“Oh, my godfather!”

You could say that I really struck it lucky when my parents chose my godfather.. Dad’s oldest brother was one of the gentlest and kindest men I have known. Harry Catsoulis was born 106 years ago today, on the 16th October, 1910, ‘under canvas’ at Whiporie, out from Casino,  NSW. He was the eldest of eleven children of Theo Catsoulis and Chrisanthe (Coroneo), nine of whom survived to adulthood.

Peter Tscilas wrote in his book, Lismore Greeks, the following…

Casino has the distinction as the spot chosen by Harry Catsoulis, the son of Theo Harry and Chrysanthi (nee Coroneo), to pop into the world in 1910, probably making him the first Kytherian-Australian on the north coast. Theodore and Chrysanthi Catsoulis were dairy farmers somewhere along Camira Creek, Whiporie, down along the Grafton road.

I have written a little about his birth in Bush Symphony. The young family stayed on the land for a while before moving to Bellingen where his father, Theo, was to take over a cafe initially in partnership with his cousin, Michael Catsoulis. When Michael went to fight in the Balkan War, Theo took over the cafe, however the call of the land was too strong.

After several years, they then moved to Aberdeen, NSW, where they grew small crops. before moving to Urunga in 1927. The family now had nine children, with one still birth and one son passing as an infant of just 13 months. He rests in Scone Cemetery.

 

jim-kolangtis-and-harry-catsoulis-ploughing

Harry, who was then 17, helped clear the land in Urunga and also  helped his father to build the house.Together with his father and brothers, Harry farmed for almost 30 years.

 

Jimmy Kolangtis on horse, Harry behind plough at farm at Urunga  © Kath Capsanis  
In 1956, Harry, along with brother, Dave, moved to Brisbane where they operated the Oxley Hotel. This was still the original pub and they continued there for a while, when the ‘new’ pub was built. Several years later, suffering indifferent health, Harry retired.

My early memories of Uncle Harry centre around music. Nothing could cause more excitement than his old wind up gramaphone which had a large horn and played cylinders. He delighted entertaining the family back in those early years at my grandparent’s house as much as in the later ones.
Harry had a great love of family, and never missed a family gathering.

Siblings, Mary Walsh (nee Catsoulis) and Harry      Me and my proud godfather

Both taken on my wedding day, 1969 © Crissouli

hawaiian-shirt

 

He also loved travel and spoke often of his favourite trip, that to Hawaii. From his very first holiday there, he fell in love with Hawaiian shirts and they were part of his wardrobe at many family gatherings.

He also loved his cars, from his early Anglia to his last one, a Cadillac, which still belongs to the family.

Though Uncle Harry never married, he was the very proud godfather of both my children as well as me. I can still see his shy smile when we asked him if he would do us the honour, first with our son, then with our daughter. He spoilt them as he had done me, not with a lot of things, but with just a few special items.

It was Uncle Harry who gave me my first watch when I was 13 years old. He also gave me my first ‘grown up’ necklace around the same age, though that was not without a small drama. He and Dad were always playing tricks on us, a Catsoulis trait. So it was with slightly more than a little hesitation that I refused to turn around and close my eyes when Dad said Uncle Harry had something for me. I’d been caught before, the last time was a frog down my back. They were both insistent, I was too, but in a negative way, however eventually they persuaded me… and then I felt so embarrassed, as my godfather placed a beautiful necklace around my neck. Even though it was too old for me at the time, I did appreciate it and felt very upset for not trusting them. That didn’t last long, Uncle Harry yelled ‘catch’ a little while later and I caught.. a slimy fish tail.
Harry was always adding to his stereo equipment and delighted in showing off his latest acquisition.  My husband and he would spend hours talking about music, playing new records and going through whatever the latest ‘new’ thing was that was becoming available.
My godfather was a very kind and loving person, always a hard worker and always welcoming. In later years, his brother, Con, lived with him. You never left that place without armfuls of produce, often plants and flowers as well. Uncle Harry always loved red roses, and either he would share some of his with me, or I would take some of mine to him. When he died on the 18th November, 1989, I knew what I wanted to do.

u-harrys-grave

After his funeral, I went back to the cemetery and covered his grave with red roses and rosepetals..it was the least I could do.

 

 

 

He rests in Mt. Gravatt Lawn Cemetery, along with his brother, Con, with whom he shared a home for many years. It is only fitting that they share their last resting place.

Brothers Catsoulis, Con & Harry
Brothers Catsoulis, Con & Harry

© Crissouli Oct 2016 photos and content

Postscript: I chose the title because it was an oft used saying within the family, somehow it just seemed the right choice. To my much loved godfather, Uncle Harry, you are never far from my thoughts… especially today, on what would have been your 106th birthday.

 

 

 

TALL, DARK AND SMILING…

David Catsoulis was born on 10th October, 1917, at home, in Aberdeen, NSW. He was the 6th child and 4th son to Theodore Haralambos Catsoulis and ( Chrisanthe ), both from Potamos, Kythera, Greece. The family moved to Urunga in 1927. Dave, by then a 10 year old, was known to love fishing with his father and siblings. It was very convenient that their property was just across the road from what was then called a lake, now a lagoon. I have also been told that he was a crack shot with an air rifle, adding the occasional duck or rabbit to the family dinner table.

As with most farming families, the boys helped with many chores around the farm, learning the value of planting to the seasons at a very young age.

My memories of my Uncle Dave are of a kind and generous and very tall man, like my father, with a ready smile. One time that always comes to mind is of him being at my Mother’s 21st, how we all crowded into that tiny place, I’ve no idea. As young as I was, I can ‘see’ him coming in the door with a huge smile and a large bunch of flowers. Strangely enough, they were very much like the flowers my grandmother had in her garden.

It was Uncle Dave who always managed to drop the last watermelon when we were all at the farm loading them. Of course, there was no sense in wasting it. He was also the Uncle who sometimes had a couple of small white paper bags filled with lollies in his pocket for two very appreciative young children, a rare treat. As much as I loved seeing him then, a few years earlier I wasn’t too keen, when he and my grandfather decided it would be a good idea to pierce my ears. My horrified screams brought my Mother running, just as they were heating the needle. It would have been their ears burning for some time after my Mum had finished with them.

When we first moved interstate, we stayed with Uncle Dave and Uncle Harry, who were then running the Oxley Hotel. I loved it, the history… it had been built around 1895 and had been a Cobb & Co stop, anscreen-shot-2016-10-09-at-4-14-43-pmd the space. I was so excited by the high ceilings, the huge room which had been a dining room for weary travellers, but then housed only a piano and a few chairs, with one small table.. and of course, the beautiful timber throughout. The staircase was wonderful and was highly polished as was the bar. We children thought we were very grand sitting on a high stool at the bar, once it was closed, cleaned and polished, having a sarsaparilla. We were sometimes even treated to a small pack of Eta salted peanuts..nothing ever matched those.

The new hotel, built around the late 60’s ( and since replaced yet again) was all bricks and tiles and lacked the character of the old. I even missed the downward sloping verandahs from the old hotel, which were made even scarier to walk on by the tales told by Uncle Dave of children slipping off. There was no other access to the rooms we were staying in, so we had to use them, though we did stay very close to the wall.

Our much loved Uncle Dave gave us another Aunt, Thea, when they married in 1960..in the Greek Orthodox Church, West End. My brother and I got to hold the candles, a great honour which gave us a front row seat to their beautiful wedding. Their three sons were added to our great collection of cousins..

I have turned just a small number of pages in Uncle Dave’s Book of Life.. Uncle Dave left us  on the 13th July, 2005.

On this, which would have been his 99th birthday, I remember him fondly as a warm and welcoming family man, very much missed by many…not a bad epitaph for any man.

 

 

 

Aunt Thea & Uncle Dave

Dave is the tall boy with tilted head, second from the right

Five of the brothers together ..Sim, Dave, Harry, Vince, Con

Cousins.. Dave Catsoulis, David Catsoulis and his brother Charles..

Siblings   Harry, Dave, Sim, Vince, Mary in soft blue and Nita..

N.B. As these photos show in random, the captions will be out of order at times.

(c)Crissouli 10th Oct, 2016

(c) photos Catsoulis family