There were three gateways though which the members of our family funnelled into
America: the Atlantic Ocean, Ellis Island and lastly, Rosedale Lunch, the diner begun by my grandfather sometime around 1949 at
11506 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan.
Rosedale Lunch became a sort of vessel of Americanization for those first members of the family who came from
Greece to after the war. The diner was a doorway to all that the America had to offer. People went in as travel-weary Greeks each carrying their own worries and sad experiences, armed with resilience and the hope of something better. After a metamorphosis that involved trials of dish washing, peeling potatoes, making soups and flipping burgers, they came out as Americans, they came out as artists, military men, engineers and accountants, dreamers and even crooks. USA
As a child much later on, I remember crossing the border from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit every Saturday or Sunday to visit the two short, elderly people that I called Yia Yia and Papou (Grandmother and Grandfather), my father’s parents. I could not really speak with them because of the language barrier (they had never attained their comfort level with the English language) but I remember feeling their sense of pride in their grandsons, my younger brother and I, a warm affection.
My grandparents’ sharp, humorous and quick mimetic attempts at communication always got the message to us. If words failed, waiving arms, shoulder shrugs and an extensive repertoire of sighs, whistles and other sounds would get their meaning across. Usually the meaning revolved around food. Even though, by the time I was born, the diner had closed, they still served up the works. Some of my fondest memories are of cornucopic Saturdays and Sundays, running about with my brother and cousins getting into mischief and refuelling at the table of plenty that was my grandparents’ kitchen table. Mountains of stuffed vine leaves, creamy pastichio, steaming lemon rice soup, platters of cumin meat balls and all manner of honeyed sweets brought all of us to a tingling euphoria. It was all made fresh, all with an extra measure of love because we were family. If you loved someone and wanted to make them feel good, you fed them. In a way, Rosedale Lunch went on living after the lights on Woodward Avenue dimmed. Indeed the very pots and pans from that family diner are still being used by myself and others.
But why write a blog about this? Good question. As I get older, I find myself wondering more and more about these two loving people, whom I did not know very well but to whom I am eternally grateful for the risks they took to come to
, the happy memories and their kindness. Where did they come from? And how? America
|Polykarpos and Ploumi Haviaras - Detroit 1967|
There are many questions to be answered. Admittedly, I do not have all the answers, lost as they are to time and the elements of humanness. This blog is not only an ongoing exercise in research and genealogy, it is also a record, a tribute to people whom I did not know very well but who, I know with absolute certainty, loved and trusted their family very much.
I will share with you, dear readers, anything useful that may aid your own research along the way. Your comments are welcome as well as any helpful tips you may have for me. Though this is the story of one branch of our particular family, it is also a story that likely rings true for many families who came to
from far abroad in the hope of creating something better for themselves, a future for their children. America
I hope you enjoy…