IN SEARCH OF MY CASSIE HERITAGE

Back to the Genealogy Pages

Click on NEXT CHAPTER at bottom of page to go to the next chapter in this article on Cassie Heritage.

Otherwise click on the appropriate Chapter Description above to view the required chapter.

EARLY DAYS IN AUSTRALIA

My mother continues her story......... I can remember a lot of things coming over on the ship. I was the only good sailor amongst them and dad was very proud of me. Everyone else was in their cabin being sick. Whilst on the ship there was a fever and all children under 13 years had to have their head shaved. I had to have my head shaved as did Geoff but Spiro and Mary should also have had their head shaved by the ages that they had supplied. I don’t know how dad got them out of it. Geoff was okay, a few weeks later his hair had grown enough to be a crew cut.

I however got rubbished when I got to Australia and when I went to school. In addition I had these beautiful big earrings on and the young girls never wore earrings in those days. Also I couldn’t speak a word of English, only Greek and Italian fluently, and some Turkish that mum taught me. Mum gave me a cap to wear but kids called me baldy, then she made me a beret, but that only made it worse for me. The kids used to pull my hat off and gave me a hell of a time. I stopped wearing earrings and that helped, then my hair grew and that helped.

When we arrived in Perth we decided to stay a week or so with my uncle, Komninos Xanthis, and his family. All the children were there except for Con, who was born a few years after we arrived. We were heading on to Sydney to live. Once mum got to be with her brother and her half brother, my Uncle George, mum didn’t want to go on to Sydney. Uncle George was living in Northam but had come down to Perth when we arrived. So our family ended up staying in Perth.

Mary had turned 13 years of age when we arrived and even though it was half way through the year the law said children had to stay at school until they were 14 years old, so Mary had to go to school. She sat there with her arms crossed and wasn’t able to learn a thing. You imagine the poor girl, she was very smart at school in Castellorizo, and she was smarter than the teacher who was teaching her. She excelled in two languages and to be put down to spell C A T, cat. When I got older I understood why she was so upset over her schooling. She made up her mind that she was not going to learn English. Once she turned 14 she left school, her birthday was in the following January. So in January 1929 Mary turned 14 years of age, which should clear up the conjecture as to her true age. She was born in 1915, not 1914, as shown on some family records.

So was our initial introduction to Australia, we were all lumped together as “Dagoes” and it didn’t matter if we were Greek, Italian, Slav or whatever, or even Jewish.

And from Aunty Cynthia Stavrianou............The Karasavas family arrived at Fremantle and we took them back to our shop in Fitzgerald Street where we also had two bedroom accommodation. The two families stayed together until we found a place in Knebsworth Avenue for the Karasavas family to stay. It was during the depression days and everyone was struggling to bring food into the house. Agapitos was given a job working in the Kalaf fish shop in Barrack Street, but he had all the manual work to do. The shop was owned by Jack Kalaf. He was my mother’s cousin.

Agapitos couldn’t speak enough English to be able to do the lighter jobs at the shop. His health suffered and I can recall Aunty Anastasia complaining to my parents as to the hours and conditions he worked under. Later Agapitos had a shop in Fremantle but his health was poor and that is where he had a heart attack. He was still quite a young man.

We all loved Agapitos very much. We idolised your grandfather and he was a lovely chap. Agapitos had very light hair and fair skin but was solidly built. When his brother, Mihalis, later came to Australia he called him “Harloo” instead of Michael.  

It was a traumatic experience for the children to be in a foreign country and unable to speak English. However numerous Castellorizo families lived in and around Northbridge and North Perth and they had cousins and many other migrant children to play with.

Cynthia, Geoffrey, Christina (Mim) And Peter Xanthis - Perth WA 1923

Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell

My mother tells of those early years in Perth........After staying with Uncle Komninos, at the fish shop, we moved to Knebworth Avenue in Highgate. We were renting there. My mother never owned a house in Australia. From there we went to John Street in Northbridge, opposite the Greek Church in Parker Street. I had my seventh birthday there, I remember Cynthia’s mother giving me a stole. It had the price ticket on it, one and eleven pence, it’s funny how you can remember all these things! I was going to St Brigid’s Catholic School.

After a short while in Perth my father became ill and could not work. It was about a year after we arrived, it was his heart. He was working for his friend, Mr Silverton, I think it was something to do with fish, when he had a heart attack.

We then moved to Fremantle, in Essex Street. Just near where the Sunday markets are now. We had a fish shop on the corner. Mum was doing the work, dad could only do the light work. Behind us was a fruit and vegetable shop. We were staying with friends in Essex Street. Later on they had a restaurant near the Rail Station, I used to take you there as a child, I forget their surname. Their son, Dennis, worked in the Men’s Department at Pellews.

We then had to live on mum’s sovereigns, gold, silver trays and gold chain for years. Her gold chain was eighty feet long and that alone kept us for two years.

Then we went to live in Murray Street in Perth City. Each time we bettered ourselves, we never went backwards, only forwards. I went to Thomas Street School then later back to St Brigid’s School when we moved to a place near John Street again. There was a Turkish family living next door to us and as my mother spoke Turkish fluently and I spoke a little of the language also, the old lady that was there was so thrilled that someone could speak to her.

When we moved to the Lake Street address, I went to the Highgate School. I had a bit of trouble with the school work at that school, it was much heavier. One of the teachers was very good to me. She gave me some help during lunch times, as I was two years ahead of my correct class. When I was in sixth standard, grade seven, I sat for a scholarship, then they found out that I was two years ahead. I don’t know the result of the scholarship but they wanted me to stay in the same class for another two years.

By this time my father was very, very sick and he was home all the time. My brothers were out working but they were not earning much. I started at Perth Girls School and as I did not have a birth certificate I said my age was 13 years, whereas I was really only 11 years. I wanted to be a school teacher but as my father was so sick I knew that wasn’t possible. You had to be able to afford it in those days. I left school in third year high when I was 13 years old.

The Karasavas Home 1930s to 1950s 129 Lake Street -left side residence looking from front

Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell

Our main relations in Perth at this time were the Xanthis family, they were more or less the only ones we had here. Uncle Komninos had the North Perth Fish Supply, just near the North Perth Hotel . By this time Uncle George had moved from Northam to Perth and he used to make sweets. They were chocolates, like Darryl Lee, he was absolutely brilliant.

I grew up mainly with Peter and Christina (Mim) Xanthis. Peter is 10 months older than me and Christina 10 months younger. They went to school in North Perth whilst I went to school at Highgate. Our family had a lot to do with the Xanthis family. Their mother, Elefantiani, was a Kailis.

When we first came to Perth Geoff went to stay with Uncle George for a couple of years in Northam and went to school there. He was Geoff’s godfather. When Uncle George came back to Perth he stayed in James Street which was like Chinatown. There was a lot of Chinese there. Uncle George spoke so many languages that it wasn’t even funny. He was at home with these Chinese. Mum and I used to visit him and he spoke all these dialects. Later on he got this little shop in Hay Street, opposite the Children’s Court but then he became very sick. He used to send his family money over every month. He wouldn’t have his family over here. He said they were better off in Greece. He educated the boys and sent them to university. When he got very sick I went and looked after his shop for a year. Your dad and I were engaged at the time. But we had to close it, there was no business. So he had nothing. When he died, he died at my mother’s house, Geoff paid for his funeral and all the works.

I moved to Lake Street when I was 9 years old. There wasn’t much in the way of entertainment in those days. I went to Greek School for two years, it was next to the present Greek Church. We used to go to Greek School after regular school. The church in those days was the hall that now adjoins the present church. Mary was the second bride to marry in the new Greek Church. We made a lot of friends with the neighbours and that is when I made friends with Marie as they backed onto the rear of our place. They were Slavs, but her mother was born in Perth. I don’t think her father was born here though.

I can recall many of the Greek families in and around Lake Street during the 1930's. Most were families from Castellorizo. At the southern end of Lake Street at the intersection with Roe Street there was the Michelides Tobacco Factory run by Peter Spiro Michelides. A few doors down continuing on the west side of Lake Street there was Malaxos Papalazarus and his wife, Fotini, she was a Poniros. Next door was the Veriopoulos family and a bit further up the road in Lake Street was Peter Auguste, then Spiro Mallis and his wife Triantafilia (nee Zempilas) with their large family. Then Mrs Anna Magriplis before the Fermanis family of Spiro and his wife, Polxeni, who was a Coufos together with their children. A few doors up lived Panos Pitsikas and his wife, Mary, who was a Michelides, and their children. Further up the street was Mrs Evangelia Manolas, I think she was also a Michelides. Two doors up at number 125 was John Aris and his wife, Chrissie, who was a Panos. Their children were Poppy, Les and Daphne. Then there was our home and next door was Theodore Coufos and his wife, Rose, who was a Mallis. Their children were grown up but I think their son, Christos, was still living there. Then there was Jack Kyriakidis next door to the Coufos family.

On the other side of Lake Stree there was Mrs Christina Antonas and a few doors up to Paraskevas Lekias and his wife, Vlasia, who was an Anastasakis, Uncle Paul's sister. Two door up from them was another Papalazaros family and next to them was another Fermanis, I think Mrs Irene Fermanis who was a Comenos. Further up Lake Street there was a Sertis family and next to them was Basil Zempilas and his wife, Dialecki, who was a Boyatzis. Their boys were Tony, Apostolos and Con. At number 98 was Agapitos Michael and his first wife, Ourania, who was a Zempilas. She died the year we arrived in Lake Street, leaving five young children. Futher up Lake Street there was John Delides and his wife, Irene, who was a Kontoolas.

Later on other Greek families arrived in Lake Street. They included Nicholas and Panayiota Manifis, Anthony and Anna Kailis (Anna was a Pitsikis), Michael and Ellen Michelides, Con and Katherine Passaris, Michael and Chryafina Fermanis.

Nearby in Newcastle Street there was Savas Lemonis and his wife, Ecateriny (nee Fermanis) and their children. Peter and Pelagia Kakulas lived nearby and across the road was Michael Manifis and his wife, Despina, who was a Paspalis. They had five boys and one girl that I know of. Two doors up in Newcastle Street was John Stamatis and down the road was Arthur Kakulas. Steve Passaris and his wife, Queenie, lived next door to Angelo Petridis.

Girls didn’t work in those days and Mary stayed home to help mum and got her glory box together. Dad was a bit well to do in those days and it was a bit degrading if he sent his daughter out to work. It was pride that stopped him allowing his daughter from going to work. It was just one of those things.

Although my father was a sick man he never, ever raised his voice. The only time I ever got told off was when I crossed my legs at the table. He was very strict with manners at the table, and things like that. When it came to getting smacked it was always my mother who gave me a smack. It was the same with me, your father never smacked you.

Spiro worked in the markets for a while and Geoff worked in a fruit shop in Wellington Street, for a Mr Magripilis. When Mr Magripilis decided he couldn’t carry on any longer, Geoff bought him out.

Dad died in Royal Perth Hospital, I was only 12 years old. Dad was a very heavy smoker, he used to roll his cigarettes. He got so weak but the doctor said to let him smoke, so I used to roll the cigarettes for him and I would sit there and give them to him. Then he died. Mum and I were at the hospital, they had a room for us. They called us into his room but he had just died.

Death Certificate for Agapitos Spiro Karasavas

Cause of death (a) Cardiac failure (b) Arterio sclerosis Aortitis

Click on this link to view larger and clearer image of this document (Registration Required to Access This Site)

After viewing larger photo and to return to this article just close the newly opened page

Document courtesy Allan Cresswell

Mum decided one day to burn all the old family photos that she had. She also had dad's ship logbook and papers which she stacked in the back yard in Lake Street. She set fire to the lot as she said they were starting a new life in Australia and people would laugh about the old days and think it was silly. I liked mum's progressive ways and thoughts regarding starting a new life, but was disappointed that she destroyed those photos and the logbook. Spiro and Angela had kept a few of the family photos which we later made copies of when in Sydney, but I always wonder what photos were lost for good.

When I thought about it later, the food that my mother used to put on the table, she fed us well out of nothing. I wouldn't say we had fillet steak. Mum used to sell an item say for twenty pounds and that would last us twenty weeks. The boys were earning enough money to pay for the rent. That was about all the boys did with their wages other than keep themselves and buy their own clothes. Mum used to allow, say, five shillings a week for meat, five shillings for vegetables, five shillings for fruit and the other five would be for groceries. For instance, she would buy six pence of tomatoes, not a pound in weight. If they were cheap we would have a lot of tomatoes including baked tomatoes that week. If they were dear we only had them in the salad. This is how mum used to work it. We never went without food, ever.

Engagement Paul Anastasakis to Maria Karasavas Perth Western Australia

Photograph courtesy Allan Cresswell

Mum still had jewellery to sell right up to when Mary married in 1936. We had this beautiful solid silver tray that came from Russia. It was a really beautiful thing. We sold that after Dad died. We had to battle on but we never went without. Mum was too proud to go for the pension until well after she was entitled to, she was too proud. When Spiro married she didn’t want to be a burden on Spiro and Angela so she became naturalised, then received the pension.

Mum started to go blind when we had been in Perth for about two years. They found cataracts. She had to get worse before they would operate on her. The first operation she had was a failure. The second one was a bigger failure. Initially they didn’t take enough off then they took too much off and had to remove the eye. So she had a glass eye for a while. Mum never knew she had a glass eye. Every morning before work I would wash her eye and put the glass eye in. At night I would wash it and put it in a glass. She never knew I was putting her glass eye in. After about two years I went to get the eye from the mantelpiece and the glass and all was gone. Mum had found the glass of water and had thrown it down the drain. The glass eye was gone, I rang the specialist, but he required her to be fitted. I didn’t want to do that so she never had a glass eye again. The other eye just went blind and remained there. She was blind by 47 years of age, for a total of 22 years until she died in 1957. She never ever saw any of her grandchildren.

After dad died I went to work for Uncle Si Xanthis in the fish shop in Subiaco, I was 13 years old. He was mum’s first cousin. Uncle Si lent my mother one hundred pounds as my sister was getting married and that was her dowry. I worked for two years to pay the hundred pounds off. I didn’t pay it all off, mum was paying some as well.

Wedding Paul Anastasakis to Maria Karasavas 20th September 1936 in Western Australia

Click on this link to view larger photograph and to pan over faces for names (Registration Required to Access This Site)

After viewing larger photo and to return to this article just close the newly opened page

Photograph courtesy Angela Karasavas

Your Aunty Mary was married in 1936 and I was a bridesmaid. Uncle Paul Anastasakis was a chef and cook. The marriage was arranged and they went to live with Paul’s mother in East Perth. They lived in Newcastle Street and later in Lake Street, near us. We were on the North side of Newcastle Street and Mary lived with her family on the South side of Newcastle Street, both in Lake Street. Then your Aunty Mary had Despo and Jim and we mixed a lot with them. I helped rear them when they were little. I used to baby-sit them a lot. I was also working in those days. Your cousin Jack came on the scene some ten years after Jim and by that time I had been married for six years.

I then went to work at Fermanis’ fruit shop in Murray Street for about a year. Mr Fermanis’ sons have now got the coffee shop in Hay Street. I then went to work for Geoff at the fruit shop and the war then broke out. I was 16 years old then.

Because of the war, we had to be fingerprinted and photographed as we had arrived with Italian passports. We had to prove that we were really Greek. There were thousands of people in the same situation as us, even some of the officials in Perth were Castellorizian. We were registered as aliens but later on they said all the fingerprints and paperwork were destroyed.

Then my brothers joined the Army and they were in the “home forces”, they didn’t go overseas. Spiro was up in Darwin when the Japs bombed Darwin but he didn’t join until he returned from Darwin, he had to find his way back to Perth, via Sydney. It cost him a fortune, a years wages, to get back home. Both Geoff and Spiro remained in Western Australia during the war and served time at Northam. I helped at the Castellorizian Club making camouflage nets, I did a lot of those. I was even making the nets after you were born, I made hundreds. The older ones went in for knitting whilst the younger women did the larger jobs.

Geoff then had an opportunity to buy the Corner House Fruit Shop, right opposite the Perth Town Hall, there is a bank at that site now - at the corner of Hay Street and Barrack Street. There were offices below the shop, downstairs that came with the shop, and Geoff used to pay big rent for that place. He then sub-let the offices. There was also a bakery come cake shop in the building previously with a heck of a lot of rats there. There was a Police Officer who had only one arm who used to go around shooting these rats. He used to get so much a head for each and he cleaned up all the rats in the cellar. Geoff was so fussy and was always trying to get rid of the rats that were there because of the crumbs.

When he filled the Hay Street window up one day for display with all the fruit, the glass broke and these thousands and thousands of bits of fruit went running down Barrack Street. Oh what a mess! Luckily he was covered by insurance. Geoff was in partnership with an Australian chap. He called the shop under the name of Karas, as people though Karasava might be Italian. Spiro was working for Geoff at the time and so was I, as the cashier.

Wedding Stavros Stavrianou to Cynthia Xanthis 24th August 1941 Perth Western Australia

Click on this link to view larger photograph and to pan over faces for names (Registration Required to Access This Site)

After viewing larger photo and to return to this article just close the newly opened page

Photograph courtesy Kaye Paioff

When I was about 15 years old I went to Cynthia Xanthis’ wedding. She married Steve Stavrianou, he had a restaurant in Barrack Street. Steve had lived in East Perth with his mother and sister. Cousin Geoffrey Xanthis married Ethel Simeon, she lived in Palmerston Street, the next street up. He had a fruit shop in Scarborough and was later involved in the markets. Both Peter and Con came into the business. They started selling things at the markets, they got into it in a big way. Peter married the girl Joyce Papadoulos. She lived in the same street as me, although she was a few years younger than me, in Lake Street, towards Hyde Park.

Christina married Simon Simonides and they lived in Scarborough. She died a few months before you got married and Cynthia didn’t come to your wedding, she was in mourning. Her husband died ten months later.

Marriage Simon Simonides to Christina Xanthis 21st August 1949 Perth Western Australia

Click on this link to view larger photograph and to pan over faces for names (Registration Required to Access This Site)

After viewing larger photo and to return to this article just close the newly opened page

Photograph courtesy Faye Paioff

Evelyn married Michael Palassis. He lived in South Perth, with his mother, Chrissanthi and sister. Evelyn was my mother and father’s godchild. Mick had a restaurant in Barrack Street, heading towards the railway line, on the left hand side. Con was in the fish shop, you would remember him marrying Rose Milonas, you went to the wedding. I went to all the Xanthis weddings.

For Con’s wedding we had a party on the Saturday night. Her parents arranged a party the night before the wedding. You would remember going to it, it was at Welshpool. In the Greek tradition the boy gives the wedding breakfast and pays for it. The night before, or at the engagement party, it is the girl’s parent that pays and arranges that party. They have chickens and Pilovie and much food, they call it Savratova, everyone dances around.

Wedding Con Xanthis to Rose Milonas 14 Feb 1959 Perth Western Australia

Click on this link to view larger photograph and to pan over faces for names (Registration Required to Access This Site)

After viewing larger photo and to return to this article just close the newly opened page

Photograph courtesy Faye Paioff

As a teenager I was not allowed out at all. My brother, Spiro, was very strict. As my father was dead Spiro was now the head of the house. He was dead set against me going out. My friend, Marie, used to go to the dances with her mother, and I would go along. My mother would let me go but the boys didn’t know anything about it, until I got caught a couple of times. I used to share mum’s bedroom and Spiro and Geoff shared the other bedroom. Mum used to let me in through the bedroom window after the dances, I was about 16 years old then. Mary was already married. I used to give a little knock on the window and she would let me in. If the boys ever asked where I was when I was out mum used to say that I was in bed. She used to say, “I trust you, so don’t ever let me down”. And I didn’t. Mum was very modern for those days.

I used to go to the Greek dances on Sunday evenings with Marie. We would go dancing whenever we could. We used to follow this Slav band around for moral support. John and Tony Martin were in the band. Remember Tony Martin, he used to be in the Police Force. There was no romance, we were all good friends. I was very friendly with your Uncle Peter, Aunty Cynthia’s brother. He was a year older than me. They were the only cousins that I really had here. I was also friendly with “Mim” (Christina) Xanthis as she was a year younger than me. They were my first cousins.

I did have a lot more Greek friends than Australian friends. All the different ones we went to school with and our many Greek neighbours around Lake Street. The Greek children all played together.

Then an opportunity came up at the Cremorne Arcade, the Cremorne Milk Bar. The old bloke working with Geoff wanted out of the fruit shop so Spiro and Geoff went in together as partner in the Cremorne. They had the shop together for some years until Spiro and Angela had their third child, Kathy. They then decided to go to Sydney, and Spiro sold his share out to Geoff.

When I was about 16 years old my brother Spiro said to me, “There’s a chap at Geraldton that wants to marry you.” I said, “Is he Greek?” When he replied, “Yes”, I responded, “No thanks.” He wanted to know why. “For starters I am not getting married at sixteen, you can tell him that I will not marry him.” Apparently he was quite a wealthy chap but I just didn’t want to marry a Greek. I don’t know how Spiro saved face when he had to tell the man that I refused.

When I was 16 1/2 I left home. I got a job working for Pat Rodriguez, he was a judge. I was having a few problems with Spiro and Geoff so I went to a friend, Police Sergeant Edna Best, and told her my problems. She said, “Leave it to me”, and she got me this job. It wasn’t so much Geoff, it was Spiro throwing his weight around. He was terrible to me. He was checking on everything I did and causing me problems, but I can understand why he was doing it. I went to look after the Rodriguez 10 year old son and help around the home. I ended up being jack of all trades and practiced all my Greek cooking on them. Then they went on a holiday to Rottnest Island and I went with them and that is where I met your father. That was in December 1939.

NEXT CHAPTER - OTHER RELATIONS TO AUSTRALIA