submitted by Peter Tsicalas on 19.05.2005
Central Western Slopes – Warrumbungle District
Antonios Dimitrios Diacopoulos appears to be the Samaritan who brought the loaves and fishes to the Baradinian timber workers. He was 13yrs old when he began his pilgrimage from Karavas in 1911, ranging all over NSW until finding devoted disciples here in the early 1920s. He was still performing miracles in the kitchen into the late 1930s but … at some stage thereafter the Pentes Bros received the calling.
Sometime after WW1 the Melitas Bros of Gunnedah sent their joint CEO, Emmanuel Peter Melitas, to open a branch office in this old railway town. He seems to have sold the business, but not the freehold, to John Peter Comino of Warialda around 1930 and resettled in Coonabarabran for a few years until returning to Kythera just before the war. Upon coming back post war he favoured Coonabarabran, one of his earlier haunts.
John Comino, who landed in 1926, traded as Comino Bros from the oddly named Lithiam cafe through to the early war years when he sold out to his brother-in-law, Spero John Calligeros. But…at some stage down the line the locals had to resort to suss pies from the railway refreshment rooms. About 500 immunized survivors inhabit the place today.
Emmanuel of Binnaway probably opened the Melitas Bros branch here sometime pre WW1, but delegated to his brother Angelo in the early war years and pushed on with his expansionary business plan. Angelo was 15yrs old when he landed in 1910 and went direct to the head office at Gunnedah for his on-the-job training, followed by career development around the various Melitas branches. He seems to have begun post-graduate studies in Sydney around the mid 1920s, leaving his cousin Peter to carry on the Melitas presence here.
Over the following years various Melitas came and went, usually with a series of partners. Andrew seems to have been the acting chairman and managing director during WW2, handing back to Emmanuel sometime post war and giving the Melitas, in various incarnations, a more or less continuous presence in the place into the 1950s.
One early partner was John George Marcellos who landed in 1912, aged 26, and spent 5yrs clerking at the Gunnedah headquarters until posted here after election to the board. He too moved to Sydney around the mid 1920s, but returned in the late 1920s to form a new partnership with Con George Condoleon, who had survived the carnage of Smyrna to make it Australia in 1924.
Further competition arrived around 1930 in the form of the Jenkins Bros, John and George Gregory Tsingounis of Smyrna, who remained through to the late 1940s when they handed over to the Calligeros Bros.
Panos Coroneos was partied out of Potamos sometime around his 21st birthday in 1898 and arrived here 3yrs later with Nick Peter Aroney to open an oyster saloon on behalf of Coroneos Bros. However, he quickly got restless and moved to Inverell a year or so later, thence Glen Innes to again meet up with Aroney. Coroneos Bros reappeared in town in the early 1920s, but any interim ones have yet to be shaken out of the tree.
John Demetreu of Constantinople seems to have kept the place ticking over, with the assistance over a couple of years of the later Murwillumbah pioneers, Theo Con Andronicos and Arthur Anastasios Samios, until about 1906 when Emmanuel George Andronico of Kousounari gained control of the stove. Manuel died in 1910 and his brother Theo then passed the business to the Cordatos Bros.
Eleven year old Jim Emmanuel Cordato landed via London in 1905 following 2yrs indoctrination in the USA, spending 5yrs being reprogrammed by his uncle Denis at Dubbo before being let off the leach to run his own race here. In 1917 his brother Kyriacos came from Casino and in 1920 brother Jack turned up from Tenterfield.
In mid 1921 the café went up in smoke, after which Kyriacos moved off to open another Cordatos branch at Hillston, where he was joined by brother George, refreshed from a Kytherian holiday, in 1926/27. Jim and Jack rebuilt at Coonamble, only to be wiped out again in early 1929 when 38 buildings along Castlereagh Street were destroyed. At this time major fires also gutted the business centers of Trangie, Trundle and Tottenham. Jim and Jack then got the hint and moved to Hillston to join their brothers.
The remaining Coonamble residents, including the next generation Coroneos Bros, also got the message and over the period 1930-32 the main business area was rebuilt in brick, giving an art deco streetscape still looking good today.
The first of the recolonizing Coroneos brothers was 27yr old Peter Nick Coroneos of Potamos who came straight to town off the boat in 1922. Three years later he was joined by John and George, from Gulargambone and Gilgandra respectively, and together they ran two cafes in town until the mid 1930s when they were joined by another set of Coroneos Bros - Emmanuel, Basil and Angelo Ioannis Coroneos of Potamos.
Twenty year old Stavros Con Baveas escaped from Potamos in 1908 and spent a couple of years cooking for Cordatos at Dubbo prior to forming what looks like the first Kytherian catering team here. He ran the ABC café for the next ~20yrs, with intermittent backup from his brothers and his nephew, Con Coroneos, until passing the business to Emmanuel Theo Peter Georgopoulos and subsequently returning home.
Fourteen year old Manuel Poulos had landed in 1921 and, amongst other places, spent time flogging fruit with his brother Peter at Casino prior to accumulating the bananas for this venture, trading as Peters & Co, probably with Stan Baveas remaining as an interim partner until his employee, Strati John Venerys, acquired half the business in ~1932. Peter turned up from Casino in 1936 and seems to have acquired Strati’s shares, but shortly afterwards took his pension to Kythera, sometime after which Manuel retired hurt, leaving his sister, Chris Kelly, to provide continuity. Peter came back post war and resumed management until selling to the Kellys and retiring permanently to Kythera via a sojourn at Grenfell.
In 1929, at the same time Manuel appeared, Jack Sklavos (Pentes) entered a new catering team in the cooking competition, just as the price of wheat collapsed and caused customers to go on a diet. Even so, the place didn’t suffer too badly during the Depression (relatively). By 1933 23% of Gilgandra Shire’s male workforce was still employed in the wheat industry and enjoying a median income of £76 per year (verses £71 for NSW shires overall), offset by a male unemployment rate of 15% (compared to the 16.3% shire average).
Jack and his cousin Peter Pentes were still catering to cockies into the wheat boom years of the 1950s, by which time other competitors had arrived on the scene.
The ‘Waterhole for Galahs’ (Yep, cross my heart) was off the Greek’s provisioning map until an anonymous benefactor discovered the place sometime in the late war years and began distributing the rations. Pending his fingerprinting, 34yr old George Con Baveas, who came straight to town off the boat from London in 1920, possibly on his second trip to Australia, can take the acclaim. He seems to have been joined by his brother Sotirios from Gilgandra around the mid 1920s, but a couple of years later they passed the business to Theo Mina Comino of Wee Waa and disappeared somewhere.
Theo had his fill of cooking by the early 1930s, presenting his White Rose to Jim Con Prineas of Mitata and going off to show movies at Bellingen. Jim gave the place a makeover and a new name, The Golden Key, marking a golden trend in café Christian names in the wild-west, although white remained the perennial Rose favourite. Sometime during the war he passed the Keys to his brother Nick who remained into the late 1940s before offloading to a bloke named J. Sophios.
Peter Calopedis became the squire of Mendooran sometime around the mid 1920s and seems to have held court in his Elysion café until about 1960. The place, now a village of 325, continued to be honoured with a licensed 80 seat Greek café into the 1990s, the last proprietors being the Mouhtouris family of Lesbos.
Way back in the 1850s the Lesbosians had taken possession of Mendooran through Michael Manusu, whose descendants remained for over a hundred years. There is now a Manusu House and a Manusu Bridge commemorating that long association.
Cobar was one of the great early mining towns of NSW and had reached a population of 3000 by the early 1880s. Boom and bust cycles characterized the place thereafter. The 1890s Depression and the Great Drought, which didn't break until 1903, put a major dampener on things. The next boom lasted through the war and beyond, only to all collapse again by 1920. All the mines were closed by 1921 and 10yrs later the population had dwindled down to 700. During the 30s and 40s there was a minor recovery but by the early 50s things were on the slide again and the population had again fallen below 1000. Nevertheless, it was one of the last watering holes on the way to Broken Hill, so ministering to passing pilgrims kept the cafes busy.
George Andrews, from some place named Sheo in the ‘Turkish Archipelago’, appears to be the first Greek caterer when he turned up with refrigerated oysters in 1895, followed in about 1905 by a bloke trading as P.Comino, more than likely Peter Sklavos who had landed in 1891, aged 29. In 1907 the place was acquired by Peter Con Tzortzopoulos of West Wyalong, trading as Peters & Co, about the same time he took in Paul Cosma Coroneos, his rellie and shipmate in 1901, as a partner. Around the start of WW1 it looks like he also acquired the café of Arthur George Francis (Frantzeskakis of Karavas) who went mining for a while before moving to Ballina.
Peter, born 1871, is believed to have been the gaffer, while Paul, born 1875, managed the places on and off between breaks from his local farming pursuits. Around 1908 they had acquired an 85 acre feed lot in conjunction with a small-goods manufacturing factory, the latest products and techniques for the running of which Paul apparently had acquired on visits to South Africa and the USA. Peter allegedly was busy running around all over the place opening a chain of boutique oyster saloons while Paul was left to keep the Cobar enterprises functioning. Some of the managers may have included Paul’s brother, James, who died at Cobar in 1918, Paul’s nephew, Harry Sam Capsanis, who turned up in 1912, Harry’s brother-in-law, John Con Venardos, who arrived earlier in 1910, Peter’s nephew, Peter Stavros Zorzopoolo, who turned up in 1918, and Peter and Gregory George Panaretos who came around 1909. Early transients included Theo Harry Catrakis and Stratis Peter Aroney in 1909, Spiro Jim Catsoulis in 1910, and Stamatis Hector Aroney in 1912.
Peter is believed to eventually have retired to Quirindi, but the Tzortzopoulos in various guises remained Cobar stalwarts. By the early 1930s it looks like Nick and John Mina Tzortzopoulos, the sons of Mina Nick earlier of Glen Innes and Molong, had control of the kitchen(s) and seem to have remained at least through WW2. Thereafter the miners relied on the largesse of Basil Emmanuel Travasaros.
The early Kytherians kept a low profile until Nick Theo Crethar surfaced in late 1920 to hoist his name onto the facade of the Golden Gate café. He had landed in 1914, aged 29, and toured through most of NSW and QLD, including a 6mths stint as a partner in George Tsicalas’ Bangalow café, prior to settling down and calling for his family.
Nick and family rolled onto Orange in the early 1930s, handing over to the Vanges family who remained for nigh on 50yrs. Jack Vanges served as mayor 1964-68 and remained on the council until 1976, leaving his mark with Vanges Park near the railway station.
With great coordination the Mottee Bros, 13yr old Peter landing in 1898, 12yr old George in 1908 and 23yr old Jim in 1912, all united at Warren from different parts of the state in 1913, remaining until 1921 when they figured surfing on the coast at Kempsey was more fun than fishing in the Macquarie River.
The Alfris Bros, Theo, Jim and Con Emmanuel Alfieris late of Bingara, settled in for a couple of years, followed by the Coroneos Bros, whoever they were, trading as Peters & Co, for a couple more, until the Capsanis Bros of Kastrisianika turned up in the late 1920s to give some stability to the Kytherian menu. They, Anastasios and Peter John Capsanis (brother George having died 1930 Warren after brother Angelo disappeared to Oakey), remained into the 1950s, by which time Peter George Georgopoulos had turned up to provide the necessary competition, ensuring the usual lean Greek operation. [As elsewhere, complacency was a recipe for slowly going broke in the competitive catering market (to which gratuitous comment the only possible response is rah, rah, rah - said a bloke who had a competitor open up next door.)]
Greek settlement of Northern NSW was predominately a Kytherian affair, although their new countrymen probably didn’t appreciate this phenomenon – ‘they’re all Greek to me.’ And invariably it was a family affair, with each district becoming the stronghold of particular interconnected village/kindred groups. Many of those that weren’t affiliated became kin through marriage, weaving a complex web of relationships over the whole region.
Moreover, they probably enjoyed the status as the highest profile minority ‘alien’ group in the region, reigning over the popular entertainment and socializing outlets in almost every town. More than most national groups, the Greeks, or at least the Kytherians, penetrated into all areas of Northern NSW, most achieving prominent positions in their local communities.
Presumably much the same happened in Central and Southern NSW, Northern Victoria and country Queensland, not to forget the big Kytherian presence in metropolitan and suburban Sydney and Brisbane.
submitted by George Poulos on 22.08.2005
A deeper analysis of the Kytherian presence in Gilgandra, 1910-2000, can be found at
For numerous other photographs and references to the town, and to the Kytherians who lived and worked there, use the kythera-family internal search engine under Gilgandra.
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