In 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt became president, I was almost six years old. With the Depression at that time, nearly everyone was poor. I had one pair of play shoes, one pair of Sunday shoes; a couple of pair of pants for play, and one or two good pants for Sundays; same with shirts and jackets. But we never knew just how bad the times were, because Mother always had food on the table. If you're not accustomed to bacon and eggs for breakfast, you don't miss them. Our parents made sacrifices. When they were in want, they kept it to themselves.
Our apartment above the store was nice. Every Sunday we had chicken fried in lard, with rice soup or noodle soup and homemade bread. Because of my father's store, we ate a little better than some at that time. When food was about to spoil, he would bring it to my mother or give it to a neighbor family.
One of our customers, a tall, elegant lady named Mrs. Schultz, once bought a soup bone with a lot of meat, made a meal for her family, then offered the bone to a neighbor woman with several children. "Do you think we are that damn poor?" yelled the irate woman. Mrs. Schultz was embarrassed, but then she gave it to another neighbor. "I didn't mean any harm," she told my dad, "but it seemed a sin to waste the bone, because there was still enough meat on it for another batch of soup." The people of that generation were very humble.
Another regular customer was a tall, lanky black man, Grandpa Blanks, probably seventy-five or eighty years old, descended from a Civil War slave. In overalls and walking with a cane, he would come to the store with some of the neighborhood black children. He'd make them wait outside while he bought groceries with his relief check, then my dad would give the children a piece of candy or gum. Grandpa Banks was a very good, humble old man. It was a pleasure to serve him. When he bought a lot of groceries, we'd deliver them to his house. He lived in a neighborhood of blacks, just one block of nice homes on both sides of the street, all relatives and friends.
My mother and aunts shopped at the downtown department stores, never talking during the streetcar ride. They didn't want Americans to know that they couldn't speak good English. Sometimes I went along to translate when they talked to a saleswoman. They knew what a dollar was, and they could decide whether to buy the item. They always "stayed in their place," never meddled, never talked politics. "Hello, how are you" and "thank you" were about the extent of their speaking in public places.
Whenever my father and mother visited relatives or friends, we children generally went with them. I always appreciated my parents taking us along, because we got to know our relatives and their friends. When Uncle Tom died in 1932, even at five years of age, I was very sad because I loved him so much. "George," my dad asked, "do you want to kiss Uncle Tom goodbye?" I said I did, so he lifted me up to the casket and I kissed Uncle Tom on his forehead. "Papa, his forehead is cold."
After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, my dad began selling beer and wine from a building next to his grocery store. One day I noticed a letter he received from a local politician. For every case he sold to the bootleggers, he had to pay some local politicians ten cents, to insure that he wouldn't have interference from the local excise police or even the state excise police. In those days, politicians controlled the American Legion and all the private clubs. There was no big money from manufacturers to underwrite the candidates.
Once a local excise policeman chastised my dad because the bootleggers buying his beer and wine were not contributing to the local Republican party, but to the state Democrats. "We want our piece of the pie, or there isn't going to be any pie."
Another time, our phone rang at four in the morning, and my dad woke us; "Go open the garage." His customer Carl Underwood was returning a truckload of beer because he heard the police were probably going to raid his place the next day.
My uncle Atanas Plastoff was a part-time bootlegger. One night when some friends were visiting, excise policemen came through the front door, accusing him of making and selling booze. In the kitchen they saw an almost-empty moonshine jug. "Here it is," one policeman said. "Here's the evidence. I'll have to arrest you. "That's nothing," my uncle told him. "Let me show you where everything is," and motioned to his back yard. As they were leaving the house, he whispered to his wife in Macedonian to rinse the jug with vinegar.
Once outside, he acted confused when the men asked to see his still. "Why are we out here? Still? I have no still. I must be losing my memory. I don't make whiskey." The men went back into the house, grabbed the jug, and smelled only vinegar. They cussed, but my uncle still insisted, "I have no whiskey. That's vinegar." Then after they left, he laughed and laughed.
As a youngster I got into a lot of trouble, especially with my dad. One time, when my mother and I were playing hide and seek, I guess I got tired of the game, so when I saw her go into our very small hallway closet to hide from me, I locked her in it and went downstairs to the store. As I was leaving, I could hear her knocking, "Georgie, open up!" She began banging on the door of that tiny closet. If she moved her head, I think she would have hit it on the shelf. About fifteen minutes later, my dad heard the thumping. "What's your mother doing upstairs?" "Oh, I forgot. We're playing hide and seek, and I locked her in the closet."
In 1934, when I was seven years old, the MPO national convention was held in Fort Wayne. The program included a play, "The Bloody Wedding," about Turks stealing and marrying Macedonian girls. My father had the role of a guerrilla in the play, so a friend loaned him a revolver and belt. He had it safely hidden on top of a tall piece of furniture. I knew it was there, so one day I jumped and jumped and finally pulled it down. I strapped the belt around my waist and unbuckled the gun from the holster, which hung down to my knees.
A neighborhood midwife or nurse, Mina, stayed with us one evening while my parents went out. Mina was sitting at the table facing me as I walked into the kitchen. I pointed the gun at her, "This is a stickup." She stood up and fainted, fell against the table and onto the floor. I got out of the room lickety-split, took off the holster, and threw it back up to the hiding place. Then I hid under my bed.
My sister, Marie, called our Mother and Dad. "Georgie pulled the revolver out and scared Mina to death. I don't know if she's still alive. Hurry home." By the time they arrived, Mina was coming out of her faint. My dad got a broomstick, because slapping or hitting me with a belt didn't work any more. He had to use a broomstick to make it really hurt. He took the broomstick and poked under the bed. I'd be in the corner, and he couldn't touch me. He'd move the bed, and I'd move with the bed to another corner. Every other word he said was a cussword, as he tried to hit me. He finally gave up and went back to the kitchen to apologize to Mina.
Marie attended the public Hamilton Grade School, but some Catholics told my dad that since they were most of his customers, he should send her to the Catholic school, St. Patrick's. He understood the economy real well, so she was transferred there, and then my brothers and I were also enrolled at St. Patrick's. We enjoyed the Catholic school and received a good education. I went there for all eight years of grammar school.
Every morning before class we would attend Mass, which lasted only about thirty minutes. But once after Mass ended and the altar boys started heading into the back area, Monsignor Monahan turned around: "Your attention! Sisters, I don't know what's going on today, but this was a very, very noisy service. I'm going to say Mass again, and I don't want to hear one pin drop." He went into the sacristy, maybe got a drink of water. Those nuns went to every pew, "Quiet! Monsignor's mad; don't make any noise!" He came back to the altar, said Mass in another thirty minutes, turned around and said, "Now that's the way it should be. You're excused." Then back in school, the nuns gave us hell. They were strict.
In second grade, our teacher told us that God created the world; on the first day he did this, and on the second day he did that, the third day, fourth day, on to the seventh day, when he rested. "That's why we go to church, to thank God." "Sister," I asked, "who made God?" She gave me all kinds of hell. "You don't ask that question. You have faith in God. You believe in God. You understand?" I didn't understand. Did he create himself? Where did he come from? But I was told never to ask that question again. I was probably one of the most mischievous kids in school, always getting into fights. In the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades, the eighth graders would pick fights for me, I guess because they liked my fighting style and the fact that I usually won.
I played sports at St. Pat's. At a basketball game in sixth grade, a guy from Cathedral School was roughing up our players. Our coach, John Cox, called me over. "Go in there," he said, "and push that big bully so he'll hit you and you'll both be thrown out of the game. I don't care what you have to do, rough him up, foul him, just get him out of the game." "OK, Coach." I grabbed a jump ball and held on to it. The bully, taller and bigger, swung his arms to cut off the jump. I jammed him, so he turned around and hit me, slammed me down. The referee called "Out!" I played a few more minutes, and the coach said, "You did a good job." Our team went on to win the game.
Father Duray was a Croatian priest at St. Patrick's, and I loved him. He coached football and basketball, a good disciplinarian and a great priest. Every time he'd see me in the school yard or even on the street, he'd say, "Dobro utro, George." I'd answer, "Hi, Father," but I didn't know what he was saying. Years later I realized that he was wishing me a good day.
My sister was a pretty good violin player. My father thought that I should also take violin lessons which was like telling - Al Capone to learn the violin. One year at the May recital, Marie played her violin and the other students played their instruments. Then I got up to play "Home on the Range" on my violin. Monsignor Monaghan was sitting in the front row with Father Duray and Father Adler. When I started playing, they all began laughing. How can this boy, the meanest kid in school, be out here in shirt and tie playing the violin? I finished and bowed, and they gave me a standing ovation - that I could be so talented.
By eighth grade, there were about four or five of us who were nice but could also be mean. If somebody wanted to fight, we'd fight. And do ornery things. One day our teacher, Sister St. Charles, called me and two of my friends, Richard Woenker and Russell Lothamer, to the front of the room and then hit us, "just to let you know I run this class. Now go sit down. I don't want to hear a peep out of you guys. Understand?" She scared us half to death. We couldn't hit her, but she could hit us.
She asked for volunteers to wipe the blackboards at recess, and we did it to try to get on her good side. "Georgie, come here," she said to me. "You go to the boiler room and tell Father Durey I want to see him. He's down there playing cards." I went to the boiler room, where Father Adler and Father Duray were in a card game with the custodian and another man. "Father Duray," I yelled, "Sister St. Charles wants you." "OK, I'll be there." When I went back to the room, she asked, "What were they doing? Playing cards? I thought so." I can imagine what she told him: all you guys do is play cards, while I'm stuck here with these kids.
Even during grade school, I worked at my father's store. One of his customers, a German Lutheran woman, asked me, "Georgie, what did you learn in school this week?" I said, "We were talking about Martin Luther. He was a bad priest, and he got excommunicated." She became so angry; "Teach your children not to talk about religion or politics," she told my dad. "You asked a question," he said, "and Georgie answered you."
Once when I was about twelve, our customer Mrs. Schultz came in the store and I waited on her. "Georgie," she whispered, "get me a box of Kotex." "OK," I said, and went to look for it but couldn't find it. I didn't know what it was. Finally I hollered from the breakfast section, "Mrs. Schultz, what kind of breakfast food is Kotex?" Everyone in the store started laughing. She turned pale, and my dad scolded me in Bulgarian, "The lady's embarrassed." I thought about that for so many years, but I never knew how to apologize to her.
Instead of celebrating birthdays, the Macedonian boys and men celebrated the feast day of their name saint. On that day the person would visit relatives or close friends, to be served old-country food, sweets, pork fries, biscuits fried in grease and sprinkled with sugar. Friends and relatives would talk about old times, drinking beer, whiskey, pop.
On Sundays during the summer, several Macedonian families went to the lake together. The children would swim, the older people would enjoy their food and drinks. At first we went to Blue Lake, then to Tri-Lakes for years, and then to Lake James, which had a nice pavilion. Lake James was for the "elite" people, but we would drive an hour or more to enjoy our Sundays there.
One time I wanted to go fishing at the lake, but my parents said no. I went out on our porch, which was about ten feet above the ground. "If you don't let me go, I'll jump off the porch and commit suicide," I told my mother. She was in the yard, yelling "Get your Dad!" My sister was screaming, the neighbors came out. "Either Papa lets me go fishing or I'm going to jump." If I had jumped I probably wouldn't have hurt myself. "What's the problem?" my dad asked when he came out of the store. "I want to go to the lake, but Momma won't let me. If I can't go, I'll jump." "Go ahead, who cares?" and walked back into the store. I knew I had to either jump or go in the house. I did, I went back inside the house.
Another time, when I was about twelve years old, I got mad at my dad, went upstairs and told my mom, "I'm going to run away. I don't want to stay here anymore." I started packing some stuff in a towel, tied it in a knot, and put it over my shoulder. I went downstairs and told her I didn't know when I would see her again. She started crying as my dad came in. "Where are you going?" he asked. "I'm leaving. I'm going to look for a better place." "Go ahead and go," he said. "Who cares?"
I walked through the yard to the back of the garage and sat down to think about where I could go. I must have been there for about an hour, then turned around and went back to the house. "You're back, you're back," my mother said. "No, I'm going to leave some other day. I won't leave today." She came over to me, "Give me a hug."
At about that age I began riding along on deliveries to the speakeasies. Jack Butz was our clerk and driver. "Come on, Georgie," he said. "You can ride shotgun" on a delivery to the Dixie restaurant in New Haven. He lifted me on top of sixty-four cases of beer so I could look out the back door. "Let me know if you see a police car or a fire car, anyone following us with a red light." We left the Liberty and drove to New Haven in a truck borrowed from the local laundry. When we arrived, people inside the restaurant told us it was safe to unload the beer. Jack got the cash and we left. Going back to Fort Wayne, I sat with him in the front seat. That was an exciting trip, riding shotgun to the restaurant.
My dad eventually admitted that he paid ten cents for every case sold, protection for supplying the bootleggers. Then in the late 1930s, a new state administration in Indianapolis cleaned up the situation, so selling beer was no longer a problem.
One day while stocking shelves at Liberty Grocery I noticed the salesman from Clark Fruit Company pick up a package and put it inside his coat pocket. I told my dad in Bulgarian, "Papa, he stole something." My dad asked, "Where did he put it?" I didn't know how to say chest, so I said "by his tsitski," which refers to a woman's breasts. My dad understood what I meant, so he went over to the salesman. "Harry, that's a nice coat." He reached into his pocket and pulled out the package. "That will be 59 cents." "Oh, yes, I meant to pay for it." "How many more times have you done that?" He called the man's boss, who asked my dad not to contact the police. They sent a check and took the man off the route.
Jerry Christi, who had been a sailor during the war, returned to Fort Wayne in 1943 and delivered bread for Perfection Biscuit Company. I hadn't seen him for three years, so when he came to the store I shook hands with him. "Jerry, how are you?" He grabbed my hand and said, "Georgie, you shake my hand like it's a dead fish. Let me show you how to shake hands." He put a little force to it. From that day on, any hand I ever grabbed, I held. I've thought to myself, and I've told some people, "Why don't you grab my hand instead of shaking it like you're holding a dead fish?"
While still in grammar school, one of my fingertips became infected, I think from biting my nail. The sore began getting bluish black and after a few weeks started thumping. A Macedonian friend told my mother to wrap the finger in a tomato at night, that the acid would help heal it. But it didn't work. A couple of days later, someone said to place the finger in a piece of heated fatty meat and olive oil. It kept getting worse; I could feel the pain in my arm. One Saturday when our family physician, Dr. Stephen Michaels, came to buy groceries, my mother asked him to look at my finger. "Helen," he said, "get a pan of Epsom salts. George, keep your finger in the Epsom salts until I come back with my valise." When he returned, he said he would have to cut out the infected fingertip with his scalpel, but added that it wouldn't hurt because the area was dead. Afterwards, he stuck my finger in water, rinsed it, wrapped and bandaged it.
On the following Monday in his office, Dr. Michaels applied an artificial scab to help the healing. "Be very careful," he warned. "This will take about week to heal. Don't play any sports." While it was still bandaged, I started playing with some neighbor boys at the store. One of them hit my hand, breaking the scab. Back at Dr. Michaels' office, "George," he said angrily, "now it will never heal. I can't put another artificial scab on it." Years later, it still sometimes causes pain.
In 1938 or 1939 the nearby South Side High School was being remodeled. Our neighborhood gang went into the school and had eraser battles, throwing them back and forth, running up and down the hallway. The band teacher caught us and called the police. One policeman brought me to my dad's store, and my mother was there. "Georgie's bringing in a customer," she said. "No," my dad said, "He's in trouble." The policeman told them to "keep the kid at home. Construction's going on, and they could fall and kill themselves."
But my dad had a hard time keeping me at home or in the store. He sometimes tied my hands to the pear tree in the yard, giving me enough room to walk around and sit down. After about an hour he'd come out and untie me. One day, though, I got smart and brought a razor blade. That time he tied me to the kerosene tank, because it was closer to the store window and he could hear me. About five minutes after he went inside, I used the razor blade to cut the rope. I hid the blade by the tank, went to the front of the store, took an apple, and started walking in the street. He saw me and hollered, then pulled me back by the ear. "You've got to stay here," he said. "You make too much trouble in the neighborhood," which was true. Once a neighbor bought a new birdbath and it was in the yard for only about an hour when I went over to see it. "Gee, Mr. Hoop," I said, "it looks nice." I pushed it, and it fell over and broke. My dad had to pay him $5 for a new one.
They were just clean pranks. I would sometimes stand in front of the store, grab a half-dozen apples from the basket, and roll them down the sidewalk. My buddies would be waiting at the end of the block to catch them. One day my dad saw the apples rolling down the walk, came out, and caught me in the act. "Why do you do such things?" "These guys are poor," I said. "They're hungry." He always had chores for me and my brother Ivan. We'd get them done and then meet our friends again.
One day my dad thought he had a chore that would keep me at the store all day, in the basement repacking ten 100-pound bags of potatoes into sixty 15-pound bags. He was talking in Bulgarian, sort of laughing as he locked the basement door and went upstairs. The deal was that when I finished I could go outside and play, but he expected that I would be down there most of the day. As soon as he left, I rapped on the chute, and four friends came in. We were at the far end of the basement, so my dad couldn't hear us. We finished in about an hour, 1/5 of the time he thought the job would take. Then we cleaned up the mess, the fellows left, and I closed the chute. I washed my hands, knocked on the locked door.
"Papa, I'm done," I said in both English and Bulgarian. He thought I wanted to quit. "You said I could go play." He went down and looked, as I watched behind him. "It can't be," he said. "Papa," I answered, "I worked real fast. I didn't breathe half the time because I was working so fast." He said a few cuss words in j Bulgarian, "Get the hell out of here," and I went off to play. Several years later, when he was in a good mood, I told him about the four boys who helped me with the potatoes.
We often played cop and robber in the neighborhood. Everybody wanted to be the robber and hide. Being the cop wasn't fun; you had to go look for the robber. But every time it was my chance to be the robber I'd hear, "Georgie, time to come home. You have work to do."
I think the worst thing I did growing up involved my sister. She was my dad's detective. "Papa, Georgie's across the street," or "Papa, Georgie broke a window." Then she'd holler to me, "Georgie, Papa wants you." I'd yell profanities at her, "Go back in the house," "Go back in the store." Then one day I saw a guy changing the oil in his car. I took the can of old oil and climbed to the top of a tree. There came my sister, "Georgie, what are you doing up there? I'm going to tell Papa. I'm going to tell Mama." "No, I said, "come here a minute." She walked over and when she looked up, I poured the oil, which hit her right smack on her head. She let out a big scream and ran home. Mother put her in the bathtub, scrubbing to clean off the oil. "God to dry up your arm," Mother cussed as she slapped me around. "Mom," I whined, "I'm sorry, but she keeps complaining about me. I had to do it."
Macedonian women would often scold the children. If I hit another boy, for instance, he would run home to his mother, and she would scold, "culnee"; "for your hand to shrivel up for hitting my son"; "for the snake to eat you," "the snake to blind you." If you told a fib or exaggerated a story, "the river to carry you away." They had so many funny sayings. We laugh about it today, but in those days it was pretty serious when a woman said those things to a young child.
I was good in basketball and football, and won the CYO sports scholarship to Central Catholic High School. "I can't accept the scholarship," I told Sister St. Charles. "We live a half block from South Side, and my loyalty has been with South Side since I was a little boy." For the past four or five years, I'd been at South Side every night to watch basketball games or practice. When the school won the state championship in 1937 or 1938, I was sort of the team mascot. I could go into the school at any time to watch the practices. "My heart would be with South Side if I was on the Central Catholic team. I couldn't play right; I couldn't beat them." At first Sister was a little upset with me, but then she understood. Even my father said, "I make him work here at the store, but his heart is at South Side."
I enrolled at South Side, but unfortunately I wasn't able to play sports. World War II had started, and with my dad's helpers either in the Army or doing factory work, he needed me even more at the store. Early each morning I would put out the produce and help in the meat section, go to school, come home at noon to help at the store, and again after school.
My cousin Tommy Lebamoff said that by the age of seventeen I was probably the best butcher in Fort Wayne. In those days my dad and I cut the sides of beef and broke them down into steaks and other cuts. Tommy, who also worked at the store, remembers that "our parents gave us no quarter, but they weren't mean. They wanted us to be prepared." Tommy still talks about the Saturday lunches my mother made when we were working, especially her garlic spaghetti. We ate one at a time, so one of us was always in the store.
Not being able to play sports made me very unhappy with my dad, and I would sometimes cuss at him. The head scout for South Side came to the store and argued with him. "Let the kid play basketball," he would say. "He's talented, you're ruining his future." But my dad would answer, "If I knew that Georgie could play like Joe DiMaggio, I'd let him go play. But he's no Joe DiMaggio, and he has to work." The team coach would come to the store and every other word was a cuss word. "Let the kid play." But my dad would always insist he needed me at the store.
The store was closed on Wednesdays during the war, and one of my chores on that day was to pack bulk sugar and potatoes into five-pound ration bags for customers. I started missing school on Wednesday afternoons to pack the ration bags, and then my dad would have to go to the school on Thursday mornings to explain my absence. Sometimes friends even skipped school to help with the work so that I would have time to play. Years later someone asked, "Was your dad a teacher at South Side?" I said, "No, he was just getting me back in school on Thursdays after being expelled for missing on Wednesdays."
South Side High School had very few black students, only about half a dozen in an enrollment of 1,500. One boy, Billy Edwards, often hung around our store, and we taught him some Macedonian words. One time he and I went to the movies and then stopped for a snack at Wayne Gift's restaurant. Wayne had been an All-American quarterback at Purdue. We sat at the counter and told him our orders. "I'm sorry," Wayne said, "but you'll have to move to a booth." Billy was embarrassed. "We've already ordered," I told Wayne. "Let us eat." "No, those are the rules. If you guys want to eat here, go to a booth. You're not eating at the bar." I apologized to Billy; it was the first time I'd ever seen that kind of discrimination. "It's all right," he said. "This has happened many times before." We ate, and I paid the bill, but I didn't leave a tip. Then we went to the Liberty Grocery for ice cream bars. "Thanks for the evening," he said very politely, but I could see that he was hurt and ready to explode.
About thirty-five years later Billy was working at the Fort Wayne Hilton, which catered our Macedonian Patriotic Organization dinner. "Hi, Billy" I said when he came to serve our table, "kuck see" (How are you?) He answered in Macedonian, "Dobro see" (I'm OK). The men at our table looked at him, looked at me."Yes," I said, he's a black Macedonian." He winked, and during the evening he'd come back to our table and say other words and phrases in Macedonian: "thank you, milk, coffee, bread," still remembering what he had learned years earlier. "Who taught this kid? Where did he come from?" the men asked. "I don't know," I answered, "but I think his mother was Macedonian and his father was black." Billy's parting words, in Macedonian, were "Glad to have met you nice Macedonians. I just want you to know that all the Macedonian words I know I learned from Mr. George." It was funny.
At age eighteen I joined the Macedonian Patriotic Organization, which my father and Uncle Tom had helped establish. My friend Boris Kostoff remembers when he and I were in the hotel lobby during a convention, sitting around and chatting with some of the other young members. "At that time," Boris said, "if you wanted to meet with another person, you'd have him paged. The bellhop would walk through the main lobby, 'Paging so and so.' George went to the bellhop and told him to page "Ossum Prost", which in Macedonian means "I'm stupid." That poor bellhop went through the lobby, 'Paging Ossum Prost.'" Of course, everybody there was Macedonian, and they were all laughing. That was George. He was full of fun, and still loves that sort of thing today."
After graduating from South Side High School I attended Indiana University extension center in Fort Wayne for two years, then transferred to the campus in Bloomington. I stayed in the new Rogers dormitory, and on the same floor was another Fort Wayne boy, Ed Roth, who was at the university on a football scholarship. One time, about two in the morning and in the mood for a joke, I went to Ed's room and pulled him down from his top bunk.
"He could have killed me," remembers Roth; "luckily I landed on a mattress. I was so mad, chasing him down the hall, but he got to his room and locked the door. I took a fire hydrant and sprayed water under the door into his room. The next day, though, I had to see the Dean of Students, and if I hadn't been a football player I think he would have kicked me out of school. Instead, he gave me a warning. Back at the dorm I saw George. 'Damn you,'" I said. "I could have been thrown out of school." He just laughed; he always laughs, you could never make him mad. And he didn't get into any trouble about it."
Ed went on to play professional football, and when he came back to Fort Wayne he married a Macedonian woman, Rosie Cozmas. We've been friends with Ed and Rosie for years.
After about six months in Bloomington, I transferred to Huntington College, a very strict Protestant school. My roommate, Bill Cameron, was a nice Catholic guy. Monsignor Lester talked to the college administrators, who agreed that we wouldn't be required to attend the hour-long morning religious services. Instead, we spent that hour downtown having breakfast or coffee.
At Huntington, meeting born-again Christians for the first time, I surprised them by saying I could demonstrate the power of God. "I'll poke this fork in Bill's eye." They didn't know that he wore contact lenses. Jabbing his eye with the fork, I thought those kids were going to throw up. "Now see," I said. "That's the power of God. You're questioning my faith?" They thought I was some holy figure until I told them he wore contact lenses. Then they laughed. Bill and I had a lot of fun together at Huntington.
In the late 1940s, the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church was being constructed in Fort Wayne. Although we attended a Catholic school, our parents were eager to support the new church. The Catholic Bishop sent his emissary, Monsignor Feltas, to my father's store to ask why his children were leaving Catholicism for Orthodoxy. "Monsignor," he answered, "my mother bled to death in my arms, knowing that I was an Orthodox. I want my mother to know that my children are also Orthodox. I can't give you any other reason." Monsignor Feltas shook his hand and said "God bless you; God be with you."
While at Huntington College I received a draft notice from the U. S.
Army. Graduating with a degree in business administration, I came back
to Fort Wayne and worked with my dad for a short time until notified to
report for basic training. He had expanded his store in 1950, adding specialty
food items, along with imported breads and cakes. He also changed the name
to Liberty Gourmet and Liquor.
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