Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Restaurant Biz

 When my father, George Cokinos first got married, his father asked all the Greeks in town not to give him work because my dad dared to marry Bebe Calvert, a non Greek. Papou hoped he'd give my mother up, but stubbornness also runs in our family. Fortunately for him, George already had a job at the Macomb Deli (where the Zebra Room is now) right across the street from where his parents lived. Every day, his mother would go over there trying to convince him to reconsider his marriage. She offered him bribes like a trip to Greece. She proposed sending him back to G.W.U. When all else failed, she cried. Nothing worked. George didn't particularly like the restaurant biz, but that was what he knew. He was nineteen years old with a baby on the way. His resume was limited and  included picking up golf balls at a driving range, selling The Saturday Evening Post, and being a busboy for his parent's restaurant, the Macomb Cafeteria.



Later, the golf ball experience may have helped George get work picking up hangers off the floor for the Hecht Company, but the $15 a week was not cutting it for him. Finally a friend, Steve Demas, took pity and hired George as a helper on a laundry truck. My father worked hard. He was promoted to Service Manager and soon got to drive a Ford coupe with the words QUICK SERVICE LAUNDRY lettered in gold on the door. By then George was 21 and had two children to support.


Finally my Papou broke down and allowed the young family to live in a road house he already owned called the Hollywood Inn out in Camp Springs, Md.


At the time it was somewhere near the middle of nowhere. My Papou originally bought the property for the congregation of St Sophia to use, but it was just too far away from town. Or maybe too rowdy.

Hollywood Inn 1938
My parents could live there rent free, but the catch was they had to run the restaurant. So by day, George worked for Quick Service and whenever he had a chance he put flyers on people's cars advertising the Sunday chicken dinners at the Hollywood Inn.

Dang if they didn't misspell his name here

During World War Two, Papou talked George into running Churchhill's Bar and Grill with my Aunt Catherine and Uncle Mimi who had just arrived from Greece in 1939. Churchill's was where Cactus Cantina is now on Macomb Street. If you go there, you can see the old glass door just about in the middle of the building where my mother used to sit at the cash register. The grill was open from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. My dad had to work the night shift until Uncle Mimi learned how to mix a cocktail.

At the end of the war, they were able to sell Churchill's and buy their own linen service- Modern Linen. Soon my brother and all three of my cousins were drafted to go work there. They hated it. Everybody hated it, except for my uncle and my father who thought it was a piece of cake compared to running Churchill's.

My brother Pete and cousin Pete hanging around Churchill's



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