kythera family kythera family
  

History

Academic Research > History > American Beauties at the Niagara: The marriage of American food catering ideas to British-Australian tastes and the birth, life and demise of the classic Australian ‘Greek cafe’.

6636: Academic Research > History

submitted by Effy Alexakis And Leonard Janiszewski on 27.02.2005

American Beauties at the Niagara: The marriage of American food catering ideas to British-Australian tastes and the birth, life and demise of the classic Australian ‘Greek cafe’.

Rural and Regional Conference Papers presented at the National Trust of Australia (NSW) Conference
on 10 March 2003
National Trust Centre
Observatory Hill
Sydney

Out There?

The National Trust of Australia (NSW)


This collection follows the Out There? Conference which was held at the S. H. Ervin Gallery at the National Trust Centre at Observatoty Hill on 10 March 2003.

In accordance with the conference, dates and time frames referred to in individual
papers have remained as they were at the time of presentation.

Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the National Trust of Australia (NSVV).

Out There?
A Conference on Rural and
Regional Issues
The National Trust would like to thank those you gave support and in kind contributions. Glenmore Meats, Tip Top Bakery and 2nd Mortdale Scout Group.

We are deeply indebted to all those who made the Conference a success.


‘AMERICAN BEAUTIES’ AT THE NIAGARA:
The marriage of American food catering ideas to British-Australian tastes and the birth, life and demise of the classic Australian ‘Greek cafe’

Leonard Janiszewski and Effy Alexakis


Historian Leonard Janiszewski, and documentary photographer, Effy Alexakis, have been researching the Greek-Australian historical and contemporary presence in both Australia and Greece since 1982. Their project and archives In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians, encom­passes visual, oral and literary material and is based at Macquarie University, Sydney, in association with the Department.of Modem History and the Australian History Museum. Their archives is one of the most significant collections in the country on Greek-Australians. Various national and intemational touring exhibitions, books, articles and a film documentary have been produced. Of their exhibitions, the most pronounced has been ‘In their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ which was created in partnership with the State Library of NSW and toured throughout Australia as well as Athens and Thessaloniki in Greece; in Athens it was part of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Cultural Festival ‘Reaching the World’ and Thessaloniki it was invited as the Australian component of the City’s ‘Cultural Capital of Europe 1997’ programme.

Alexakis photographs are held in both public and private collections in Australia, most significantly in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra and the NSW State Library, Sydney. In 2001 Janiszewski was awarded .the New South Wales History Fellowship to research a history of the ‘Greek cafe’ in New South Wales - a major book and nationally touring exhibition will result. He is also a member of the NSW Ministry for the Arts Uterature and History Committee.

Historian Leonard Janiszewski presented the paper, which featured numerous historical and contemporary images.



A spectre is haunting Australia’s history and heritage, and that spectre is: the English language. [1] The grand narratives and symbols of Australia’s past have been overwhelmed by research and interpretation through an English language base. This has essentially created a myopic, monocultural vision which has effectively alienated, marginalised, and even left broadly unacknowledged, the significance which cultural diversity and hybridity has had in developing the Australia of today. Professional Australian historians and heritage specialists with linguistic skills in a language, or languages, other than English, and who are prepared to engage in research utilising such skills, are currently rare. The underlying theme of this presentation is consequently a call to firmly encourage and facilitate the development of such historians and heritage specialists. Untying the restrictive binds of the English language straightjacket will undoubtedly lead to new visions of our past and heritage. The country ‘Greek cafe’, broadly regarded as a quintessentially Australian phenomenon and particularly synonymous with rural life in the eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, being a pertinent example.
In 1950, artist Russell Drysdale completed an oil painting which depicted the wife of an outback Greek cafe owner. He simply titled the image, Maria. As one of his ‘Portraits in a landscape’, Drysdale was ‘attempting to define a quintessential Australianness’. [2] The portrait was purchased by Sir Keith Murdoch in 1951, and in a letter to Sir Keith eleven years later, Drysdale articulates the subject’s significance as part of rural Australia:
‘It’s a curious fact that the alien Greek cafekeeper has become a symbol of the Australian country town -whenever one goes out west there is always ‘the dagoes’ to eat in.. .people with courage to work and save and give their children a better way of life in a new land.’ [3]
Despite its apparent significance as ‘a symbol of the Australian country town’, the Greek cafe has attracted little recognition in historical publications, the prime example being Michael Symons’ major tome on the history of eating in Australia: One Continuous Picnic. Published in the early 1980s and still broadly respected as a seminal work in its field, the book devotes just two lines specifically to the Greek cafe. [4] Symons engaged research exclusively from an English language base. Avoiding such linguistic exclusivity reaps benefits. By researching the Greek cafe utilising resources available in both the English and Modern Greek languages, not only has the status and abundance attributed to it by Drysdale been confirmed and elaborated upon, but in doing so, a new historical insight has emerged into the Americanisation of Australian eating habits prior to 1945.

The country Greek cafe in Australia, which enjoyed a lengthy ‘golden age’ from the mid-1930s to the late­ 1960s, reflected its Hellenic legacy not in the food it served, but in terms of principal owner and main kitchen staff (Greek men who were traditionally familiar with the social and catering milieu of the Greek kafeneion) , sometimes in its name (such as Marathon, Parthenon, Paragon, Olympia, Ellisos [mythological paradise]), and like the Greek kafeneion, it too became pre-eminent amongst the social focal points for eating, meeting and conversing within townships. The food which Greek cafes served expressed its British and American heritage.

Greek cafes provided British-Australians with their familiar meal of steak and eggs, chops and eggs, mixed grill, fish and chips, and meat pies, but more importantly, they cemented the growing popularisation of American food catering ideas which had been instigated through Australia’s earlier Greek-run food catering enterprises - the oyster saloon or ‘parlor’ (American spelling was usually used) of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the ‘American style’ soda bar/sundae ‘parlor’ which had appeared by the mid-1910s, and the ‘American style’ milk bar which had emerged by the early 1930s. The introduction of American food catering ideas to Australia through the nation’s early Greek food caterers should not be surprising, given that quite a number of these Greeks had relatives and friends living and working in the United States, or had been there briefly themselves working for Greek-American food caterer the United States remained as a major drawer of Greek immigrants until the imposition of restrictions during the early 1920s. [5]

The Greek cafe was essentially an evolutionary amalgam of its three predecessors. In names such as the Niagara, Monterey, California, Astoria, Hollywood, New York, and Golden Gate, the American component of the Greek cafe’s creation is well suggested, but more so in its provision of customers with American sundaes, milkshakes, sodas and freezes or crushes, American confectionery (hard sugar candies and milk chocolate bars), and another popular product, American ice cream. Although the Greek cafe did not introduce traditional Greek dishes, as catering to the established tastes of their overwhelmingly British-Australian clientele was paramount, steak and eggs could be purchased with an ‘American Beauty’ fancy sundae for dessert, and a ‘Spider’ soda drink or flavoured milkshake to wash it all down. The union proved commercially successful and to a degree, the Greek cafe became a ‘Trojan Horse’ for the Amencanisation of Australian eating habits well before the second-half of the twentieth century. Greek-mn oyster ‘parlors’, soda bars/sundae ‘parlors’ and milk bars had pointed the way towards the successful merger between British-Australian preferred tastes, and American food catering ideas.6

Greek-run oyster saloons or ‘parlors’ were pioneered by the Comino (Kominos) family (originally from the island of Kythera in Greece) in Sydney. Initially these were fish-and-chip outlets, and although they maintained a focus on oysters (bottled and fresh), they soon acquired a wide diversity of foods (cooked meat and sea food, fruit and vegetables, chocolates and ice cream) which could be purchased at reasonable prices. As well as the provision of sit-down meals, some food items were also directed towards a take-away trade. These enterprises had men’s and women’s lounges and welcomed families.1 It can be contended that British-Australian run oyster saloons appear to have traditionally limited their food selection (almost exclusively oysters), as well as their range of customers. [8] Whilst the diversification of foods provided, together with the idea of attracting a broader range of clients are suspected as possibleAmencan influences reflected by Greek-run oystersaloons, the introduction of theAmerican soda fountain as well as American candy, ice cream and ice drinks (freezes or crushes) through these enterprises, is beyond doubt.

Although the leading protagonists of the Comino family seem not to have had food catering experience in the United States, some members of the extended clan who arrived in Australia most certainly did, as well as a selection of other Greek proprietors of oyster ‘parlors’ [9] In 1912, three Greek migrant/settlers from the United States, Peter and Constantine Soulos and Anthony Louison (lliopoulos), formed the Anglo-American Company in Sydney. Based upon the American drug store soda bar, the company’s shops (five by the mid-1910s) exposed Sydneysiders to the soda fountain [10] - which created effervescent water through impregnation with a gas under pressure, to which flavours (essentially essences) were added, and if desired, ice cream. It has been claimed that around the same year, George Sklavos, a Greek shop keeper in Brisbane’s inner city suburb of Fortitude Valley - who had spent some time in America
- also procured a soda fountain. Intriguingly, there is a further suggestion that both the Anglo-American Company and Sklavos may have well been preceded as the originators of the American soda fountain in Australia. [11] Angelos Tarifas (apparently also referred to as Bouzos or Bourtzos, and later changing his surname to Burgess), yet another Greek who had been to the United States, is said to have installed a soda fountain in his Niagara Cafe in Newcastle, New South Wales, just before 1910. [12] Despite this muddying of the waters as to which Greek-mn enterprise had it first, the public appeal of the fountain was such that Greek oyster ‘parlor’ proprietors quickly incorporated the new food catering technology (compressors and pumps were imported from the United States - apparently, principally Chicago) and commenced producing a wide range of ‘exoticly’ flavoured soda drinks within their establishments. Soda flavours included: pineapple, strawberry, ginger beer, banana, passionfruit, raspberry, kola, lime juice, orange, sarsaparilla, ginger ale, lemon and hop ale. American ice cream sundaes also seem to have appeared around this time, with the titles of some unquestionably declaring their origin as being from across the Pacific: ‘American Beauty’, ‘Monteray Special’, ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ and ‘Mexican Banana Split’. [13] Moreover, Greek-run oyster ‘parlors’ now began to evolve into soda bars/sundae ‘parlors’, whilst retaining the sit-down meals and diversity of foods of the oyster saloons.
Not surprisingly, in One Continuous Picnic, Michael Symons attributes a Californian, S. M. McKimmin, with the introduction of ‘Australia’s first soda fountain’ in Sydney - the year, 1921. Moreover, he argues that ‘the 1920s saw increased American influence on food’ as the ‘big American food companies moved in’ but does not clearly detail why. [14] In regard to American candies and ice cream, Australia’s Greek-run oyster saloons and soda bars/sundae ‘parlors’ certainly assisted in cultivating a public demand which may have helped in motivating American food companies to cross the Pacific into the antipodes.

Two decades after the founding of the Anglo-American Company, another enterprising Greek settler introduced Australians to a newAmerican influenced food catering idea: the milk bar. Early in November 1932, Joachim Tavlaidis, known as Mick Adams, opened what many consider to be Australia’s first modern ‘American style’ milk bar, the ‘Black and White 4d. Milk Bar’ at 24 Martin Place, Sydney; the name Black and White was allegedly a sarcastic reference to a brand of whisky, as Adams was strongly opposed to the negative social and personal effects of alcohol abuse. Adams had previously been running a confectionery and soda fountain business on George Street in Sydney’s Haymarket and while on a trip to the United States, according to his youngest daughter Lilian Keldoulis (nee Adams), ‘he. ..got the idea about the milk bar’. [15] Although it has been declared that’at that time milk bars existed...in America’, [16] this claim is contentious. The ‘milk bar’ may well have been initially created by Adams based upon his observations of early 1930s American drug store soda bars. In Australia, the Greek-run oyster saloon and soda bar/sundae parlor had placed prime importance on sit-down trade for meals, drinks and desserts. American drug store soda bars seem to have emphasised quick stand-up and bar-stool bar trade (soda drinks, milkshakes and sundaes) over sit-down meal trade. Adams firmly took up the American soda bar catering emphasis and highlighted the milkshake. As Keldoulis points out in regard to her father’s trip to the United States: ‘Yes, there were milkshakes.. .there were restaurants with milk bars. But he wanted to build his own milk bar where he only sold milkshakes.” [17]

A rapid stand-up trade in milkshakes became the successful commercial foundation of Adams’ original Black and White milk bar. Seating capacity in the premises was restricted to just six small two-seater cubicles along one wall, the main feature being a long hotel style bar with soda fountain pumps and numerous milkshake makers (manufactured by the Hamilton Beach Company, in Racine, Wisconsin, USA). No cooked meals were provided, only flavoured milkshakes, pure fruit juices and soda drinks (tea and coffee were introduced later). Of the flavoured milkshakes which were on offer, two became quite popular: the banana milk cocktail, and ‘bootleggerpunch’, the latterof which contained a dash of rum essence. On the first day of opening 5,000 customers are reported to have crowded into the milk bar, and as many as 27,000 per week then began to patronise the establishment. With milk being heavily promoted as a health food by both the New South Wales Board of Health and the states’ Milk Board, coupled with Adam’s impressive flair for publicity and the inexpensive four-penny cost of purchasing a milkshake, within five years there were allegedly 4,000 milk bars in Australia. Adams himself succeeded in establishing other Black and White Milk Bars in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Wollongong and a second Sydney premises at Town Hall underground railway station. Indeed, there is also a suggestion that Adams directly influenced the establishment of milk bars in England.’ [18]

The milkshake is purported to have appeared in Australia well before Adam’s milk bar, and again, Greek involvement is evidenced. Dimitris Lalas, who is said to have had an open-air bench stall in Sydney’s Market Street just before 1910, was selling a liquid refreshment underthe title of’milk shake’. The drink consisted of cold milk diluted with water and flavoured with vanilla powder. The ingredients were vigorously shaken in a sealed tin before being presented tothe customerforconsumption.’ [19] An earlier claim isthatan Italian, Guiseppe Portovino, was offering in his emporium located on King Street, Newtown (one of Sydney’s inner western suburbs), ‘one pint milkshakes that were a popular rival to the threepenny shandy gaffs offered by pubs shortly after the turn of the century’. [20] During the very early 1930s milkshakes were selling for ninepence per glass, [21] which Adams solidly undercut by flvepence. Just how long before the establishment of Adams’ business the milkshake had been introduced to Australia, is open to conjecture, but his ‘American style’ milk bar succeeded in leading the way to dramatically popularising the refreshment. Surprisingly, given its contemporary association with the milkshake as a key ingredient, ice cream was not part of the drink’s original make-up, even during Adam’s time. It was a component which was later acquired. However milkshakes did include a variety of ingredients other than milk and basic flavoured essences depending on the strength of taste and texture required: ‘varieties of fruit (mostly fresh, some dried), cream, butter, eggs, chocolate, honey, caramel, malt, yeast, and.. .rum.’[22]

While soda fountains were retained in the milk bars (soda fountains did not disappear until the late 1960s and early 1970s in some country regions), by the mid to the late 1930s, the diversity of sit-down meals, take-away items and broad customer range of the earlier Greek-run oyster saloons, had combined with the popularity of soda drinks, sundaes and milkshakes, into the classic country Greek cafe. Cafes, tea houses and refreshment rooms had existed prior to this time, with a Greek presence again being clearly discerned [23], but in the country Greek cafe, the melding of British-Australian tastes and American food catering ideas was firmly cemented and found its clearest and most popular long-term expression. Of course, new American food catering ideas continued to impact on the Australian Greek cafe throughout its ‘golden age’ of existence, most notably the hamburger - a meat patty initially embraced by German-Jewish migrants tO America, then popularised in the United States before being introduced to Australia around the 1940s and cooked by Hellenes in the Greek cafe. [24]
Unfortunately though, the Australian Greek cafe’s link to America also assisted, in part, with its demise in the final decades of the twentieth century. American-lead corporatised fast food began to replace family-based food catering concerns; take-away rather than sit-down meals burgeoned. Most Greek cafes were forced to transform into take­aways or be relegated into memory or oblivion. This occurred as the result of a combination of factors: the impact of rural economic rationalisation, the by-passing of country townships by arterial inter-urban highways upon which road houses (supplying both fuel and food) developed, the advent of supermarkets and convenience stores providing packaged ice creams and chocolates, bottled flavoured milk and aerated drinks, and counter lunches at pubs and clubs. A greater diversity of employment choices for the well educated younger generation of Australian-born Greek compounded the demise. [25] Generally, only those Greek cafes in major recreational regions are likely to survive.
In their heyday, country Greek cafes were an eating and social focal point for rural communities. Recalling her time as a waitress in both the California and Niagara Greek cafes in Nyngan (far north-western New South Wales) during the 1960s, Mary McDermott (flee Conway) emphasises: ‘it (the Greek cafe) was a meeting place. It was the only place to eat. If there were cattle sales it was where you met to discuss prices and sales.’ [26] Barbara V. (who prefers to restrict her full identity), worked as a waitress in both the Astoria and Niagara Greek cafes in Singleton, north-west of Newcastle, during the 1950s. She considers that the Greek cafes were ‘where you went, where you met your friends’. Furthermore she contends: ‘They (the Greek owners) made you feel welcome - you grew up feeling wanted.’ [27] James Bede Johnson remembers the Monterey Greek cafe in Coonamble (north-east of Nyngan): ‘They (the Greek proprietors) opened up very early.. .they were always here if you wanted a hot breakfast.. all the local country folk would flock (to the Monterey)...Of a night families would go for a walk - they’d bring their kiddies in for an ice cream. It’s all completely changed now.’ [28] For Joseph loins, who frequented Greek cafes in the south-west of New South Wales during the very late 1940s and 1950s, ‘the (Greek) cafe provided a sense of community in country towns’, as ‘the social centre (of the town) was the cafe’. [29] Toms’ sentiments are clearly echoed by Narrabn Shire Councillor Peter Martin: ‘The Greek cafe was part of the identity and social fabric of the community. With the demise of these cafes we’re pushing people into multinational fast food enterprises .. .Every time we lose a Greek cafe we lose part of the history of our town and region. A Greek cafe wasn’t only a meeting place, but a place of integrity - the reason: it was a place where people could meet, speak freely and do business.’ [30] Although racist attitudes towards Greek cafe proprietors existed amongst some inhabitants of rural communities, as food caterers who provided both an eating and social focal point, ‘the dagos’ certainly won commercial popularity and much local gratitude.

The social and food catering importance of the country Greek cafe was reinforced by its association with the local picture theatre. As Margaret Harrison (nee Clancy), who waitressed at the Blue Bird Greek cafe in Lockhart (south-western New South Wales) during the 1930s, points out: ‘The pictures were once a week and the shop was packed!’ [31] Greeks have had a long association with film presentation in Australia - initially as travelling picture show men and then as picture theatre proprietors. It has been claimed that ‘during the heyday of the country picture theatre circuit in New South Wales, more than half of the theatres were owned by Greek migrants’. [32] Quite a respectable number of Greek picture theatre operators had been, or simultaneously continued to be, cafe proprietors. In New South Wales, such Greeks included: George and Peter Hatsatouris who operated picture theatres in Port Macquarie, Walcha, Taree, West Kempsey and Laurieton; Peter (Panagiotis) Sourry and Alec Coroneo (Psomas) ran two cinemas in partnership in Armidale before the former left to purchased one in Tenterfield, and the latter, one in Scone; John (loannis) and Anthony Notaras had two theatres in Grafton, as well as theatres in Woolgoola and Yamba; and Sir Nicholas Laurantus, who operated theatres in Narrandera, Corowa and Lockhart, and had an interest in a number of others. [33] In Queensland Greek cafe proprietors also entered the picture theatre industry. Amongst the earliest were: Chris Sourris, who operated theatres in lnglewood, Goondiwindi and eventually Brisbane; and George Castrisos, Theo Comino and Jack Cassimatis who acquired a theatre in Rosewood”.[34] Some country Greek cafes also acted as caterers for motion picture studios which shot films locally. A prominent example is the Kosciusko Milk Bar in the southern New South Wales town of Cooma. Con Zervos, whose father ran the milk bar, indicates: ‘we had a contract with Warner Brothers to provide a certain amount of food. ..lots of shooting done at Nimmitabel.. .(the film was) The Sundowners (released 1960, Australian premier 1961). My dad became friends with Peter Ustinov... Robert Mitchum’.[35]

Quite a number of picture theatres and Greek cafes in Australia expressed another shared association: their architectural style and interior furnishings. The international aesthetic style known as Art Deco which developed in the 1920s, originating in Europe, flourished between the wars. In Australia, even until the 1960s, ‘neo deco’ designs were still evident. The style’s modernist aesthetic was ‘machine, travel, speed’ and has been elevated in some circles as ‘the quintessential popular culture visual style of the twentieth century’.[36] Some fine examples of Art Deco architectureand/or interior furnishings used in Greek cafes in New South Wales include: the Niagara Cafe, Gundagai, the Busy Bee, Gunnedah; the Yenda Cafe, Yenda, the Paragon Cafe, Katoomba, the Paragon Cafe, Harden; the Astoria Cafe, Newcastle; the Olympia Cafe, Murrurundi; the Monterey Cafe, Coonamble; and Crethar’s Cafe, Lismore. Most are still standing, a few have maintained their role as Greek cafes. There is also a suggestion that Art Deco utilised in Greek cafes was influenced directly from the United States rather than Europe. Greek cafe proprietors and even some customers would refer to the style as the ‘Hollywood style’ or the ‘American style’, and at least one major Greek-Australian shop-fitter of the 1930s seems to have based his Art Deco designs on Greek-American Art Deco cafes. [37]

While waiting staff were overwhelmingly young women of British-Australian background, the Greek cafe was a small business enterprise founded primarily upon the extended Greek family. It provided the family with regular income, independence (including freedom from restrictions by industrial unions on the use of foreign labour), potential social and economic mobility - particularly for the succeeding generation - and maintenance of the unit in an alien social environment. However, there were negatives. As Anna Cominakis (nee Sofis), who grew up during the 1940s and 1950s in Barraba’s Monterey Cafe in north-western New South Wales explains: ‘The cafe was more a home than the house was - that was the life there (in the cafe). I think the home was (just) for sleeping. Mum spent more hours in the cafe.. .as I got older I hated the cafe. It was just constant - seven days, seven nights.’ [38] Peter Veneris whose family ran the Blue Bird cafe in Lockhart felt the sting of racism: ‘I was called a dago when I went to school. I didn’t know what it meant so I would fight and fight. We were proud of being Greek, but not to be called dagos. ..When we got the cafe it changed from dagos to greasy dagos...greasy spoon dagos.’ [39] Quite a substantial number of young Greek boys were brought out from Gre.ece during the first half of the twentieth century to work in Greek cafes, usually by relatives. Some, like Chris Pappas (Papadopoulos), who worked in Greek cafes in both Newcastle and Melbourne, were exploited:‘those days the ‘slavery market’, relatives wanted someone to work for them who they trusted.’[40] Others, like Xenophon Stathis who worked in Wagga Wagga, have recalled their early Greek cafe experiences with fond gratitude towards their sponsors: ‘I was a very lucky boy...They took me in like a son...l was with them from the day they brought me till they died.’ [41]

Beyond the marriage of earlier British-Australian tastes to American food catering ideas, a previously publicly hidden aspect of the Greek cafe’s part in Australian culinary history continues to influence the development of this nation’s cuisine. Privately, Greek families sought to ensure that they ate the cuisine of their country of origin. As Anna Cominakis (nee Sofis) points out: ‘We grew up knowing we were Greek and that we ate different food.’ [42] Eggplant (aubergine), ocra, artichokes, oregano, and basil seeds were brought by Greeks to Australia from Greece (at times illegally), as well as vine and olive seedlings and cuttings, and grown in small domestic gardens for family consumption. Greek women were often seen in rural areas collecting the dandelion plant - for them it was the Australian equivalent of horta (a wild spinach in Greece which is boiled and served with a covering of lemon juice and olive oil). At main meal times Greek food catering families ate dishes such as meliizanes moussaka, (eggplant moussaka), arni Iemonato (roast lemon Iamb), souvlaki (meat pieces on a skew), stifatho (braised beef and onions), fassoulatha (bean soup) and melitzanes papoutsakia (stuffed eggplant), accompanied with salata Eliniki (Greek salad) or tzatziki (cucumber, garlic and yoghurt dip). [43] Not until the late 1970s and early 1980s had these foods well and truly emerged from behind closed doors to become an accepted part of the Australian palate.

While the country Greek cafe and its Greek-run predecessors must now be recognised as an important element in the development of popularAustralian eating habits, it should also be acknowledged that their proprietors introduced Greek cuisine to Australia through the meals they did not serve, but ate privately. The food tastes and smells of Australia’s Greek restaurants are now more familiar to Australians than the American Beauties and Spiders of an Australian food catering icon which is quickly fading from this country’s social culinary landscape: the Greek cafe.


References
1 With apologies to K. Marx and F. Engels: ‘A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Communism’; K. Marx and F. Engels,
Manifesto of the Communist Party, Progress Publishers, Moscow, USSR, 1977, p. 39.
2 M. Eagle and J. Jones, A Story of Australian Painting, Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney, 1994, pp. 214-216.
3 Ibid., p. 216 (authors’ italics).
4 M. Symons, One Continuous Picnic: A history of eating in Australia, Duck Press, Adelaide, 1982, p. 137,
5 L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, “That Bastard Ulysses’: an insight into the early Greek presence, 1810s-1940’, in S. Fitzgerald and
G. Wotherspoon (eds), Minorities: Cultural Diversity in Sydney, State Library of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 1995, pp. 21-22; E. Alexakis and L. Janiszewski, ‘The Greek Cafe’, In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians, Hale & lremonger, Sydney, 1998, p. 106.
6 L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, “That Bastard Ulysses’’, pp. 21-23; E. Alexakis and L. .Janiszewski, ‘The Greek Cafe’, In Their Own Image, p. 106.
7 L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, “ That Bastard Ulysses’’, pp. 20..23; Various files on Greek food catering families held in the In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives, Macquarie University, Sydney.
8 Symons, op. cit., pp. 23,113.
9 ‘Salinas, California: The Kominos Brothers’, The Greeks in California: Their History and Achievements, The Prometheus Publishing Company (published in Greek), San Francisco, California, 1917-18, no pagination provided; Various files on Greek food catering families held in the In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives, Macquarie University, Sydney.
10 L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, ‘That Bastard Ulysses’ p. 22; L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, ‘An Australian Icon: The ‘Greek Cafe’
- Its emergence amidst Sydney’s early Greek-run food catering enterprises, 1870s-1940’, Neos Kosmos English Weekly, 3 December 2001, p. 10.
11 D. A. Conomos, The Greeks in Queensland: A History from 1859-1945, Copyright Publishing Co., 2002, p. 119.
12 L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, ‘Odysseus’ legacy in Newcastle: an overview of the city’s Greek settlement’, Neos Kosmos English Weekly, 6 November 2000, p. 11; Interview with Constantine Karanges, Newcastle, N.S.W., 7 June 1986. All interviews cited in notes were conducted by the authors and are part of the In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives, Macquane
University, Sydney.
13 Various menus held in the In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives, Macquarie University, Sydney.
14 Symons, op. cit., pp. 129-131.
15 Interview with Lilian Keldoulis (nee Adams), Sydney, 11 December2001; ‘A New Type Milk Drink Shop’, The Australasian Confectioner,
22 November 1932, no page number given. See also L Janiszewski and E.Alexakis, ‘That Bastard Ulysses’, p. 22; L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, ‘An Australian icon’, p. 10.
16 ‘He found themilky way to fortune’, Sunday Telegraph, 19 April 1964, p. 51.
17 interview with Lilian Keldoulis (nee Adams), Sydney, 11 December 2001.
18 ‘The Development of the Modem Milk Bar’, The Milk Messenger, vol. 1, no. 1, April-June 1935, p. 30; ‘A New Type Milk Drink Shop’,
The Australasian Confectioner, no page number given; ‘He found the milky way to fortune’, Sunday Telegraph, p. 51; Interview with
Lilian Keldoulis (nee Adams), Sydney, 11 December 2001; various unidentified newspaper cuttings provided by Lilian Keldoulis (nee
Adams), Sydney.
19 Preliminary book manuscript titled ‘Dimitris Lalas - The Achiever’ by Con Stamatiades, edited by Milton Lalas and translated from Greek into English by John Tambakeras, Sydney, 1992, pp. 24-26; copy provided by Milton L.alas, Sydney; correspondence with
Milton Lalas, Sydney, 11 October 1993. In Great Britain the term ‘milk shake’ was first recorded in 1889. See J. Ayto, Twentieth
Century Words, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, pp. 220-221.
20 0. Anderson, ‘Is shakin’ all over?’, Sydney Morning Herald - ‘Metro’, 10 May 1985, p. 1; L Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, ‘That Bastard Ulysses’, p. 22.
21 ‘The Development of the Modern Milk Bar’, The Milk Messenger, p. 30.
22 Unidentified newspaper article titled ‘Milk is our tipple now, and don’t the men like it!’ provided by Lilian Keldoulis (flee Adams),
Sydney.
23 L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, ‘That Bastard Ulysses’, p. 23; L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, ‘An Australian Icon’, p. 10; Various files on Greek food catering families held in the In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives, Macquarie University, Sydney.
24 A. Stevenson, ‘Bunfight: the Aussie burger’s battle for survival’, Daily Telegraph, 24 October 1998, p. 26.
25 L. Janiszewski and E. Alexakis, ‘That Bastard Ulysses’, p. 30; L. Janiszewski, and E. Alexakis, ‘An Australian Icon’, p. 11; E. Alexakis and L. Janiszewski, ‘The Greek Cafe’, In Their Own Image, pp. 93,106; A. Stevenson, ‘Cruise through cafe culture continues after a grant with the lot’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 September 2001, p. 7.
26 Interview with Mary McDermott (nee Conway), Nyngan, N.S.W., 4 October 2002,
27 Interview with Barbara V. (full name restricted), Singleton, N.S.W., 5 January 2002.
28 interview with James Bede Johnson, Coonamble, N.S.W., 8 October 2002.
29 Interview with Joseph Toms, Sydney, 2 July 2002.
30 Interview with Peter Martin, Wee Waa, N.S.W., 9 January 2002.
31 Interview with Margaret Harrison (nee Clancy), Narrandera, N.S.W., 17 July 2002.
32 A. Coward, ‘Premier Carr ensures the future of the Saraton Theatre’, The Greek-Australian VEMA, TO BHMA, February 2003, p. 17/
37.
33 A. Coward, ‘George Hatsatouris: a passion for films’, The Greek-Australian VEMA, TO BHMA, February 2003, p. 18/38; Private
family papers provided by Angelo Hatsatouris including a transcript of an interview conducted with George Hatsatouris on 2 October
1994; A. Coward, ‘Historic Theatre Preserved’, The Greek-Australian VEMA, .TOBHMA, September 2002, p. 17/37; J. Michaelides,
Portrait of Uncle Nick: A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus, MBE, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1987, pp. 14-15, 28-29, 42-44, 46-58.
34 Conomos, op. cit., pp. 299-301.
35 Interview with Con Zervos, Yass, N.S.W., 16 April 2002. The Sundowners was filmed in 1959 in both the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales and the environs of Port Augusta, South Australia.
36 0. Dolan, ‘The taste and style of Art deco in Australia’, in F. Ferson and M. Nilsson (eds), Art Deco in Australia: Sunrise over the
Pacific, Fine Art Publishing, St Leonards, Sydney, 2001, pp. 8-20. See also R. Thome, ‘Palaces of pleasure: Cinema design’, in
Ferson and Nilsson, op.cit., pp.186-197.
37 Interview with Electra Sofianos (nee Sarikas), Sydney, 10 May 2002; Interview with Anna Cominakis (nee Sofas), Sydney, 10 May
2002; Interview with Joseph Toms, Sydney, 2 July 2002; Interview with J. Castrission, Gundagai, N.S.W., 28 September 1986.
Business portfolio of 1930s Greek-Australian shop-fitter, Stephen C. Varvaressos, provided by Glenn and Annette (nee Richards)
Gersbach, Temora, N.S.W.
38 Interview with Anna Cominakis (flee Sofas), Sydney, 10 May 2002.
39 Interview with Peter Veneris, Lockhart, N.S.W., 13 July 2002.
40 Interview with Chris Pappas (Papadopoulos), Newcastle, 9 June 1986; See also E. Alexakis and L. Janiszewski, Images of Home:
Mavri Xenitia, Hale & lremonger, Sydney, 1995, p. 79.
41 Interview with Xenophon Stathis, Wagga Wagga, N.S.W., 15 March 1989; See also E. Alexakis and L. Janiszewski, Images of
Home, pp. 156- 157.
42 Interview with Anna Corninakis (nee Sofis), Sydney, 10 May 2002.
43 Various interviews: Nellie (Helen) Creecy (nee Peterson), Sydney, 10 December2001; Matina Pavlakis (nee Masseios), Sydney, 13 December 2001; Maude (Modestoula) Kringas (nee Chellas), Sydney, 17 December 2001; Evangelia Dascarolis (nee Theodorakis), Canberra, 14 April 2002; Maria Kosseris (nee Stathoulia), Binalong, N.S.W., 16 April 2002; Margaret Christensen (nee Manolios), Sydney, 6 September 2002.

Photographs
(Pending)

Figure 1: Canberra Dining Rooms and Oyster Saloon, Queenbeyan, NSW, 1914
At some time just before the formal separation of the Australian Capital Territory from New South Wales on 1 January 1911, the
Potiris Brothers’ Oyster Saloon adopted the name Canberra Dining Rooms. The business, located in Monaro Street was initially
run by George, Mikhail and later Peter Potiris. All had migrated from Kythera. The diver­sity of food provided by Greek run oyster saloons is suggested by the window advertisements. On the central display is written ‘American Confectionery & Ice Cream’. The left display window contains fruit, above which is written ‘Choice Fruit’. On the right, whilst the food on display is not clear, written on the window is ‘Fish & Oysters Daily’.
Photo courtesy N. George, frron, the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image, National Project Archives

Figure 2: Paragon Cafe interior featuring an early ‘front service’ soda fountain, Lockhart, NSW, c1925 Anthony Matis (Andonis Mavromatis) is standing behind the fountain at the bar counter (on left). Behind the back counter are Anthony’s sister, Kyria Koola and her husband Peter (Panayioti) Comino Veneris. They, like numerous other Greek settlers who had entered the food catering industry in New South Wales at the time, had migrated toAustralia from the island of Kythera. At the rear of the Paragon Cafe were separate dining rooms for ladies and men: Peter had purchased the cafe, originally called the Paragon Saloon from Nicholas and Jim Katsoulis in 1919.
The soda fountain was patented in America in 1819 but in 1903a revolution in design created the ‘frontservice’ fountain. These fountains were introduced to Australia around the early 19l0's by Greek settlers who had experience of them in the United States.

Photo courtesy J.and P. Veneris, from the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project Archives

Figure 3: The Spot Sundae Parlor’, Mildura, Victoria, 1920s
John Raftopulos (Raftopoulos), the proprietor, with three female employees. Raftopulos was originally from the Greek lonian island of Ithaca. Numerous lthacan Greeks entered Victoria’s food catering industry during the first half of the twentieth century. Raftopulos’ business provided sweets, meals and ‘the latest sundaes and cool fountain drinks.’
Photo couusy S. Raftopoulos, from the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project

+Figure 4: Black and White 4d. Milk Bar exterior, Martin Place, Sydney, 1934
Mick Adams (Joachim Tavlaidis) with children from the Dalwood Health Home. When the milk bar initially opened in 1932 the entire proceeds of the first day were handed to the social committee of the Home. This became an annual promotional event marking the enterprise’s anniversary. Adams ‘believed that the de­pression gave a fillip’ to milk bars ‘as the public very quickly realised thae value of milk as a tonic food
and also the price being brought down from ninepence per glass to fourpence considerably eased the financial position.’
Photo courtesy, L. Keldoulis, from the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project

Figure 5: Black and White 4d. Milk Bar interior, Martin Place, Sydney, 1934
The service or fountain bar of the milk bar with its soda fountain pumps and straw dispensers. On the mirrored back bar are the milkshake makers which would whisk the refreshment’s ingredients. The service bar, designed by Adams, had refrigerated storage capacity of 50 gallons of milk in addition to fruit juices. Soon after opening, Adams was ‘obliged to secure a two-hour delivery of milk’ and extend the bar to 50 feet in length. Used drinking glasses were washed at the back of the shop, away from customers. Note the limited seating capacity.
Photo courtesy, L. Keldoulis, from the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project

Figure 6: Astoria Cafe interior, Newcastle, NSW, 1940s
Partly hidden by the soda fountain pumps is the cafe’s Greek proprietor, Jerry Kolivas. Jerry was originally from the island of Ithaca. Newcastle’s Greek-run food catering establishments of the early twentieth century were dominated by lthacans, in con­trast to the rest of New South Wales which featured a pronounced Kytherian presence. Like many other Greek cafes of its time the Astoria engaged a significant number of waiting staff (generally young local women of British-Australian background) and was an excellent example of the popular Art Deco architectural style char­acteristic of the 1930s and 40's. With the advent of cinema Greek cafes became the focal point for meeting, eating and drinking before the film, during interval and after the session concluded.

Photo courtesy N. Raftos from the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project Archives

Figure 7: Niagara Cafe ‘Australia’s Wonder Cafe’, Gundagai, NSW, 1940
The Niagara, which still survives, is a magnificent example of the classic country Greek cafe. Said to have been initially established around 1902 by a Kythenan Greek, Strati Notaras, the business has remained in Greek hands with the Castrission family running it for most of the twentieth century (1919-1 983). The Art Deco exterior and interior were created during the 1 930s. Promoted as ‘Australia’s wonder cafe’ during its history the Niagara has been frequented by film stars and politicians, most notably in regard to the latter wartime Prime Minister John Curtin and his War Cabinet for a hearty midnight meal of steak and eggs in 1942.
By the mid to late 1930s the diversity of sit-down meals, take away items and broad customer range of the earlier Greek run oyster saloons had combined with the popularity of soda drinks, sundaes and milkshake into a classic country Greek cafe.

Photo Couttesy J. Castrission, from the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project Archives

Figure 8: Paragon Cafe Take Away, Hay, NSW, 1986 Effy Haldezos with her children Vicki and Peter The Australian Greek cafe’s link to America also assisted, in part, with its demise in the final decades of the twentieth century. American lead corporatised fast food began to replace family based food catering con­cems; take-away rather than sit down meals burgeoned. Most Greek cafes were forced to transform into take-aways or be relegated into memory or oblivion.

Photo by Effy Alexakis, from the from the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project Archives

Figure 9: Busy Bee Cafe, Gunnedah, NSW, 2002
Loula (Theodora) Zantiotis (nee Cassimatis) still runs the cafe with the assistance of female waiting staff. However as a widow whose children have left home and entered other occupations, Loula perceives the cafe’s days are numbered, unless it is acquired by a young family interested in preserving its food catering tradition. One of the limited number of classic Greek cafes which have survived almost intact, the Busy Bee’s exterior and interior (furnishings and food catering equipment) are fine examples of the early Art Deco style.

Photo by Effy Alexakis, from the from the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project Archives

Leave a comment