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Katsehamos and the Great Idea

Katsehamos and the Great Idea - Katsehamos and the Great Idea_0001

Author: Peter Prineas
When Published: 2006
Publisher: Plateia Press
Available: Plateia Press,
32 Calder Road, Darlington, 2008. NSW,
or email here
phone (02) 9319 1513

Also available from the Kytherian Association of Australia:

Enquiries: George C. Poulos
Ph: 61 2 9388 8320
e: Contact George here

Angelo Notaras p: 61 2 9810 0194 ext.711
f: 61 2 9810 6691
e: Contact Angelo here

and, from Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW, 2037 and selected bookshops.

Katsehamos and the Great Idea is also available in the New England and Northwest region of NSW, from the Roxy Theatre, Maitland Street, Bingara.
Phone: 02 67240003
or email here

Description: Paperback, 240pp, Bibliography, Index.

From, O Kosmos, Thursday 30th March, 2006. p.25.

Country town picture theatre reveals a different history

When Peter Prineas learned in 2004 that his grandfather, Peter Feros, nicknamed ‘Katsehamos’, had built a picture theatre in the small town of Bingara in the 1930s, he wanted to know more about it. The result is ‘Katsehamos and the Great Idea - a true story of Greeks and Australians in the early twentieth century’, a book that digs deep into the shared history of Greeks and Australians, and the sometimes turbulent relations that existed between them in the period during and after the First World War. Along the way the story offers a different perspective on Gallipoli and other aspects of Australian history.

Prineas follows Peter Feros’s journey to America as a sixteen year-old boy in 1907, his return to Greece with much patriotic fanfare in 1912 in the company of thousands of other American Greeks to fight in the Balkan Wars, and his journey to Australia in 1921. The book recounts how Peter Feros, with his brothers Phillip and Manolis, between them fought four wars for the ‘Great Idea,’ Greece’s bid to reclaim Constantinople and her former Byzantine glory. The dream was shattered on the plains of Anatolia in 1922.

In Australia, Peter Feros prospered and in the 1930s he became caught up in another ‘Great Idea’. This time it was in the small town of Bingara in north-western NSW where the commercial ambitions of one of his business partners, George Psaltis ‘Katsavias’, entangled him in the building of the ‘Roxy’, an art deco picture theatre impressive enough to grace a city. The book’s account of Bingara’s ‘cinema wars’ is a fascinating addition to Australian picture theatre history. Although success in the cinema business eluded him, Peter Feros endured and went on to build a new life. In the end, ‘Katsehamos’ is about the journey of a man and his family towards accepting, and being accepted by, Australia.

Peter Prineas has worked as a lawyer, environmental consultant and writer. He has written or contributed to books on Australian landscape and environment but ‘Katsehamos’ is his first book of historical writing. He lives in Sydney.

‘Katsehamos and the Great Idea’ was launched at the Roxy Theatre in Bingara by Associate-Professor Janis Wilton of the University of New England, at 6.30 pm on Saturday April 1. The book launch was followed by the unveiling of a plaque and photographs commemorating the three Greeks from Kythera, – Peter Feros, George Psaltis and Emanuel Aroney – who opened the Roxy in 1936. The Roxy Theatre has been restored and reopened by Gwydir Shire Council and is now a regional centre for cinema and the performing arts. A large crowd of Kytherian Greek descendants is expected in Bingara on Saturday for the book launch and dedication which form part of the Roxy Theatre’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

General release of the ‘Katsehamos’ book will commence with the Sydney launch by Bob Carr at 7.00 pm on Wednesday April 12, at 'Alexander's on the Park', ground floor American Express building, 175 Liverpool Street (opposite Hyde Park).

The book is available from the publisher,
Plateia Press,
32 Calder Road,
Darlington, 2008. NSW.
or email here
phone (02) 9319 1513
and also from Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW, 2037 and selected bookshops.

Katsehamos and the Great Idea is also available in the New England and Northwest region of NSW, from the Roxy Theatre, Maitland Street, Bingara.
Phone: 02 67240003
or email here

For further information
Phone: Sydney, (02) 9319 1513
Mobile: 0429 322 857

Katsehamos and the Great Idea - Prineas Peter Mc

Peter Prineas at the launch of his book 'Katsehamos and the Great Idea ' in the Roxy Theatre, Bingara, NSW Australia.
Saturday 1 April 2006

Photograph, Peter McArthy, Inverell, NSW

Katsehamos and the Great Idea - Poulos, Prineas, Carr

The Honourable Bob Carr, Peter Prineas & George Poulos. At the Sydney launch of Peter Prineas' book, Katsehamos and the Great Idea.
Photograph, Victor Kepreotis, Sydney

See also:

ODYSSEY Magazine, March/April 2007, REVIEW

Speech introducing Bob Carr at the Sydney launch

Review(s) of the book

Professor Janis Wiltons' speech, Bingara book launch

Details of the Bingara book launch, photograph unveiling, and 70th Anniversary Ball

Founders photographs unveiled, Roxy, Bingara


Kytherians flocked to Bingara from everywhere

Peter Feros's descendants

Descendants and freinds of Roxy Theatre founder, Peter Feros

Peter Prineas at the Sydney launch of his book Katsehamos and the Great Idea

Peter Prineas presents Bob Carr with a gift of his book Wild Places

The Honourable Bob Carr launching Peter Prineas' Katsehamos and the Great Idea

George Poulos, introducing the Honourable Bob Carr at the launch of Katsehamos and the Great Idea

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Kiriaki Orfanos
on 05.04.2006

Katsehamos and the Great Idea By Peter Prineas I have just read a book that fits neatly into that nexus where man meets history. Peter Prineas’ Katsehamos and the Great Idea tells a tale of struggle, courage, stoicism, doggedness and pride which is profoundly recognizable to the children of the Greek Diaspora, echoing in the secret part of our soul, to remind us of who we are; where we come from. It presents us with the spectacle, often poignant, always moving, about the young people who were forced out of Greece by historical imperatives beyond their control, into a stubborn and hostile world where they were expected to make their way minus language, minus marketable skills, minus opportunity. But to think of this only as an account about Greeks for Greeks would be to miss the point. It is more than that; it taps into the experience of everybody who has had to up stakes and move somewhere else in order to make a life. It vibrates with the great migrations that arose out of the two World Wars, the chaos of South-East Asia, the redistribution and redefinition of power in Africa, endemic poverty and the ideological conflicts that continue to bedevil us today. Those who have been forced to migrate to a place not necessarily of their choosing or those who have had to move aside to accommodate them would find elements of this book hauntingly familiar. History is most interesting when it affects the people you know; the people Prineas is talking about were particularly vulnerable to the effects of world events making it impossible for them to stay in Greece. In order to show their journey as they made their way to Australia via the United States and a war or two, he effortlessly evokes the smoky atmosphere of a kafenion in America full of men missing home and family, showing us his grandfather, Peter as a 16 year old, holding a cigarette in a work-hardened hand with the cocky assurance of a boy-man. Yet he remained a proud Greek and it is eminently believable that he was one of many who chose to go home to fight a battle that was long overdue. A confrontation imbued with the Great Idea. Prineas begins with a person, a town, an island, three countries, a world at war, an emergent, fractious peace, another town on another continent in another hemisphere and the inevitable repercussions of decisions arrived at with no thought of the people who had to live by them and the choices they were forced to make. He tells an all too human story and at every stage, he touches base with the people who lived it, and whose actions, noble or ignoble, drove it forward. In describing how his grandfather, Peter Feros, with partners Emanuel Aroney and George Psaltis, built the Roxy cinema in Bingara, Prineas tells the bigger story of emigration. Yet it remains a deeply personal family narrative with an emotional authenticity based on the fact that it is about real people; people he knew. This is a celebration of both his grandfather and all the men and women who took part in the early days of Greek migration. Here are the shades of the Aroney brothers and Barba Yiannis, all of whom had served in the Balkan Wars and of Mr. Hlentsos who couldn’t; of Spiro who carried his half-dead friend back from the Front; of Katina and Stamatina, who found themselves in foreign towns under a different sun; of Ioannis who became John in the space of a journey. He exposes the exciting hidden histories of the countless owners of the countless cafes in the countless towns whose ordinariness belie the extraordinariness of their lives. Those of us whose family secrets resonate with these stories are ambushed by the sense of deja vu. And yet it remains quintessentially the story of the Feros family; their struggle, their tragedy, their triumph. It is about the kind of vision that was prepared to take a punt on a promise, and build an edifice for a small town in not-quite-outback New South Wales that would have graced London, or Paris, or even New York and was repeated throughout Australia, bringing a little flamboyance, a bit of splendour and even some Americana to town. However, there is another element in this book; Prineas introduces us to the Megali Idea, The Great Idea, the thought, hope, even ambition that a nascent Greece, newly released from centuries of oppression could reclaim that which it had lost; the great City itself, Constantinople. He shows that this was not as quixotic as it sounds and that its failure owed more to political expediency than to a sense of historical rightness. He reveals the power of the Great Idea over the Greeks who believed in it, fought for it, and invested it in the destinies they were constructing in their own new world. These lovely, courtly, daring, clever, dreamers, of whom his grandfather was one, laid the foundation of a movement which has added interest and texture to our society. Another motif in this story is the twin themes of racism and betrayal and you see how the prevailing attitudes permitted the development of a bitter sense of entitlement on the one hand and justification for bad faith on the other. There is very little to choose between the behaviour of local bureaucrats in the matter of planning permission for the cinema or the Great Powers when it came to deciding the fate of Greece. And yet you are heartened by the natural fairness that was displayed time and again on a personal level. Prineas tells his tale lucidly and objectively, endeavouring at every turn to give both sides of the argument. Although there is treachery and duplicity, there are no real villains here, just flawed individuals trying to do the best they can. When I was reading it, it brought to mind a photo I have of a balding, tubby little man, sweeping the floor of his milk bar. A customer, Sue, from the exchange, a woman looking a bit like the popular notion of the appearance of an ancient Greek, you know, tall, blonde, blue-eyed, faces the camera. Tiny Norma, who worked there for… oh … ever, is just visible on the other side of the counter. I love this photo because it tells a story as all good photos do, but it’s incomplete. There is no hint in it, for example, of a ship-board romance; no hiss of bullets in the dark and a chance, quickly seized, to escape through enemy lines; no mention of the gallantry of a sailor who couldn’t swim; no trace of a commitment to a Great Idea. It doesn’t show the adventure. No, you need a book for that, a book which will take the facts and the people who lived them and spin a tale that contains all the elements of a good yarn; conflict, excitement, romance, hope, tragedy, suspense, and a satisfactory ending. This book is suffused by the Australian sunshine and pervaded by the eucalypt timelessness of the bush, but it reaches beyond that. We are all stakeholders here. Anyone who has had to overcome the feeling of alienation to fashion their own authentic role in a new story or to find a way to live their dream even if it means adapting it to different conditions, or who grew up in a country town, had a milkshake in a café, remembers rolling Jaffas down the aisle at the Roxy, has a place in it. Although it tells a specific story, it is in fact a story about us all, told sensitively, perceptively and scrupulously, and in letting us into the heart of a family, it also lets us into our own.

Kytherian Newsflash
on 06.04.2006

From the back cover: 'Katsehamos is a broad sweep of history, sensitively and clearly presented. Interwoven and skilfully related to the times are the lives and aspirations of immigrants from the Greek island of Kythera. A persistent thread is the pursuit of the 'Great Idea', be it national grandeur or business empire. It is a well-crafted narrative told with deep insight and underlying passion. I enjoyed reading this book.' - Manuel James Aroney, AM, OBE, University of Sydney.

Patricia Potts
on 12.04.2006

Review Peter Prineas, as an Australian of Kytherian Greek ancestry, has written Katsehamos and the Great Idea to tell the story of his ancestors’ migrations in the early 1900s' from Kythera in Greece to the United States, and subsequently to Australia. He integrates his family members into the bigger picture of Kytherian migrations, their involvement in the many wars during the early to mid-1900s which involved both Greeks at home and abroad, and the Greek focus on the great idea. His story goes on to focus on his family members’ own great idea for Bingara in New South Wales, which was an ambitious project to build the Roxy Theatre in the town centre – and their subsequent involvement in a local cinema war. The Roxy Theatre, built from 1929 to 1933, is listed by the NSW Heritage Council as a ‘fine example of an Art Deco cinema with Spanish Mission and Art Nouveau elements’ and especially rare for ‘retaining its original theatre interiors and spaces on two levels’. The NSW Ministry for the Arts contributed $205,000 to the theatre’s recent refurbishment and it now operates as the regional area’s only theatre for ‘cinema, performing arts, community and cultural use’. Mr Prineas’ book is the result of a combination of excellent writing style, comprehensive research, and the integration of family and the wider Greek and Australian community to tell a story of particular cultural significance about the contributions of early Greeks in Australia, and in particular those from Kythera. His writing style is a wonderful combination of lyrical prose, a very effective use of imagery, and the creation of characters and events which come alive on the page. His extensive research of historical events and Greek migrations, well documented, underpin his ability to develop a well-written, interesting, and relevant book. It was evident that Mr Prineas is a writer of a high standard. Katsehamos and the Great Idea is a book of noteworthy relevance to the Kytherian Greek community in Australia. It celebrates its early focus on the Greek great idea and particularly the re-birth of the Roxy Theatre in Bingara, New South Wales, a building of recognised heritage value contributed to the Australian community through the innovation and tenacity of early Greek migrants. I am sure that this book would be of interest to a wide circle of readers in Australia, and abroad – the Greek community both here and in Greece, other migrant communities, and the entire contemporary integrated Australian community interested in reading about the early development of this country.

Neos Kosmos, Melbourne
on 25.04.2006

For a review of the book in Greek, see, Neos Kosmos, Melbourne, 13th April, 2006. http://www.neoskosmos.com.au/060413/nk/apopseis/apopseis_03.shtml

Neos Kosmos, Melbourne
on 25.04.2006

See also, Neos Kosmos, Melbourne, 13th April, 2006 Sydney book launch - in Greek - Australia is....Greater Kythera. http://www.neoskosmos.com.au/060417/nk/omogeneia/omogeneia_03.shtml