Melbourne as you knew it: Chris Macheras shares nostalgic memories of migrants’ past

Melbourne’s colourful modern history comes alive with every page turn in Chris Macheras’ second instalment of Old Vintage Melbourne.

Old Vintage Melbourne, 1960-1990 steps a little further forward in time from its predecessor, looking at the immigrant communities, Aussies legends and industries that transformed the city into a melting pot of cultures.

Macheras first venture into print proved a great success, with his book full of curated vintage gems dating as far back as the 1800s flying off the shelves.

While it was fascinating to look back through the lens of time into the 19th century, the industrial relations lawyer, artist and self proclaimed history enthusiast heard a yearning for something more familiar.

“With the first book, the old photos were mostly from the State Library, so what I like about this second book is that many of the photos were donated by people. They were photos given to me from photographers or locals. They’ve never been seen by the public before,” Macheras told Neos Kosmos.

“I found that people were really engaging with memories of their childhood and the communities they grew up in. That’s why I wanted to focus more on those elements in the second book and so the focus is on 1960 to 1990.”


Louis and Vicki Bacolas (1978) (Chris’ Yiayia and Pappou). Photo: Supplied/Chris Macheras

Bursting with colour, the new book shares familiar memories of the first Greek milk bars, the first Italian espresso machines that our Mediterranean neighbours brought along with them, Australian made automobiles and of course, the first 24 hour Kmart.

“It was a really interesting few decades in Melbourne, because we had changes like mass European and Asian migration. And that contributes and changes so much in terms of culture, food, music, politics and fashion.”

Macheras has his own favourite photos, namely those that point to the Greek immigrant experiences.

“This was my chance to put my grandparents’ story in. I’ve got a photo of them from the 70s and then a present day photo. I wanted to immortalise their story. So that’s important,” he said.

Greek Easter in Bentleigh (1975). Photo: Supplied/Chris Macheras

Our parents’ and grandparents’ stories are reflected in snapshots of decades past, with familiar tableaus of hopeful young Southern Europeans who came to find something different, something special in a far off land.

“Another photo I love is on page 66. It’s a group of local Aussies on a boat, in Sorrento I believe, and there’s a ship passing them by. It’s from 1969. And it’s actually the Castel Felice which was a migrant ship, which transported over 100,000 immigrants to Australia; Greek, Italian, European migrants.”

“And I guess the locals are probably completely unaware that it’s full of people that are migrating, who don’t speak English. They’re coming from their place of origin and they’re setting up a new life here,” Macheras explained.

Lonsdale Street Greek Precinct (1985). Photo: Supplied/Chris Macheras

Adorning the pages are also local Greek-Australian fixtures of the community; people who set up businesses and became cornerstones of our growing community.

“There’s an aerial shot looking across Victoria Parade and down the bottom, there’s a big building with Greek writing on it that says ‘nyfika’ or something along those lines. It was the Hioni Photo Studio, where they took the photos of all our grandparents on their wedding day.”

“It was across the road from the first Greek Orthodox Church of Victoria ‘The Holy Church of The Annunciation of Our Lady’, so everyone would go there for their photos,” Macheras said.

Australians watching the Castel Felice Migrant ship enter Sail past on its way to Port Phillip Bay (1969). Photo: Supplied/Chris Macheras

Parthenon backdrops and ancient columns are icons in our family photo albums, now scattered all over Melbourne.

Today, Macheras is able to give greater insight into the story of the man behind the camera in his book, with the help of the photographer’s grandson, who just so happens to follow Old Vintage Melbourne on social media.

Macheras’ audience has been enamoured by curated vintage gems since June 2020, when he launched his Instagram page @oldvintagemelbourne. After the launch of the first book born of a booming social media following, Australian icons began reaching out to share their own snippets of history.

Northland (1967). Photo: Supplied/Chris Macheras

“It’s pretty special that Tottie Goldsmith, who is Olivia Newton John’s niece, sent me a family photo,” he said.

Pattie Newton, also got in touch with Macheras after the launch of the first book, sharing that before Australia’s beloved media personality Bert Newton passed, he had placed Old Vintage Melbourne on his Christmas wish list.

“She was really upset that he never got a chance to see it, but she ended up giving me a photo to put into this book of her and Bert from 1967. So these interactions are pretty special. To know that someone who is a really prominent person in Melbourne is seeing this work and is interacting with me is really cool,” Macheras said.

Chris Macheras holding the new book. Photo: Supplied/Chris Macheras

As Macheras looks on as his readers soak up yet another timeless curation of photographs, the cogs are spinning in his head for part three. A new theme is on the way, but what it might be… he won’t let on.

You can uncover more of these special photographs in the Old Vintage Melbourne, 1960 – 1990 book which can be found at scribepublications.