Around midnight 5 September 1939, a blaze started in the kitchen of the Sunshine Cafe in Pomona. The main street was soon alight. Despite the best efforts of what journalists dubbed ‘the bucket brigade’, ten premises were destroyed, resulting in £15,000 damage (Gympie Times 7 September 1939). By 1.30 am the whole block was a smouldering mass. Only the pub was left standing.
Brothers Jim, George and Paul Lathouras had taken over the Sunshine Cafe in Memorial Avenue in 1929 with Jim as proprietor. They renovated the shop so it was ‘up-to-date’ with confectionery, ice creams, sundaes, and soda fountain drinks. Fresh and fried fish were also on the menu along with choice fruit and Hutton’s smallgoods. Like many proprietors, Jim advertised Meals at All Hours and used the motto Cleanliness and Civility.
In 1933 Jim began manufacturing confectionery: chocolates, marshmallows, peanut toffee, coconut ice, jubes, caramels and such delicacies as snowflakes, coconut jacks, tutti frutti, and fruit jellies. That he used local cream and butter was of great benefit to local producers. The brothers had started out in Bundaberg working for their cousins who were celebrated confectioners. It is likely Jim learned the art of confectionery there.
After the fire, Lathouras brothers operated from a hall that was just around the corner. Then they built a new Sunshine Cafe building with an iconic Art Deco façade that still dominates the main street of Pomona. Jim had moved to Brisbane by this time so George, newly married, acquired the business and Paul took over Patrick’s Cafe in Gympie. He operated as Paul’s Cafe until 1947, when he moved to the Cool Corner Cafe in Maroochydore.
Greek cafes were the heart of their communities, perhaps because they were always open. The Pomona Fruit-Growers Association held Annual Meetings in the Sunshine Cafe, and couple had their wedding receptions there: the Brooks-Kidd wedding in 1940, for example, catered for 50 guests. To support the Diggers’ Fund, the cafe also hosted bridge, crib, and mah-jong evenings.
Queensland also had Sunshine Cafes in Caloundra, Gympie and Nambour, and Greek migrants owned most of them. The Lathouras family sold their shop in 1951 to the Comino family. It passed from Greek hands when Auriel and Laurie Tilney bought it. The Tilneys ran it for 25 years. The Sunshine Café in Pomona closed in 2009.
My thanks to the Noosa Shire Museum for the attached photograph and their help with this story. http://www.noosamuseum.org.au/