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Monologue by Christina Manos

Manos, Christina
Braswell, Michelle
Date of Interview: 
overcoming obstacles; relationships with people and places; then and now; cultural identification
Christina Manos talks about her family's Greek restaurant.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Michelle Braswell interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
CM (Christina Manos): All right, um, my name is Christina Manos and, um, I guess I'm just going to tell you a little bit about my Greek heritage. Um, my grandparents were actually born here in the United States, both of them, uh, on my father's side, but both of their families are from an island in Greece, or not an island, just a place called Calamata. And if you've ever eaten Calamata olives, that's where they come from. Um, it's a small kind of village. It's actually a village right out of Calamata, but that's where we say they are from. And then my Yia, which is the Greek word for 'grandmother,' was born in Philadelphia and my grandfather was born in Chicago. He, however, um, went back to Greece when he was around five years old to study and go to school. So he was fluent in Greek. They were both fluent in Greek, the language, because their parents were both Greek. Um, when my grandmother was 14 years old and my grandfather was 24, they were, um, set up by their parents. They had an arranged marriage. And, actually, this was only on, this was legalized on paper but the ceremony did not take place until two years later when my grandmother was 16, which would have been, made my grandfather 26. So they were, I guess you say, betrothed to each other from 14, when she, she was 14, and then they got married when she was 16. And then they proceeded to have 3 kids, Angela, Theodora, and my father, who is Chris. Um, my grandfather started a restaurant, and we h-, we have mixed reviews, or, excuse me, mixed stories on this as to how it started. My father says that he won it gambling. He won a bet that someone could not pay him so they gave him the business, but my Aunt Theodora says that is not true. And, um, Chris and, actually my Aunt Theodora and my dad differ on a lot of things, so, um, we're not quite sure which is the real reason. Anyway, he has a restaurant he started in approximately 1917. Something like that. And my grandfather died, I don't know how many years later after the restaurant, but he was 44 years old. He had a heart attack and he left my Yia, um, at 34 with three kids and, um, you know, back then women were kind of housewives and homemakers so she really, she had to jump in the restaurant kind of head first to keep her family kind of alive. So she started running the restaurant and apparently she was a tyrant back in the day, she used to wear like spiked high heels to wait tables in, and dresses and stuff. Everybody loved her in Columbia, the restaurant was in Columbia. She recently just passed away in July [background click]. And it was kind of ironic because, um, the weekend that Yia died was the same weekend five years later that the restaurant closed. The restaurant closed after the, after my freshman year of college at Clemson. Um, and actually I'll never forget it because back in the 80s, when I was kind of growing up, it was a thriving business, and, um, really good restaurant, one of the best ones in town. And then in the late, or I guess the early 90s, it kind of started to go downhill a little bit. And it wasn't really-, it wasn't really that it went downhill, but we were in, my family was in business with another man. And, you know, how business can get when they've got two different sides. Um, he, you know, kind of wanted it this way and my dad wanted it this way, and, you know, that whole thing. So, anyway it ended up closing. But I remember my, my youngest sister called me in my dorm room, um, one night in the middle of my freshman year, she was balling her eyes out. And she said the restaurant is going to close and I said, "No it's not, it's not going to close," because we had been thinking it was, you know, not doing so well for the past couple of years but no one ever thought it was actually going to close. And she was real upset, kind of freaking out. That summer I went home after college, after my first year and, um, my father was having a real hard time deciding whether or not to keep the restaurant open because he actually had kind of taken over, um, because my Yia got real sick after, uh, probably in the 80s as well, she got real sick. And, uh, we had to put her in the nursing home so she wasn't running the business anymore. Dad was running the business and he couldn't decide what to do with that summer. I remember he kept going back and forth. It was kind of funny because July 4th weekend the paper printed on the third, you know, "Yay, the Elite is going to stay open," and when this whole time people thought it was going to close. He had decided to keep it open and we were, he was going to go for it, you know, try to change it, make it better. And this guy was going to give it-, the partner was going to get out of it. And then the very next day my father, which was July 4th, the paper printed, "Chris Manos decides to close The Elite." You know, it was kind of, um, yeah it was really kind of sad. Um, it was almost like a death in the family. And I'm sure that it was a lot worse for my parents than it was for me, but, at the time, of course, I thought it was, you know, the worst tragedy in the world. And, um, everybody was pretty emotional about losing the restaurant because we kind of grew up in it. Um, you know, every Saturday morning we went there for breakfast, and every occasion we went there for dinner, um, every birthday, every graduation. We all worked there. My mom worked there, um, my father and mom had four kids. All four of us worked there waiting tables, bussing tables, uh, taking cash. My sister even, um, helped my dad make the biscuits in the morning sometimes. Um, it was really weird too after the restaurant closed, it had a lot of waitresses that had been there for like 10 or 15 years. And they all started kind of dying off one by one. It was really weird. And then ( ), who was the owner, part owner with my grandmother, died. This was, you know, all within a year or a couple of years after the restaurant closed. But now my parents are, it's, it's five years later and, um, Mom's real happy now. She's got a great job that she loves. It was kind of a blessing for her, you know, because she was waiting tables her whole life and she really wanted to be a guidance counselor. She had her Masters in Education and now she's getting to use that so she's not, you know, waitressing anymore. Um, my dad had, has not really been happy since the restaurant closed. It's really kind of sad, too, for me to see, but he's been doing, um, office work. He's a procurement specialist for the University of South Carolina, but he would really like to be back into the restaurant business. Speaking of USC, I could, you know, kind of get on this little tangent. My father raised me a Carolina Gamecock and when I say Carolina, I mean South Carolina not North Carolina for everybody from North Carolina. Um, you know, we went to the football games and we went to the basketball games. And, uh, my sophomore year of high school, my mom was like, you know, "Where are you thinking about going to college?" And, um, I didn't know where I wanted to go. I had no idea about college. And she said, "Have you thought about Clemson?" And I said, "What," you know, "are you kidding me? I'm not going to Clemson. I, I hate that school." You know because I grew up hating it and she said, "You don't know unless you go try it." So I went to visit a friend of my sister's, my sister is three years older and they were freshman that year in college. So I went up there to Clemson to stay with her, had the best weekend of, you know, at that time, I thought, of my life. So I come home, uh, and told my parents I was going to Clemson. And, of course, it's a huge joke in my family because my dad is a huge Carolina fan. And he was, he says he was heartbroken but he wasn't. Uh, ah, he knows I was happy there, um.