MY GREEK AUNT

I was fortunate enough to grow up in what we called a family of many nations..

My father’s parents were Greek born, having emigrated from Potamos, Kythera, a small island near the southern tip of Greece. My mother’s mother was from Co Clare, Ireland, yet both my parents were born in Australia. I inherited the light olive skin and dark hair from the Greek side I was told, but the reddish tinge ‘definitely came from the Irish’ according to my Irish Great Uncle Martin and his sister, Great Aunt Molly(Mary).

I have always had a fascination for other cultures.. part of my incessant need to keep learning. I never did learn much Greek, my father didn’t think it necessary as we were Australian, though he spoke fluent Greek. The few words I did learn were from Papauli and Dad’s sister, Mary. It’s not that I didn’t want to… and I can understand a little more than I can speak, which still amounts to very little.

You can imagine how excited I was when my Uncle Sim, Dad’s brother, arrived back from a trip to Greece with a lovely Greek bride, Koula. Here was my opportunity… They were married in Greece on Dec 26, 1960. Koula had left her family behind for a new life in our far off land. She had been born on Aitoliko, a tiny island, on Sep 17, 1926… her full name was Vasiliki Vissios, but we all called her Koula…. Yes, she would have been 90 today… I can’t imagine her as that old…

I still see her as that new bride, who spoke virtually no English , but was so keen to learn.  They livescand with us for a time when they first arrived and she and my Mum became great friends, despite the language difficulties.

I wanted to be able to help her to learn English and to learn more Greek in the process, so several afternoons a week, I would come from school, then take Aunt on the bus to our nearest shopping centre and we would spend an hour or so, wandering through the shops, pointing at different items .. Aunt Koula would tell me the Greek name and I would tell her the English. I think we spent most of that time laughing at each other’s attempts, but we did learn a little from each other, and she got out of the house for a bit also.

 

I wish you could know that you are still very fondly thought of.. and you held your own special place in our hearts. For me, you were my real Greek Aunt. I loved the way you loved us… the friendship you formed with my Mum and my Aunt Heather in particular. I saw your heart breaking when Mum died and you said how much you would always miss Peggy..You are now with them and your much missed family again..having left us on 16 December, 2012. I was privileged to spend some of your last hours with you, your son Theo and your daughter, Chriss… who will love you forever.

These images that follow portray just a little of your life… however they don’t show your sense of humour, your ability to make a joke at the most unexpected times and laugh in the face of adversity..nor do they cover your love of family, your love of dance and the kindness you shared..

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Happy 90th Birthday, Aunt Koula..we miss you.

Ancestor Chart Koula (Vasiliki) Vissios.png

(c) Crissouli 17 Sept. 2016

 

 

 

 

MY LITTLE BIG SISTER

Today, 17th September, 2016  would have been the 82nd birthday of my little big sister, Stella Maude (nee Walsh).

Stella passed away on March 7th, 2016. I would simply like to remember her today with the following poem I wrote and first published on The Back Fence of Genealogy here and the following images… always in our hearts, sweet lady..

terry-stella-nee-walsh-maude-w-peg-vince-catsoulis

Terry Maude, Peg Catsoulis, Stella Maude nee Walsh, Vince Catsoulis

1957

 

Missing you always.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS LOVED…

 

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George Catsoulis entered this world 100 years ago today. He was the fifth child and the third son born to Theodore Catsoulis and Chrisanthe (Coroneo). He was also the first of six siblings born in Aberdeen, New South Wales. The family moved to Urunga in 1927.

 

catsoulis_beach

(c) Catsoulis family

On the beach at Urunga, George is second from the right.

 

My father, the youngest, Vince, has told me that George was always fairly quiet and hard working, but could always see the funny side of life. I knew him as a loving family man, definitely one of my favourite Uncles for his kindness and generosity and it didn’t hurt one bit that he always had a very welcoming smile and hug.

Of course, I have to include how much my brother and I loved the huge Christmas stocking that arrived by train, when Uncle George and Aunt Heather won it in a raffle while at The Entrance. We’d never seen anyhing like it, it was ever so high, higher than us at least.

George married the love of his life, Heather Crombie, in Newcastle in 1953. They had known each other in Dorrigo, which is where George and Vince had the Dorrigo Cafe. My mother, Peg (Margaret Joy) Swadling, had met my father there also… and the girls were friends. They remained so for the rest of their lives, Mum always telling Heather that at least she was younger than her, by a whole three days.

 

dorrigocafe(c) Catsoulis family

The tall man at the back is Vince, the man beside him, in his suit, is George.mumdadkris

George and Heather moved to Coolangatta in the ’50s… where they had their first child, a daughter. George doted on his daughter and couldn’t wait to finish work at their Danceland Milkbar/Cafe to see her.

(c) Catsoulis family

 

 

 

dadjohn

 

In later years, they were to live in various places including Urunga, and completed their family with a son, who was to follow his father everywhere, especially on the farm at the Coast and then later, in Brisbane. Sadly, the children were still very young when George passed away in 1971.

 

 

There is so much more to George’s story, but for now, I would like to mark the 100th Anniversary of his birth by remembering him with much love and assure him that he lives on in his loving family, his children, his grandsons and all the nieces and nephews to whom he meant so much.

Rest in Peace, Heather and George.. your legacy is not forgotten.

georgeheather2

(c)Crissouli Sept 15th, 2016

TEA WITH MRS. JOHNSON

 

I was reminiscing with a friend recently, and discussing embroidery pieces I’d done, in particular, a supper cloth, as they were once known. You can see a section of it here..

I planned my supper cloth when I was very small. Each year we would have to move out of our little house for a few weeks at a time, as the landlady would come down from Inverell for her annual holiday. OneIMG_4343 year, we went to stay with Mrs. Johnson… who lived in a big old house that had a lovely verandah and rooms to spare. Each afternoon, she kindly made us afternoon tea, on a highly polished wooden tea trolley.

 

 

(c)Claudine    

who kindly allowed me to use her image*    

This is very similar to Mrs. Johnson’s trolley.

 

She trusted me to wheel it out to the verandah, which overlooked the garden, filled with roses, hydrangeas and daisies.. I’m sure there were more, but they are the ones I remember. I do recall the lilacs in the front of the house, but this was on the back.

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Courtesy Pixabay

 

She had the loveliest china, always a beautifully starched tea cloth and a sponge or butter cake.. and biscuits, often jam drops, sometimes tiny shortbreads. This was such luxury for us… Mum would sometimes make scones… then there would be cream asilver-tea-set-989820_960_720nd home made jams in tiny china dishes. One of her many cloths had crinoline ladies on the edges… I was totally enthralled. We even had cloth napkins… The three weeks we stayed there were such an eye opener for me. I loved it and planned what I would have when I was grown up. Mrs. Johnson was kindness itself..she gave me an iron on transfer to ‘make my own cloth one day’.

Courtesy Pixabay

 

 

It was just before Christmas… the only negative there, and I didn’t really think that at the time, was it was there I broke my leg.

I was having an afternoon nap and I heard my cousin, Chris, in the kitchen with Mum… she’s nine years older than me and I wanted to see her.. so jumped out of bed and went sprawling… Mum was cleaning the house as part of the rent payment and had polished the floors, then forgot and put a mat near the bed. I ended up in hospital getting X-rays and plaster… which hurt as it was hot then… and I wasn’t a good patient, kicking out at the nurse and doctor, as in those days, nothing was explained to a 4 1/2 year old and I was terrified. There’s more to that, but another day.

Mrs. Johnson sent me a lovely birthday card the next year… a fold out crinoline lady card… as did my Aunt Nita for the next few years… they came in many different versions. So, when we were told we had to make something practical at the end of our sewing lessons in primary, my choice had been made many years before… I only got half of it finished for school and not much of the satin stitch for the border, but I finished it all in a few months. It was truly Scan 8.jpega labour of love. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t have some kind of embroidery on the go, still do… but nothing big just now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Crissouli 2016

Lovely memories of times gone by…

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Courtesy of Pixabay

A LETTER TO MY MOTHER

 

 

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Hi Mum,

it’s so long since I’ve written, though I talk to you every day. I just wanted to say Hi and tell you I’m thinking of you, as always. I hope you like the flowers, we both loved daisies and roses..

We’re all ok, though there are a few more of us now… you knew three grandchildren, now you have five … and two great grandchildren, with a third due any day now. I know, you would spoil them all every chance you got. You always loved children… and were never happier than when you were with them. I was listening to you the other day, when you were helping your first grandchild to learn to play the organ. That was such a lovely day looking back… though, of course, it was just one of many. *

I have so much to say.. and yet so little. It’s hard to write and see through the tears… how I miss you… we all do. You were the centre of our family, our rock… our guide. You were and are, loved by so many… family and friends. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel you with me and for that I will always be grateful. We miss Dad also, but the one great comfort is that we know that you would be so happy to be together again.

Had to smile this morning as I was looking through old newspapers and came across this clipping…I never knew that you could do a Clog Waltz… see you still surprise me…

 

 

 

Then I found this … I’m sure you would have been so pleased to get your Merit Certificate..

 

I’m sure you would have loved to have told your Mum, but sadly she had passed away earlier in that year, when you were just eleven…

Don Dorrigo Gazette Jan 1943 memoriam Bridget

Don Dorrigo Gazette Jan 1943 memoriam Bridget

I am trying not to be sad today, so instead, I just want to post a few memories we can share… I will love you always… and will always miss you calling me Petal…

Biddy fam2

Bridget (Dillon) Swadling.. eldest daughter Mary, with friend’s baby,  front left Betty and Peggy (Mum)…the youngest.

Betty, Mary, Peggy Swadling 2

Swadling girls, Betty, Mary, Peggy…

 

 

Mary & Peg,                    Mary, Peg, Betty                Mary’s wedding day with Peg

Peg at back of shop in Dorrigo, about 17.

Margaret (Peggy) Swadling 1947

beautiful bride..

Peg Catsoulis (nee Swadling) holding daughter, Chris

 The only photo I have of Mum with me as a baby.. I think it was my christening.

Mum with my youngest brother, one of my favourite photos of Mum, Pa (Mum’s Dad) Mum and Dad

Mum and Dad 1959  Dad, Mum, me and brother Theo..in Sydney,  Dad, Theo, Mum and Michael in Maryborough (Qld)  Botanic Gardens..

 

Swadling girls 1981 Peg Catsoulis, Betty Jones, Mary Green                     The three sisters… Mum (Peg), Betty and Mary.. at Sunnybank.

Vince & Peg Catsoulis 1981

Last photo of Peg and Vince (Mum and Dad) together… just a few months before Mum died.

Today is even more poignant for me… as today I have missed you as many years as I had you in my life… loving you always, Petal..

 

 

(c) all photos crissouli and family

* Memories (Such Sweet Sounds)

I MISS HIM STILL…

A lot is said about the influence of grandmothers, not quite so much about grandfathers… I was fortunate enough to know both my grandfathers. Strangely enough, I didn’t really know them both at the same time.

This is a brief story of Theodore Haralambos Catsoulis.

My paternal grandfather lived in the same country town as we did. He was tall, with a ready smile and an open heart… we children adored him…no matter how busy he was, he always had time for us, maybe just a word or two then, but always kept his promise to ‘be there soon’. I really didn’t understand that he had so much to tell us, much of which I didn’t hear till many years later. He was a farmer, a bee keeper, a man who could turn his hand at anything. That I knew… I also knew that he came from another country, Greece, but when, at 5 years old, I didn’t know to ask…

It was many years after his passing that I heard that he had been chosen to be a guard at the Greek Palace…a great honour. I still haven’t been able to find the exact year, but I would think that it was in his early 20’s as that was the norm. How I would love to have a photo of him in the uniform. The basic uniform hasn’t changed a lot since that time… this photo was taken outside the Greek Palace which is now used to house the President.

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(c) worldoneness.tripod.com

Papouli (grandfather, one of several spellings) was born in 1878, on the small Greek island of Kythera… this photo (below) was most likely taken around the time of him becoming a guard (evzone) or not long after. I have him watching over me as I write this… he came to Australia in 1904, worked in cafes before actually owning some, in northern NSW, then moved to Aberdeen, where he had a farm.

papouli_formal

 

 

He was to become a farmer for the rest of his life, raising his 9 children along the way. Theodore and Chrisanthe Catsoulis were well known among not only the village of Urunga, but also the Greek community and their home was always full of people.
I have written more about them at
That Moment in Time
http://thatmomentintime-crissouli.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/grandma-dont-make-marmalade.html
Papouli loved to sit in the verandah and tell us the stories of how things worked and grew. He showed us the honeycomb, dripping with golden delight and warned us to keep away
from the bees till he said it was safe. I can see him in a veiled hat and smoking the hives till this day.
He helped us pick fruit from the many trees and walked through the garden with us,
introducing us to aniseed and fennel…He showed us how to shake the macadamia tree
till the ripe nuts fell and took us to one of the sheds to crack them open in a vice. I still
think of him every time I enjoy that fragrant fresh nut meat from a newly cracked nut.
We fed the chickens from the huge barrels of meal mix that he had in the storeroom, of course, tasting a little on the way, just because.
The farm was across a road from the lake on the bottom side and below the railway line at the top.

 

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                                                                       (c) Catsoulis

 

 

1927 in Urunga was the year that the last trip of the Urunga ferry took place, as a bridge was built across the Bellinger River…

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(c) Picture Australia

It was also the year that the new Ocean View Hotel was built… to replace the original which was burnt down…

 

Original 1896

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(c) unknown

1927

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(c) unknown
current, still standing…

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(c) Crissouli
The hotel has a story all it’s own, for another day…
My father’s family on the beach at Urunga… very different attire to today…

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(c) Catsoulis

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(c) Catsoulis

His story is long, though my time with him was short… he died in 1953, on 19th May, 26 years after moving his family to Urunga in 1927.

Theo Catsoulis SMH 1953 died 19 May

Sydney Morning Herald, May, 12953 sourced via TROVE

Obituary Theodore Catsoulis 1953

Theo wasn’t 76 until 21st June, having been born in 1878.

 

 

My beloved grandfather was to pass away not long after this photo was taken.
If I close my eyes, I can still smell the faint aroma of his pipe, feel the texture of his cardigan and see his loving smile.

I miss him still.

 

Papouli
(c) Catsoulis

 

Reblogged from  The Back Fence of Genealogy, 28th August 2012

(c) Crissouli

The Back Fence of Genealogy

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISANTHE!

Nona (Chrisanthe)

One hundred and thirty four years ago, on the 12th May, 1882, Konstadine and Stavroula Coroneo welcomed their tenth child and fourth daughter, Chrisanthe.

Their first child was also a daughter, Eleni, born in Potamos, in 1854. Theodora followed in 1856, then their first son, Spero, in 1858. There was a break of a few years till the birth of their second son, Menas (Mick) in 1865. Stamatico was added to their family in 1868… he lived to the quite remarkable age for the time, 91 years and 9 months, passing in 1960.

Marigo followed closely in 1869, Yannis (John) in 1874, Kosma (known as Con, not Charles) was born in 1877, Panagioti (Peter) in 1879… then Chrisanthe.

These details come directly from one of the many notebooks belonging to Papouli – books passed to my father, Vince, youngest son of Chrisanthe and Theo (Papouli).

I know little of the siblings, other than Peter, who came to Australia and raised a family in Perth. I believe others came as well, possibly Stamatico, but I don’t recall meeting any of them. I wonder about the sometimes long gaps between the births of the children. Were there miscarriages or stillborns in between perhaps? That certainly wasn’t unusual in those times.

My grandmother didn’t talk a lot about her childhood, other than to say that she had good parents who did their best for their family. All worked from a very young age – my grandmother never went to school and never learned to read or write. She made sure all her nine children did.

 

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Chrisanthe in the middle with cloth cap and cord belt…her family plus friends…

 

She worked spinning cotton from kapok and weaving cloth, which became sheets, rugs, bedcovers, etc. I have been entrusted with one of the very colourful rugs she made, handed down via her daughter, Mary, her granddaughter, Stella and then on to me.

Chrisanthe married the love of her life in April, 1904, in the Holy Virgin Church,  Potamos, on the Greek island of Kythera, also known as Cerigo, when she was 21. They weren’t to be together for very long, as times were really hard on Kythera and Theo decided to leave, along with a group of other young Kytherian men, for the promise of a better future in Australia. He arrived in November, 1904. It would be around six years before his young bride could join him. It must have been very hard for her, coming to a strange land, without speaking any of the language. She would have had to rely on her husband for all communication. Of course, I didn’t realise this as a child, when I was curious as to why my grandmother ‘spoke funny’, not knowing that her broken English was a great achievement.

Among my first memories of Nona, is learning how to make pancakes on the top of her wood stove. Nona was very short, so Papouli had made her a wooden step to make cooking easier.

Here I am, apron and all..

Papouli

 

Aunt Mary showed me how to measure ingredients in cups and didn’t mind a bit when I spilled some flour, though we made sure we cleaned it up very quickly. She and Nona insisted I had a very smooth batter and while Nona dropped spoonfuls on to a highly polished section of the stove surface, I was allowed to stand on the step and turn the pancakes ‘when the bubbles burst’. I was so proud when Papouli was served some of ‘Crissouli’s own cooking’ with his morning tea.

I graduated fairly quickly to making cakes, biscuits, sauces, etc. all with either Nona or Aunt Mary putting things in, on or out of the stove. I remember that the only thing I was disappointed about when I started school, was not being able to spend so much time cooking. I can’t say that I was missing the washing up though.

I learnt far more than cooking in those times – I learnt that my grandmother, and my Aunt, were part of a rather large group of people around me, to whom family was all important. Nona was very generous as far as sharing her skills, and the results of them, with family and friends.

There was always room for more at the large kitchen table and no one ever left without fresh produce or a jar of pickles, chutney, jam or whatever was in the large dresser. Nona couldn’t read a pattern, but that didn’t stop her from crocheting the most intricate patterns and creating everything from doilies to baby wear, tablecloths, bedspreads, collars and clothing… She had quite a number of godchildren, so many layettes to make…

Chrisanthe loved nothing better than either visiting family and friends or having them visit her. This trait stayed with her till her passing on 2nd January, 1965, aged 82 years and 6 months, from complications of diabetes. She’d been widowed for twelve long years and missed Theo terribly…. reunited at last.

 

(c) Crissouli 12th May 2016