submitted by Bill Psaltis on 10.01.2005
Kythera GREECE to Sydney AUSTRALIA
A CENTURY OF CHANGE
As we enter the 21st century it is taken for granted that somebody, usually our parents will shelter protect and guide us through our early life.
Today, basic needs, food ,clothing, health, education, even entertainment and sport are provided as part of a normal life style.
It was not always thus, 100 years ago there was no electricity, town water, radio, telephone, television, education was simple, no cars, transport was by donkey, mule or horse and no sport but still our forbears provided the best they could.
The rules we follow were established by our Christian faith and stated simply are that man and his female partner will be joined forever by marriage, produce children, that they will love, shelter and guide, until they in turn become adults and then the cycle is repeated, creating a new generation every 20 - 30 years.
Here in Australia we read Robert Hughes', The Fatal Shore, about the trials and troubles of the early settlers who had little support and had to fend for themselves and still were able to commence a pattern of family life that during this century has created a great nation.
Adding to this were the early European migrants who came from a similar Christian environment, initially to find work in a foreign country that would allow them to send money back to their families.
Soon the migrants married in Australia, creating new families, settling and assimilating into the Australian mould. ( We are one , we are Australian.)
This is the pattern of the Charles (Kosma) Psaltis and Maria Psaltis family and the beginning of a dynasty in the new world.
Charles Protopsaltis ( meaning first chanter in a church choir) was born in Mitata, Kythera in 1895 and until the age of 11 attended school in the village that had 50 pupils.
He lived with his father Basil and his mother Chrysanthe in a comfortable farmers stone house set in 1000 sq. metres of flat land on which was grown vegetables, grain and other foodstuff. Directly opposite they owned another large piece of land on which they had a pig pen, kept chickens, grazed sheep, goats, a cow and even a donkey and
mule for transport. In a fertile valley close by irrigated by a constantly running spring, they had more land with olive groves, vineyards and fruit trees. The family was totally self sufficient and considered wealthy by island standards.
Young Charles had a hard but healthy agrarian existence, waking at dawn to help his father and mother work the land gong to school from 9 to 1 and then back to the land gathering fruit and vegetables, feeding the chickens and animals and then to bed at sunset. Remember no electricity, radio or television and a candle light for reading, so bed and sleep was the only thing to do at night.
This was all before the age of 12, when his parents took the heart breaking decision to send their young son and main worker to Australia where they considered he would have a better life. In the company of an elder friend of the family young Charles traveled by small steamers to Athens then Egypt where they boarded a P& O ship for the trip to Australia. Arriving in Sydney in 1907, Charles started work in a restaurant in William St. Kings Cross. Imagine the change from a farm life, to starting work preparing the restaurant at 7 in the morning, working all day serving customers, then at midnight cleaning the place and then sleeping under the tables.
By the time he was 14 he was earning enough to rent, together with other migrant workers, a terrace in Darlinghurst. In 1914 he paid the ship fare for his young brother Arthur to join him in Australia. [A photograph of Arthur at 26 years of age can be seen at Photography Diaspora, subsection, Weddings and Proxenia. Charles is the best man at the wedding of Eleni and Dimitri Haniotis, 1926.]
Arthur was born in 1900 living a life similar to his brother until he left his paternal home at the age of 14. He was fortunate in having his older brother to arrange work and accommodation when he arrived in this new country.
Both Charles and Arthur had to learn English while working and gradually educating themselves through experience buying a dictionary and reading books and newspapers. By the time they grew older and managed their own business they learnt bookkeeping and maintained wages records, daily takings records, payment of regular accounts for rent, bread, meat, milk, ice cream, chocolates and countless other supplies. Their bankers customers and suppliers had a high regard for their honesty and prompt payment of debts and accounts.
In 1923 both brothers now 28 and 23 had saved enough to buy a run down cafe business in the centre of Parramatta. The main problem was paying the rent of $20 per week.
Working long hours and providing a clean and pleasant service to customers they soon established a social gathering place for the people of the Cumberland area. In 1926 The then super store Murray Bros., relocated them to part of their new property in Church St., where the modern, high class restaurant the Cumberland Café commenced business.
At the time this was one of the finest restaurants in Sydney with an exclusive mezzanine floor, seating for 200 patrons in a mix of dining tables with tablecloths, silver plated cutlery, embossed crockery and marble tables for the long Soda Bar. Waitresses were in French apron uniform with smart caps and a wind up gramophone played classical and other music to dine by. The kitchen was enormous with a coal fired stove and grill plate to serve the favorite steak and eggs or roast pork, lamb, or beef with baked potatoes and vegetables.
This was not a mundane, sterile “McDonalds” take away. The pantry produced toasted cheese or ham sandwiches, waffles with cream or ice cream and big juicy hamburgers with the “WORKS”, meat, egg, bacon, cheese, onion, beetroot, tomato and lettuce, you did not need tomato sauce to make it edible. The Soda Bar served an array of sweets, Peach Melba’s, Tutti Fruities, Banana Splits, Ice cream sodas, Chocolate Malted Milks. Coca Cola had not been invented to pollute the taste buds.
This was a focal dining place for the district where parents of boys at The King School would book months ahead to lunch with their children when they came down from the country.
Back in Kythera in the village of Friligianika in 1909 Maria was born the first of four children a boy and three girls to Iouani and Kerany (Anne) Frelingos. Maria went to school in the village, helping her parents to tend their pieces of land. At the age of 14, her father on his way to Australia took his daughter to Smyrna in Turkey to live with her aunt Ourania, there to be taught to be a good young lady, to learn sewing, cooking and housekeeping. Three months after arriving Smyrna was attacked by the Turks and Maria with her aunts family escaped on a French warship which took them and other refugees to Athens.
By this time Iouani had returned to Australia and was operating a fish restaurant in Parramatta . Here he knew and respected Charles Psaltis as a successful businessman and decided to bring 16 year old Maria to Australia to meet this eligible young batchelor.
1924, Maria arrived in Australia in the custody of family friends, the Galanis family, who were emigrating at the time. She soon met Charles and in 1927 they were married.
Charles now relatively wealthy and an adventurous, flamboyant, man took his young wife back to Kythera for a long honeymoon. In Sydney they boarded the P&O liner Orcades taking four months to arrive in Egypt and then by steamer to Athens and finally Kythera.
Here Charles and Maria were reunited with their parents and family and Maria found that she was pregnant. On the 1st February 1928 in the middle of an unusual snow storm, Basil (Bill) Psaltis was born. After much festivity Charles Maria and the three month old son Basil left Kythera, Charles never to return but Maria and Basil revisited the island many times.
The trip back to Sydney was through Egypt where Charles and his entourage boarded another P&O liner the Orsova arriving in Sydney August 1928. While in Kythera relatives and friends begged Charles to take their children to the country where he had established himself so well. Again the generous Charles agreed and acted as guardian to Maria’s sister Matina , nephews George Sklavos and Xenophon Stathis, cousin George Psaltis and three other young people; Peter Feros, Peter Prineas, and Dimitrios I. Frilingos, all under 14 years of age. [A photograph of these 6 young boys leaving Kythera has been posted on the kythera-family web-site by Arthur Sklavos. It is entitled A journey for a better Life and can most easily be found by searching the word Xenofon through the internal search engine].
It is of interest that each of these youngster settled in Australia married and raised families and established good estates., contributing well to the establishment of a multicultural Australia.
Upon returning to Parramatta, Charles purchased a fine residence in the heart of the growing city, where Chrysanthe (1929)and Anne (1931), were born.
Early 1930 were depression years and as the business suffered. Charles had to sell his fine home and the family moved to a flat and then to a modest home in Aird St. Parramatta.
The children Basil (Bill), Chrys and Anne went to Parramatta Public School to commence their formal education and to Greek school at the Parramatta School of Arts, Saturday mornings (under some duress) to learn their parent’s mother tongue.
In 1937, Charles who suffered badly from asthma had a serious attack and due to this , early hard life and without modern medication died of a heart attack on the 28th of February., at the age of 43, leaving his young 28 year old widow to look after Bill 10, Chrys 7 and Anne 6.
At that point Charles’ brother, the children’s uncle Arthur, became the guardian and paternal leader of the family, a role he continued until his death 50 years after.
Arthur was now the sole proprietor of the Cumberland which with the start of the 2nd world war was the focal point of young servicemen, soldiers being trained at Ingleburn army barracks and airmen at Windsor air base. When on leave they flocked to Parramatta by train, the biggest and brightest entertainment centre outside the city, with three cinemas and many dance halls and restaurants, the Cumberland being the finest.
With the start of the Pacific war Parramatta was flooded with American servicemen fraternizing with their Australian allies. At 8am opening a line of young men would be waiting for breakfast and at midnight closing military police stood by to empty the shop.
Arthur would open the shop and work till closing. Maria would start work at midday and go home at 8 at night. The children after school would also help having dinner at 7 and going home to do their homework and go to sleep.
Old debts were paid off and soon outside investments were being made. Arthur a prudent property investor purchased blocks of flats at Parramatta, Ashfield and Wagga . He was also an astute investor in blue chip stocks, over the years amassing a substantial share portfolio. Maria and her sister Matina bought two new homes in Aird St. which in later years were acquired by Westfield at then high prices negotiated by the formidable ladies, which later, allowed the sisters to jointly buy a block of 9 apartments in Clovelly, giving them each a residence and a good investment from the 7 other rented flats.
Young Bill, was taught by his uncle Arthur to keep the weekly wages records for over 20 staff and to check monthly statements and draw cheques. At 13 he was already keeping books.
It was now time for Bill to choose a career path. Either to leave school with the intermediate certificate or to proceed to High school and then to University.
Arthur sat with Bill at the rear of the shop and asked him, do you want to take over the Cumberland when you are older. Bill gave an emphatic ,no, saying that aptitude tests showed that he should study accounting. As at that time accounting was not a University course the decision was clear, to leave school and become an articled clerk.
Immediately Arthur replied to an advertisement for A.W.Butterell & Co. Chartered Accountants and arranged an interview. Dressed in his first long pants suit Bill with uncle Arthur took the train to the city and walked up the imposing Martin Place to No.14, opposite the G.P.O. and Cenotaph, here to meet with the “boss”, Bill Butterell himself, who gruffly explained the rigors of an accounting career. At the conclusion he agreed to article Bill upon the payment of a fee of $52 for the first year for 50 cents a week salary.
Arthur paid the $52 and also for a Hemmingway Robertson correspondence accounting course, which was the only way to study accounting in the 40’s, prior to University courses that started when NSW University commenced in the 1960”s
This was the start of a long and interesting career as a Chartered Accountant, Rotarian, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia with many entrepreneurial activities that could be the subject of another story.
The war finished in 1945 and Arthur who was a prolific reader of all the daily papers and a subscriber to National Geographic, which he read from cover to cover, had a good knowledge of world and national affairs. Another nephew George Sklavos had returned from the war and was back managing the Cumberland. Arthur was getting tired and as he was relatively financially secure sold the Cumberland to George and his younger brother Bill, who had been brought out from Kythera, and bought the milk bar next to the Astra Cinema, to keep him occupied and provide income for his adopted family, Maria, Bill, Chrys and Anne.
The family lived in the Aird street residence with Maria now having a more comfortable life with her children and becoming the matriarch of a number of young relatives that were migrating from Greece after the war. Many of the young men would leave Kythera at 16 to avoid military service. Maria was instrumental in introducing many couples leading to marriages that established families that prospered in this new country.
In 1950, at the age of 20 Chrys met and married Jim Kanaris, a handsome, successful Manly milk bar, restaurant proprietor. They have three children, Anthony, a chartered accountant, who married Helen and have three children, James, Ross and Kristina. Charles, a postal employee, married to Delia with baby Christine, and Fay married to George Fatseas, an architect, with young Anthony and Elizabeth.
In 1956, at 25, Anne married, electrical technician, John Prineas, who established one of the first TV repair, retail shops at Chester Hill and subsequently became an accountant in brother in law Bill’s accounting practice, bearing Esther who married a doctor Peter Caligeros, who have sons, John, James and George.
Bill met Margaret Bridle in the late 1940’s and against his mothers wishes in 1957 married out of the Greek mould. Margaret brought some Scottish settlers ( her mother was a MacDonald) and English First Fleeters (her father a Bridle) logic and culture into Bill’s Greek upbringing which culminated in raising three fine sons.
Charles Norman, (named after his grandfathers) married Karen and have two energetic at school and sport teenagers, William and Rebecca. Charles established from scratch a successful Sports Goods Retail Business servicing the upper north side of Sydney.
Edward MacDonald, ( named after his grandfathers) married Sue and are bringing up Ben, Matthew and Amy, three very active children. Edward is a partner in a high profile Chartered Accountancy firm.
Arthur William Psaltis, ( named after the family guardian and mentor, Arthur), married Sal having two beautiful girls, Georgina and Harriet. Arthur qualified and worked as a Chartered Accountant and then became a respected Investment Banker with an executive role in NAB.
Maria and Arthur, with sister Matina in an adjoining flat, lived comfortably
in the Clovelly apartments, always happy to see and entertain the children and particularly spoil their young ones with lollies and sweets.
Maria died in 1994 at the age of 86 having lived a full but sad life after the early death of her husband, Charles. Her last words to Bill were, look after Margaret she is a good wife.
Seven months after then 93, Arthur died asking Bill to look after his family, as they were the result of many years of love, joy, and sometimes hardship and sadness.
Both Maria and Arthur helped Bill, Chrys and Anne and their children to establish themselves and finally left substantial estates in properties and securities to ensure some measure of financial security.
Most of all they taught their family to love and respect each other at all times without question.
This was the beginning of three Australian pioneers who left Australia a legacy
of 36 proud, honest and educated descendants.
The story should be extended by those that married into the family and the young ones that will continue the tradition.
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