The 2018 Annual MHP Presentation was held on 1 December in the Wollongong Library Theatrette where the MHP invited Nikolas Tambakis to present his “Greek Cafes & Milkbars in Wollongong from 1930 to 1960”.  The presentation included the history of oyster bars (forerunners to fish & chip shops), cafes and milkbars starting from Arthur Kominos in Oxford Street, Sydney 1878 which led to cafes & milkbars in Wollongong.  Mr Tambakis then presented how the Greeks got into this business focussing on the Theodore Brothers as typical examples as the story of other operators was very much the same.  Nikolas then completed his presentation on the demise of the Greek cafes & milkbars.

Nickolas Tambakis was born in Wollongong in 1950, son of Harry (Theodore) Tambakis (Tambakis Bros. migrant story available in Migrant stories).  Harry came to Australia aged 25 years old in 1923.  Nickolas has lived most of his life in Wollongong except for 2 years (1986 & 1987) when his work with BHP Steel took him to Brisbane.  His close association with many of these early personalities as well as his own knowledge of the café and milkbar business inspired him to document some of this history, just as his father would tell him stories about his early life i.e. arriving in Australia (Rockhampton) meeting up with other Kytherians who had cafes, working in these cafes learning the business then progressing to Tamworth in 1928 with his brothers to the Golden Bell Cafe then in 1933 to Wollongong to the Silver Bell Cafe and finally in 1956 to the Black & White Milkbar.  Nickolas Tambakis did not want to see any of this history lost, thus his desire to talk and write about it.

Nickolas’s research originally took place as Harry Mitchell a close friend of Nickolas was requested to do a presentation to the Illawarra Museum in approximately 2003.  Unfortunately, Harry wasn’t able to make the presentation and asked Nickolas to step in.  Nickolas knew most of the early Greek families involved in these businesses and had also worked in both milkbars and cafes both in Wollongong and outside the Illawarra.

Since then Nickolas had written two articles, one which is in the Kythera-Family net archives and the other in Wollongong University Library archives.  Further to this Nickolas has worked with Zofia Laba from the Migration Heritage Project on the Tambakis Family presentation, presented at Wollongong Library as part of 10 pioneering Illawarra Families by the Illawarra Heritage Society, that was held on 24 June 2017.

The annual presentation was open to members of the MHP as well as the wider Illawarra community.  It was well attended with a good representation from members of the Wollongong Greek community.

Nick in front of his drawing of cafe locations.
Photograph from the Collection of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society.