about where this should be.
In the end he decided on Charleville, an inland town in south—west Queensland, six hundred and seventy kilometres from Brisbane, which was not only the centre of its region but where an empty cafe, owned by a Greek named Theo Comino, was for sale, With a loan of £120 from the Freeleagus brothers, Harry bought the cafe and so in l909, just a year after they had arrived in Brisbane, Harry and Jim set off for Charleville - another step into the unknown for both of them, but for Harry a journey to the town which would be his home for the rest of his life.
In those days, Charleville was a remote, hot, dry and dusty but thriving cattle—country town with saw mills, a meatworks and a few other small factories. With the railway running through, it was an important rail terminal, but even more significant for the traders in the town was the fact that it was a main stopping point for bullock trains and camel caravans, as well as for the many drovers who were moving their stock from one part of the State to another, and even interstate.
The cafe on Alfred Street which Harry had bought needed much work, but from the start he ran it in the way he would run all his businesses in his long business career of about sixty years, offering good service, good food and warm hospitality.
The following year, Harry went into partnership with another fellow—Greek named Megalocominos in another cafe, on Wills Street, which Harry ran with his usual hard work, efficiency and attention to detail, It was a bigger cafe than the first one, but its importance to Harry lay not in its size, but in the fact that it was here that he met Paddy Cryan, a travelling salesman from Perkins Brewery in Brisbane.
Impressed as he was with the way Harry ran the cafe, Paddy astutely recognised in Harry the qualities of a good hotel owner. He suggested that Harry should move into the hotel business and take on the lease of the Hotel Charleville which had become vacant, At first Harry was reluctant to make this move because he knew nothing about the hotel business, and moreover because he did not have any money. But Cryan continued to persuade him and to assure him that the brewery would finance the deal and train him in the business.
Harry discussed it at length with Jim, and in the end the decision was made — Harry Corones would become a hotelier, and Jim would accompany him in this venture. On 7 October 1912 Harry signed the lease on the Hotel Charleville on the corner of Alfred and Wills Streets for five years at a rent of £ 6 per week.
That year, 1912, was very significant for Harry for not only did it mark the beginning of a long career as a hotelier (the first Greek hotelier in Australia), but in June of that year, committing himself to Australia as his new homeland, Harry had become a naturalised Australian citizen.
Harry, with no knowledge of the hotel trade and with somewhat broken English, but assisted by Jim, threw himself into his new venture. The business was going well and Harry’s thoughts turned to his future as a family man.
Early in 1914 he left Charleville to go to Sydney for a few months, and there, on 29 April, he married Eftyhia Phocas at Holy Trinity church in Sydney. Eftyhia was the fourth of the six daughters of Reverend Serapheini Phocas and his wife Maria. Reverend Phocas was the first accredited resident Greek Orthodox priest in New South Wales (he had arrived in Sydney in March 1899) and only the second in Australia, and was a well-educated, scholarly man who spoke several languages fluently. Although he had been born on the Gallipoli Peninsula he had lived in Jerusalem, Crete, Alexandria, Port Said and Rhodes, and with this background he had brought up all his daughters to be well-educated, refined and with charming personalities. Apart from the youngest, Helen, who remained unmarried, all the other daughters eventually married well established members of the Greek communities in different States.
Yet joy would be mixed with tragedy, for early in the trip in Harry’s absence the hotel burnt down. Harry returned to Charleville with his new wife and the hotel was soon rebuilt. On 27 June Harry signed a new lease, this time for ten years, and at £540 per year.
The new hotel was bigger and more luxurious than its predecessor and Harry settled down to run it, assisted as always byJirn and now helped by Eftyhia, with his usual dedication to hard work and excellent service.
Running the hotel, though, was not without its unusual aspects. For example, boundary riders used to ride their horses into the bar, and at times there would be almost as many horses there as people, until Harry changed the doors and made them too narrow for a horse and its rider to pass through!
At the same time as running his hotel, though, Harry’s mind was on expanding his business interests as well as on providing new facilities for his fellow-townsfolk.
He formed a new partnership with three others, McWha, Crowley and Klass (though he would buy them out on 1 August 1919), and on 5 April 1915 they opened Charleville’s first cinema, the Excelsior, in premises at the rear of the Hotel Charleville. To this they brought not only silent movies (with two screens and the equipment set up in such a way that the films could be shown either indoors or outdoors according to the season) but also vaudeville acts from Sydney and Brisbane.
These were much appreciated by the town’s residents as well as by all who passed through, but what they admired most of all was the generator and electric lighting plant Harry had imported from London which lit both the cinema and the hotel — an alliazing innovation for the outback in those days.
Harry’s life was very busy, for two months later (3 June) he took a ten-year lease on the Paris Cafe in the same block as the hotel, although on 4 September 1921 he would sub-let it to his cousin Peter Locos, for £1,700.
By now Harry was not only a successful businessman and a family man (his first child, Peter, had been born on 23 February 1915), but he was a respected and much—liked member of the Charleville community, admired for his boundless energy and his unfailing sense of humour.
Recognition of his business acumen and his popularity came first in 1916 when he was invited to serve on the Charleville Hospital Board. Then in 1919 he was a member of the original committee of the Ambulance Centre and some time after that he was invited to serve on the Fire Brigade Board. He gave himself wholeheartedly to these activities, yet still he wanted to do more to help end the town’s isolation.
His inspiration for this came in 1919 when, on a flight from England to Australia, Sir Keith and Sir Ross Smith made a landing at Charleville for fuiel and urgently needed repairs.
Harry entertained the two aviators as his guests (naturally) while repairs were carried out on the plane and it was refuelled from four-gallon petrol tins. Overwhelmed by the hospitality
they received for three months and the splendid farewell dinner which Harry provided, the two aviators offered to take Jim up in their plane.Though very nervous, Jim went for a flight over Charleville and the surrounding countryside, seeing the vastness of his new homeland from the air for the first time, and being the envy of many other young men in the town!
The spectacle of a plane landing at Charleville fired Harry’s imagination as a way to end Charleville’s remoteness, and he became passionately interested in the fledgeling aviation industry in Australia.
When Sir Hudson Fysh and other men of foresight decided to form an airline, which they would name Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services), several of their meetings were held in Harry’s hotel, and it was at one of these meetings that, at Harry’s suggestion, inspired by the classical mythology of his native Greece, they gave the Greek names Perseus, Pegasus, Atalanta, Hermes and Heppomenes to five of their first seven aircraft. When the company was launched in 1920 Harry Corones was one of the original shareholders of the infant airline with one hundred one-pound shares. Qantas’ first scheduled service was from Charleville to Cloncurry on 2 November 1922, and picnic hampers sent out to the planes became a regular part of Harry’s life. Many years later, Sir Hudson Fysh would write in a letter to Corones dated 10 July 1971, with much affection: “I want to see you again, great, and long friend and supporter that you have been, and to recall some of the old times long passed when the world was younger, simpler, and you used to bring out the morning tea.Yes, Qantas’ first caterer. And think what it has grown to today”.
In 1 930, when Harry’s sons Peter and Alexander would go to school in Ipswich, Harry sent them there on Heppomenes as a sign of his faith in outback aviation.
In the meantime Harry and Jim decided to branch out and buy a hotel in another town, choosing Quilpie as the place of their expansion. Quiilpie, dusty and dry, was a smaller town than Charleville with only a few shops, a police station, a couirt house and lock-up, a small hospital and some houses, about two hundred and ten kilometres to the west, in opal country. The railway had reached there in 1917, and Quilpie became a rail terminal.
Harry and Jim saw the potential in this small town and on 19 August 1921 Harry bought the single-storey wooden Quilpie Hotel for £ 2,935. Now the close working partnership was to be severed for, while they remained business partners and best friends, Jim was to go to Quilpie to run the hotel there. Soon Jim’s brother Harry, known as “young Harry”, came over to join him in the running of the hotel, and he was to learn from jim everything that Jim in turn had learned from his uncle Harry.
Soon, however, Harry’s lease on the Hotel Charleville would be due to expire and he began to ma ke plans for the future, drawing on the experience he had gained so far. This would nclude the recollection of the time when, to help the people who had come from miles around to attend Charlevjlle’s annual picnic races, Harry had set up a long row of temporary hessian bathrooms -and some wag had set fire to them, at peak bathtime. In no time at all a large crowd had gathered to watch!
While the Hotel Charleville was now one of the best in the Queensland outback, his dream was to have a hotel which would be by far the best in Queensland outside Brisbane, and equal to any in that State capital.
Six days after the lease ran out (3 July 1924) Harry purchased with Jim the Norman Hotel, a one—storey ramshackle place dating from about 1895, which stood a block south of the Hotel Charleville on the corner of Wills and Galatea Streets. They also bought the rest of the land in that block to Edward Street, standing almost opposite the town hall.
Harry brought in a well-known, prize-winning architect, William Hodgen junior, and together they planned the Hotel Corones which would be the fulfilment of Harry’s dreams and Hodgen’s major single work, as well as the highlight of his career. Using a local builder, George Baker, and giving preference to local men on a day-labour basis, the hotel was built in four stages and took five years to complete. Work first began at the south end of the block, the opposite end to the Norman Hotel, and the first two stages were in reinforced concrete as Harry was well aware of the fire danger connected with wooden structures.
While the planning and the initial stages of this hotel were progressing, at the same time Harry and Jim had more plans for Quilpie. At Jim’s suggestion they bought a block of land on Main Street in the small town centre and there built the Imperial Hotel — a wooden building but Quilpie’s first two-storey structure. The hotel opened for business in 1925 and once more the high standard of a Corones Hotel became known throughout the area. It was also the first building in Quilpie to have electricity, a generator being brought over from Charleville. For a time, Harry and Jim also operated the first picture show in Quilpie, next to the Quilpie Hotel.
Disaster would strike however soon after the opening of the Imperial Hotel when in late January 1929 Harry and Jim’s original purchase in Quilpie, the Quilpie Hotel, burnt down, destroying the cinema at the same time.
Learning a lesson from this, in the same year they completely rebuilt the hotel, with two floors and in brick and concrete. This was the town’s first building constructed in anything other than wood and it was known affectionately by all as “The Brick”.
As the building of the Hotel Corones in Charleville progressed, the Norman Hotel was finally demolished and the last two stages of the new hotel were completed in brick. Such was the care which had been taken in planning the schedule of construction of the Hotel Corones that trading was able to continue throughout all that time.
In 1929, after five years of planning and construction, the magnificent two-storey white Hotel Corones with its sixty-three metre frontage on Wills Street was completed, rising “phoenix-like on the site of the old Norman Hotel”. Harry had envisaged, and achieved, a hotel which no other in the State surpassed and which no other in a country town could equal.
Built at a cost of, £ 50,000, it contained a lounge and writing room, a dining-room for a hundred and fifty people, a private and a public bar, a barber’s shop and, attached to the hotel, a magnificent ballroom capable of seating three hundred and twenty people at a banquet, while upstairs were bathrooms, about forty single and double bedrooms each with french doors opening to a verandah (the double rooms also had private bathrooms) and an upstairs louinge.
Nor was size the only impressive featuire of the Hotel Corones for the interior was decorated and furnished with nothing but luxury in mind and with exquisite attention to detail. Floors were of gleaming parquet and imported white marble, ceilings were exquisitely corniced, and coloured leadlight windows and doors, even a leadhight telephone booth, complemented silky oak panelling.
The hotel’s brochure published at the time gives detailed description:
“From the red and white cement footpath one steps into the Lounge, through widely—welcoming swinging doors — to find comfort awaiting. A cool, white marble floor seems to reflect the whiteness of the ceiling, where huge fans turn unceasingly to keep the temperature right in the heat of the summer, and in the winter time, wood fires make for warmth and comfort. Gleaming copper-topped tables throw back reflections on the flower-laden crystal vases, ever a feature of this room. Deep leather lounges and chairs are provided, where one may rest and entertain, and a door leads to a well—fitted writing room and telephone booth.....
The dining-room of Hotel Gorones is situated on the ground floor, and opens out through long folding glass doors into a piazza, which gives an impression of coolness and space....
A very modern and luxurious Public Bar forms one of the extra special features of this hotel. With the Roman mosaic floor, and time egg-shell mottled tiled walls and counters, the Bar is tinted in the faintest of pastel shades of blue and cream, and an air of coolness pervades this spacious room.
More than usual attention has been paid to time planning and furnishing of the Hotel Gorones bathrooms, and time best of modern equipment has been installed. Hot and cold baths and showers from running bore water are obtainable at any hour. The scrupulous cleanliness shining from the white porcelain baths adds to the personal comfort of each guest....
The bedrooms are furnished throughout in maple or sycamore, with spacious wardrobes, large mirrors, and writing tables. Soft, deep-piled carpets tone harmoniously with the furnishings, and from each double room one enters a luxurious private bathroom, mosaic floored, the walls tiled in shades agreeing with the colouring of the furniture and furnishings of the bedroom attached, where one may enjoy the delights of either a hot or cold bath....
To enjoy a quiet smoke, read, or a game of cards, one seeks the beautiful lounge upstairs. In this room and embossed ceiling in deep cream looks down on a polished floor, in which brown and cream boards alternate. The room is lined with French polished oak and a beautiful fireplace breaks the evenness of one wall. Comfort is the keynote here, and deep into velvet upholstered chairs time visitor sinks. Tables amid smokers’ stands in rosewood lend a deeper tone to the greys amid blues, which predominate in the rugs amid upholstering. Soft lights amid a perfect quietness make this room very dcsirable When the westerly winds turn Charleville into an Arctic region, log fires are lit in this room, transforming it into a snug retreat, beautifully warm and comfortable”
At the same time excellent service and catering were to be the hallmark of the hotel:
“An office staff ever courteous amid well-informed, is in attendance in one part of the lounge, amid deft attendants dispense hospitality when required.....
A capable, efficient staff pays attention to every tiny detail, and the most particular can have their every need supplied. A chef well versed in his art, serves up dishes to satisfy the most critical epicure, and every skill is employed to secure an appetising amid dainty effect. Iced dishes for hot days, and fans whirling unceasingly, make life in time Far West pleasant at this hotel, and brings a satisfied friendliness to those who mutually enjoy it...... ...
The best brands of liquors arc supplied, and the service unexcelled. A refrigerator keeps the drinks at just the degree of coolness individual taste requires, and the drinks being the very best obtainable, the Bar of the Hotel Corones depicts generally a very happy gathering. Bright, genial attendants, who seem to anticipate each client’s wishes, do much to add to the popularity of these extremely pleasant surroundings....
Every kind of liquid refreshment is stocked, in every degree of coolness, and no drink, however rare, is beyond the reach of the capable management”.
Pristine white starched damask tablecloths and napkins as well as the finest silver cutlery Harry could find were always used, while sparkling glassware and crystal vases filled with fresh flowers completed the picture.
This luxurious hotel, of which he used to say,”I built it, and the bank”, immediately became the gathering place for people from miles around and its reputation for elegance, luxury and fine service spread far and wide. But it was Harry’s personality which added the crowning touch to the hotel’s reputation, for he was the perfect host. His warm and welcoming hospitality knew no bounds, and his joy for living radiated to all around him. Moreover he was a keen sportsman, and loved to take hotel guests shooting, golfing, swimming or just exploring the surrounding countryside.
Many were the distinguished guests who stayed at the Hotel Corones throughout the following decades, one of the earliest being the aviator Amy Johnson who made Charleville a stopping point on her epic flight from Britain to Australia in 1930. Staying at the Hotel Corones, in celebration she filled her bath with twenty-four magnums of champagne, which all the other guests later wanted to drink in her honour!
Two years later the aviator Elly Beinhorn would also stop at Charleville at the Hotel Corones, and this time Harry took the aviator on a duck shooting expedition.
Other early distinguished guests included the aviators Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Sir Hudson Fysh, the Wright brothers, Nancy Bird and Jean Batten, the then Governor of Queensland, Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, the internationally renowned baritone Peter Dawson and the much-loved English singer Gracie Fields. In fact Gracie Fields caused a sensation when, before departing from the hotel, she stood at the open windows in front of the large crowd and the troops who had gathered in front of the hotel, and sang one of the songs for which she was famous: “Wish Me Luck AsYou Wave Me Goodbye”.
Other celebrities staying at the hotel over the decades would include judges, politicians (including Gough Whitlam), pop stars (one of whom was Johnny O’Keefe) and even members of the royal family, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and the Duchess of Gloucester who later presented Harry with a gold lapel pin as a memento of their stay at the hotel. It was from the Duke of Gloucester, at that time Governor-General of Australia, that Harry was given permission to use the royal insignia with the wording “Under Vice Regal Patronage” on the hotel’s letterheading.
The success of the hotel was due largely to Harry’s business acumen and his capacity for hard work. He demanded equal dedication and hard work from his staff but at the same time he was known for the fairness with which he treated his employees.Yet, the success of the hotel was also due in no small part to his wife Eftyhia (or Effte as she was known) who gave her complete support to Harry in all his activmties.
Loved and respected by all, she was an elegant, cultivated and beautifully spoken lady who was always impeccably and stylishly dressed, and she was a great asset to Harry when guests, especially dignitaries, were welcomed and entertained. Effie trained the staff to exacting standards and worked hard in the background supervising many aspects of running the hotel, including overseeing the kitchen and setting the menus for the guests and for the many banquets and special functions.
But it was Harry’s sense of humour which helped endear him to guests and townsfolk alike. He laughed along with the others when jokes were made about his heavy accent - even makingjokes against himself - and in the end would always see the funny side of any incident, And the incidents were many.There was the time when, again on picnic race day, people
strung his crockery in rows across the street, or the time when locals broke into his hotel in the early hours of the morning and sold liquor to the people in the main Street - giving him the takings the next morning.
Another time a race-goer bet Harry one hundred bottles of champagne that he could not serve all the guests in the dining-room with champagne in five minutes. Harry took on the bet. Corks popped like gunfire and he flew around the room, winning the bet.
Not so profitable for Harry was the time when a drunken guest rode his horse into the ballroom on the night that a very elegant ball was in progress.The horse slithered and slipped on the highly polished floor, sliding into tables which came crashing down bringing their crockery, cutlery, glassware and floral decorations with them, while expensive ballgowns which had been brought from Brisbane especially for the occasion were ripped and mangled in the melée that broke out!
Other stories affectionately related by Harry’s many friends concern Harry himself. On one occasion he was thrown into a panic when it was discovered that a honeymoon couple were not actually married because of a legal technicality, a shocking thing by the mores of those early days, which Harry immediately set about helping them to rectify.
Some of the stories involve distinguished guests like the late Sir James Blair, the Chief Justice of Queensland, who was being driven around Charleville with Harry in a somewhat dilapidated old taxi. Sir James upbraided the taxi driver for \vhat he considered to be the man’s atrocious driving, and announced that when he got back to Brisbane he would cancel the man’s licence. When Harry protested that he could not do that, Sir James indignantly asked why not since he was the Chie fJustice. Harry replied: “Because he hasn’t got a b.......... licence!”
But perhaps the most enduring, and endearing, story concerns Harry’s somewhat shaky grasp of written English. On one occasion, one of Harry’s guests had been a circuit judge from
Brisbane who used to stay at the hotel, and who, every year, would go duck shooting with Harry. His visit to Charleville over, the judge had taken the train back to Brisbane when Harry discovered that he had left his gun behind, so Harry telephoned him to let him know. But the line between Charleville and Brisbane was very poor, compoumnded by Harry’s heavy accent, and the judge could not understand what Harry was talking about. “Spell it” the judge said, becoming rather exasperated. So Harry spelt “G for Jesus, U for onion, N for pneumonia”!
Throughout this hectic but interesting time, Harry maintained his support for aviation and especially for Qantas. If ever the crew of one of the Qantas planes had to stay overnight in Charleville they were always his guests at his hotel, and Harry’s tradition of sending picnic baskets out to planes which stopped for refuelling continued faithfully. Then in 1934 Qantas was granted a licence for international flights, which began in Brisbane, flying to Darwin with a stop at Charleville en route.
Harry took over a disused hangar at the airfield and converted it into a dining-room where meals were served to passengers, with all the elegance with which they were served in his hotel dining—room, complete with damask tablecloths and silver cutlery. Harry continued to provide this service for Qantas until larger aeroplanes meant that the stop at Charleville was no longer necessary.
With all these activities in Charleville, not for one minute did Harry overlook his business affairs in Quilpie.
In October 1934 he and Jim leased in that town the Club Hotel (which they purchased on 31 July 1965 for £ 8,000) bringing the number of hotels they controlled there to three with, incidentally, all of them being on the same block in the main street.
Now with a number of hotels and other business concerns, Harry and Jin4 decided to put their small empire on a sounder basis and on 10 June 1935 they formed a company, Hotels Pty Ltd., the name of which they would change on 8 October 1936 to Corones Hotels Pty Ltd. In the meantime, on 13 December 1935, they sold all their equities to this company, of which Harry was the Managing Director.
The end of the 1930s and the period of World War II saw business boom in the Charleville hotels, with the establishment of an American Air Force Base in the new, but not yet operational, Charleville Hospital.
Harry welcomed the troops and treated them with his usual exuberance and hospitality, holding dances in the hotel every night, but life with the troops was not always without incident. While this was the time during which Gracie Fields visited Charleville, it was also marked, quite literally, by bullet holes inside the hotel. One night a crowd in one of the rooms had become so rowdy that an American Air Force officer, driven to distraction by the noise, fired his revolver down the corridor to shut them up, and hit the walls in several places!
It was the American troops who first began to call Harry “Poppa” and Eftyhia “Nana”.These names stuck and from this time on Harry and his wife were known affectionately to all by these names.
After the war business continued to prosper and on 4 December 1948 the company bought the Hotel Charleville, at a cost of £37,100. It flourished, too, throughout the following decade, but the rural economy suffered badly during the drought of the 1960s.The local pastoral industry was hit hard and with it the economy of Charleville, including the Corones empire.
While Harry’s personal life had received a great fillip with his M.B.E. in 1965, in 1966 tragedy struck with the death from a stroke of his dearly loved nephew Jim, on 4 July.
Now he was deprived of his closest friend and his partner in all his business enterprises.Together they had built up an empire which at its peak comprised two hotels, sixteen shops and one garage in Charleville, as well as three hotels, six shops, one bank building, one garage and one house in Quilpie, all under the
umbrella of Harry Corones. Other business interests included the six thousand, eight hundred and eighty hectare Whynot Station, near Thargomindah and at one time a half-share in Gatino and Company, a wine and spirit import business in Sydney, which operated until the Depression.With Jim’s death, Harry’s health began to deteriorate.
However, business alone was not Harry’s sole interest or concern in life.
He was an enthusiastic worker for many causes in the town, and a devoted family man. Effie bore him five children: Peter (b.23 February 19l5), Alexander (b.23 February 1916), George (b. 6 April l918), Anna (b. 15 January 1921) and Stamatia (b. 3 April 1923). Having great respect for education, and also influenced in this by his well-educated wife, Harry sent Peter and Alexander to Ipswich Grammar and George to Toowoomba Grammar, while the two girls spent some years at Arsakeion, the prestigious girls’ school in Athens.
Sadly, though, Alexander died when he was fifteen years old. While playing in a football match he injured his leg; an infection set in and developed into septicemia, and this took his young life which was so full of promise.
Harry’s warmth and concern for others did not stop with his family, and he was a generous benefactor of various causes in the town, especially the hospital. His dedicated service to the Ambulance Board lasted for thirty-nine years (1919— 1958), to the Fire Brigade Board for over twenty-five years (until 1958), and he served on the Hospital Board for an unbroken fifty-three years (1916-1969),— a period of service not remotely approached by any other individual in Charleville or elsewhere. For much of this time he was also chairman of the Board’s Works Committee and the hospital stands as a testimony to his unflagging dedication in this role, while the nurses’ quarters was officially named The Harry Corones Block.
Harry, a lover of sport, was a great supporter of local sporting groups. He was a foundation member and major developer of both the original Charleville golf club and the first bowling club, he helped to set up and finance a local basketball team, and was a foundation patron of the All Whites Football Club, who made him a life member in September 1966, in recognition of his continued support of the club.
Also, he was a Freemason and in appreciation of his long and significant service in 1972, just before his death, he was presented with the Life Governor’s Jewel of the Aged Masons, Widows and Orphans Institution.
The one institution in which he would never participate, though, was politics (despite his many politician friends), always declaring that he had no patience with politics and always refusing to get involved!
Nor was the individual overlooked in Harry’s concern and magnanimity. Whenever drovers were away on their lengthy trips, Harry always ensured that their faniilies (whether white or aboriginal) had enough food, and helped them sort out any other problems they might have. In the same way his generosity, based on respect, extended to all the nurses and doctors who worked at the Charleville Hospital, never allowing them to pay for any food or drinks they niight have in any of his hotels where there being anything other than Harry’s guests was out of the question.
In the years since Jim’s death, though, Harry had lost his hearing and a large part of his eyesight. He still lived in the hotel he had created, guided and controlled for so niany years, but now his days were drawing to a close. On 22 March 1972 Harry Corones, the man who had left his indelible mark on so many aspects of life in Charleville, passed away, at the grand old age of eighty-eight.The whole town was deeply saddened, and a huge procession, comprising most of the townspeople as well as many of his friends and former guests from other places, accompanied his coffin to the local cemetery where he was buried. Two years later, on 8 March 1974, Eftyhia (who was now living in Brisbane) followed her husband and was buried next to him in the Charleville cemetery, where Alexander had also been buried many years before.
The day after Harry’s funeral the dinner bell beside the entrance of the dining-room, which had been a part of a bore casing given to Harry by a wealthy grazier friend, bronzed and made into a dinner bell by Harry, was not rung. It has never been rung since.
The Hotel Corones still stands as a memorial to Harry Corones and his wife Eftyhia. In the last years of his life it had been run by their son Peter and his wife Mary. But a decade later it passed out of Corones hands, changing hands once more in 1985 when it was sold to Gordon and Andrew Harding.
Lovingly and painstakingly restored after the disastrous floods of 1990, its architectural and social value were recognised by the National Trust of Queensland in 1993 when they included it on their Register, while in May 1997 it was placed on the Heritage List.
Today, guests still stay in the splendid I 920s rooms of the Hotel Corones, locals still drink in its magnificent bar and both visitors and locals eat in the splendid dining-room which retains much of its original decor and furnishings, including the specially made chairs with a carved C embellishing them and some of the beautifully engraved silverware.
Daily tours through the Hotel Corones mean that the vision and the high standards of Harry Corones, who built a hotel that was unequalled in rural Queensland, can still be appreciated, as can Harry hiniself the man who became known as “the uncrowned king of the West”.
In The Wake Of Odysseus. Portraits of Greek Settlers in Australia.
124 La Trobe Street
Greek-Australian Archives Publications
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