My father first came to the little island of Paxos in the early 1960’s – sailing around the Ionian islands with my mother and two friends. They only spent a few days on the island but my father was taken with the friendliness of the islanders, the simple lifestyle (no electricity and no cars in those days) and the island’s unspoilt, natural beauty.
Soon after this he left the BBC and started a package holiday company called Greek Islands Club, intended as a means to spend time on Paxos.
In the 1960’s visitors to Paxos could stay at the few simple rooms of the San Giorgio Hotel in Gaios, three rooms in the Gaios house of beautiful Eleni and the Paxos Beach Hotel, which had only just stopped being a Club Med cluster of straw huts.
With the help of Panagiotis Protogeros, my father persuaded the owners of five very old and very unlived-in houses, close to the Gaios waterfront, to lease them to Greek Islands Club for five years. Panagiotis was the only plumber on the island – he installed bathrooms inside the houses (a revolutionary move for Paxos). My father, mother and I brought out furniture and fabrics from England (many Land Rover journeys) to prepare the houses for holidaymakers wanting an out of the ordinary escape from Med resorts.
By the early 1970’s our Greek Islands Club Paxos programme had grown to 20 houses. No pools, no pretentious trappings and a lot of hard work, not made easy by the dictating military junta.
Aged 18, I looked after our Paxos programme while my father and mother ran the London office above a Wimpy Bar on The Strand. I have many fond memories of Paxos in the 1970’s – some of these memories I captured on film but sadly a suitcase containing all my Paxos photographs disappeared on a flight back to England.
A friend, Laurie Collard, was a frequent visitor to Paxos in the 1970’s and he took many photos of the island and the islanders. Some of his photos have been made into prints and were exhibited at the Loggos gallery (the old customs house next door to Taxithi Bar) a few years ago. I hold the originals and will put them up on our Facebook page over the next few months, for those who are interested in a glimpse into a 1970’s Paxos.
The photo reproduced in this blog shows Nicos Kangas (Tzekos) outside his Loggos shop. Nicos was our Loggos “agent” and worked tirelessly to make sure that every visitor to his island was treated and looked after as a friend. In the doorway is Spiros Mastoras, who ran a hardware store which is now the kitchen for Stelios’ Aste Doue tavern. They are both very much alive and in good spirits.