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Hugh Gilchrist

Odigos tou Ellinos en Afstralia. — The Australian Greek’s Guide — A history of the publication of the book.


Hugh Gilchrist's Australians and Greeks. Volume II. The Middle Years

Chapter XIV
Guides for the Greeks

pages 253-257.

Between 1915 and 1939 three Greek books were published in Australia. All had a similar purpose: to guide Australia’s Greeks and promote their welfare. What they also did was to raise comparisons between aspects of the Greek and the Australian way of life, as then lived. The second of these was.....

The Odigos

I Zoi en Afstralia was followed by the Odigos tou Ellinos en Afstralia—” The Australian Greek’s Guide”—compiled by Oscar Georgoulas and published in Sydney in 1920. The Odigos was offered as “a Synoptic Guide and Adviser for Greeks in Aus­tralia”, containing “Commercial and Business Counsel, Legal Advice, Immigration and Naturalisation Laws, Workmen’s Compensation Acts, Rules of Health and Conduct, Banking, Stock Exchange and Money Market Information, and Edu­cational, Religious, Agricultural and Other Matters”. A hard-cover book of 200 pages, it was printed for Sydney’s Greek Orthodox Community by the Central Press, from a font of type pro­vided by the newspaper Afstralia.

In many respects the Odigos followed the pattern of I Zoi en Afstralia, but was more closely focussed on information and advice to help the Australian Greek along the path to success. It included no biographies, no historical account and only four photographs (of Greece’s hon­orary Consuls). Half of the proceeds from sale were to go the Greek Ortho­dox Community for charitable purposes.

Oscar Georgoulas, born in Athens in 1892 of a Greek father and a German mother, was a grandson of Baron Oscar Spooner, a senior officer of the Bavarian contingent which had accompanied King Otto to Greece in 1833. After agricultural study in Greece and the award of a scholarship by the University of Athens, he studied agriculture and engineering at the University College of North Wales and in England, and practical agriculture in France. He served in the Greek army in the first Balkan War, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society of Eng­land, and took part in Greece ‘s national agricultural program until the FirstWorld War.

Believing that the war would not last long, and having had an offer of agricultural work in Australia, he emigrated in 1914 with his two brothers and settled near Leeton in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, where he and a brother were given two farm-blocks under a government development scheme. There he cultivated tobacco, but after three years the venture failed for lack of demand for locally-grown tobacco, and in 1917 he moved to Sydney and compiled the Odigos.

Georgoulas dedicated his book to Konstantinos Soulos, “enterprising compatriot and untiring friend of literature and the fine arts in Sydney’s Greek community” who had helped its publication; and he thanked the Sydney priest Dimitrios Marinakis and a Bostonian lawyer named Kanoutas, and the Commonwealth Statistician, George Knibbs (having drawn much factual information from Commonwealth Year Books), for their help.

In his introduction Georgoulas declared that his aim was to provide moral and material help to Australia’s Greeks, since many of them lacked knowledge of the laws and commercial practices governing their businesses. The Guide, he hoped, would also provide a basis for developing Australia’s meagre stock of Greek litera­ture and “elevate our national character and morale”. Obstacles to its publication, he wrote, had included wartime restrictions, post-war shortage of printing materials, high costs, and countless other difficulties; it was a miracle, he averred, that it had been published at all.

In addition to information on weights and measures, distances, times from GMT, and population, the Guide advised on cheques, mortgages, parmerships, bank­ruptcy, conveyancing and wills, and added cautionary paragraphs about bribery, perjury, industrial hygiene, fishing restrictions, the regulation of motor and pedes­trian traffic, and immigration and naturalisation laws. Harold T Morgan in Sydney, Pavey, Wilson and Cohen in Melbourne, O’Shea and O’Shea in Brisbane were recommended as legal advisers.

Health advice included notes on heartbeat, temperature, respiration, sleep, diet (an hour’s rest after every meal; alcohol only in small quantities), bathing (never on an empty stomach or less than two hours after a meal); steam baths (once a month only), smoking (very harmful; “one or two drops of nicotine can cause death”), home treatments (carbonate of lime, Epsom salts), arthritis and yellow fever. “Avoid medical charlatans and herbalists and their prescriptions”, the Odigos suggested; “seek an officially recognised private doctor”. Dr Howard Bullock and Dr Ramsay Sharp in Sydney, and’Dr Kyriazopoulos in Melbourne were recommended. Other advice included lengthy quotations from the New South Wales Venereal Diseases Act and “what to do after intercourse with a woman of doubtful repute".

The Guide’s publication was largely financed by advertisements. Those in Mel­bourne included Antony Lucas’s Australia café (“the largest, most elegant and most aristocratic Greek restaurant in Australia”), Nikolaos Kontoyiannis’s London café, the Athenaeum and Alhambra cafés, the Par Excellence Fruit Shop, and Mitchell Brothers (Hatzimikhail), “Caterers, Providers and Trawl Fisheries”.

Sydney advertisers included Theo Crithary’s fish and oyster business, the Restau­rant Rainaud of Vrakbnas and Andritzakis, the Leousis brothers’ Great United Steam Laundry, Gerasimos Zervos’s Greek Club (Panellinios Leskhi), Antonios Eleftherios’s Hellenic café, Nikolaos Kolymvopoulos’s Athens Baking Company, Sigalas and Company (importers), the Crystal Palace Billiards Theatre of Georgios Koupatanis, the New Piccadilly café of Konstantinos Katopodis, tea and coffee merchant M. Papazanateas, accountant Eleftherios Oikonomos, real estate agent Grigorios Mikhalopoulos (Michel), and the Athenian Club of A. Georgopoulos and A. Flaskas.

Among those in Queensland were the Freeleagus Brothers’ Fresh Food and Ice Company, Comino Brothers’ fruit markets, John Black’s Central Restaurant and Ioannis Girdis’s Britannic café in Brisbane, and the retail stores of Sotirios and Apostolos Kominos (“Jewellers, Perfumers. Confectioners, Fruiterers and General Caterers”), in Longreach and Blackall.

Georgoulas’s “Introductory Admonitions and Directions” largely repeated the advice offered by John D. Comino in I Zoi en Afstralia four years earlier, but were even more didactic, with similar emphasis on hard work and study. A university degree, Georgoulas wrote, was not necessary for success, as the careers of Benjamin Franklin, George Stephenson, Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison had shown, as well as those of Syngros, Averof and other successful Greeks.
“Instead of wasting time gambling at cards or on horses”, he declared, “you would do better to study—not reading A Thousand And One Nights or Puss In Boots or Bachelors’ Club but useful informative textbooks”. Impatience and anger, he went on, were unfortunately common among his compatriots. He advised patience, determination, alertness to opportunities and decisive action; at risk were those working in hotels and restaurants, who came into contact with drunkenness, gam­bling, blasphemy, debauchery and other infamies and perversions. Order, punctual­ity and economy should be practised; and if the money squandered on tobacco or lost on horse-races were lent at interest, an incredible amount would soon be accumulated.

One of the Greeks’ greatest defects, he continued, was their boundless mistrust of each other, and their hostility to any compatriot’s successful project. “They are unaccustomed to listening to reason, but allow themselves to be carried away by their first impulse, which, because of their inherent suspiciousness, is bound to be unfavourable. Nearly every Greek considers himself superior to and cleverer than his fellow-countrymen, but this does not stop him from falling easy prey to those whom he thinks less intelligent than himself.”

Worse, he went on, was the tendency to quarrel and form separate factions, as foreigners had observed in the expression “When Greek meets Greek”. “Our weak­nesses outweigh our good qualities”, he wrote; yet there were Greeks whose qualities could well be imitated. Declining to mention names he recounted several cases of Greeks who had succeeded in Australia through hard work, efficiency and, above all, harmonious co-operation.

Greeks should stick to an occupation and not change it for some trivial reason, he urged; many Greeks coming to Australia, although unskilled, expected to become rich overnight, and, being quickly disappointed, ceased to try; they should take any job offered, study in evening classes, learn English, and, when interviewed by an employer, be clean (especially the finger-nails), plainly dressed, punctual, well­mannered, cheerful and confident but not arrogant; they should be brief, emphasis­ing their good points, but not tell lies, which would soon be found out.

Other counsel followed on conduct in employment: keeping one’s temper, not repeating obscenities, retaining one’s dignity but not pretending to be a know-all; and, when going into business on one’s own account, being fully familiar with the trade and the location, and exercising great care in choosing a partner. Country towns, Georgoulas believed, offered better opportunities for shop-keepers than did the big cities; a shop should be watched for days or weeks to estimate its turnover, and, once a purchase was decided, every detail should be put in writing and drawn up by a solicitor (“Friendship is friendship, but business is business”); a Greek employer should not reprimand an employee in front of a customer; and he should keep proper accounts, ask for receipts and pay bills on time. Some retailers, he noted, to whom Greeks had paid a deposit, had complained that the Greeks refused to pay the balance on delivery of the goods; and some Greeks who had failed had closed their shops and “vanished into the night”, greatly damaging the credit and dignity of their compatriots.

The mere acquisition of wealth, Georgoulas contended, was not enough; health, upright character and a clear conscience were of greater importance; Greek mag­nates like Averof, Syngros, Zappas, Rizaris, Arsakis and Sinas would be remembered not for their riches but for their benevolence; and he denounced the notion that business could not be transacted without dishonesty.

Finally he listed bad habits which, he said, a Greek must avoid if he wished to succeed. These were: using blasphemous words (“unbecoming in a gentleman”); foul language, whether in Greek or English; quarrelsomeness, (“second nature among most Greeks”), which often turned a general debate into a personal wrangle; litigiousness, which wasted money and exposed Greek defects to all Australians, defaming Greece’s name and giving ground for sarcasm in the local press; lying (“there is no room for lies in Australia”); and gambling at cards or on horses (“one of the vilest obstacles to progress and a chief cause of corruption”, which, beginning in a small way, could lead to obsession, financial ruin and crime).

How far these strictures were justified may be left to Greeks themselves to decide. Several years later Georgoulas bought a farm in the Dawson Valley in Queensland and planted cotton, but floods in 1928 destroyed his crop and drowned his cattle, and he returned to Sydney bankrupt. In 1930, after working in various occupations, he obtained a position as accountant in the office of the newspaper Panellinios Kiryx, and worked there for nine years. A third attempt at experimental farming—growing carob trees on a property near Sydney—also sadly ended in failure, due to wartime conditions.

Georgoulas then returned to the staff of Panellinios Kiryx, to which he contrib­uted many articles until his retirement early in the 1960's. He died in Sydney in 1976.

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