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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 25 June 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 25 JUNE 2016 19 more a home than the house was – that was the life there [in the café]. I think the home was for sleeping. Mum spent more hours in the café [than at home]… as I got older I hated the café! It was just constant – seven days, seven nights.” Similarly, Evangelia Dascarolis (née Theodore/Theodorakis), whose family ran the Popular Café in Cootamundra in New South Wales recounts that "we never went on a family holiday… we rarely celebrated events—everyone had to work”. Katherine Paxinos' family had the Red Spot Café in Port Adelaide, South Australia during the 1950s and 1960s. She also felt confined by her responsibilities to help run the café: "I wanted to be like the other young girls, but it was my duty to help." With great sadness, tinged with bitterness and regret, Cecil Parris (Sophocle Perifanos) remembers his place in the Golden Gate Café, at Cowra in central-western New South Wales – "Sometimes I think I was conceived just so I would work behind the counter in the café, whether I liked it or not… once I could look over the counter and say, ‘Yes please’ – aged 12 – I started working in the shop. I never had the opportunity to ever be a teenager/ adolescent… I was thrust straight into an early adulthood.” Maria Sourrys (née Kastrissios) ran Sourrys' Café in Hughenden (in north-eastern Queensland) with her husband George from the early 1940s until the early 1980s. She summarised decades of unceasing service tersely: “had nothing… worked hard." Chris Lourandos' father, Nicholas, operated the Golden Bell Café in West Wyalong in the central west of New South Wales from 1926 through to 1962. Chris remembers that "during World War II we went to a Greek church in Sydney for Easter and I saw Dad cry… he was very proud to be Greek, and was sad about the way of life he had lost." Many Greeks generally perceived themselves to be 'in' Australia, but not 'of' it. Although they provided city and rural communities with 'a local sense of community', for the most part Greek café families were a socially and racially marginalised group: a fringe community existing along the outer social perimeter of the host society. Kiriaki Orfanos articulates well her family's sociocultural relationship to the broader local community: "Our café was certainly central. It was the heart of the town – a place to meet. But we [my family] were really never part of it [town life]… we were peripheral to the whole thing… our café was visible, but we, as a family, were not." During the 1930s and 1940s, for Archie Kalokerinos of the Paragon Café in Glen Innes, northern New South Wales, racist attitudes were also implied: "Looking back, Dad was never once invited inside the home of an Australian [British Australian], although he belonged to the Masonic Lodge and the bowling club." Some Greeks though, such as Jim Gavrilis—who ran the Elite Busy Bee Café in Kingaroy, QLD, 1929. George Trifilis opened the café in partnership with his cousin, Emmanuel Constantine Fardoulis, during the 1920s. PHOTO COURTESY H. AND E. MASSELOS, FROM THE ‘IN THEIR OWN IMAGE: GREEK-AUSTRALIANS’ NATIONAL PROJECT ARCHIVES, MACQUARIE family unit, independence from union restrictions upon foreign labour, potential social, and economic mobility – particularly for succeeding generations – and requiring only limited formal education and knowledge of English. However, in a host society that focused upon racial and cultural exclusivity, conflict did arise, particularly at times of economic downturn. In the early 1930s (during the Great Depression) for example, racial tensions emerged in business dealings between New South Wales Greek food caterers and the trade's manufacturers and wholesalers. By the middle of the decade 40 leading Greek food caterers in the state formed the Combined Buying Association Pty Ltd. The company's initial buying power was well over £100,000 a year. It was considered that, "the biggest manufacturer has to think when confronted with [these] traders". Of course, racial verbal taunts and physical violence did take place intermittently − particularly during the first half of the 20th century. The fact that the culture and food Greeks chose to import and transmit to Australia via the Greek café was 'modern American' rather than 'traditional Greek' says much about the fascination and safety of American culture for Greeks in the age of a racially and culturally exclusive 'White' Australia. For many Greek proprietors and their families, and their Greek employees, there were also other personal costs. Anna Cominakis (née Sofis/Sofianos), grew up in Barraba's Monterey Café during the 1940s and 1950s and recalls: "The café was Café in West Kempsey on the New South Wales north coast from 1948 until 1983—did feel accepted into the broader Australian community: "I was very friendly with the larrikins in Kempsey— larrikins, but good fellows… they were all locals… I found these people very friendly… I joined the swimming club… I was accepted and I was pleased about it… Some friends were Masons… [so] I joined the Masonic Lodge… I'm a life member of the swimming club. I was the chief timekeeper for 27 years!.. At times we [Greeks and British Australians] would all get on a bus and go to the beach for the day… we met some lovely people… in those days, we made some beautiful friends." The book is a companion publication to the authors' touring exhibition ‘Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café’, which opened at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, in 2008. The exhibition has continued to tour around the country ever since – a tribute to the popularity of the subject. Alexakis and Janiszewski hope that Greek Cafés and Milk Bars of Australia will potentially lead to another volume on the subject – particularly given the vast and diverse array of information at their disposal. THE SOCIAL AND CULTURAL IMPACT OF GREEK CAFÉS AND MILK BARS As part of the process of Americanisation during the 20th century, Greek cafés, and milk bars were powerhouses of change – they helped reshape Australia's popular culture. Their story reveals some of the 'cross-cultural transmissions and transformations' upon the development of mainstream Australian culture and history. They were a 'Trojan Horse' for Americanisation, successfully instilling particular elements of American popular culture within a long-established British Australian cultural milieu—part of Australia's cultural reshaping during the twentieth century away from British influences, towards those emerging from our powerful neighbour eastward across the vast Pacific. Although the Greek café and milk bar is rapidly fading from this nation's culinary landscape, its sociocultural legacy and influence remain, often almost inescapably, part of the daily lives of many Australians—when drinking a Coke or a flavoured milk, frequenting a fast food outlet, munching on a milk chocolate treat or ice cream at the movies, or singing and dancing along to the latest popular music hit. Greek Cafés & Milk Bars of Australia, Halstead Press, 2016 by Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski. The cover photo features Theodorakis, Vardos, and Coombes family members at the Popular Café in Cootamundra, NSW, 1952. Blue Bird Café – Peter and Jack Veneris in Lockhart, NSW, 2002. The Veneris family ran the Blue Bird Café for almost 70 years. After operating it for 50 of those years, the Veneris brothers sold the business in 2000. Anglo-American Café in Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC, mid-1910s, James (Iakovos) Sigalas established Anglo-American Cafés in Melbourne and Adelaide in the opening years of the 20th century. Both cafés may be the first undisguised instance of the marriage between British Australian tastes and American influences undertaken by a Greek caterer in Australia. Canberra Café – Calokerinos family in Manilla, NSW, 2002. Left to right: Paul (Petros), Mary, John, and Helen (Eleni). The café has been operated by members of the Calokerinos family for almost 70 years.
18 June 2016
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