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Alexandros Firos - lucky survivor of a shop fire

Alexandros Firos was born on 10 January 1894 to Ioannis Firos of Theodoros and Erini Protopsalti of Ioannis in Mitata. He was 5’2 1/2” tall with dark hair and brown eyes. He was able to converse in English a little and his reading and writing were limited.

He arrived in Australia on 2 December 1910 as a teenage boy aboard a German Steamer and was now known as Alexander John Feros.

It is believed he spent some years in Sydney between 1911 and 1915 and during that time the first newspaper article referring to him was published on the 27 May 1914. The article refers to a fire in a confectionery shop belonging to Alexander Feros at 37 Oxford Street Sydney. Alexander, his cousin and two female employees, were asleep upstairs when one of the women woke up with suffocating feelings. She quickly woke the other women then both women woke the men. The men were in a different room to the women, who had to burst into the room and drag the men out. They managed to wake Alexander, the proprietor of the shop, who was deaf. The cousin was harder to wake. The women screamed “get up or you’ll be burnt”, the cousin said “alright”, then rolled over and went back to sleep. He did this twice before the women physically dragged him out of bed. The men were suffering signs of smoke inhalation. The four of them threw overcoats over their shoulders, climbed out the window and on to the awning and waited there until they were rescued. The damage to the shop was about £500. It is believed the fire started in the basement where they made their own confectionery.

The confusing part of this story is that the cousin’s name was also Alexander Feros! The story was reported in many, many, newspapers and only one article mentioned the cousin’s name was also Alexander Feros. The others did not mention a name at all. Also, there was another fire in the basement of the same shop in January 1916, also owned by Alexander Feros. It can be assumed that Alexander John Feros was the cousin in the 1914 newspaper article.

Around about 1914, 1915 or 1916, Alexander moved to Mullumbimby and bought the White Australia Café in Burringbar Street. It later became Feros & Co trading with his brother Vasilios. They sold this business to Samios & Co. in October 1921. It is believed Alexander remained in Mullumbimby until 1922.

13 May 1918 Alex and his brother Basil register a fruit and oyster saloon business in Mullumbimby.

In about 1922, Alexander moved to Sydney and about 1923 he had a 1/16th share of Loosen’s Café at 174 King Street Sydney valued at £1000. In 1926 Alexander was naturalized and was living at the same address. Anastasios and Charles Caponas, John and Nicholas Psaltis and Alexander and his brother Basil Feros owned this café. In April 1926, Anastasios Caponas retired from the firm and left the other men to continue with the partnership.

This was a huge shop where Cosma Psaltis had a wedding reception with around 500 guests. The size of the shop led to its huge success. Unfortunately, the size of the business was to also be its downfall. Loosen’s Café was a very early victim of the Depression. On Saturday 25 October 1930, bailiffs entered the café at lunchtime and closed the doors for the final time. Customers finished their meals and left. Staff wept. All tables, crockery, cutlery, linen etc was removed by that night. The building was turned into Macquarie Miniature Golf Links. It is possible the Feros brothers were no longer partners at the time of the collapse.

Sometime after the decline of Loosen’s Café, Alexander and his brother Basil moved to Lismore to run a fruit shop. They did not seem to be there for very long. In 1930 Alexander lived at 17 Kellet Street Darlinghurst and was a waiter. Further records show between 1931-1933 he had moved to 172a Church Street Parramatta and was by that time a fruiterer.

In 1934 he married Thelma Thirlwell in Sydney. Thelma was born in 1911 to Jack and Minnie Thirlwell in Lithgow. They remained married for 41 years. They had no children.

Wedding of Alexander and Thelma in Paddington - image from State Library of NSW Hood Collection part II : [Weddings and wedding breakfasts, (including society and wartime weddings)]

When he applied for his Australian citizenship on 5 January 1926 he was living in Sydney but from this time, he and his wife seemed to have moved around quite a lot. In 1935 it appears he and his brother Basil relocated back to Lismore and were working at 43 Magellan Street Lismore as fruiterers, but by 1937 Alexander and wife Thelma were living in East Street Nowra. From 1936 to 1937 they were living at 52 Northumberland Street, Annandale and he was a shopkeeper. By 1943 they were living and working at 726 Parramatta Road Petersham, where once again Alexander was referred to as a shop owner. They remained there until 1949. Before 1958 they moved, literally around the corner, to 2/9 Station Street Petersham. They stayed at that address until their deaths.

Signature of Alexander Feros from his naturalisation application National Archives of Australia NAA: A1, 1926/1623

Alexander passed away on 2 May 1975 at his home in Station Street from a heart attack, aged 81. He was cremated at Rookwood Crematorium on 5 May 1975. His wife Thelma passed away in 1983 and his brother Basil in 1984.


Church of Latter Day Saints,

National Archives of Australia

Australian National Library - Trove

New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages

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Apr 12, 2023

That looks like my dad holding the candle. He came to Sydney from Mitata Greece in 1927 to work at his uncle Alex’s cafe.

Amalia Samios
Amalia Samios
Apr 13, 2023
Replying to

Always glad to be if help. If you need anything just ask.

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