Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Belshaw's World - Armidale’s Greek community

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday  2 December 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.

Column fifty. Hard to believe what I let myself in for when I gaily accepted Christian’s invitation!

This column is an edited version of material John Hamel sent me, reproduced with his permission.

“Hi James,

This is a blast from the past, one of your old MYF mates.

A few years ago I did a talk for the Historical Society on my memories of Beardy Street in the war years and into the fifties. Here are some of the cafes as I remember them, the people connected with them.

Nicks was at the eastern end of Beardy St. It was owned by Nick Feros and run by him, his wife and daughter Maria. They used to live at 130 Marsh St where Kentucky Fried is now.

Maria married John Kouvelis (I`m almost certain of the spelling), and the newly- weds went to the South Coast (possibly Nowra). Nick and his wife sold the café to the Rologas brothers. It then became the Seven Brothers, the winning entry from a competition. This was submitted by the late Bob Herbert, a noted Armidale playwright.

An interesting sidelight is that Jack Feros, Nick`s brother, ran a café in Uralla, and yet another Feros relative (brother or cousin) owned a hotel in Dorrigo. Sons Tasos and Theo Feros are ex-students of Armidale High School.

The next café was midway between Marsh and Faulkner St, about where Dooner`s Furniture is now. Called the Minerva, any packet brought from there used to have ‘Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom’ on it. It was operated by Sam Sourry and family.

The Sourrys eventually sold the café to Mick Calaitsis, a very big dark-complexioned man. The brothers, John and Peter, then opened a men`s wear store at 180 Beardy St that was successful for many years until they sold out and retired to Sydney.

The IXL café (184 Beardy St) was owned by the Comino family. Senior members were George senior, Chris, Manuel and Basil. Members of Chris’s family were Peter (poncho) and George, who were both at AHS when I was there, and their sister Irene (I think that was her name).

Peter and George both became school teachers.

Another Comino (Jack) ran a corner store in West Armidale. His family was Peter, Helen, Leo, Theo, George and Kathleen.

Peter, in my class at at AHS, did his time at Cameron and Kirk before establishing his own practice, P. J. Comino & Co, in Sydney. Sadly, Peter died just over 12 months ago. I think his brothers are still running the business.

Another Comino (Perry) came from Guyra to operate a mixed business almost opposite the Cathedral Hall in Rusden St. His children, another George and Judy, were again AHS students when I was there.

The Nectar was on the northern side of Beardy St, 155, between Faulkner and Dangar.

Operated by bothers Cornelius (Con) and Charlie Tzannes. the shady side of the street meant wasn’t very successful as a café. During the war years it was one of the few places where dark chocolate blocks could be bought. With shortages and food rationing, chocolate was most acceptable. Later, the Tzannes operated a rabbit freezer at the rear of the café.

On the southern side of Beardy St (218) between Dangar and Jessie St, almost opposite the Capitol Theatre, was the Olympic café. This was operated for a time by people named Pearson, and then, in later years, by Charlie Pavlou.

He had quite a successful business, so when Woolworths came and wanted to take over the complete half block in the area, Charlie dug his heels in and refused to move. Woolworths had the other buildings demolished. This left Charlie`s business standing out like a sore thumb. It was dubbed by the local press as ‘Charlie`s last stand’.

Eventually Woolworths built their business around Charlie. Charlie eventually sold out and went to Sydney, as did the Tzannes brothers.

The Blue Grotto operated just up the street at 214 Beardy St. They used to make beautiful iced coffees, and you could also get nice continental chocolates.

In the Capitol Theatre building Nick Feros of Nicks, used to operate a part-time ice-cream and lolly shop, but it only opened when the Theatre held matinees.”

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