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What is polites?
I was visiting Adelaide recently and a strange thing came to my attention as I walked the city streets. In every direction I looked, I could see ‘Polites’ signs mounted on city buildings. The longer I looked, the more of them I could see. All sorts of buildings from small shops to office towers, motels, night clubs and warehouses were adorned with those blue-and white Polites signs. What did Polites mean? I had to find out….
A little bit of research revealed that Polites was the name of Adelaide’s most successful property tycoon. Whenever he purchased a city building, Constantine George Polites would immediately erect a sign to indicate the building’s ownership. The end result was a city emblazoned with hundreds of blue and white Polites signs. In particular, Hindley Street can boast the greatest concentration of this unusual form of signage. It all goes to demonstrate the dominance of one man on the South Australian capital.
Con Polites was born in 1919 at Port Pirie to Greek farming parents. After growing up in poverty, he left school and set up a deli-snack bar at the age of 16. He then moved to Adelaide at 19 and worked as a general hand at Woolworths in Rundle Street before starting a number of businesses in Adelaide. After moving to Sydney for a few years to get married, Polites returned to Adelaide and made his first real-estate purchase in 1959. It all just ballooned from there, apparently.
But what was the motivation for the signage?
In 1992, Con Polites told The Advertiser that he had always wanted to have his name up in lights, but that it was not an ego thing. “It’s to do with a feeling of satisfaction that one has achieved success…I just feel proud that I have achieved these things…And you let people know that you are around. That’s all” he was quoted as saying.
After a lifetime of buying property, making money and erecting as many blue signs as he could, Con Polites died in 2001 at the age of 82. He was fondly remembered as a generous man, keen to help the needy. His son now manages the real-estate business, called the Polites Princes Group. Several dozen blue and white Polites signs survive him.
References and Further Information
Hackett, P. (1992) Making a name. Adelaide Advertiser, 8 August.
Lloyd, P. (1995) How to make millions by Con Polites. Adelaide Advertiser, 14 January.
Pengelley, J. & Kemp, M. (2001) From pauper to king of the Princes Group. Adelaide Advertiser, 25 September, p.19
Turner, J. (2001) Con farewelled in style. Adelaide Advertiser, 28 September, p.23
You can see some more Polites signs on Belinda Bohlken’s website.
Apology to George Polites
I am the webmaster of this site. Unfortunately, certain reader comments were recently posted on this page which were false and misleading and gratuitously offensive. Those comments were also defamatory of Mr. George Polites.
I have removed those comments and have taken steps to ensure that neither those comments nor any similar comments will be published in the future. I would like to sincerely apologise to Mr. Polites for any concern or damage caused.
Adam Dimech, 25 July 2009