Long term Coober Pedy residents will know parents Nick and Linda Farantouris who owned and operated “Opal Country” opal and jewellery shop in Hutchison Street, next door to Dr. Sotnik’s medical rooms for many years.
The Farantouris family have their own history in Coober Pedy from1962 and until 2006 when the family moved across to Whyalla, but stayed involved in the opal industry.
Nick originally came to Coober Pedy in 1962 and was predominently an opal buyer a classer and a cutter. He was one of the first opal classers in the 60s. In 1967 Linda arrived in Coober Pedy as an American tourist, and after meeting Nick the rest became history.
The Farantouris’ opened their shop Opal Country in 1991. Between them Nick and Linda raised their family travelling between Adelaide and Coober Pedy as did many families back then.
Another enterprise of Nick and Linda’s was that they owned Radekas Backpackers with partners Frank and Chris Tassoni. They later sold it to Doug, Jeanette, Tony and Evelyn.
Son Nicko took to opal like a duck to water and had his first opal shop in Mobil (these days it’s Caltex) that he operated for a few years. He divided his time between his own his own shop and Radekas to help his parents.
After leaving Coober Pedy in 2004, Nicko went to Adelaide and became a wholesaler, continuing on with opal and cutting. Nicko then began travelling and participating in trade shows in America and also in Vietnam. Together with a group of friends Nicko put on the first opal trade show in Vietnam, and continued the shows for the following 4 years.
Nicko told the Coober Pedy Regional Times that he’d had his eye on the Old Timer’s Mine for some time and believed it was a Coober Pedy icon.
“I didn’t want a main street spot, but I do want to carry on my family’s name and tradition, and I am proud to carry on the Gough legacy,” said Nicko.
“I also hope to bring something fresh to Coober Pedy, as well as return “home”. A lot of my best friends are here,” he said.
“The Old Timer’s Mine itself is a window through time to the days of old.
The Old Timer’s Mine is an original opal mine dating back to 1916. For some reason, still unknown to this day, some old time miners had back-filled the shafts, hiding the mine below.
They never returned to dig up the opal.
It wasn’t until 1968 that the hidden mine was accidentally discovered when an underground home extension broke through, revealing the wealth of opal, which is still there for you to see today.”
Outgoing owner Jenny Gough was beaming as she handed over the keys to Nicko. She said she felt relieved. “It has been so much hard work. I can retire at last”, she said.
Jenny said there is a presence in the mine so hopes that the new owners have a respectful relationship with “it”!
Jenny said, that in the early days they were mining at the 9 mile and coming home with nothing, and without knowing it, sleeping on opal for over 20 years as we didn’t have the money to develop it.
“When Ron and I were having our second baby we decided to put in another bedroom, and we broke through into the mine,” she said.
“Rod Wells and his wife Annie were partners with us at that time and together we opened it up and developed the mine”.
“We found papers dated 1916 and figured the miners had meant to come back, but for some reason they didn’t.”
“We had an opening of the Old Timer’s Mine on 22 July 1988, and so as we made money we made improvements. It’s been a lot of hard work.”
“Friends donated mining machinery and a drill, and everyone helped to make the OTM a place for Coober Pedy’s history.”
“My family is pleased as well, particularly as it has gone to an opal mining family.”
“We all wish Nicko and his familywell as his is now in charge of an important piece of Coober Pedy’s history”, said Jenny. [By Margaret Mackay]