CON’S STORY: His legacy lives on in print
WHEN Con Souvlis AM arrived in Hervey Bay some 60 years ago, he didn’t see a sleepy seaside town.
He saw opportunity and major business potential.
This World War II veteran had worked hard and made wise investments since making it home from Papua New Guinea and built up a real estate and business empire in Hervey Bay.
Here he stayed until he passed away peacefully at Baycrest Retirement Village in June 2018, aged 92.
From the time he was a paperboy on the streets of Perth, the Hervey Bay businessman and philanthropist had dreamt of owning his own newspaper.
In 1982, that dream became a reality when he took over the diminishing Hervey Bay Observer with co-owners Adrian Daniel and Peter Carey.
Toni McRae, a much-loved former editor of the Hervey Bay Observer and dear friend of Mr Souvlis, documented his colourful life and times in a biography titled King Con before her sudden death in 2014.
Ms McRae wrote that owning the Hervey Bay Observer was “one of the pinnacles in Con’s flotsam-jetsam career”.
Mr Souvlis looked hard at the defunct Observer and said to himself: “If I get a page from Scarness, a page from Torquay and a page from Urangan and one from Pialba, I can run this and make money,” he said in an extract from the book.
“I had my shop too and figured if I could get two to three big firms to give me ads I could make the paper pay at 20 pages.
“I worked very hard and had some excellent staff and a few who weren’t so good.
“One journalist I used to have to chase down at the pubs in town, buy him a beer and then say, ‘OK, let’s go back to work’.
“We did it tough many times and we worked very long hours. I’m proud of the paper I had a hand in saving.”
At the same time, Mr Souvlis also started a sister paper called The Times in Maryborough, which hit the streets each Wednesday.
“We amalgamated The Times and the Observer and called it the Observer Times, printing a Wednesday and Friday edition,” he said.
The paper was renamed the Hervey Bay Observer, publishing on a Friday until Mr Souvlis sold his papers to the Maryborough-Hervey Bay Newspaper Company.
They were publishing the Fraser Coast Chronicle daily and The Sun on a Wednesday. The Sun and Observer eventually merged but retained the Observer masthead while still publishing twice a week.
The Observer ceased printing in January 2018.
Earlier on, at a time when Hervey Bay’s population was only about 3000, Mr Souvlis’s lifelong determination and foresight led him to move into business in Hervey Bay, where he began work with Wal Pavey, gaining his real estate licence in 1959.
He then branched out to have his own real estate business in Torquay, called The Hub, recognising the area’s enormous growth potential. From here, he established the Torquay Colour Centre, selling paints, electrical and cement, from what was more recently the Richardson and Wrench real estate offices.
This was the start of things to come, with his current Betta Electrical store being the longest-standing of its kind in the area. Even after his newspaper days, his Betta Electrical business was a major supporter of the Fraser Coast Chronicle and its sister papers.
Mr Souvlis was the instigator of many humorous store campaigns, with the story being told in these publications. His dedication to the Hervey Bay community and the rich history he created with his local newspapers will live on.