Adelaide Greeks

Walk Down Memory Lane: The iconic Victor Harbor Messinian picnics

Author: Argyro Vourdoumpa

It was Sunday, January 31, 1965 when the first Messinian Association’s picnic, took place at the little coastal town of Victor Harbor in South Australia. From then on and every year until 2005, Greeks and philhellenes alike -from across the state- would gather to celebrate Greek culture and spend a weekend away with friends and family.

For the nearly two thousand Messinians who made South Australia home from the early 1950s the picnics, held on the Sunday of the Australia day weekend, became a staple and one of the most important events in their calendars. A great opportunity to celebrate the home country they left behind and pass on the love for the Greek culture and language to future generations.

A photo from one of the picnics, posted recently on the Association’s social media pages was enough to bring up treasured memories reminisced by many generations of Greeks in South Australia.

‘Adelaide like Athens, Victor Harbor like Kalamata’

“My mum would be up from about 3am to prepare a picnic for a king. We would line up for the special bus with other families. It was so exciting none of us kids could sleep. It was more exciting than Xmas or Easter. It is one of my fondest childhood memories,” Mrs Panayiotakopoulos commented.

It was due to the tireless work of its dedicated members and volunteers and the support of the wider Greek community, that the Victor Harbor Messinian picnics became an institution which lasted for more than 40 years. One of them is Mr. Angelos Bouzalas, the Association’s first secretary and current Honorary President.

“Our Association was established on October 4, 1959 aiming to assist Messinian migrants adjust smoothly in South Australia, support them when necessary and to help maintain our hometown’s culture,” Mr Bouzalas, 85, told The Greek Herald.

Messinian Association of SA current committee. Top row, third from L, Kostas Mantis, fourth from L, Mr Angelo Bouzalas. Bottom row, third from left president Martha Ioannides.

“We thought Victor Harbor was great for the picnics due to its seaside location. We hired buses to pick up people from specific spots around the city of Adelaide. Not many people had cars back then and we wanted everyone to feel included,” Mr Bouzalas said.

Somewhere along the way to Victor Harbor, the buses would meet with the few Holden and Ford cars. And the celebrations would kick off. Some, would use the picnics as an opportunity for a short holiday at Victor Harbor.

“Thousands of Greeks attended. Not only Greeks but Australians as well. The local council knew we boosted the local economy with the event. They even supplied the power for us, that we didn’t have the first years,” he remembers, highlighting that the Association was never short of volunteers.

“If Adelaide is – as many claim – the Athens of the South, then Victor Harbor is certainly its Kalamata,” reads an excerpt of the Victor Harbor Times newspaper, published on January 31st 1986.

Victor Harbor Messinian Picnics: A link between generations

The company, the food, the laughter and the memories transformed in a link that held together more than two generations of Messinians in South Australia.

“We would have more than 5000 people participating every year. Most would book rooms or houses and make a weekend of it. We had live Greek bands, lots of dancing and drinking and we would have a tent where we served food, sweets and drinks. The youth saw it as a day to meet with friends and display their latest fashion,” said Peter Sardelis, a member of South Australia’s Messinian Association, who for the last 25 years has also served as a committee member, treasurer, vice president and president.

“In 1994, the government made a decision to hold the Australia Day public holiday on January 26th. So the day was different every year and no longer a weekend. We continued to have the picnic for a couple of years after the change and held it on the Sunday before Australia day, but numbers declined and a decision was made by our then committee to stop the picnic,” Mr Sardelis said.

Now, the new generations of Messinians in South Australia, are looking for a way to bring these iconic events back.

“My late father, George Mantis, made me a member of the Association the day I was born, so it’s safe to say the club is in my blood,” Kosta Mantis said.

“As a kid, the annual Victor Harbor Messinian Picnic was an event I was looking forward to, all year. My late father, who was a lifelong volunteer and President of the Messinian club, would leave home early on Saturday morning driving a truck full of meat to Victor, so my mother would drive my sisters and myself to Victor later that morning.

Kosta Mantis as a kid with his first cousin, they share the same name

“It was so exciting because once we arrived, we would be greeted by cousins, friends and kids of the community we had grown up with. My most memorable moments of being away for the weekend was seeing the Penguins of Granite Island, Donkey rides on the sand, going on the Go-Karts and playing soccer”.

“It would be great to bring an event like this back, in the future,” concludes Mr Mantis, highlighting that it’s his generation’s turn to support the Association as passionately as previous generations did.

Walk Down Memory Lane: The iconic Victor Harbor Messinian picnics

Adelaide Greeks Community Club

Founding Member Angelos Bouzalas voted Honorary President

Founding Member Angelos Bouzalas voted Honorary President of the Association

Angelos Bouzalas is one of the founders of our Association which was established 60 years ago in 1959.

At the Annual General Meeting September 17th in 2017, by  unanimous vote the members elected Angelos Bouzalas  to the position of Honorary President of the Messinan Association of SA .

 This appointment was announced and celebrated at the February 24th 2019 BBQ,. The Association’s President Mrs. Martha Ioannides invested him as Honorary President, presenting him with a pin and certificate. 

The members of the Messinian Association have conferred this honor to Mr. Bouzalas for his unceasing commitment and efforts in making the Messinian Association one of the largest and most successful Hellenic Associations in South Australia.

Adelaide Greeks Community Club

Celebrating our 60th Anniversary in style

On the 30th March this year, the Messinan Association of SA celebrated its 60 anniversary with an elegant ball which took place at the Messinian Function Centre.

The gold and black décor of this glamorous evening was stylish and elegant with a sit down 3 course dinner.  

Unlike the other functions of the association, our women volunteers were able to attend as guests. The event which was catered for provided a much needed rest for our women volunteers who have for decades tirelessly prepared the monthly BBQ’s and other occasions.

A special publication commemorating the 60 years with the association’s milestones as well as information about Messinia was printed and also distributed to those who attended the ball.

The 60th anniversary was attended by many dignitaries, that included, the Consul General of Greece, Mr. George Psiachas, Ms Jing Lee Assistant Minister to the Premier and the Mayor of West Torrens, Mr. Michael Coxon.

The President Mrs. Ioannides addressed the guests and spoke of the association’s founders and humble beginnings and the achievements of the organization. 

On reaching this milestone, Mrs. Ioannides stated that the Messinian Association’s mission for the future is to continue the vision of the founders and entrust the next generation to build on its successes. Hopefully the coming generations  will be able to both preserve the Messinian spirit, culture, traditions and strengthen its presence in South Australia.

The cake was cut by the President Mrs. Martha Ioannides and the surviving former Presidents of the club.

Dancing to the live music of the band Notes Live followed and the evening concluded with the raffle draw.

Adelaide Greeks Community Club

Our tribute to late Committee member George Mantis

George Mantis

It is with deep sadness that Messinian Association of SA Inc mourns the passing of long-time Management committee member and friend George Mantis.  George passed away on 24 November 2018 aged 58 years, after a valiant battle with a terminal illness.

George believed deeply in the vision and the mission of the association which he served for his entire adult life with passion and unbounded devotion. He was actively involved in all the Association’s activities and worked tirelessly for their success.  It is important to mention that George spent most of his childhood in and around the Association’s events due to the fact that several members of his family were amongst the founders of the Association (which will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year).  It was therefore not unusual that George followed in the footsteps of the founders and continued their work and service for the Messinians of South Australia.

For many years George served on the Management Committee of the Association having held the position of President and Treasurer.  But George also believed in community engagement and lent his support to the recreational and cultural activities of the Messinian Association.  In the late 80’s this led George to become a player with the Messinian Association Soccer club, the MA Hawks. Passionate about soccer both on and off, George was known to his team members as ‘Chichi Mendes’ a name given to him because of his audacious display as the right full back for the MA Hawks. After a few years with the Soccer Club, George focussed his attention on his son Kosta’s soccer path, but always would swing past the ground if there was a home game.  Later he continued his work through his role as a committee member for the MA Hawks and played an instrumental role in organizing the MA Hawks 30th anniversary event last year.

George was behind the idea to create a Messinian Dance School and on his instigation the Messinian Dance School was established in 2007.  Today our dance group has grown into one of the largest Greek Dance groups in SA participating in many community festivals showcasing our Greek culture and honouring our Messinian heritage.

The Messinian Association pays tribute to the life and service of George Mantis.  His passing leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of many Messianians, from his fellow Committee Members, former team members, the volunteers, the Ladies Auxiliary and his friends.

Loved by all he will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

Adelaide Greeks Community Club

Message from the President: 60th Anniversary 4th of October 2019

Our journey began on the 24th September 1959 when three friends Vasilis Plemenos, George Mantis and Angelos Bouzalas printed and circulated at the Greek Kaffenia and outside the Greek Orthodox churches the first invitation calling upon all the Messinians of Adelaide to a meeting for the purpose of forming a Messinian Syllogo.

60 years ago today, that is, on the 4th October 1959, Adelaide’s Messinians came together for a meeting at the classroom of the Greek School next to the “Taxiarchis” Greek Orthodox Church in Franklin Street, Adelaide to approve the establishment of the Messinian Brotherhood of South Australia and to elect a temporary five member committee for the purpose of preparing a Constitution for approval at the next meeting of the newly formed Messinian Brotherhood of South Australia. 

The Constitution was changed at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 28 July 1985 to reflect the change of name from Messinian Brotherhood to the Messinian Association of South Australia Incorporated (“the Association”) for which it is still known by today. 

On the 19 July 1987 at a General Meeting the Association took over the former Adelaide High School soccer team and renamed it the Messinian Hawks Football Club adopting a uniform with similar colours as worn by the Kalamata Football Team.

It was through the inspiration and instigation of our beloved dear friend and member, the late George Mantis that the Messinian Greek Dance School of SA. was officially established at a General Meeting on 19 August 2007.  

Today, the marking of 60 years is a chance for us to remember the hard work of all our members and volunteers and to reflect on the journey so far.  

The challenge for us now is to continue their good work and to uphold our Messinian traditions and transfer those to the younger generations.  We pay tribute to our members and volunteers, past and present, who have worked tirelessly over the past 60 years for the benefit and continued presence of the Association and them then for their selfless devotion and continued support.  

We are proud of this milestone anniversary celebration and extend our heartfelt thank you to all those who have made this amazing journey possible.

Martha Ioannides President