Life Stories- Plomarites in Australia

Part 2: Sarandos Zaloumes

I returned to Makaratzis and explained to him what had happened in Benala and that I could not work under such conditions. I also reminded him that I came to Australia to work for him. There was not enough work for me in Holbrook, so I found myself back in Sydney. Understandably, this was a very difficult time for me; my life was in tatters. I was a young teenager in an alien country and with no work. Fortunately, my contact in Sydney was the Berdoukas family; they embraced me as though I was part of their family. It is there that I had my first warm meal in a long time. They even took me, I remember, to the zoo for a picnic. One day, Andonios Berdoukas took me to get a haircut and, even bought me a new pair of shoes! I was very lucky…this family truly saved me.

Berdoukas even found a job, working in Stratis Tamvakeras and Giorgos Psirras’ fruit shop in Matraville. I lived with them on the premises, so it was the early morning starts (of 4am) to get to the old Sydney Markets, buy the produce, load the truck and then unload it at the shop. On my side was youth; I could take all the hard work. I did not feel tiredness, as I could manage other jobs on the side, whether it was cutting lawns or cutting potatoes for Woolworths.

Above: Picnic at Taronga Zoo with the Berdoukas family.

Through Berdoukas’ contacts, I was able to get a job at the Rex Café in Walgett, owned by Dimitris Papantoniou. The Rex was a very large café, which could hold over 150 customers, which justifies why there were eight people working there. Friday and Saturdays were the busiest days, as the farmers would come into town to place their orders and do all their shopping. More importantly, Dimitris and Mary really looked after me; they were like parents, and that is why worked there for nine years.

With my life having permanency and stability, I really integrated with the town and its lifestyle. I remember needing my truck license to do the Café’s deliveries and Sergeant Stan Armstrong was so helpful in me acquiring them. I also worked as a film operator at Jim and Hector Conomos’ Luxury Theatre on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. As country-folk, it was natural we loved the American westerns. One fellow, ol ’Pop Molloy, who was well in his 80’s, ran out of his first film, shouting for the police as all everyone (i.e. on the screen) had been killed.

It was during a visit in Sydney that I received an offer to work at Bill’s Café in Wellington; as soon as Bill Tarros (Vasilios Tragakis), who was also from Plomari, heard I was working at the Rex, he snapped me up. It was during my stay in Wellington that I was engaged to Bill’s daughter, Kathy, and we were married. Father Nikolaos Tsiloukides and Father Georgios Koukoulas( who had just been ordained) did the service. As Bill was approaching retirement, he passed on the Café to Kathy and I, and, his son, Panagiotis and his wife, Argiro (Angela) I lived in Wellington for the next twenty-six years (1963- 1987).

For most of my years in Wellington, I was involved in the Greek community in nearby Dubbo where I was on the Committee of the Greek Orthodox Church, Myrtidiotissa, and I was Secretary for a few years and Treasurer for many years. It was inspiring to see how hard we all worked to build a Greek community in outback New South Wales. At one fund-raising social dance at Dubbo’s Civic Hall, there were over 800 people! My wife, Kathy, and I were part of Greek dancing group dressed in traditional costumes, and I remember the boisterous crowd really getting behind us. Here we were- in an outback town like Dubbo-and we were maintaining the Greek identity.

Once our children, Maria and Dimitrios, entered their teenage years, Kathy and I considered their future; what lay beyond the Higher School Certificate for them (in Wellington)? It was the prospective limitations in their work opportunities that motivated us to finally leave the town; it was extremely difficult for Kathy as she was born and grew up there, but the reality was we had to leave.

Coming to Sydney was a major adjustment. Our family had only experienced the country and getting used to the city was a little difficult. Over the next years, we bought and worked various milk bars- the Lunch Box in Bankstown Square, in Chipping Norton and Campeltown. With my son-in-law, Peter, we bought a milk bar in Seven Hills and, after eight years there, I retired.


Above: Working the Lunchbox Milk Bar in Bankstown Square.

Having been involved in community affairs for so many years in the country, I became involved in the Committee of Agia Euphemia Orthodox Church and I am currently the treasurer of both the Church and the Schools- positions I have held for several years. I have been a member of the Intercommunity Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand for the last five years.

Back to Part 1

I would like to thank Sarandos and Kathy Zaloumes (nee: Tragaki) for all their time and help in writing this feature. All photographs are courtesy of the Zaloumes family.