On a vacation
trip with a friend, Charles and Gust came through Kearney. They liked
city, found the people very friendly, and observed that no one had a
of homemade candy and ice cream and decided this might be a place of
for them. In 1917 Charles and Gust moved to Kearney and opened the
Candy Kitchen at 2222 Central Avenue, a business they would continue
nearly thirty years. Shortly thereafter their brother Tom joined them
the business, and later Charlie Mitchell became a business partner. By
1922 a second candy shop was in operation at 2100 Central Avenue, known
as the Kearney Candy Kitchen. However, this place of business was of
Gust and Charles Kappas were bachelors when they moved to Kearney. Tom was married to Clara Kaluroi who came to America from near Tripoli at an early age to join an older brother. Clara worked in the candy kitchen and cafe, at times as many as nineteen hours a day. Some days 500 gallon[s] of their homemade ice cream was made. She remembers the days of World War II as an especially busy time.
Clara and Tom
had two daughters, Mary Pallas of New York City, and Helen Shaddy of
Tom is deceased, but Clara still lives in the family home in Kearney.
Christina Kokkin was born in the village of Kalamata, Greece. While visiting an aunt and uncle in Lexington, Nebraska, they dropped in at the Kearney Candy Kitchen. There she met Gust Kappas and a few months later they were married at Lexington. Christina was anxious to learn the English language. On her arrival to America, she had been held thirteen days at Ellis Island only because her name had been mispronounced and she did not understand that she was free to enter New York City. After her marriage she attended night school at the Kearney Junior High and received a certificate from Superintendent Harry S. Burke upon completion of the English course.
After the Emporia Candy Kitchen ceased business in 1945, Gust operated the Chocolate Shop at 2415 Central Avenue. For several years he also managed apartments on the second and third floors of the building at 2300 Central Avenue. Gust and Christina had four daughters, Amelia Skolitaris, who is a restaurant manager; Lulu Kappas, Alexandria Markos and Katherine Pentogenis, all of whom are teachers. Christina and her daughters all live in Hollywood, California.
From 1945 to 1955 Charles Kappas and his wife Beulah operated a small cafe at 10 West 23rd Street. Charles is now deceased, and Beulah lives in Oregon with her son Charles, Jr. A daughter, Charlavee McCoy lives in Arapahoe, Nebraska.
The Mitchells operated two candy stores in Kansas City, but had a problem obtaining sugar because of the rationing during World War I. The Kappas brothers, who were second cousins of Mitchell, invited them to come to Kearney and become a partner in their candy store operation. They had been able to get the sugar necessary to carry on their business at both the Emporia and the Kearney Candy Kitchens. The Mitchelis moved to Kearney in 1918 and were associated with the Kappas brothers for eight years.
Charlie Mitchell bought a small building at 2415 Central Avenue and
Hamburger Inn No. 1, the first such inn in Kearney. Hamburgers were
each, or six for 25¢. Imprinted brown bags for carrying out the
read, "Buy 'em by the bag." At this same time he also opened the
Sandwich Shop in a refurbished box car at the college corner, 25th
and 8th Avenue.
The first root beer stand in Kearney was opened by Mitchell next to his hamburger inn on Central Avenue. Hires Root Beer was offered, both counter and curb service. George C. Mitchell recalled that Robert Dean, who later became a well-known band instructor, had his first public performance when Mr. Mitchell hired him as a high school student to lead a small band of high school kids on the occasion of the grand opening day.
and Athena Mitchell were determined that their children should have the
education that was denied them in their youth. When Charlie died on
23, 1933, he left five children, Peter, Helen, Nick, George and John,
of school age. Athena, in ill health herself, saw that all the children
stayed in school. This was during the "great depression" of the 1930's.
The Mitchell savings had been wiped out by the failure of a local bank,
and the family income consisted only of the rent from the hamburger
a $50.00 monthly insurance company benefit, and whatever work the
could find after school and on Saturdays. According to John Mitchell,
was a great day in the Mitchell family when George got a job in the
department at the college that paid 15[cents] an hour. John caddied at
the country club, Peter worked in a cafe, Nick and Helen worked in the
Deeb open air market on East 21st Street, behind the bank building on
corner of 21st and Central.
Athena's first priority was education for all of her children, despite the adversities she encountered after her husband's death. With the family all pulling together, her goal was accomplished. All five of the Mitchell children graduated from college, four of them with two or three degrees.
Athena Mitchell now lives in California. She will be 92 in June. Peter is an optometrist in Bakersfield, California; Helen is a teacher in the Los Angeles public school system; Nick is a teacher in the U.S. Defense Department school in Kaiserslautern, Germany; George is executive director of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, PA; John is a lawyer in Omaha, and serves as president of KGFW/KQKY radio stations in Kearney and KQKQ/KLNG radio stations in Omaha.
James Poullos is now retired. He, his wife Theony, also a native of Greece, and their daughter Elaine all live in Lincoln. A niece, Peggy O'Dea, daughter of Alex Poullos, lives in Kearney.
Peter Papapavlou (Paul) left his native village near Sparta in 1920 when he was twelve years old. An uncle brought him to America, along with his sister Venetia and several cousins. The trip took nineteen days. Peter stayed in New York City with an uncle, and even at a young age found work. In addition, he helped in the flower shop run by his uncle. He went to school in New York City for about six months. One winter day while in class it started to snow. The teacher, wishing to help her pupil with the English language, pointed to the window and said, "snow, snow." To her surprise Peter picked up his coat, left the school and went back to the flower shop. His uncle asked why he had come home in the middle of the day and Peter explained that the teacher had pointed outside and said, "Go, go." Later the kindly teacher came to the shop to find out what had happened.
Mr. Paul left New York and went to St. Paul, Minnesota, where a sister
lived. While there he made a visit to Nebraska to visit his sister in
and relatives in Fremont. When he stepped off the train at
in Kearney, it was dark, the street lights were on and all the cars had
their lights on. He had arrived in one of the worst dust storms of the
Dust Bowl days. He found his way from the depot to the Central Cafe,
Jack Ryan at the restaurant sent him to the Peterson home. There Mrs.
had hung wet towels over all the doors and windows, trying to keep out
some of the dirt, and it was difficult to get in or out of the house.
following day Peter had had enough. He took the train to Fremont, spent
a day there with relatives and returned to Minnesota.
Mr. Paul was drafted into the U. S. Army in January, 1942. He attended the Cooks & Bakers School at Fort Riley, Kansas, then was sent to the European Theatre where he served as mess sergeant for the rest of the war. He came to Kearney soon after the war and in 1947 bought the Tasty Tea Room at 2300 Central Avenue and operated a restaurant at that location until 1975, remodeling it and changing the name to Paul's Broiler in 1958. Coffee was a nickel, as was a roll or a doughnut. There was no community food pantry then and the Salvation Army often sent the hungry to his place for a meal, and they were never turned away.
In 1947 he married Helen Katres of Sioux City, also of Greek descent. They have two sons, George, who is a Medical Librarian at the University of Virginia Medical Library in Charlottesville, and John, who works with the Conference of Christians and Jews in New York City. Peter and Helen Paul reside in Kearney.
Other early Greeks in Kearney were John Lianos, cousin of Don Patsios, who had a shine parlor; Gust Poulos, a cook at the Emporia Cafe, and James Stemas, chef at the Central Cafe. All moved from the city many years ago.
The Greeks were too few in number to build and support their own church so joined with the Syrians in Kearney in building and supporting St. George's Orthodox Church. Later some of the Kearney Greeks joined with Greeks of Grand Island and Hastings and built the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Grand Island.
A young educated Greek was hired to come to Kearney once a week to teach the children to speak, write and read Greek. Lessons were held in the Mitchell and Kappas homes or in a downtown hall. A love of learning was a quality found in all of the Greek emigrants. Although the emigrant had not had educational opportunities, all saw to it that their children received not only a high school diploma, but a college degree as well.
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