Thursday, July 24, 2014

Selling an American Dream: Australia’s Greek Café

“Every time you drink a Coke, enjoy an ice cream or sweet chocolate treat, go to the cinema, or listen to the latest popular music hit, you can thank Australia’s Greek cafés.”
-Leonard Janiszewski and Effy Alexakis

Hurstville Museum & Gallery is hosting a touring exhibition from the “In their own Image: Greek-Australians” National Project, Macquarie University, Sydney.

This photographic exhibition, curated by Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszweski, explores an important chapter in the development of Australian culture. Greek cafés were known for their introduction of American sodas, ice-cream sundaes, milkshakes, hamburgers, milk chocolate and hard sugar candies, into communities right across Australia.

Leonard Janiszewski and Effy Alexakis tell us more about the first modern Greek Café in Sydney:
“In 1932, Mick Adams (Joachim Tavlarides), opened Australia’s first modern ‘American-style’ milk bar, the ‘Black and White 4 pence Milk Bar’ in Sydney. The ‘milk bar’ was created by Adams based upon his observations of American drugstore soda bars – he had visited the United States two years earlier. In Australia, the Greek-run oyster saloon and soda bar/sundae ‘parlor’ had placed prime importance on sit-down trade for meals, drinks and desserts. American drugstore soda bars emphasised quick stand-up and bar-stool bar trade (soda drinks, milkshakes and sundaes) over sit-down meal trade. Adams firmly took up the American soda bar catering emphasis and highlighted the milkshake.

Seating capacity in Adams’ premises was restricted to just six small two-seater cubicles along one wall, the main feature being a long hotel-style bar with soda fountain pumps and numerous Hamilton Beach electric milkshake makers (imported from the United States). No cooked meals were offered. On the first day of opening 5,000 customers frequented the milk bar, and as many as 27,000 per week then began to patronise the establishment. Other food caterers were quick to adopt the idea and within five years of the opening of Adams’ original Black and White Milk Bar there were allegedly 4,000 milk bars in Australia; most were Greek-run. Food caterers in Great Britain and New Zealand were also quick to embrace the concept.”

Black and White 4d.Milk Bar exterior, Martin Place, Sydney, NSW, 1934.
Mick Adams is pictured here with children from the Dalwood Health Home.
Photos courtesy L. Keldoulis, from the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ National Project Archives, Macquarie University.

Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café will be on show at Hurstville Museum & Gallery from 2 August – 28 September 2014
Don’t miss the exciting public programs and book in here

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