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Peter Tsicalas

Northern NSW - 2

The Tweed-Brunswick District


The first Greek presence came with the mysterious Nick Nicholoudes in 1905/06 when the place was barely established. But his was a short-lived venture and he disappeared within a year or so.

Theo Dimitri Bangi was the first clearly identifiable Kytherian when he came across from Lismore in 1913 and acquired a fruiterer's business, turning it into Bangalow's first Oyster Saloon and presenting the locals, predominately haggis eating Scotsmen, with oysters served up fried, battered, curried, stewed or devilled, and even au natural for the courageous (but smoked oysters remained off the menu until the later hippie settlers learnt how to roll them.)

Theo was 9 years old when he left Kythera in 1886 to work in Egypt, subsequently landing in Sydney in 1907. He arrived with Egyptian catering credentials and bypassed the usual Sydney trade-training course by going straight to Lismore to work for Peter Emmanuel Comino. In 1915 he sold out to Emmanuel Jacob Haropoulos of Manitohori and moved to Coraki, but 3 years later decided to become a picture theatre proprietor at Wauchope, thence Werris Creek.

By the early 1920s it was getting difficult to earn a quid from the North Coast café game so Haropoulos, who landed in 1909/11 after 4yrs in Egypt, decided that pig farming might be a more secure occupation.

The Samios Bros provided the first Kytherian presence of any substance and longevity in the place when Milton Dimitrios Samios came across from Mullumbimby in early 1925 to build two new shops at a time when Bangalow was becoming a struggling commercial centre. It was a courageous decision in the face of a rapidly collapsing dairy industry, heading in the same direction as the already belly-up banana industry. Nevertheless, the Samios saw off most of the competition over the next 20yrs.

Paul Samios, the last brother to leave in 1944/45, became a prominent citizen and president of the bowling club. He introduced the locals to what he insisted was Greek coffee, a great urn of which continually bubbled away on the counter and was topped up regularly with a spoonful of potent stuff until it could be eaten with a knife and fork, signalling it was time to brew another batch. Some brave locals survived to so testify. And these same courageous chaps swear his homemade pies were the best in the region.

It was poverty that preserved all Bangalow’s old architecture and ambience and now makes the village so attractive to well-heeled new settlers, the hippies having moved on. The facades of the Samios shops, across the road from the old banks and post office, have recently been restored to their original condition. Go have a look.

Brunswick Heads
George Patrinos appears to be the first to open a Greek cafe in Brunswick Heads when he came across from Mullumbimby in mid 1909. But his origin and circumstances remain elusive. He came and went over the years and probably operated his cafe as a 'seasonal outlet', returning to somewhere or other during the winter months. He was still going strong at Bruns in 1920 and still advertising his speciality as wholesaling of fish and oysters, but shortly afterwards went to Lismore where, in partnership with George Theo Poulos, he took over the Busy Bee Café of Theo George Francis (Franzeskakis).

There appears to be no further Greek presence at Bruns until Archie Caponas of Mullumbimby acquired a café in 1945, about the same time as Tom Copland (Kopeleas) acquired a café next door. Between them they subsequently owned half The Terrace.

Byron Bay
George and Tony Dimitri Feros of Mitata came to the Bay via Lismore in 1923 and over the next 50 years were variously fruiterers, confectioners, greengrocers, refreshment room and cafe proprietors operating out of their original Jonston Street premises. They became an institution in the Bay and George is affectionately remembered as the prime mover in collecting money for an old people's home, now the Feros Village Hostel, after earlier honing his skills collecting for the Orthodox Home for the Aged. He was Byron’s most well-known icon as he walked the streets in flowing white beard, ringing his bell and rattling his collection box. He landed as a 20yr old in 1922 and died at the Bay in 1981, with the priest, in a wonderful gesture, bringing traffic to a halt as he lead a procession through town ringing the same bell George had used all those years. Tony died in Brisbane in 1983, aged 76, and his family has since redeveloped the original shop into the prominent Feros Arcade.

Their older brother, Jack, born in Mitata in 1892, first landed in 1909 but returned for the Balkan Wars in 1912, afterwards spending 18mths in Philadelphia, USA. He made it back to Oz in 1918 and retired to the Bay from Lismore in 1954 with his wife Vasiliki, sister of the Samios Bros of Bangalow. George and his wife Edna nursed and cared for Jack for many years as he slowly declined with Parkinson's disease, and it was this experience that prompted George into his single-minded determination to see that the frail and elderly of Byron Bay should have well-appointed care facilities in their twilight years. Jack died in 1969, having survived Vasiliki by many years. They both lie at the Bay.

Cafes and restaurants, at last count 156, including a popular Greek theme one, are now the Bay’s main industry.

The first Kytherian appears to be George John Sklavos who turned up in 1908 to work for Theo Patras. He came from Mitata in 1900, aged 18, apparently arriving in Mullum via Wellington (NSW). He went on to open The American Bar in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley in 1910, subsequently becoming an astute businessman and a generous donor to public works projects in his village, including the building of the first schoolhouse, giving Australia a high profile amongst the Mitatans. He died in Brisbane in 1949 leaving half his estate to the restoration of the village church, a project recently completed by the film-maker George Miller (Miliotis), whose father did his early schooling in Ballina and Lismore.

The first Kytherian café proprietors were also Mitatans, Basil and Alex John Feros, who arrived in town in 1914 to take over The White Australian Café. Basil was 18yrs old when he made his first trip to Australia in 1908, and may have been in Mullum at some stage. He left for the Balkan wars in 1912 and returned in mid 1914, coming to Mullum about a year later to join Alex. Alex had landed as a 16 year old in 1910 and seems to have spent all his time in Sydney before turning up in Mullum sometime in early 1914. After selling out to the Samios Bros they both resettled in Sydney, but re-established themselves in Lismore in the late 1920s.

Their café is still going in the hands of John Theo Psaltis and would have to be on the short list for the oldest Kytherian café still operating in family hands in NSW. John’s grandfather, Dimitri Peter Psaltis of Mitata, had a shop in Murwillumbah pre WW1 and subsequently did a number of trips back and forth to Oz.

The first Greek café was opened with great fanfare by the partnership of Samio & Andronico in early 1905, 3yrs after the town was incorporated as a Municipality. Samio was 17yr old Athanasios Anastasios Aloizos from Aliozianika and Andronico was 20yr old Theodoros Constantinos Andronicos. Arthur landed in mid 1903 and went straight to Coonamble to join Andronicos, both moving out together around late 1904, Andronicos to Casino and Samios to Sydney, before they met up again in Murbah. Andronicos had landed in 1901 and spent all his time out west. Arthur sold his share to Jack Cosma Aroney in 1908 and moved to Bellingen where he subsequently acquired a 160 acre farm. Andronicos sold his share to the Aroney Bros in 1910 and a couple of years later disappeared into the woodwork.

Through the turbulent 1920s and 30s the Kytherian mafia allowed other regional groups to gain a toehold, particularly the Ithacans, but the Kytherian influence survived within the multicultural Greek community into the 1970s.

Tweed Heads
Towards the end of WW1 the Kytherian Patrick Bros, probably solely Minas (Mick) Theo Patrikios earlier of Allora and Gatton, appear to have brought the first Greek presence to the Heads upon taking up the Belle Vue Café, the most posh establishment in town. In early 1921, about the time Nick Antonios Koukoulis acquired the place, he was joined by his younger brothers Steve and Con, 15 and 16 when they landed in 1912, who took over the management about mid year when Mick set out for Roma to acquire a café with Koukoulis as silent partner. Steve and Con, who had spent their early trade training at Warwick and Allora, were still running the place in mid 1923, probably under some management agreement with Koukoulis who was based at Murwillumbah at this time. In the meantime Mick, who had arrived in 1911 after 8yrs in Russia, had abandoned Roma and settled permanently at Gympie.

Next door in Coolangatta, Nick Koukoulis appears to the first Kytherian when he acquired The Rosa Café of a mysterious Miss Z. Theodore [possibly Mrs Zaharo Theodorakakis (nee Andronicos)] opposite the Railway Station and next to the Capitol Theatre in Griffith Street in 1924. However, it's believed he wasn’t hands-on in the first couple of years and left the place in the hands of a manager, probably Tom Copland, whilst he pursued business interests in and around Brisbane.

Nick was 16 years old when he landed from Katsoulianika, via a sojourn in Smyrna, in 1904. Following a couple of years in Sydney working for his cousin, Jim Anthony Comino, in Oxford Street he moved off to Warwick to work for the partnership of Harry Spiro Tsicalas, Mick Charles Catsoulis and Jim Menegas, all of whom had been staked by Mina Anthony Comino. Twenty months later he was staked by Jim Comino in a partnership with Victor Spiro Tsicalas in the Olympia Café at Goondiwindi. In 1915 he returned to Warwick to become proprietor of the Bellevue Café in partnership with his uncle Jim Menegas. They sold up in 1920 and after dabbling in some businesses in and around Brisbane Nick turned up in Murwillumbah a year later to take up Jack Aroney's Olympic Café. During this period, and over the following years, he was an entrepreneurial risk taker, with his various ventures apparently left in the hands of managers after his initial purchase and makeover. He married Aphrodite Marcellon at Raymond Terrace near Newcastle in 1925 and about a year later took up full time management of his Capitol Café in Coolangatta. In 1932 he returned to Murbah where he was as busy as a one armed paper-hanger in looking after three cafes.

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