1960 & 1970

The Rethymno Touring Club, founded in 1958, not only organized the Festival of Cretan Wine, leaving its mark on the era, but was also the pioneer of the post-war Rethymnian Carnival.

The Touring Club, composed of a group of active citizens of Rethymno led by Kostas Manouras, Kostas Kanas, Olga Daskalaki, and others, started pulling the strings to awaken the city from a winter lethargy filled with morbidity, just as the world began to get back on its feet.

Kostas Kanas, the President of the Touring Club and the soul of the Rethymnian Carnival for many years. (Rethymno Touring Club Archive)

And on February 2, 1960, the newspapers read: "Last Sunday afternoon, a broad meeting was held at the municipal building under the chairmanship of Mr. Evangelos Nisianakis, president of the Municipal Council, on the organization of the Carnival in our city during the upcoming Carnival holidays on the 27th and 28th of this month. The meeting was attended by the president of the Rethymno branch of the Greek Touring Club, Mr. Konstantinos Manouras, the president of the tourist association Mr. Dimitrios Dafermos, and Mr. G. Tsouderos, G. Kounoupas, G. Maragkakis, Emm. Astrinos, Char. Pramateutakis, Emm. Voyatzakis, Takis Apostolou, Vas. Papavassiliou, Ioannis Tzelis, and the ladies Olga Daskalaki and Evrydiki Kounoupa of the Touring Club. The meeting decided to organize a Carnival by the Touring Club in cooperation with the Tourist Association and with financial support from the Municipality and the Touring Club. To this end, the Municipality voted to allocate the amount of 5,000 drachmas and will ask those who are able to contribute to the success of the festival to support this effort as much as possible.

The turtle pulling Rethymno. A float from the first carnival of 1960. (Rethymno Touring Club Archive)

This carnival was warmly received, and all Rethymnians gave their best for its organization to be as successful and perfect as possible. The Lyceum of Greek Women was among the first institutions to embrace this new tradition. With great enthusiasm, it constructed its float themed "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A float from the first carnival of 1960. (Rethymno Touring Club Archive)

The "Wild Men" float. From the first carnival of 1960. (Rethymno Touring Club Archive)

The Carnival Queen of 1960 as the emerging Aphrodite. (Rethymno Touring Club Archive)

The float was constructed with the help of the Touring Club members and was the first to open the parade of 1960. Among the leaders was Eleni Papadogianni with her Home Economics School, dressing the students as majorettes, and she herself was involved in every sleepless night of preparation. The Rethymno Philharmonic also contributed its musical touch to the carnival, as there was no sound coverage back then. It led the Carnival, setting the tone for frenetic dancing and singing.
Those evenings, in the hall of Saint Francis where the floats were constructed, were bustling. All Rethymnians passed by, mostly out of curiosity, to see what was happening. And everyone helped. Some brought food to treat the builders, others helped with painting the floats, some added wood to the stove, others ran errands...

Thus, on Sunday, February 28, 1960, we have the first organized Rethymnian Carnival, with the presence of many carnival-goers and floats. For the first time, handmade floats, costumes, masks, and decorations were presented.

King Carnival with Markos Gioubakis in the role of a jester. (Rethymno Touring Club Archive)

The newspaper “Cretan Review” specifically mentioned on the eve of the 1960 Carnival: "The King of laughter will greet the people sitting on a throne of unimaginable splendor and wealth, surrounded by his courtiers and his numerous entourage. The float of the Carnival will astonish with its glory and beauty. Never has the Carnival sat on such a throne. The Carnival Queen, a true goddess of beauty and charm, emerging as a genuine Aphrodite, will seem like a dream among the opened scallop shell. Her beauty will enchant. The décor will be dreamlike. These two carnival floats alone are enough to give the Rethymno Carnival of 1960 a leading edge. The ' turtle' float is a very juicy symbol that those who see it and can delve into its deeper meaning will feel obliged to urge the turtle and... themselves. The 'Wild Men' float is a lively and very descriptive scene we encounter daily in life, with the only difference being the costumes and décor. 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' is something dreamily beautiful and majestic, only that, as we heard whispered among the drivers, they will not be given the right to register in the Large Families Association to pay.. a full fare for its movement. These are three more of the wonderful floats of the Rethymnian Carnival that will honor our city."

The famous "heads," leading the way in the early carnivals. (Rethymno Touring Club Archive)

Composer Babis Pramateutakis also left his mark on the carnival, but from the architect's perspective. Petousakis and Apostolou, however, had the general command, because whatever their eyes saw, their hands could create. One of the most famous floats inspired by Babis Pramateutakis was the turtle float, symbolizing the progress of culture in the country and the city. A notable detail was the use of a "bic" pen instead of a spear, a product that had just been released. The "gondola" float also left a mark with its elegance.
Giorgis Deligiorgis, the sponsor of the turtle float, whose shop in Tessaron Martiron square became historic because the balcony, usually used as a platform in central pre-election rallies, was where the Carnival's proclamations and counter-proclamations took place.

The majorettes parade in Tessaron Martiron square at the 1961 carnival. (Rethymno Touring Club Archive)

Another citizen, Vangelis Stefanakis, was in high demand in the workshops constructing the floats. He specialized in making the huge papier-mâché heads, a process far from easy that required great skill and a mathematical mind to calculate dimensions. He made about 17 heads that framed the Carnival parades for several editions. Unfortunately, they were destroyed when the Touring Club's warehouse burned down along with much other valuable museum material.

Markos Gioubakis, the unforgettable librarian of the Rethymno Library, always found ways to bring laughter to the carnival parades as the jester of King Carnival. No one who lived those times can forget the "night jar" and the "sausages." And of course, for many years, the imposing Lefteris Koronakis was the King Carnival.
No one who has lived through them can forget the "chamber pot" and the "sausages". And of course, as King Carnival, for many years was the imposing Lefteris Koronakis.

The Municipal Philharmonic leads the parade on Arkadiou street in 1961. (Kosmas Perpyrakis Archive)

Kostas Kanas was another significant figure from the Touring Club who tirelessly worked for the Carnival's success, with valuable collaborators and fellow travelers in his effort like Thanasis Markantonis, Iliakis, Stavros Koronakis, Stergios and Vasilis Psycharakis, Fotis Markoulakis, Stelios and Manolis Tzirakis, the unique and unforgettable Kostis Tzagkaroulis with his wonderful ideas, Angelogiannakis, Birikos, Theodosopoulos, Nikos Angelakis, Giannis Fotopoulos, Serlis, Manos Astrinos, and many others. Eleni Tournopetraki was also tirelessly involved in the organization, not lifting her head from the needle to meet the deadline for the costumes. And so many others, anonymous and famous, each contributing their own signature to these first carnivals.

The King Carnival King in front of the bookstore of Deligiorgi in the 4 Martyrs where the address and the antiphon was held. (Archive of the Kana household)

A valuable source for the cultural elements of each era were the pronouncements and dissenting voices of Carnival. Texts were written by excellent scholars such as Arcadios Pigaios and Stelios Kantartzis.

1963 was a bad financial year for Rethymno. The EOT did not give the money it had promised for the Carnival. The Municipality gives 10,000 drachmas, but the amount is not enough to cover all the expenses. That is why, through the press, an announcement is made by the Carnival Committee calling on wealthy citizens as well as associations and clubs to contribute financially to achieve the goal. The statement has a 'threatening' tone and warns that if the money is not raised the Carnival will not take place.

The same happens in 1965. The GNTO does not contribute to the costs of the Carnival, so the Touring Club alone builds only one float and with a few masqueraders makes fun of and ridicules the GNTO. Unfortunately, the Municipal Philharmonic did not participate in the parade either, since, as the Cretan Review notes, 'The parade of the masqueraders the day before yesterday would have been more artistic if it had been preceded by the Municipal Philharmonic. Unfortunately, however, the conductor did not accept because "he had to be paid for it". And even the refusal of the chief conductor came after and contrary to the assurance of the Mayor that the philharmonic would participate in this event".

Chariot from the carnival of 1961. (Archive of the Rethymnon Touring Club)

However, the economic poverty of 1965, as well as the volatile political climate of the time, did not prevent the Rethymno Hunting Club from organizing the first in its history carnival dance in the hall of the Conservatory. The dance was a great success, as reported by the newspaper 'Kritiki Epistevisi'. "The commercial world of our town willingly gave abundant gifts and the lottery of the dance which was rich and became even richer with the abundant hunting and was offered by hunting friends for the dance. The buffet was rich and not expensive, the music lively and excellent as always helped to create unprecedented fun until the early hours of the morning. All dances, old and new, were danced with great enthusiasm. Many representatives of our commercial and industrial world, as well as teachers, employees and workers in general, were present, along with their families, who kept the fun going until the end.

Carnivalists with "heads" at the statue of the Unknown Soldier in 1962. (Archive of the Rethymnon Touring Club)

Text: Nikos Deredakis.