Friday, October 18, 2013

Remember Greeks in Greece at Holiday time!

The Holiday Season lets us consider what we can do to help others, instead of falling for the crazy commercialism swirling around us. I am "downsizing" to move into a smaller place and constantly wondering, "Why do I have this (fill in the blank)?"

St. Basil's Church supports both it's own parish family and wonderful outside programs like the One Warm Coat Foundation, the local Emergency Food Bank, and the Salvation Army's Angel Tree. That is so cool. When I was a kid we didn't have that kind of focus -- which goes to show how the Greek-American Community  has not only grown, but has real impact beyond gyro sandwiches and yalaktoboureko. There is great pride both in being Greek and being part of the larger community. Opa!

But have we forgotten someone? How about the Greeks in Greece?

Have we followed the bitter facts of their situation beyond news of bail-outs/no bailouts or corruption in Greek politics? Things may seem a bit stabilized on an international level, but too many Greeks are jobless (27%) and no longer have access to healthcare, depending on underground clinics or other emergency resources. Senior citizens are going without their medications (or begging for money in the streets, true story). Who is at fault? Certainly not the growing number of children who are going to school hungry.  Seriously...these are real people we are talking about!

And some of those people are our relatives. Do we know how they are doing?  Have we sent them something they might need, even a cash gift to lift them up?  Or have we joined the smug chorus of critics that casts blame and heaps ridicule on people who have no control over the situation?

Many Greek-Americans nationally are helping (see: Project Hope for Greece). Now the Holidays provide a great opportunity to do our part to help Greeks in Greece.  If we can't be proud of Greece fulltime through thick and thin, then what exactly is the point of Greek pride? Just sayin'...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Palace Candy Store & Fountain/Restaurant

It's hard to document details of life for Stockton Greek-Americans early/mid 20th Century without pictures of buildings inside and out as well as of people.  My September Stockton stay included pestering friends/relatives for old photos.  Thanks to everyone who helped! 

Courtesy of The Haggin Museum
Good information tracing family movement through the years is available in old City Directories found at the public library.  But when you get a lead on an old family address, that home or business may simply no longer exist -- like the Palace Candy Store & Fountain/  Restaurant, which was located at 216 Main Street a few doors down from what became the Fox (now the Bob Hope) Theater. My Papou George Sarris was the cook, with candy-making duties.  Think See's Candies of Stockton...

Jane & Kathy w/Aunt Libby
The Palace was owned by Bill and Sophia Demakopoulos (my Papou's sister).  They had 5 children -- Evelyn, Jimmy, Demie, Nick and Georgia -- and last lived at 320 W.  Poplar before moving to Santa Cruz.  The children also eventually moved away except for Dr. Nick Demas, who married Lilla ("Ginger" from Georgia). They had 2 daughters, Kathy and Jane.  Kathy got the call; did she have any photos of the Palace? She had one, with  her Papou and uncle Demie standing outside. The sign in the window says, "A complete dinner 50 cents."

Demie & Bill Demakopoulos
The same photo turned up a few days later in Aptos (Santa Cruz) where I happily visited with Connie Mellis, daughter-in-law of Evelyn Mellis and now the matriarch of that side of the clan.  Appointments with Bill Maxwell (Archive Manager, Bank of Stockton) and Todd Ruhstaller (CEO/Curator of History @ The Haggin Museum) turned up 2 downtown photos from the early 20's with the Palace sign clearly visible.

I have dreamy memories of visiting the Palace as a child -- allowed into Papou's inner sanctum and then to eat lunch (roast turkey with a scoop of mashed potatoes cradling delicious brown gravy) along with my Mom in one of the booths. That was a little girl's most favorite thing. 

But the business closed down around 1952...and I have no pictures of that kitchen or those booths or the candy room upstairs where Yiayia Sarris worked boxing bonbons after Hilda had dipped them in chocolate. Does anyone out there have any photos of the inside of the Palace Candy Store & Fountain/Restaurant to share?  There is a reward!