Thursday, November 26, 2015

A refreshing cup : Wagga Wagga's Cafe Society 1920 - 1954



Above : from The Daily Advertiser, January 1943

Cafes were a huge part of the community in the first part of the 20th century.  More than just providers of food and drink, cafes were meeting places, landmarks for giving directions to events or other businesses, and they hosted events and parties of all kinds. 




Street stalls were part of the war time fundraising effort and directions for such were printed in the newspaper when announcing when and where the stalls were operating. People could buy goods from the stalls and the money raised went to supporting war related or other similar charities.  The Greek café community in Wagga Wagga also contributed greatly to the war effort by raising large amounts of money in 1942.

Above : from The Daily Advertiser, December 1942

Cafes also made the news through brawls, breaching food health and safety laws, people behaving weirdly (yelling or knocking tables and chairs over) and being removed from the premises, fires, and over pricing of cigarettes, to name but a few examples. Farewells and bridge nights, engagement parties, musical evenings, in fact anything that involved people gathering for an event would most likely involve one of Wagga’s many cafes.


Above: from The Daily Advertiser, March 1923


Here is a by no means exhaustive list of cafes operating in Wagga Wagga from 1920 to 1954 :  


Riverina Café (Gurwood Street) 1920
St John’s Café (Baylis Street) 1921
Austral Café 1923
Mother’s Union Café 1926
Picone’s Café 1928
Wonderland Café (adjoins the Strand arcade) 1928
Siver Key Café  (Baylis Street) 1929
Page’s Wattle Café, 1930
White Rose Café 1931
Majestic Café (Gurwood Street) 1932
Black Cat Café (240 Baylis Street) 1933
Popular Café, (Fitzmaurice Street) 1933
Watson’s Café  1933
Café Royal (210 Baylis Street) 1934
Elizabeth Café (over Edmondson’s in Gurwood Street) 1934
Toby’s Tavern, ( Glamis Court, Gurwood Street) 1938
Continental Café 1940
Aussie Café 1942
Blue Moon Café (next to the Plaza Theatre) 1943
Crown Corner Café 1948
Alpine Café 1948
Ideal Café (Baylis Street) 1950
Bidgee Café 1951
Bridge Café 1951


In the early part of the 20th century the  Café Chantant was also popular, a form of café event held outside in garden settings, where people sang and recited poetry and stalls sold different foods like ice creams and fizzy drinks, tea, coffee and little cakes. Gardens at twilight, with strings of fairy lights and Chinese lanterns decorating the trees, were pretty backdrops for the evening's programme. Mount Erin held a number of successful Café Chantants in the 1920s.





Above : from The Daily Advertiser, November 1928


The Bridge Café is famous in Wagga Wagga’s history and is featured in Selling an American Dream : Australia’s Greek Café, the book accompanying the national travelling exhibition in 2013. Lex Marinos is a descendant of the original owner of the Bridge café, Anthony Karofilis. This book is part of the Wagga Wagga City Library local studies collection and is available to view within the library.

Above : from The Daily Advertiser, May 1951


Above : Anthony Karofilis and staff, Bridge Cafe Wagga Wagga, 1950s. From  Selling an American dream : Australia's Greek Cafe



2 comments:

greekcafesandmilkbars said...

In an Australia we still remember, in each suburb and every country town, was the Greek cafe or milk bar – open all hours, 7 days a week. Remember the Niagara, the Parthenon, the Astoria and the Paragon?
They gave us more than milkshakes, lollies, ice cream and home-style meals. With Modernist designs, American gadgetry and coloured lights, Greek cafes brought atmosphere, a touch of glamour, at times a hint of Hollywood – a little break from the mundane reality of local life.
EFFY ALEXAKIS and LEONARD JANISZEWSKI took their audio recorder, camera and pen into this vanishing world. They captured the stories and faces, the style and the ethos that gave our popular culture one of its most memorial expressions.
Selected from almost 2000 interviews and thousands of historical and contemporary photographs gathered over a 30 year period, the long-awaited book, GREEK CAFES & MILK BARS OF AUSTRALIA (Halstead Press, 2016), was officially launched at NSW Parliament House on 15 March by actor, writer, director – and authentic 1950s Greek milk bar kid – Lex Marinos. Lex's family's cafe is featured in the publication. To find out more: ww.cafesandmilkbars.com.au

melamajnua said...

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