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Gaye Hegeman

George Nicholas Comino

The Australian part of George Comino’s story began in 1954. He vividly remembers the day, 1st April 1954 when he stepped off the ship the Fairsea at Circular Quay Sydney. He was met by his brother Peter who was his sponsor. Peter had driven all the way from the Southeast Queensland town of Laidley in his brand new Holden sedan car. For the first four months after his arrival George worked with his brothers in their Café, the Central Café at Laidley. When the drapery shop next door to the Cafe came up for sale his brothers saw this as a good business opportunity and George was set up in the store as its manager. He laughs now when he recalls how at the time he couldn’t speak a word of English but remembers with gratitude the old lady, Miss Storr who helped run the shop. Their takings in those days was about one hundred pounds a week

George met his delightful wife Chris, formerly Aroney (Papadopolous), in Brisbane in 1962 when she came up from Sydney to be a bridesmaid at her cousin’s wedding. On that occasion her cousin Chris Aroney was married to Con Gleeson. In 1963, a year after they met, George and Chris were also married. They established their home in Laidley where Chris worked alongside George in their drapery shop. When Chris recalled their wedding and the two week honeymoon in Tasmania that followed, she laughed good-naturedly and said, “That was the only holiday we had in twenty years!” In 1966 they built a new store known as, Laidley Money Savers across the road from the old one which proved to be a good steady business. On the day their new drapery shop was officially opened, Ipswich Radio Station 4IP did a broadcast from the premises. During the store’s construction George laid many of the bricks himself. When devastating floods struck Southeast Queensland in 1974, water from the swollen Laidley Creek swept through the town. As the water level reached sixteen inches inside the drapery shop, volunteers helped raise stock to a higher level avoiding serious loss. George took an interest in the local community and became a member of the Laidley Chamber of Commerce.

George and Chris have three children – Vikki (born 1966) married Emmanuel Londy, Kay (born 1967) married Peter Calligeros, and Nicholas Comino (born 1969) married Penny Beatty. As a toddler their daughter Vikki was often placed in a play pen near the front of the store. If customers neglected to acknowledge her when they entered she was sure to remind them of her presence with a persistent “hello,” until they responded. Chris brought their children to Brisbane in 1983 so they could continue with their education. Five years later George joined them after he had sold up the business which included building and stock. They are now proud grandparents with seven grandchildren. Both of their daughters have two children each, while their son has three children. Since 1988 George and Chris have lived at Wishart in Brisbane.

Chris remarked that her husband has always been a very competitive and sporty person. When they lived in Laidley he became interested in Lawn Bowls and was involved with interclub and district competitions. He twice won Pairs, and once Triples in A-grade Lawn Bowls in the Darling Downs region. “We traveled everywhere,” he said, “at one of the meetings I played against the Queensland champion Keith Poole and beat him 36 – 4.” George’s competitive nature didn’t end with Lawn Bowls. Once he won a prize in the Sydney Mater Hospital Lottery and recalled his excitement. It was close to Christmas in 1974 and his prize was a two-door red Torana. He was also very skilled in the Courier Mail weekly competition “Find the Football” and shared the winner’s prize nine times. His most successful win in that competition was a third share, an amount of one thousand five hundred pounds.

George’s talent as an athlete and sportsman first became apparent when he was still at High School. In 1946 he went to Athens to compete in the first inter High School Games held after the war. He was 18 at the time and became the Greek National champion for Discus throwing. He beat the opposition by 10 meters. He said it was the Greek version of Discus - without turning. The competition was only between Athens and Piraeus high schools but after results from other districts around the country were published George found he was the National Champion. At the same games George came second in the Shot-put event. During the war the High School at Chora closed down but when the war ended students were given the opportunity to cram three years of study into six months. He completed high school in Athens because he had relatives there who took him in. George sat for the final exam, passed and received a certificate.

When he entered the Greek Army to do compulsory National Service he made many new friends. He worked in office administration for three years where among many other skills, he learned to type. His daughter Vikki commented that Kythera was one of the few regional places in Greece where the population received an education, a legacy of the British occupation. During the period the British occupied Kythera they not only built bridges but also schools. As a result when young men from the Island did their national service they were often given the more comfortable jobs because they could read and write. A lot of Greeks on the mainland were illiterate because there were no schools in their villages. While he was in the Army George continued to compete in Athletic events. He came first in a Shot-put event. The Shot-put (Lithari) he said, wasn’t an iron ball but was made of marble and shaped like a football. They used to run and throw. He beat a fellow that was twice his size.

George was born on 31st July 1927 in the village of Ntourianika (pronounced Dourianika) located in a valley on the western side of the Island. The nearest village to Ntourianika is Perlegianika and further to the north-east along the same road is the larger village of Logothetianika. Ntourianika is a small village with only fifteen houses. The nearest primary school that had a teacher at the time was at Aroniathika and George attended school there until fourth grade. The village of Ntourianika has an abundance of fresh water with many wells, and once had beautiful gardens with lots of fruit trees. The only church, the church of St. John (Agio Yiannis) has a very nice bell tower which was built by George’s grandfather and great-uncles over one-hundred years ago. George explained that his Comino forbears were stonemasons. They also built other bell towers around the Island; reputedly the one at Myrtidia (it doesn’t appear to be documented only that the tower was designed by someone called Fatseas), an accommodation unit known as a Keli at Myrtidia (the unit was never claimed by descendents and therefore ownership was lost), the bell tower at Agio Haralambos at Milopotamos and a Keli at Agia Elessa. From the village there is a walk to a cave. A gorge which goes right down to the sea is crossed by a bridge with a single arch - built by the British. There has recently been talk that a tour group plans to include the beach “Koufoyialo,” in their itinerary as a place of interest for tourists visiting Kythera.

When George was young there were not many boys his age in Ntourianika. One friend was his cousin Theo Comino and they used to go hunting together, mainly shooting hares. They went out at different times, during the day or at night. On one of their night time hunting trips they were unaware that a lunar eclipse was about to occur. For a brief moment George thought he had gone blind because it became so dark. On another occasion when George went out alone at night, he encountered a strange ghostly phenomenon - sparks and a strange light emanated out of the top of an old olive tree. It wasn’t until he reached home in a very nervous state that he found out what had happened setting his mind to rest about the presence of ghosts. The sparks were the result of a rekindled fire not properly put out after day time clearing. Another favourite childhood activity was fishing. Although it was an hour’s walk to the sea from their village, they were not deterred by the distance and often returned with a good catch.

Around 1900, George’s father Nicholas Peter Comino migrated to Australia. He worked in the mines up north prospecting for gold, and then spent three years working for his cousins in Cairns. After sixteen years he left Australia to return to Kythera where he married Vasiliki Mavromatis. They had seven children – four boys and three girls. The eldest, Peter was born in 1922, followed by Vrettos (Vic) in 1923, then Maria in 1925, George in 1927, Anna in 1929, Diane in 1931 and last was John born in 1933. They all had the middle name Nicholas after their father. Their family nick name is Ntouri, so the father was Ntouronikolas. Some have shortened it to Ntouris or Dooris which has been adopted by some descendents here in Australia as a surname.

With regard to Aunts and Uncles, George recalled that his father had four sisters and one brother. His father’s brother went to America. After he left they never heard anything from him - he never wrote to the family, they never knew if he married or when he died. His mother, Vasiliki had a brother called Peter, Peter Mavromatis. He married, had four children then migrated to Australia where he died. His family migrated after his death. She also had a sister. There was another brother, the youngest child, but he died when he was in his early twenties. George never met his grandparents Peter and Maria Comino as they had passed away even before his father was married.

From the time he was a youngster in Ntourianika, George showed an interest in feeding and taming wild birds and raising them as pets. His daughter Vikky commented, “Dad has always had a rapport with birds and animals more so than with people.” In the early days at Laidley George had a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo which he looked after for many years. He was the only one who could handle him. His brother Vic ended up keeping the Cockatoo when he moved to Scarborough on the Redcliffe Peninsular. The bird would recognize the sound of George’s car as he drove into the driveway and call out to him. George taught the Cockatoo to speak Greek and chuckled when he recollected the time when the cockatoo was stolen! Vic put a lost add in the local paper for a “Greek speaking Cockatoo.” The bird was back the next morning because the thieves knew they were going to get caught!

When they first came to live in Brisbane George worked for Harry Londy at his Mayfair Drycleaning business. He used to feed up to forty Top-knot Pigeons each day. They would wait for him every morning inside the gate and when he threw the grain down they would come right into the yard there to eat. At home George fed a large flock of Lorakeets that noisily swooped into their garden each day. Then he tamed a Pee Wee. It didn’t matter how far away it was when he called, it would come to him and hop on his hand. One day it came with a length of fishing line tangled around its leg. It allowed George to remove the fishing line but instead of flying away it stayed right beside him.

George’s talents also extend to music. He was once a member of a four piece band. George played the violin, his brother John played the lute, Nola Prisanos was their pianist and Nick Armenos played the piano accordion. They were the Greek band of Brisbane. They played at many functions, the largest being the annual Kytherian Dance held at Brisbane’s now demolished Cloudland Ballroom. George took up the violin when he was young because he had an interest and ear for music. A violin came into the family’s hands in a most unusual way. Sometime before Nicholas Comino, George’s father returned to Kythera in 1916 he had lent an amount of money to an Italian. When the Italian was unable to repay the loan he gave Nicholas the violin instead. There was a split on the upper side of the instrument so when Nicholas Comino took it to Athens for repairs it became apparent that it was very valuable because they were offered any new violin in the shop for their damaged one. Even after the violin, a Guarnenius was repaired it still had a very good tone.

To this day George has the violin in his possession which he plays on occasions. At eighty he remains very active and is fit for his age. He loves working in the garden at their Wishart home and devotes most of his spare time to the maintenance and care of his vegetables and fruit trees. To keep his mind active George likes to read history and commit poetry and proverbs to memory. He works one day a week on a Friday at Mayfair Drycleaners.

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James Gavriles
on 20.03.2008

I think, I have asked this question several times. Anyhow, my father had a very good friend here in Detroit Michigan, who was also in the Kytherian Brotherhood here. He was sort of an outspoken gentleman, I do not even know what he did for a living. All I know is that his name was Nick Cominos. From the association with my father, I would imagine he was born sometime between 1895 and 1900. He was always well dressed and smoked a cigar. Wore a fedora hat, had a mustache and loved to talk politics. He would show up at our house on Sundays. He never drove a car, he was not married, and he didn't have any children that I know of. When he would show up at the door, my mother would announce "Eirthe Oh Douris sti Mporta". (Mr. Douris is at the door). I never realized as a child why they called him Douris, but I do now. He must be of the same clan as the Cominos above. And he must have also come from Ntourianika. Somehow I got the feeling that he was my Father's boyhood friend, as our family came from Logothetianica , which is not that far. I would like to know if any of the people above were related to this Nick Cominos? I want to know more about him. I know that this man was one of my father's dearest friends. I rarely ever saw my father shed any tears, but when his friend Nick Cominos passed away, a few years before my father died, he cried almost a whole day for the loss of his friend. Someone on this website surely has to know something about Nick Cominos from Detroit Michigan, and who were his relatives in Kythera and in Australia?? Some Comino must have some recollection of a relative coming to America and having the name Nick Cominos??

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