submitted by Karavitiko Symposium, Sydney on 22.01.2010
Theo Coroneos (left) and Peter Venardos in Gunnedah early 1940s
Peter Venardos was born in Ayia Anastasia, Kythera, Greece. He migrated to Australia at the young age of 12 and like many other boy migrants to Australia, never saw his mother again. Peter moved to Tamworth in 1936, and then to Gunnedah in 1943, a place which remained home to him and his wife Dianna for the next 67 years.
Hard work was the foundation of Peter’s life as we can all recall him saying “hard work never killed anybody” This is a lesson he instilled in his three son’s George, Jim and Paul and one he adapted to his business career. As a young man he worked tirelessly as a baker and waiter before entering into a business partnership with his brother in law , Theo Souris, purchasing the Acropolis café on Gunnedah’s main street.
The Acropolis was Peter’s first business endeavor in Gunnedah but certainly not the last. Peter also acquired the White Rose café and thrived in the social atmosphere that he felt brought the community together and got people talking.
Adapting his extensive knowledge of the café business, Peter went on to open Thriftway’s supermarket in 1957 which was to be the first of its kind in the northwest of N.S.W. The concept itself was innovative for it’s time as Thriftway’s was the first in Australia to house groceries, a butcher, deli, fresh fruit and vegetables and a café all under the one roof. Thriftway’s became a hub of social discourse for the community of Gunnedah, an idea Peter took joy in as it allowed him to extend his services to those in need throughout the district.
Community service was an essential part of Peter’s life and something he attributed to his success in business. Peter believed strongly in lending a helping hand to those less fortunate. He believed that no one should go to sleep hungry and was known to give many hot meals for free or in exchange for odd jobs. Community to him was not only centered around giving to those in need but in improving facilities and showing support for those organizations dedicated to serving the public of Gunnedah.
Peter belonged to many clubs and public organizations. Socially, he was a member of the Gunnedah Fire Brigade, Rotary Club and the Gunnedah Free Masons Lodge.
The Coffee Club at Thriftways is one particular social group he enjoyed the most. Sharing coffee and stories with good friends allowed for a balance of work and play. Members of this group were some of Peter’s most beloved friends who knew him best. Members and friends awarded Peter a trophy for the most killings in one day roasting him for his unique way of measuring things; “That’s great but would it kill a brown dog?”
Support for local law enforcement was very important to him. Peter became a Justice of the Peace in order to become an active supporter for the Gunnedah police who he felt were an essential part of any small town.
Sport was one of Peter’s great passions. He believed that everyone should learn to swim and that sport was important for children as it was an essential part of a healthy life and was a great way to meet friends. All of Peter’s boys were encouraged to play sport and he always took pleasure in watching them participate and excel in different disciplines. Peter was also a Life Member of the Gunnedah Amateur Swimming Club and was actively involved with Gunnedah Bath’s effort to raise funds for the heated swimming pool.
Peter finally retired in 1994 at the age 72. He maintained his friendships and was an influential member of the Gunnedah community.
Peter will be sorely missed not only by the community he loved but by those that loved him. He used to say “Your here for a good time not for along time.” It seems that he was, in his own way, able to achieve both as his passing at the age of 89 is testament to his love of life and his persistence and strong will. Those who knew him will remember him as a man that took pride in his work and gave back to the town that he believed gave so much to him.
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