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Manilla Express

Big day for the Canberra Cafe. Manilla, northe west New South Wales

Articles on the front page of the Manilla Express, Tuesday 26th March, 2013. Continued on page 10.

Photo: Helen, Paul, Kathy and John. Inset: is Mary who was away when the main photo was taken

Download a .pdf of the front page and page 10 of the Manilla Express together here:

Manilla Express article Front Page & page 10.pdf

This coming Easter Sunday - March 31 - will mark a further milestone in the history of Manilla’s Canberra Cafe.

Celebrations are planned to mark the 63rd year of ownership and operation of the cafe by Mr Paul Calokerinos and family.

Paul Calokerinos would be Manilla’s oldest and longest operating businessman. The celebrations will also be an early 80th birthday recognition for Paul. His birthday is in early April.

The renovations carried out over the last six months or so have seen the cafe back to its original state and to make it feel more like the ‘olden days’. The restoration works have included fixtures and fittings - using a number of items collected by Paul from long-gone traditional cafes around the region. Photographs have also been framed and are displayed to remind patrons and others of some of the history of the premises.

The Canberra Cafe is one of the last remaining Greek establishments in Australia and highlights include lead-light and old wooden wall framing of days gone by. Fish and chips, pies, hamburgers, milk shakes, cordials, fruit ‘freezers’ - eat-in or take-away - are still the favourite fare of the Canberra.

Fruit products are now produced by Paul at his Tamworth Road Alexandrades property and sold through the cafe.

There was once five cafes in Manilla’s main street the numbers diminishing after the hey days of the building of Keepit Dam which was concluded in 1961. The Canberra is the sole survivor today in the main street.

More than 1000 people are expected to attend the Easter- Sunday celebrations. These will include several invited guests along with members of the Calokerinos family who will be travelling here from Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane.

The invited guests will include the Member for Tamworth, Mr Kevin Anderson MP, the Mayor of Tamworth Regional Council, Cr Col Murray and artist Sandy Thorne, recognised author of ‘Old Timers’ and several other notable books will also be performing and presenting her ‘bush yarns’.

The celebrations will also include recognition of the man who established the Canberra prior to it being bought out by Mr Calokerinos and his family, Yannis ‘Jack Smiles’ Kalokerinos.

During the first World War 1914-18, Jack Smiles came to Manilla as a cafe proprietor from Walgett. His cafe was situated where Sevil’s butcher shop now stands.

Jack Smiles built the Canberra Cafe premises in 1927. He was joined by a cousin Phillip Feros. Jack operated the Canberra Cafe and Feros was installed into the York Cafe - now the Manilla Bakery. The York had operated until 1965 and then closed, a victim of the business downturn after the completion of Keepit Dam.

The Canberra Cafe was so named from the opening of the Old Parliament House which was unveiled in Canberra the same year. Operating next door to the Canberra Cafe is the Skylight Restaurant established by Paul Calokerinos and his wife Helen and venue for many celebrations and meetings for the past 20 years.

Paul married Helen on the Greek island of Kythera in 1962. They have reared three children in Manilla. John is the right hand man in the business which also sees youngest daughter Mary assisting. After her early days in the cafe and schooling here, Kathy lives and works in Sydney.

Paul has two sisters - Maria and Kety - in Canberra along with a brother Jim. A second brother Vince had resided in Canberra also but passed away a few years ago.

The forthcoming celebrations will also serve as a family reunion with up to 50 descendants expected. Such reunions are very scarce, Paul said.
Originally owned by Kytherian-born John (Jack) Kalokerinos, the cafe was bought by a trio of relatives - Paul, his uncle Bill Glytsos and Paul’s cousin John Trevasaros.

Emigrating to Australia from Greece in 1948 at the tender age of 15, Paul Calokerinos was sponsored by his uncle Bill who lived in Tamworth. Paul spent 18 months working at the Walcha Cafe, cleaning, cooking, chopping wood and serving customers.

He then spent about six months at Tamworth’s Ritz Cafe before he and his relatives pooled their resources and bought the Canberra Cafe in 1950. Paul was just 17 years of age.

Bill sold his share of the business in 1954 while John opted out in 1965. Paul had operated the York Cafe until its closure and transferring to the Canberra. John is now retired and lives in Sydney while another cousin Peter who started in Manilla with Paul lives in Tamworth and formerly operated a cafe in Peel Street opposite the post office.

All residents are invited to take part in the celebrations on Sunday between 2 and 5pm.

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