Life Stories- Plomarites and Australia

Migrant Profile

Doukas (Panagiotis) Trandallis (1935- )

 Based on an interview with Doukas Trandallis

by Vasilios Vasilas

My father, Panagiotis, was from a family of carpenters/ builders; not only did he work on our island, he went as far as Thessaloniki and Serres (in Macedonia) for jobs. On my maternal side, my mother’s brothers were involved in a variety of work: Ioannis owned a general store, bakaliko; Kostantinos migrated to Canada; and Panagiotis owned a small caique which ferried people to and fro Plomari and Mytilene.

  Above: Old builders of Plomari. From left they are: Skrivanos, Bounatsos, Dimitrios Koulbanis, my father, panagiotis, and his brother, Dimitrios.

I enjoyed my childhood years growing up in the Tarsana neighbourhood. Upon finishing school, I began an apprenticeship as a barber with Evangelos Sanidas. Despite having a trade in a large village such as Plomari, the reality was work opportunities were limited. Our village already had six barbers; how many more could it sustain? My cousin, Doukas, was already in Australia- in a town, Charlesville, in outback Queensland- and I wrote to him, asking whether he could sponsor me to migrate there. I wanted something better for my life, and believed I could find it abroad.

Above Left: With Takis Zaloumes (left), my cousin, Efstratios Trandallis (middle).
Above Right: Another childhood photograph. From left, we are: myself, my cousins, Efstratios,
Dimitrios and Pelagia, and my sister, Daphne. 
 I traveled on an Italian ship, the Australia. I was part of the one hundred young men sharing an open area at the front of the ship; fifty bunk beds on one side and another fifty on the other. I was fortunate enough that on the ship was an Italian barber; after managing to make him understand- mostly with hand gestures- that I was also a barber, he asked me to help out. As a result, I found myself giving haircuts on my way to Australia; in hindsight, there were some very hilarious moments cutting non-Greeks’ hair, as both them and I used an array of gestures to explain how they wanted the cut.
After I arrived in Sydney, my cousin, Doukas, and an Australian fellow picked up and drove me all the way to Cantewindy, a small town on the New South Wales and Queensland border; Doukas, and Manuel Pitsiladis owned the Cante Café. It took us five days to get there! While we were still driving, I turned to Doukas and said, “Hey, Plomari to Mytilene is only one hour; is this place on the other side of the earth?” In Cantewindy, there were a number of Greeks there. Some Ithakians owned the Olympia Cafe. The Cante was a large cafewhich could hold one hundred customers, and it even had a liquor license. And that is when my seventeen-hour days began! I stayed here for about a year.
As Doukas and Pitsiladis sold the Cante and moved to Charlesville, I subsequently moved there too, where I worked for Georgios Koundourellis- he owned the Bellevue Café. Being a much larger town, there were more Greeks there too…and more work opportunities. At one time, I also worked in the Hotel owned by the Coronis family- which is now a museum. At the time, I just went wherever there was work- wherever it took me; whether it was cafes or hotles, it was work.
After a couple of years in Charlesville, I went to work in Chinchilla in the Niagara Café, owned by Jim Miller (i.e. Dimitrios Miliotis); he was selling his shop to my cousins Doukas and Dimitrios, and they wanted me to check out the work and get to know the locals. Doukas and Dimitrios took over the Café, and their brother, Efstratios (Stan), also arrived not long after. A business opportunity arose in the town when Georgios Baloglou(from Asia Minor) was selling the Royal Café- Miller and Baloglou were sybetheri. Stan and I then took over the Café, while Doukas and Dimitri stayed on at the Niagara. The Royal was an average-sized café; we sold fruit on one side, while the café counter was on the other.
Although the town was in-the-middle-of-nowhere, Chinchilla was a memorable experience for me, as I struck up some very strong friendships- which still stand today. For instance, Eric Platts, who was the editor of the Chinchilla News, was a very good friend. We also used to go out to local dances and the picture show, and (every so often) down to Brisbane for a couple-of-days’ break. It was a pleasant lifestyle; being still single, there were no heavy expectations tying me down. 
After a couple of years there, I sold my share in the Royal and my restless adventurism even took me as far as Darwin and Fremantle as I worked on a Danish cargo ship, Poll Carle for six months. It was work, and it gave me an opportunity to see more of Australia too! It was as though my feet had had wheels; I just wanted to see the world. I got off the Poll Carle in Townsville and returned to work in Charlesville (for about a year).