Milkshake Crawl

Greek cafes had all but passed from city streets and country towns when I first realised the vital role they had played in Greek and Australian history. I set about telling the story of the Greek shop-keeping phenomenon, and Aphrodite and the Mixed Grill: Greek Cafés in Twentieth-Century Australia was the result. It remains the only book dedicated to the subject. So obsessed have I become with this aspect of Australian history that every now and then I head off down shimmering highways and dusty country roads in search of whatever remains of the shops that were once the social hubs of rural communities.

I’ve just returned from a milkshake crawl through central New South Wales. The White Rose Café in Temora is in almost original condition, and whizzes up a mean vanilla malted—in icy aluminium containers or course. The leadlight façade on the Garden of Roses in Canowindra is as gorgeous as ever, even if the interior has been stripped of its original milk bar features. The Central Café in Warialda is now a gift shop, but the milk bar is still there, and the proprietor uses the counter to display merchandise while keeping less attractive things, like computers, out of sight down on the containers that once chilled milk, ice cream and lemon drink. Sadly, only derelict buildings mark the presence of Greek shops in the small towns of Yenda and Barellan.

These cafés, and others like them, will appear in the sequel to Aphrodite. It’s called One Hundred Greek Cafés, and will document the specific stories of 100 shops across Australia. I’m working on the Imperial Cafe in Quilpie at the moment. Reckon I’m up to about 80, so if you’re harbouring a Greek café story somewhere in your past I’d love to hear from you . . .

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Milkshake Crawl

  1. Michael Mageros

    Hi Toni. Happy to hear your project is progressing well. Last we spoke I think you may have had a draft chapter ready about my family’s involvement in cafes? If so, and you’re happy for me to see it, please let me know. All the best. Michael Mageros

    • toni risson

      Dear Michael,
      I’m sorry for the time lag in getting back to you with this. I have since had some dealings with the lovely people at the Redcliffe Museum, who have documents relating to Charlie Athousis’s cafe there. I am endeavouring to clarify a few details before sending the chapter on to you, and will email it to you as soon as the primary researcher there is certain of her facts. I trust that all is well with you.
      Toni

  2. Phillip

    Without fail I always drop into the White Rose whwn going through the town of Temora. And it is not just the decor and art deco designs, its the food. Its the food of my childhood that I loved so much and too which i like to return.
    Look forward to the edition of your book, Toni.

    Phillip Hoysted Tasmania

    • toni risson

      Well you can’t just say that Phillip, and leave us all wondering . . . what food? When I called in I had toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches and a vanilla milkshake — both pretty good. I’d love to know what foods you ate as a child that are now evoked by your visits to the White Rose?

      • Phillip

        toni

        Easy! Toasted steak sandwich with the lot, minus the canned Golden Circle beetroot and lots of BBQ sauce delivered on one of those delightful heavy white porceline oval dishes; washed down with a vanilla milkshake, that always included vanilla icecream and malt on request.

        If you wanted to go up market, for $5.40 (my failing memory recalls) you could get Chicklen Maryland at the Riverina Cafe in my home town of Leeton NSW. Crumbed chicken, crumbed banana, crumbed Golden Circle pineapple, non-crumbed chips or baked potatoes. Regarded as the most exotic meal available at the time. My father fondly tells the story of how my brother and I would disappear while eating at the cafe and could always be found captivated be the chain-pulling flush toilet -modern technology we didnt have at home!

        Sadly the Riverina Cafe no longer exists – i would love to lay my hands on any memorabilia from the cafe.

      • toni risson

        Excellent and explicit descriptions. You realise these delicacies may exist, now, only on our memories. Fabulous how exotic a slice of tinned pineapple once was. Where would we have been without Golden Circle? Add a slice, and you have Hawaiian everything.

  3. Brent Pilon

    Hi Toni i have been trying to find an email for you someone gave me you information to look at we have an nice greek style cafe in west wyalong The Paragon Cafe and looking at doing some history on the cafe if you are still doing your books and resarch would love you to use our cafe. Brent

    • toni risson

      Dear Brent,
      Your cafe will definitely be in the next book, as I have made contact with the Mallos family who were there mid-last century. I did call in one morning as I was passing through West Wyalong but the cafe wasn’t yet open, so I took a photo of the facade. Next time I pass through I’ll try to make it later in the day so we can chat in person. I’d love to collaborate with you on a history of the Paragon.
      Toni

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