Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 15 October 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 15 OCTOBER 2016 9 NEWS Nitsa and Paul Apostolopoulos outside the Kosciusko Café, Inglewood, QLD, 2006. Anne Karofilis with her father Anthony on her wedding day Sydney, NSW, 1944 was there for eight years. I then bought the Athenian Take-Away in Dubbo in 1992. My children are the driving force of my life. Three are in Sydney. My youngest son is at Newcastle University.” Indeed, for many Greek women, the negative strains of café life could generally be managed through the perceived potential of socio-economic advancement for their children that the café could provide – it offered a financial foundation for the higher education of offspring. As Nitsa Apostolopoulos (nee Theoni Kotou) points out: “I didn't want my sons to take over the business. I wanted a better life for them, a life gained through a good education.” Although initially the education of boys was favoured ahead of girls, by the 1950s some Greek café families were already rejecting this culturally sexist bias. Matina Comino (nee Moulos), whose family operated the Astoria and then the Niagara cafés in Singleton, just northwest of Newcastle in New South Wales, indicates: “My Mum made it a point that the girls did what the boys did … we could learn whatever we wanted to … I went to the conservatorium.” For Litsa Serras (nee Papadopoulos), who runs Kostas's Café in Northbridge in Perth, Western Australia with her husband Konstandinos, her role in the café is aimed at directly benefiting both of her children, Alexandra and Dionisis. “We are here for tomorrow and Greek girls at the back of the Silver Star Café, Cootamundra, NSW, 1955. the day after that, and so on. We work very hard – it is very demanding. But for me, my children are my wealth. They are halfway through their degrees now … After that, our future in the café will depend on what the children are up to.” The female offspring of Greek café families, while generally being nurtured towards a better life than that of their parents, also experienced their own personal challenges. Anna Cominakis (nee Sofis), who grew up during the 1940s and 1950s in Barraba's Monterey Café in north-western New South Wales, points out: “The café was more a home than the house was — that was the life there [in the café]. I think the home was [just] for sleeping. Mum spent more hours in the café ... as I got older I hated the café! It was just constant — seven days, seven nights.” Similarly, Evangelia Dascarolis (nee Theodorakis), whose parents operated the Popular Café in Cootamundra, (north-east of Wagga Wagga) New South Wales, recalls her childhood during the same period. “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 ‘60s. She also disliked working in her family's café. “I wanted to be like the other young girls, but it was my duty to help.” Katherine particularly feared the racist violence which the café attracted. “On Saturday nights there were fights. I hated it! Always the same troublemakers, always drunk … I remember blood on the walls. I would have to run to the police station.” During the 1930s, racist namecalling resulted in a young Coula Salagaras (nee Papayianis) – whose family ran the Central Café in Peterborough located on the southern edge of South Australia's Flinder's Ranges – feeling, desperately isolated and unwanted. “We lived very hard – people don't understand how hard it was going through the Depression and being Greek. We were the only Greeks there [in Peterborough]. I went to school there. All the Aussies called me ‘Dago, dago, dago!’. I cried every day. Yes, every day. I wanted to go back to Greece – to go back to where I fitted in.” Growing up during the 1950s in the White Rose Café in Cootamundra in New South Wales, a young Lula Saunders (nee Bahles/Behlevanas) experienced the imposition of traditional Greek values pertaining to her gender. “We were Greek in the home … a very strict Greek family. We weren't allowed to participate in [broader] community life … My family's aspirations for my sister and myself was nothing beyond getting married … Our prika [dowry] was a very big part of us growing up … My mother's marriage was arranged and I grew up with stories about what a girl's place was – my mother's life wasn't involved in anything outside the home: she had five children, the café and a language barrier … so [as was expected], we [my sister and I] would get together with other Greek girls and do our handiwork [for our prika].' Anne Carah's father, Anthony Karofilis, operated The Bridge Café in Wagga Wagga in south-western New South Wales during the 1940s and 50s. Despite her mother, Minnie Matheson, being of British Australian background, and her father's public involvement in the local community beyond his business, Anthony remained a traditional Greek male: “We [my sisters and I] weren't al- lowed to do lots of things the other young people did. Dad really wanted us all to marry Greeks. A couple of really nice young [Australian] men asked me to the movies but Dad said ‘no’ – he really was very strict. Seeing that he had married an Australian himself, I don't know why he was so strict.” Among the turbulence of the lives of Greek café women, there were also good times and fond memories. Maria Cominos (nee Tamvaki), who ran Comino's Bros. Central Café & American Bar at Longreach in central-western Queensland with her husband Cecil (Sotirios Nicholas) and his cousins during the 1930s and 1940s, recalls that “the joy of family get-togethers, picnics, visits to other Greek families, parties and dancing, helped sooth the hardships”. Olga Black (Mavrokefalos), whose Maria Benias (nee Samios), Dubbo, NSW, 2002. father Kostandinos ran a milk bar in Melbourne during the same period, remembers that special family gatherings were full of “fun and laughter… [as] someone [among her extended Greek family and friends] always had a squeezebox [an accordion] or a guitar or both … and they all had beautiful voices”. Matina Pavlakis (nee Masselos) recalls that “our playground [of her siblings and friends] was the riverbank … we'd get crabs from under rocks … my brother Greg played cricket there … we had the time of our lives.” Matina's parents ran the Victoria Café, in Taree on the New South Wales north coast during the 1930 and ‘40s. For Thena (Athena) Karofilis, another daughter of Anthony Karofilis of The Bridge Café in Wagga Wagga, one of her happiest memories was winning the first Miss Wagga (Wagga Wagga) charity competition in 1948. By maintaining her Greek Orthodox faith and cultural traditions Mary Katsantonis (nee Antonas), whose father opened the Ritz Café in Barrick Street, Perth, in 1925, was able to find both joy and strength in her life. “It was a hard life, but a good life!” As traditional Greek cafés diminish, so too do their owners, with females generally outliving their male partners. These Greek women are waiting to tell their stories. The challenge is simple – take the time to sit, listen and learn.
8 October 2016
22 October 2016