Life Stories- Megalohori and New Zealand

Panagiotis Ververis' Life Story Continued

Dad was always telling us stories of the “old days”.  Two Greeks owned a Fish and Chip shop.  A customer ordered “a bobs worth of fish and chips.”  This was a big order.  The Greek was not sure he had heard correctly and asked the customer again.  He still could not believe what he was hearing.  He went to consult his partner who also came to question the customer.  After much tooing and froing and being asked so many times, the customer up and left!

Being a member of the Pan Hellenic Club in Wellington, it was usual for Greek men, to congregate there to play cards and chat.  It was common knowledge that the caretaker took the telephone receiver off the hook regularly so that angry wives could not “disturb their husbands.”

During the war, Dad served in the Home Guard which entailed keeping watch at strategic posts around the harbour.  He was caught boot legging whisky twice to Americans.  His crime cost him 20 days in jail being put to work weighing onions!

Above: On a successful hunting trip. c1963

A favourite outing was going to the races at Trentham with friends.  The wives and children went along too spending the day picnicking.  During this time Dad owned two race horses, Mirsini and Paper Boy.  Neither did any good.

Early 1945, Dad took a trip to Palmerston North where he decided to purchase the Royale Dutch.  He sold his businesses in Wellington and shifted his family and sister to Palmerston North where they were to spend the rest of their lives.

The shop became famous as Dad incorporated new ideas making it into a self service cafeteria.  Their three children were by now at school.  Mum was able to work along side him enabling Dad to also cater for wedding receptions upstairs, setting the tables to perfection.  Upon hearing staff call Dad “Mr. Bares,” Mum adopted the saying and from then on she referred to him as “Mr. Bares.” We, his children, affectionately called him “Pop.”

Shooting and fishing were his passion – something he passed on to his sons and later his grandchildren.  He spent hours making his own nets, baskets and lines with kites.  He loved gardening, building a glasshouse for grapes.

To my Mother’s annoyance, Dad acquired many antiques - the garage housing old paintings, platters and gadgets – you name it he bought it!

The Orthodox religion was important to both my parents.  In the 1930s Dad was a founding member of the Greek Orthodox Church in Wellington.  In Palmerston North they offered a room for the first church  services, later being instrumental along with others, in the purchase of St John the Baptist, being made Elders by Archbishop Dionisios Psiahas.

They made several trips to Greece visiting family and friends.  He loved the Kafenion, “shouting” his “Parea” a coffee.  In the summer months local bands came to the village.  For a few drahma an individual had the floor to himself to dance especially the Mytilenian Mbalo. The villagers included him on hunting expeditions.  Anything shot was greatly prized.

On one memorable occasion Dad was asked to be Koumbaro to a very young couple at the last minute.  They were so poor that their Steffana were made of olive branches!

Above: With his wife, Maria, at their home in Palmerston North

Leaving school at a very young age Dad had difficulty writing in Greek and English taking him for ever to compose a letter.  Among his possessions was a personal “dictionary” which was of interest to the National Archives displayed during an Exhibition focusing on Greeks in New Zealand.

Anecdote from Granddaughter Maria.

I visited Papou the day before he died.  He was in a very jolly mood.  At one point he said “I’m nearly 100 you know” I said “You are nearly 89”  to which he replied “89 is nearly 90 and 90 in nearly 100.  I’m nearly 100!”

Dad loved children.  He could spend hours with his grandchildren digging up worms or making things with them.  He was extremely proud to have a grandson named after him.

Although he loved his homeland, Dad never envisaged returning to Greece to live.  New Zealand offered him so many opportunities he could not have possibly experienced easily in Greece.  He found freedom to be his own person never regretting emigrating. With his family extending he was content to live in what he would refer to as “The best country.”

Return to: Part One