submitted by George Poulos on 11.03.2005
was born in Gilgandra, in 1952, and left after completing my schooling in 1969.
From about the beginning of WWII, until mid-1975 - Gilgandra, population, 2,900 - was a very Kytherian town.
5 families - the Pentes, Sklavos, Kelly (Yiannakellis), Psaltis (Protopsaltis), and Poulos (Tzortzopoulos) - lived in close proximity to each other - culturally, residentially, and commercially.
In the main, Kytherians embraced Kytherians - Gilgandra embraced Kytherians - and Kytherians embraced Gilgandra.
Gilgandrians have a very warm regard for Kytherians. I was not surprised therefore, when I ventured into the recently opened Cooee Heritage Centre in Gilgandra, to find a glass showcase, on an entire wall, devoted to displays derived from mostly Kytherian Cafes and Shops.
The photograph above is one of the displays of food utensils - a Serving Tray and Tea Pot - from the ABC Cafe, Miller Street, Gilgandra.
The Serving Tray is inscribed:
With Compliments From
The ABC Cafe
Choice fruit and Confectionery,
American Soda Fountain Drinks &
Afternoon Tea Always Ready
It pre-dates my up-bringing in the town. And the ownership of the ABC Cafe by Paul and Chris (nee Yeryopoulos, Potamos) Kelly.
The Baveas's history of ownership of the ABC unfolds like this:
Stavros Con Baveas, left Potamos, Kythera as a 20 year old in 1908. He spent a few years as a cook for the Cordatos' in Dubbo, prior to establishing the ABC Cafe in Gilgandra in 1910. Stavros Baveas ran the ABC for the next 17 years, with assistance from his brothers and his nephew Con Coroneos. In the 1916 census, he is listed as a Restauranteur and his brother, Sotiros Baveas, aged 31, is listed as a cook, in Gligandra. The ABC then passed to a H. Baveas, who ran it for two years.
In 1928, it passed to Emmanuel Theo Peter Georgopoulos, pronounced "Yeoryopoulos" - Manuel Poulos. In 1934, Manuel asked his sister Chrisannthe, "Chris", to leave Potamos, Kythera, to come to Australia, and help him run the ABC Cafe. In 1939, in a trip to Bombala, Chris met, fell in love with, and subsequently married, Paul Kelly.
Manuel's brother Peter, after selling up in Casino in 1936 spent about a year with Manuel and Chris at Gilgandra before returning to Kythera. Tragically Manuel suicided in 1939/40(?).
My unverified guess is that ownership of the ABC Cafe passed to the Kelly family at this time.
The above history is based largely on information from Peter Tsicalas - submitted to other parts of the kythera-family web-site.
Paul and Chris Kelly ran the ABC Cafe from 1940 until Paul's premature death on May 3rd, 1961. In her own inimitable, indomitable style, Chris Kelly continued to run the shop, with assistance from daughter Stella, and son-in-law David Aird, until 1979. At this time, as Robyn Walton, attests, "..they closed the doors on a Gilgandra tradition." Mrs Chris Kelly was 71 years of age.
The ABC was a very large cafe, by Australian standards. Other than purpose built cafes that cater for functions, it was probably the largest cafe that I have ever seen in Australia. Its breadth encompassed three shop frontages, and the building extended back to virtually the back boundary. The rear contained a large kitchen, billiard room area, various storage areas, Cool Rooms, and accomodation spaces.
For reasons I do not understand, the Gilgandra Baveas's do not appear in the 1916, book - Life in Australia. There are references in that book to Ioannis and Panayiotis N. Baveas, from "the small country town of Barraba, in New South Wales", and to Kyriacos Baveas, (Narrabri and Tingha), who went back to fight in the Balkan Wars, and John Baveas of Narrabri. But no reference to Stavros and Sotiros, from Gilgandra.
Surely one of the Baveas' descendants - a grandaughter or grandson, a grand-nephew or grand-niece, could provide us with more valuable information and photographs of Baveas's ownership of the ABC Cafe?.
The long and intriguing history of the ABC Cafe has yet to be fully explicated on kythera-family.
One of my motivations in submitting these entries about the ABC Cafe is to try and encourage family members to submit photographs of the shop and its owners in their heyday - photographs from yesteryear.
About the Cooee Heritage Centre
The Coo-ee Heritage Centre, Gilgandra's Cultural Heritage Centre, was constructed in 2001 and aims to harmoniously represent the cultures and lifestyles, past and present, of the people of the Gilgandra district in a setting conducive to providing education and entertainment.
The Centre demonstrates local major events of regional, state and national significance. Exhibitions include the Cooee March Collection, the Australian Collection and a plotted history of Gilgandra. The Centre is located on the banks of the Castlereagh River with the Gilgandra Visitor Centre.
The architectural design reflects Reconciliation with the Koori Gallery at one end, the European History Gallery at the other with a neutral exhibition space in the centre. The Centre features rammed earth walls and floors, corrugated iron and water tanks. It brings the two cultures together in a peaceful and artistic manner providing a truly enjoyable experience for all visitors.
The middle exhibition space features travelling exhibitions, local artists displays and themed presentations about Gilgandra district, so no two visits to the Centre should ever be the same.
The Gilgandra Visitor Centre is also located within the building. Another aspect of the complex is the Rural Museum, just 200 metres from the Visitor and Coo-ee Heritage Centre. The Rural Museum offers a peep into yesteryear with its vast collection of agricultural artifacts, historical buildings and fascinating stories. Just look for the huge windmill out the front on the Newell Highway. The Rural Museum is open weekends and school holidays between 10am and 4pm with admission being Adults $4 and children $2.
You may also wish to take a stroll into town along the 'Windmill Walk'. A beautiful avenue of trees and local windmills that meanders along the banks of the Castlereagh River towards the centre of town. There are picnic facilities right along the walk with cafes and service stations on the other side of the road offering a variety of snacks and meals.
The Centre is open to the public 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm. Admission is currently free while the displays are being finalised. Bus and school groups are welcome and are encouraged to make a booking at the Gilgandra Visitor Centre on (02) 68472045 or Email the centre at
Local volunteer tour guides are also available.
Gilgandra Shire Council
Ph: (02) 6847 2709
Fax: (02) 6847 2521
submitted by Kristen Oates on 04.08.2005
215: I have vague recollections of Jack Pentes shop, and going in to buy lollies when I was a very young child. The Monterey Cafe also holds some memories but vague, and the premises is now owned by a good friend of my mothers. It is the ABC Cafe, and the Kelly family, that invoke the clearest recolections. I played my first pinball machine in the ABC, and played my first game of pool in the room out the back. The milkshakes and Bodgy Bloods (Coke, icecream and raspberry cordial), the compressed flat ham and tomato sandwiches, the 50/50s Orange juice and lemon juice, they were lifes great pleasures for a "PreTeen" Lad in a country town.
It all seemed so cool and so grown up, as often I was taken to the Cafe by 1 or more of my 4 older cousins, who I thought were the "coolest kids in town". I remember the large cement goldfish pond that you had to walk past out the back of the cafe to get to the toilets.
"Old" Mrs Kelly is still alive and lives in Dubbo. She must be a grand age by now. [Approx 94 in 2005]. Her Daughter Stella married David Aird and they ran the Cafe as a family business for many years. At some stage maybe late 70's or early 1980's, Stella and David turned the cafe into a small supermarket, and since then I think the business has changed hands a couple of times.
Their eldest daughter, Kristie, is the same age as me - 39 - and as such our families were, and remain close friends.
My recollections are scattered, but clear. My mother has spend more than 60 years in Gilgandra, and remains close friends with Stella, who now lives and works in Dubbo. [Township 40 miles to the south-west]. As with all good friendships they are a part of what combines to make you the person you are. My mother Helen, still lives in Gilgandra. I am sure that she would be willing and interested to share some of her memories...
PS.. While as a kid I hardly knew what an olive was over time my tastes have developed to adore a good olive, Green, Black, or??? .. A few years ago on Holidays in Gilgandra I noticed a heavy crop of olives on a tree in a backyard/Footpath of a house I think was owned by Jack Pentes. I returned with a 10 litre bucket and filled it, pickled the harvest and enjoyed the result. Thanks Kytherians.
submitted by Coo-ee Calls on 20.08.2005
221:Chris Kelly, and the ABC Cafe, Gilgandra.
Written by, Robyn Walton
Coo-ee Calls. Number 12. May 1998.
Coo-ee Calls is a magazine that has circulated in Gilgandra since the 1990's.
Coo-ee is a call used in the bush to find another person. From Dharuk language guu-wi "come here". To be "within cooee" is to be within hearing range; within easy reach; nearby; close to finishing a project "or aim" or goal.
Coo-ee was made famous, when the first of the great World War I recruiting marches, the Coo-ee March was begun from Gilgandra in 1915. Prospective soldier-volunteers walked from Gilgandra to Sydney, a distance of more than 300 miles, calling for volunteers to join them along the way. For more information see:
Chris Kelly, and the ABC Cafe.
Remember the heady smell of steak and onions... .coffee and hot buttered toast... .all wafttng from from the open doorway of the ABC cafe?
Anyone who does remember the big old cafe in Miller Street would have fond memories and also great affection for the wisp of a woman who, for forty one years, was the centre of that flourishing business.
With the still strong accent of her homeland, Chris Kelly spoke about her years in the ABC cafe:
‘Ask me about work! people think they work hard today, they don’t know what work is. but, i loved and appreciated every minute of it. I liked to sit, have a coffee and talk to the people; and the people of Gilgandra have been so good to me over the years. I really feel a part of the town. they were good years and I would do it all over again. Since I left the business I dearly miss it, and i thank all the people of Gilgandra for making the years so good for myself and my family.”
1928 was the year Manuel purchased the ABCcafe from its first owner Mr. Baveas. Six years later needing help, he asked his sister Chrisannthie to leave her beloved Greece and come to Australia to work beside him in the growing business. Gilgandra didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of a wonderful era for the town and its people.
Communication was difficult for twenty three year old Chris, Greek was her only language, but with the help of police sergeant Taylor’s daughter Nelly, she gradually grasped the Australian vernacular complete with its colourful adjectives and slang. It was five years later, on a trip to Bombala she met and married the love of her life Paul Kelly. Paul was, to use an old cliche, a tall, dark, handsome greek, blessed with a marvelous smile that flashed the whitest teeth. Chris loved him, and with her brother Manuel, was proud to work hard beside him.
In time Chris and Paul became the happy parents of two sons and a daughter. in between making sandwiches coffee, tea, toast, cooking meals and stocking shelves, this little woman not only mothered her own three, but Chris was surrogate mum to most of the children of the district; families came in for refreshments and children were left to finish milkshakes, or special treats while Mum popped up to Western Stores (a very large Department Store) or other businesses in town for a few minutes, knowing her little ones were in safe and loving hands. sometimes too loving, for often she returned to find a chocolate covered face, or melted icecream running over sticky little fingers from the freebys" Chris so generously handed out to her small charges.
Around the 1930s shops closed Wednesday afternoons but remained open all day Saturday until about 8.p.m., so Saturday soon became the day for “doing business” in town, and a day to socialise. Mums and Dads dressed in their finest "bib and tucker". Suits, vest tie and hat for Dad, and of course Mum wore her very best suit or dress, complete with handbag, gloves and the obligatory hat. Some families came to town by horse and buggy others were wealthy enough to own an automobile. whatever the mode of transport, their destination some time through the day was the ABC cafe.
Going to town on Saturday was even more special during the war years, as it was often touch and go as to whether “Dad” would have enough fuel left from his petrol rations to make the trip. but somehow, most of the time good old “Dad” came through. Chris and her family also “came through”, as credit was given where it was needed.... times were tough, and money hard to come by for some.
Staff were always wonderful at the cafe, and Margaret O’Shannesy, Beryl Eason, Joyce Moore, and Alice Brae are remembered most fondly by Chris as they “stuck” with the family at the cafe through the war years, some staying up to ten years. The obvious reason for that of course was.. .they were good to their staff and in return, the staff were good to the family.
The nights when the Western Monarch Theatre was showing pictures were the cafe’s busiest. The big old wood stove was “stoked up” to make plenty of coals for toast making and the staff prepared food and drinks in anticipation of the crowds who poured in before, during and after the pictures. when the cafe filled to capacity, which was a common occurance, people simply stood outside on the footpath and patiently waited for seating to become available. . . .business was hectic!
So hectic, that on weekends the cafe used eighty to one hundred "large" sandwich loaves of bread, and copious amounts of tea and coffee. Saturday night alone, forty large loaves of bread, all hand sliced, were used for either sandwich or toast making and there was always four op five gallons of coffee hot on the stove, as well as the same quantity of hot water for tea.... then even more hot water on hand for back up. In the middle of this frenzy of activity Chris would take the time to boil an egg for a child if a mother requested it. . . .that was simply Chris’s way.
For generations of families the ABC cafe was their home away from home when in town. Saturdays especially, they would have morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and the evening meal; go on to the movies at the Western Monarch Theatre, then back to the cafe for supper before returning home. In those days toast and tea or coffee would cost them 9d., tea or coffee and sandwiches l0d., or pie, peas and gravy a mere 9d.; all served at the table.
For others it was a picnic in the park on Saturday, but sometime or other, a family member would walk down to the ABC cafe to have a billy filled with hot water for tea making, or have baby bottles filled or heated. Whatever the level of business a customer brought to the cafe each one was treated with generosity and kindness.
During the days of the ‘big Balls” with Slogget's, Cant’s or Tony Campbell’s Orchestras of Coonamble, and of course the White Rose Orchestra, supper for the “Digger’s” or “Movie” Balls was often had at the cafe. Ladies arriving in flowing ball gowns, long clothes and sparkling jewellery, escorted by men dressed in dinner suits or sometimes tails to enjoy supper. Chris not only happily fed them, but fussed over them as well.
Rotary held their meetings at the rear of the cafe and people weren’t “just customers” they were friends. it was the “hub” of Gilgandra. People were drawn there, meeting a friend to have coffee, play cards, have a friendly boxing match in the makeshift boxing ring out the back, or on winter’s nights, nothing was better for some than to stand in the large kitchen, backs to the warmth of the wood stove, talking with the family. always plenty of tea, coffee and hot buttered toast.
Down through the years visiting family members and staff came and went. At the ABC cafe Chris Kelly was the one constant. She lost a brother, a beautiful baby, and her loving husband Paul. Through it all she worked on to keep the business alive. Her stamina and courage never failed, but times were changing and cafes the calibre of the ABC were
passing into time.
When Chris and her family closed the doors on the old ABC cafe in 1979 they closed the doors on a Gilgandra tradition. It was the end of a most wonderful era.
Between fourteen and sixteen hours a day, seven days a week for forty one years, the woman called nanna, mum or simply Chris by her thousands of customers worked in service of the people of Gilgandra. If she had only one penny for each free hot cup of tea or coffee and each icecream, lollie or chocolate she gave a child, those pennies alone would make her a rich woman. but chris is rich with the spirit of human kindness. one of her favourite sayings is - " .. .a little bit of love and understanding doesn’t cost you much, does it"? a code she seems to live by.
“Isn’t it marvelous?” is another of Chris’s sayings. I say “isn’t she marvelous?”
Other information about the Kellys, Airds, the history of the ABC cafe, and the Kytherian presence in Gilgandra exist at kythera-family.
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