This is the story of young immigrants from the small towns of southern Rhodes (Rhodes Island, Greece) who came to work in the sugarcane and cotton fields of Biloela, Queensland, Australia. These early immigrants were overwhelmed with nostalgia for their native towns, the families they left behind, and their church. However, they took the opportunity to improve their lives by working in the harsh rural environment of the cotton and sugar cane fields of Biloela in Queensland.
By 1934, Callide Valley had 40,000 acres of cotton planted, and a butter factory opened in 1936.
In March 1934, The Courier-Mail reported: “Among the cotton farmers in the Biloela district are a former general of the Ural Cossacks who fought in the Great War (World War I) and a Russian Orthodox priest.”
A Greek Orthodox Archbishop, Timotheos Evangelinidis (1880 – 1949), the metropolis of Australia and New Zealand from 1931 to 1947, visited Biloela from time to time to baptize children, give communion to the Orthodox faithful and preach the Divine Liturgy.
In the early years after World War II, Biloela’s population was about 1,000 people, making it the largest city in the Banana Shire.
Having built up considerable savings, many of these early immigrants started businesses in the city, such as cafes and restaurants.
Phillip Hagi-Diakou was born in the coastal town of Gennadi, Rhodes Island, Greece. In 1936, at the age of fourteen, he said goodbye to his mother, his sister, and his town and traveled with his father on the Italian ship Romolo to Queensland, Australia, to seek his fortune.
Phillip worked alongside his father in the cotton and sugarcane fields of Biloela and had to deal with hot and humid conditions as well as dingoes and snakes.
However, he was determined to succeed through hard work and set about learning the English language by studying a Greek-English dictionary.
Nineteen years old when World War II began, he enlisted in the Australian Army and was sent to Darwin, where he served as a cook. It was to be the start of a lifelong career in the kitchen.
When the war ended, he moved to Adelaide, South Australia, and bought Gouger Cafe, the cafe that changed his life.
Close-knit, hard-working and dedicated, the Diakou family built their Gouger Cafe into an icon of Adelaide seafood restaurants, led by Phillip and his wife Anastasia in the kitchen and their three children, Maria, Steve and Bill. The Gouger Cafe pioneered seafood dining in Adelaide and Gouger Street was to become the hub, the cream of the crop of South Australian seafood restaurants.
the stilian family
Stylianos (Steve) Stiliano (nickname Matsi) said goodbye to his mother and their small hilltop village of Mesanagros, Rhodes Island, Greece in the mid-1930s and traveled with Yianni and Marko from his father and his brother to work in the cotton and sugar cane fields. of Rockhampton and Mount in Queensland, Australia.
In 1944, Steve met and married his wife Erini in Biloela, who had also emigrated with her family from Lahania, Rhodes Island, Greece.
They had five children: twins George and Anna, Philip and Gary, who were born in Biloela, and Stella, who was born in Adelaide in 1957.
Mixed Agriculture – Cotton and Livestock
The Stiliano family ran a mixed farming company on the outskirts of Biloela that integrated the cultivation of crops (cotton was the main cash crop) as well as the raising of cattle (mainly dairy) for meat and milk.
The cotton seeds were planted in the spring and the crop had to be harvested before the weather could damage or completely ruin its quality and reduce the yield.
His cows had to give birth to a calf before they could produce milk.
Some of their calves were raised for veal and about three-quarters of the heifers became replacements for their adult dairy cows.
Long working hours cause tiredness and fatigue. And the family was exposed to numerous life-threatening environmental and safety hazards, including snakes, heat exposure, falls, injuries, and pesticides.
Coffee in Monto
The Stiliano family farmed, toiled and persevered in the cotton fields to earn enough money to set up a coffee shop in Monto, about 60 miles from Biloela, offering fast service, long opening hours and tasty meals seven days a week. week.
Their cafeteria offered traditional English-style steak and eggs, a mixed grill, chops and sausages, fish and chips, as well as American burgers, sundaes, sundaes, milkshakes and soft drinks that could be purchased to sit down or to go. .
Every Tuesday they would become a popular social pastime at their cafe by farmers from the surrounding areas taking a break from their daily chores on their farms to enjoy a delicious cafe-style meal with family or friends.
Nick Frossinakis, along with his father Manoli and his brothers Philip and Tom, from the small town of Lahania, Rhodes Island, Greece, in southern Rhodes, left the uncertainty and economic instability of post-war Greece in 1949 with the hope of achieving a more stable life in Australia.
They migrated to Biloela where they toiled and endured in the cotton fields to earn enough money to buy their own small farm.
Nick’s sister, Eleni (Helen), stayed in Lahania, Rhodes Island for about three years, then traveled to Australia with another Lahanian migrant woman to join her family in Australia.
Horse-drawn plows were used for tilling the land on farms in those days to prepare for sowing seeds or planting to loosen or turn over the land.
They lived in houses made of iron sheets on hard earth floors and stifled the long, hot tropical summers.
Their houses had no electricity, so kerosene lamps with a wick to light were used for lighting.
Keeping clean and using the bathroom was not as easy in those early days as it is today.
The bathroom and toilet were in stark contrast to the suites we are familiar with today.
Whether it was freezing cold or sweltering hot, many immigrants had to make do with a portable metal tub for bathing, and wherever they could find outdoor privacy was their bathroom.
And, linen canvas water bags were a necessity in those days because the availability of fresh, clean drinking water in remote rural locations was essential for survival. All the farmers had to rely on plenty of sun, warm conditions, and 4-5 months of frost-free temperatures to produce the fluffy white cotton.
Later, the family acquired about 120 dairy cows that they milked every morning and then sent to the factory to produce dairy products such as drinking milk, cream, butter, yogurt and cheese for human consumption.
Christos and Zaharoula Arnas
Christos Arnas was from the village of Katavia and Zaharoula Diakomihalis was from the village of Lahania, Rhodes Island.
In the late 1930s, they both decided to leave their island home for a more peaceful life in Australia, taking with them the virtues of rural life, old-fashioned farms and villages.
Christos emigrated to Biloela, Queensland, Australia in 1936.
Zaharoula was brought to Australia by her father, Phillip Diakomihalis, in 1937.
They met and married in Biloela in 1937 and together they bought a farm in rural Callide outside Biloela where they grew cotton and raised cattle.
Their children Irene was born in 1938, Phillip was born in 1943 and Mary in 1944.
Every morning, before going to school, Irene, the eldest daughter, fed 32 calves and then, after school, she fed the pigs.
When the Arnas family went to do their shopping in the town of Biloela, they traveled in the style of the 19th century, on horseback and in a carriage (I remember the old one from a simpler and slower era).
Mixed Agriculture – Cotton and Livestock
The mixed farming company of the Arnas family integrated the cultivation of crops (cotton was the main cash crop) as well as the raising of livestock.
It reconnected them with the traditional, self-sufficient rural lifestyle they were used to in their homeland of southern Rhodes.
His farm produced milk, meat, cotton, grain, vegetables, and fruit.
They worked in the hot sun and rain to watch over their crops and livestock seven days a week, quietly and without complaint.
In the cotton fields, the family sang and endured picking the fluffy white fuzz out of the boll while trying not to cut their hands on the sharp ends and they had to bend down to pick the cotton because the average cotton plant is less than a meter tall. height. .
Cows needed grass, hay, and grains to feed on and adequate grass to graze on, while newborn calves required suckling every three to four hours or an average of 7 to 10 times a day and consumed 1 to 2 pints of milk during each feeding. blow job.
Their grazing pigs presented other challenges because poor nutrition will stunt a pig’s growth and affect meat quality and pig welfare.
The Arnas family fed their pigs a varied diet such as corn, barley, soybean meal, bread, vegetables, fruits, and pig pellets to stay healthy.
Banana peels are also a good feed for pigs due to their high energy content.
Each pig needed to eat an average of 6 to 8 pounds of feed per day and could roam freely around the Arnas farm, in the sun and outdoors.
one room school
Callide Primary School was a one-room school built on stilts with a single teacher teaching the academic basics to various grades of primary (elementary age) boys and girls from the surrounding rural areas of Bilolela.
Nick and his brother Tom and Philip were the first Greek immigrants to attend Callide Primary School. Nick sat his brother Tom on the crossbar of his bike to ride the 2 miles on a gravel road to school every day. Irene Diakos also cycled to school.
Anna and George Stiliano were farm kids looking for the first time at a classroom with rows of desks and a large teacher’s desk in front.
That walk from home to this strange new world was very different from his old family farm, pastures, and fields.