Local Greek shop-owners went guarantor for Chris and Mary Carides when they bought a mixed business at 5 Adelaide Street Brisbane in 1937. The couple bought the business from George Smaris for £400 pounds, paying half on deposit and the other half in instalments over the following year. Chris secured milk and tobacco licences and installed an electrical sign over the footpath bearing the shop’s name. A relative had the Black & White 4d Milk Bar in Edward Street, and this likely suggested the name for the Carides’s shop: Quality Fruit 4d Milk Bar. Between 1932 and 1937, when some 4,000 proprietors set up milk bars across Australia, 4d (fourpenny) Milk Bar acted a kind of brand that was as successful for Greeks as the Comino brand had been in earlier decades. But it was not only shop names that influenced migrants’ fortunes.
Chris Carides was born Kiryacos Christos Spanakis in Tyroloi in 1899. He adopted the name Karides, and put his age up, when he enlisted with friends in the Greek army in WWI; their names began with K, and Chris hoped they might remain together. Wounded later in the Greco-Turkish War, and made destitute and homeless by ethnic cleansing in Eastern Thrace in 1922, Chris migrated to Australia. He arrived in Sydney in 1923 with a small suitcase in his hand and nine pounds in his pocket. His cousin and sponsor, Milton Constantine, was responsible for providing employment and accommodation for the newcomer. This was found at Milton’s fruit and confectionery business at 146 George Street North, Circular Quay, which had a residence attached. With the aid of two pocket-sized Greek/English volumes—a dictionary and a book of dialogue—Chris became proficient in English. The books are inscribed Jack Christie, an Anglicised moniker he adopted because Australians were intolerant of Greek names that were difficult to pronounce. Chris was naturalised in 1929.
Chris seems to have left ‘Jack Christie’ behind in Sydney. He had met Mary Stevenson when Milton shifted to another business around 1928—she was the Scottish lass working in the shop across the road—and after ten years in Australia he’d had enough of working long, hard days for a minimal wage. Chris wanted his own shop. Around 1934 he took a job with George Comino in the IXL Café in Beardy Street Armidale, where he learned to make confectionery, flavourings, essences and fruit juices. He returned to Sydney and married Mary in 1935, and the couple settled in Brisbane’s West End. The name on the purchase document for their Brisbane business was Jack Carides and the name on the identity card Chris was required to carry with him whenever he left his West End home was Kiryacos Chris Carides.
The Quality Fruit 4d Milk Bar was beside Chapman’s menswear, which was on the corner of Adelaide and George Streets. Fruit and vegetables claimed the right-hand side of the shop, with pyramids of hand-polished apples nestling in tissue wrappers making a spectacular display at the front. Grapes, cherries and tomatoes were weighed in brass scales suspended from the ceiling and were sold in brown paper bags swung expertly to a twist at the corners. These were the days of pounds, shillings and pence and imperial weights, which made life difficult for migrants. The family sourced fruit from the local markets situated nearby at Roma Street and Turbot Street. Chris arrived early to secure the best produce, experience having taught him the best growing regions: Tasmania for apples, Mildura for citrus, Guyra for potatoes . . . The auction-house atmosphere of the markets and the smell of fruit ripening in the Brisbane sunshine are vivid memories for Chris and Mary’s children, who took every opportunity to weigh themselves on the scales reserved for sacks of potatoes.
On the opposite side of the shop was the electrically refrigerated milk bar. Here customers stood to drink milkshakes made in anodised containers on Hamilton Beach mixers and served, with paper straws, in fluted glasses. Ice-cream sodas, banana splits and sundaes were also popular, and Chris’s icy-cold, homemade lemon, orange and pineapple drinks were renowned. The ‘special formula’ for these went with him to the grave but, in addition to freshly-squeezed juice, it included essence, citrus oil extracted from fruit skin, and cane sugar, which he bought in 70-pound hessian bags. Confectionery, tobacco products, and headache powders were arrayed behind the counter, and a large mirror painted with specials spanned the back wall. Outside the milk bar stood a tram and bus stop, so commuters dropped in for ‘refreshments’, especially on hot days, as did the ‘copper’ on point duty at the Adelaide-George Street intersection. During the war the milk bar was a reminder of home for American servicemen.
Chris and Mary were committed to the Brisbane community. Throughout the war they made regular donations to the Red Cross and supplied Red Cross stalls with fruit, for which both were awarded life membership. Chris also joined the Masonic Lodge, and he and Mary were involved with the Australian Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Formed in the USA in 1922, AHEPA was organised along the lines of the Masonic Lodge. When a chapter was established in Brisbane 1936, Chris was one of its earliest members, and its first official president.
Spanakis, Karides, Christie, and finally Carides—names played a role in the success of young Greeks and their businesses, as did the network of fellow migrants who sponsored, trained, and advised newcomers, and then helped them buy and sell businesses. Milton Constantine’s brother-in-law Michael Paul (Pavlakis) was the relative who had the Black & White 4d Milk Bar, and one of those who went guarantor for Chris. The Paul family sold their shop to another Greek, Jerry Palmos, in 1966/67, and the Carides family was forced out by the sale of the Chapman building in 1954, having traded at the Quality Fruit 4d Milk Bar for seventeen years.
My thanks to the Carides family, who donated family papers to the John Oxley Library.