Roaming the CBD streets of Adelaide you soon notice a one-word sign on the facades of dozens of city buildings: POLITES. Given Adelaide’s image as a well-mannered, polite society, I thought maybe they are an injunction to the good burghers to remain so. But nuh, grammatically it doesn’t work as an imperative. The background story is other.
Constantine George Polites was born in 1919 in Port Pirie to Greek immigrants, in very modest circumstances. By constant (oh yeah) wheeling & dealing, King Con built a property portfolio across the city centre in the 1960s-1970s, possibly even buying and selling a property a day for thirteen years. And thenceforth he enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, including a Rolls Royce for each day of the week.
Con must have cut a dashing figure with his 70s big moustache, and enjoyed his well-earned creature comforts, as he related in later life. Apparently the sign fetish wasn’t an ‘ego thing’ – he just liked some recognition for working so hard. A new slant on having your name up in lights perhaps.
He died in 2001 and the properties passed on to his family, who obviously still like seeing their name up in lights. It creates a weird Orwellian atmosphere, but it does make Adelaide different from our bland Westfield-style city centres elsewhere in the wide brown land. Indeed plans may be afoot to heritage-list every Polites building.
Since his father’s passing, son George seems to have gotten into a heavy family feud with a cousin Markus. Coincidentally shots were fired at George’s house in 2011, acid bombing of cars, death threats, and in 2016 Con’s grave was excavated by police to reveal a dead cat in a pet carrier there. Definitely not polite stuff!
SA, as they call it, is another country. Visited a few months ago between state lockdowns, it has inspired other essay (hmm) musings to follow soon.