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Peter Tsicalas

Northern NSW - 7

Upper New England Tablelands


The venerable firm of Venardo & Aroney founded a café here in 1906. Aroney was Theo Peter who landed in 1903, aged 21, and was granted a license to practice catering after 3yrs supervision at Inverell. He may be the brother of Nick Peter of Glen Innes and Moree and the other half of Aroni Bros, the colourful racing identities. Venardo is a mystery, but a likely rellie, 17yr old John Con Venardos, came here directly off the boat from Karavas in 1908, remaining almost 2yrs before moving on and eventually settling at Leeton in partnership with the later Manilla identity, Phillip John Feros.

Fourteen year old Nick Emmanuel Kalokerinos landed in 1909 and came straight to Emmaville, buying the business 5yrs later, and remained till the mid 1920s when upward mobility prompted a move to Glen Innes. His Emmaville café, the Blue Bell, passed through the interim hands of the Coroneo Bros, (probably Nick and Harry John of Tamworth), prior to his brother-in-law, Menas Andrew Kalokerinos of Alexandrades, continuing the family association with this Labour Party stronghold.

Nick married Maria Megaloconomou and begat the remarkable Dr Archie Kalokerinos in 1927. Archie was a fearless, fearsome and fiery personality who became a legendary figure in the bush as he initiated health services and drew attention to the appalling infant mortality rate in the aboriginal population. He identified the link with nutrition, and a host of related findings on children’s health in general, and pioneered the use of vitamin C injections. He recently completed his memoirs in Tamworth, to where he semi retired from Bingara, still with the fire in his belly, in the early 1990s. (Not to forget his brothers, Dr Jim Kalokerinos, a pioneer in diagnostic radiology, Dr Emmanuel Kalokerinos and Dr Leo Kalokerinos.)


The early Kytherians refused to identify themselves until the elusive John D. Comino raised his hand after the war, but lowering it by at least 1924 when the fingerprints of George Charles Vanges of Glen Innes appeared all over the place. George lingered for a year or so before moving to Tenterfield and thence to Kythera in 1926, coming back around 1934 to resettle at Tamworth.

The colours of Crethary & Co then were hoisted up the mast. They probably belonged to Harry John Crethar of Lismore who is believed to have stayed a couple of years before moving to Emmaville for a couple more. He paid a long visit to Kythera in the early 1930s and upon his pre war return resettled at Tenterfield. In the meantime his Deepwater banner had been replaced by that of Farros & Co, raised and then lowered by Harry Dimitri Faros/Pharou in the late 1920s, leaving no one on duty until the arrival of Charles George and Katina (nee Masselos) Tzannes of Fratsia in the early 1930s.

The Tzannes remained for about 50yrs, starting out with a small fruit shop that was expanded into a mixed business, and, at some stage along the way, adding a boarding house to the property portfolio. A few generations of Tzannes attended Deepwater school through to the late 1970s.

The name Theodore also started appearing at the local school in the early 1970s after Mary Tzannes married Harry Theodore. They took over the mixed business upon Charles’ and Katina’s retirement to Moree and continued with it into the late 1980s. Coroneo also became another Kytherian name on the school roll when Angela and John started in the late 1960s.

Deepwater is now a town of 330, but the Blue Bell Café is still in existence, so you can leave the thermos at home. The place also doubles as an art gallery for tourists.

Glen Innes

Pending the discovery of other early footprints, Peter Cosma Sourry, 16yrs old when he sailed into Sydney in 1900, can take the credit as the first Kytherian to step off the train in Glen Innes. He camped here for 4mths doing something or other until someone showed him the way to Inverell, where he linked up with his uncle, Spyro Peter Panaretos, in late 1900. After various adventures he returned to Glen Innes in 1918, but 4yrs later moved onto Armidale with his theatre partner and brother-in-law, Alex Andrew Coroneo (Psomas). He and the family relocated to Tenterfield during WW2.

The first Kytherian of any longevity in the place was Panos Coroneos of clan Bellos, who fled from Egypt in 1898, aged 21. After 5yrs wandering in the wilderness he was licensed by the grand fraternity of fruiterers to open a business in partnership with, or in competition with, Nick Peter Aroney in mid 1903. They both temporarily returned to Potamos in 1906/07, leaving Nick, Con and George Andrew Coroneo (Psomas) as the Kytherian legation at Glen Innes. But they too did a runner in 1910/11 and left their younger brothers, Sam and the above Alex, holding the keys to two shops. (At the same time Panos came back to Australia to resettle in Perth, while Aroney had come back a couple of years earlier to rebuild his horse stud at Moree.)

Nick Coroneo re-established at Glen Innes post war, having survived a swim in the Aegean after his troop ship was torpedoed on the way to Salonika. He initially had landed in 1905, aged 28, and may have had a sojourn in Western Australia with his brothers prior to returning to Kythera and the subsequent memorable war service.

His brother George escaped from Cape Town in mid 1907, aged 22, and galloped to Glen Innes with the recipe for haggis, akin to the relief of Mafeking for the hordes of deprived Scotsmen in the district. He tried a 6mths sortie into Adelaide before arriving in Fremantle to open a café in 1910/11, possibly with brother Con, who landed in late 1907, aged 25, and also had come direct to Glen Innes.

[East and West were twained in 1944 when the Perth born Alice Coroneos (Bellos) married the Moree born Denny Victor Panaretos and settled in Lismore until they both retired to Perth in ~1970. The Panaretos and Coroneos had connections with most of the early Kytherian pioneers around northern NSW. Denny’s Aunt, Stavroula Dimitri Panaretos, married Spiro Coroneos (Bellos), the brother of Peter of Perth. Their daughter, Calliopi Coroneos, born 1894 Potamos, married Vasilios George Gengos of Moree and Inverell who employed her brothers, James and Peter Spiro Coroneo, until they decided to become missionaries amongst the Queenslanders.]

Meanwhile, young Sam and Alex Coroneos, continuing to trade as Coroneo Bros, were suffering cabin fever and decided to accept an offer for their two shops from Crithary & Poulos around 1912 and take the cure at Scone. Post war they discarded their aprons and disguised themselves in show biz cloaks.

Crithary & Poulos, a partnership of Theo and Peter Angelo Kritharis and their cousins, Minas and Theo Nick Tzortzopoulos, began trading as Peters & Co, a trade name that became as pervasive as Comino Bros throughout northern NSW.

The Critharys were nephews of the entrepreneurial Spiro Panaretos, son of Peter Mina and Maria, nee Masselos, who had based himself at Inverell while expanding his company, Peters & Co, into a number of towns throughout the region. It was a race against his Moree based cousins, Victor and Jack Dimitri Panaretos, whose company, Comino & Panaretto, had already cornered a large slice of the Tablelands’ market. It’s hard to get a feel for the extent of his reach, as Peters & Co, like Comino & Co and Comino Bros, became a high profile brand name, with many opportunists trading under the banner without any apparent connection to the original Panaretos juggernaut.


Andronico Bros claimed Tenterfield for Tsirigo in late 1906 when David Theo Andronicos arrived from Muswellbrook to open an office next to the Exchange Hotel. A couple of other brothers came and went but he remained the main face of the business through to late 1913 when this branch was sold to his shipmate, Kyriacos Emmanuel Theodorakakis (Cordatos) of Armidale, and he moved to Lismore to replace his brother Stan in partnership with Peter Emmanuel Comino (Giraldis).

Kery Cordatos, 20yrs old when he slipped out of Potamos in 1901, had been fast tracked through an intensive 2yr commerce course at Moree prior to be being installed as manager of the new Comino & Panaretto branch at Armidale, where he remained until selling out to George Peter Comino (Galanis). He stayed 3yrs in Tenterfield before passing stewardship to his brother Jack and moving to Casino for about a year and thence to the Cordatos outlet at Coonamble.

Fifteen year old Jack Cordatos landed in 1911 and worked in various Cordatos Bros enterprises until given the reins at Tenterfield. He pocketed an extraordinary £3300 upon sale of the three wooden buildings, on one large block, to 23yr old George Nick Combes in 1920 and took the winnings off to Coonamble to share with his brothers Jim and Kery.

[An aspirational employee of both the Andronicos and Cordatos was Zacharias Simos, born 1897 Kousounari, the son of Theo Zac and Arianthi, née Theodorakakis, who went on to develop the famous Paragon Café at Katoomba, which by the late 20s was proclaimed Australia’s best. He also founded the ‘Orphan Rock’ brand of confectionery, (one of his products being ‘The Cerigoland Chocolate Bar’), that competed successfully with large commercial manufacturers like Cadbury and Nestle. He married the American born Maria Panaretos and begat the future Supreme Court Judge, His Honour Theo Simos QC, in 1932.]

George Combes remained here for many years, building two modern cafes, the Paragon and the Cameo, managed at various times by his younger brothers Anastasios, John and Helias (Leo), the sons of Nick Kyriacos Combes and Alexandra Gerasimos Lahanas of Katsoulianika. He sold both cafes in the late 1930s, the Cameo to Crithary Bros (Harry John with sons Jack and Peter) and the Paragon to Theo Nick Tzortzopoulos, and is believed to have remained in Tenterfield for a fair period until retiring to Sydney.

In 1922 George Spiro Michalakakis (Tsicalas), an earlier Tenterfield manager for his Andronico in-laws, thought he saw a niche and opened the Olympic Cafe, just when the place was entering its Claytons’ Depression. He had landed in 1905, aged 25, and spent 6mths working with his brother Harry at Mena Anthony Comino’s oyster saloon in George St, Sydney, before Harry managed to extract a bag of gold from Mena to acquire a café at Warwick. While Harry proceeded on to Warwick George got side tracked at Glen Innes, Scone and Lismore for a couple of years until they met up again. In 1908 he accompanied his brother Victor to Goondiwindi after the latter had scored a sack of sovereigns from Jim Anthony Comino to acquire the Coroneos Olympic Café. But a few years later he hit the road again and after about 3yrs back on the Tablelands, and a short stint in Mullumbimby, acquired a café at Bangalow. This was passed to Nick Crethar, later of Nyngan, in 1920 and he then managed the Lismore branch of Mick Charles Catsoulis’ Fresh Food Supply Co until Tenterfield beckoned 18mths later.

Tenterfield turned out to be George’s Waterloo when he was beaten by the superior forces of the Depression, led by a bounder named Mavri, and never fully recovered. The place’s economic travails of the 20s and 30s are probably much the same as elsewhere, but the local story goes like this:

Post WW1 Tenterfield’s prosperity mainly was dependent on a mix of dairy farmers, cattle fatteners and fruit growers, although by 1920 most of the growers had changed to grazing. But later that year the cattle market collapsed, prices falling to one third of the value 18mths earlier, followed by a temporary fall of 50% in the price of butter after the lifting of Commonwealth price controls. Nevertheless, dairying remained the only standout in the gloomy economic environment and a lot of graziers then started milking, although a few returned to agriculture and subsequently wept as the Riverina began flooding the State with cheap fruit. The introduction of a ‘Butter Stabilization Scheme’ in 1925/26 gave an illusory sense of comparative security through an assumption of ‘Government guarantee’, leading to a 66% increase in the shire’s dairy farms over the period 1927-33, at the same time the average farmer’s gross income dropped from £137 to £86pa through the glut of milk and butter.

In town the Council had been hemorrhaging since 1922, laying off 22 men that year and leaving 10 permanent employees to carry the same workload. It was deeply in the red by 1925 and well and truly broke 4yrs later when the Government stepped in and appointed an administrator (and arrested the Town Clerk.) In the meantime the council had become draconian, banning hawkers from the streets in mid 1928 and street stalls by community groups 6mths later, all as a result of lobbying by landlords and shop keepers, who also managed to have all door-to-door selling in residential areas banned in 1932. That year the Rate Payers Association became defunct, due apathy, and town valuations had fallen to 1922 levels. The Chamber of Commerce however, resurrected in 1928 with 120 concerned businessmen, lasted another 3yrs before folding with 19 members.

On the business front, the Co-op went into liquidation in 1923, following those of Glen Innes and Deepwater. By mid 1928 the cheese factory, tannery and boot factory had closed, and along with the empty shops there were now 60 vacant houses, prompting one prescient letter writer, who went through the 1890s Depression, to comment that ‘I have lived to see very low wages, so low that I sincerely hope that such times will never again come to Australia.’ Things continued on the slide and Tenterfield’s importance as a regional centre receded, personified in the downgrading of the railhead. The standard gauge line through Kyogle to Brisbane opened in late 1930, almost immediately causing a decline in traffic through Tenterfield, where the Department of Railways was once the single biggest employer in town.

While the population had never recovered to pre WW1 levels, the drift began to accelerate from the early 1920s. In the 12mths to Jan22 the township’s population had declined by 17% and the Shire’s by 7%, prompting the local rag into soul searching, although it could only ever watch, report, lament and give gratuitous advice to businessmen over the following years, culminating in the sponsorship of a debate, ‘What is wrong with Tenterfield’, in 1928. In the meantime it gave a picture of what was happening elsewhere, reporting in late 1923 that almost one third of the 137 country shires and over a quarter of the provincial municipalities in the State had declining populations, with many others stagnating and only just retaining the status quo through baby making. The aberration of the 1933 census, which showed Tenterfield Municipality with an increase of 130 people over the 1921 census, was due to refugees from the surrounding countryside and itinerants from elsewhere coming for the work relief projects, although a lot of born and bred citizens had returned home for a guaranteed roof over their heads (the family’s gotta take you in.)

All in all, the series of minor economic disasters from the early 1920s forged resilient residents, such that by the time the ‘Claytons’ Depression’ morphed into the ‘Great Depression’ it was just a matter of tightening the belt another notch or two (but don’t tell your grandparents that.) Later cushioning by unemployment relief projects, mainly roads, accounts for the 1933 census parameters showing Tenterfield and surrounds doing better than the State average - 14% of males in town and 5.6% in the shire were unemployed, contributing to a median male income of £109pa for the town dwellers and £72 for those leading a subsistence existence in the shire. Housing in the shire, with an accommodation density of 0.93 people per room (‘rooms’ being inclusive of enclosed sleepouts and internal kitchens), wasn’t so salubrious however. The shire’s population of 5239 people lived in a variety of housing, including 55 bark huts, the highest number by far in northern NSW, while those living in the 272 tents had the honour of being the fourth largest group of canvas dwellers in the State. And 30.2% of the housing consisted of one and two room ‘occupied dwellings’, presumably including the bark huts and tents along with corrugated iron shelters and other structures, earning another high distinction.

And into this lucrative market came a touch of catering madness in 1930 when Mr Tribe opened the Digger’s Café, Manuel Samiotis launched the Lyric Café and Alderman Archie Miller provided discerning citizens with the White Australia Café, provoking Jack Combes, brother of Paragon George, to offer a different colour scheme with the Black and White Café, while George Tsicalas, still in a daze, was in the process of the 3rd relocation of his renamed Patterson River Café in a futile attempt to find the best spot to capture the passing trade. And all while Taylor’s long-established Central Refreshment Rooms, amongst other assorted fruiterers and confectioners, was still adjusting to the lighter kitchen workload brought by Crancey’s Venice Café (estb 1925) and Mrs Wratten’s Unity Refreshment Rooms (1926). Samiotis and Combes gave up within a couple of years while Alderman Arch’s White Ocker was redyed the Blue Room by Mrs Palmer in 1934.

George Tsicalas found his final home in 1931 and promptly made the fatal decision to go upmarket to entice the dwindling band of paying customers away from the posh Paragon. He proceeded to gold plate the place until the bank account was empty but his frustration escalated when the necessary well-heeled clientele didn’t front, although he was comforted by the continuing loyalty of the ‘put-it-on-the-tab’ brigade. The nightly ritual was George coming home at the end of the day and wandering around the house banging his head against the walls and cursing Mavri, Mavri, Mavri…, while the family hid under the dining room table until he got it all off his chest.

He was declared bankrupt in 1934 and thereafter went on R & R, soaking up the therapeutic air around the Tablelands until reinvigorated for another descent upon Lismore, just before the establishment of a large army base turned Tenterfield into a goldmine. (Although post war it was daygervoo all over again, after a bit of 1950s prosperity.)

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