Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

“So I Said, OK!”
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“So I Said, OK!”

Jim Markezinis
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1 Jim Markezinis, 2014When Demetrios (James, Jim or “Jimmy”) Michael Markezinis was presented with opportunities for work in his new country, despite their unpredictability, he pondered for a moment and then said “OK.”  A successful restaurateur in Washington State, he wrote his autobiography in 2013 which is titled “A Brief Summary of my Origin and Life.” He was also interviewed in his home in May of 2014.  Slightly edited portions of the autobiography are presented below. The complete autobiography is in the Greek-American Historical Museum archive.


As I age, I felt it would be nice to look to the past and write some things about myself. I think that this would bring back some of my vivid memories and would also leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren to remember me by.

I was born March 12, 1930, in the small village of Magoula, Greece, which is located near the town of Sparta.  My grandfather on my father’s side was named Dimitrios (James) Markezinis was born and raised on the island of Spetses.  My grandmother on my father’s side was named Yianoula (JoAnne) Stamatopoulos and was born and raised in Magoula.  My grandfather on my 2 Michael Markenzinis family, circamother’s side, Constantine (Gus) Zorbas and, Yia Yia (grandmother) Zorbas, were from a very small village or settlement of only five homes, named Metatova – near Logastra, Greece.  My grandfather Dimitrios built homes by hand, with only picks and shovels, and out of stones.  As a young man, he came to Sparta to seek work. The village of Magoula is where he met and married my grandmother Yianoula.  My father came from a family of seven children, and grew up very poor as a child.  In those days it was very hard to provide for such a large family.  My mother’s father died when she was a very young child and really didn’t know him.  My mother’s uncle helped to raise her and became like a father to her.  My father Michael and my mother Katina were both born and raised and married in Magoula.  Together they had four sons and one daughter.  The oldest was me, and then came my sister Joanne, then Gus (Constantine), then Chris and Tom (Anastasios).  When my parents were married, my father received some money from my mother’s uncle, and was able to build their house by hand with his brother Alex.  This is a brief history of my family and now I will continue with the story of my life.

At 83 years of age, I have forgotten many things but I have not forgotten the most important ones.  I am proud to say that I was a very good student and I liked school very much, even though our teachers were very strict.  Growing up in such a small village as Magoula, you not only had to be studious, but polite and kind to everyone.  My school years were interrupted by a nasty war.  It was October 28, 1940, when Mussolini of Italy declared war against Greece.  The German army came from the Bulgarian side and opened up another front and attacked.  Naturally Greece could not sustain both armies, and lost the war.  Greece was under German control for almost five years and my country suffered tremendously.  We not only had hunger, but we had fear.  We didn’t know if we were going to be dead or alive the next day.

I remember one early morning in 1943 when I was only 13 years old in our village of Magoula; several German soldiers broke down the door to our home while we were still in bed sleeping and told my father to dress and go with them.  One soldier wanted to take me too but another soldier pushed me aside and said to the other, “Let him go.”  They took all the village men including my father and jailed them in Sparta for three days.  After that they forced the men to walk from Sparta to Athens, about 200 miles away.  If they couldn’t walk they were shot or tied behind the German motorcycles and dragged.  In Athens, the men were divided into three groups.  The first group was sent home and fortunately my father was among them.  A month later, they let the second group go.  The third group was sent to Germany.  My father’s cousin was one of them and never returned home.

In 1944 when the war was over, I went back to school.  I had to make up two lost years so I did not finish high school until 1950.  After graduation I took a job at the village Agricultural Union Office in Sparta.  I kept the books and helped the villagers to complete their various applications and paper work.

After the wars America tried to help those that suffered during the German occupation.  First, you had to prove that you did suffer and second you needed to have an invitation from a sponsor in America.  Then, you were required to file papers with the American Consulate in Athens.  After, you had to pass a health examination and then wait for your visa.  I had the paper work completed and all I needed was an American sponsor.  Luckily, my father had a buddy from grammar school who lived in the United States but he hadn’t seen him for many years.  He wrote him a letter and by surprise this good man (God bless his soul) came through.  After receiving his invitation for me to come to the United States, I went to the American Embassy in Athens with my father and we filed the necessary paperwork.  My visa was ready to go.  I remember my father saying to me “Son, this is your decision – If I tell you to go, you might think I want to get rid of you.  And, if I tell you to stay and things don’t go right for you, and you suffer, then you would blame me.  So this is your choice and hopefully you will make the right choice.”  And, of course, I said I was leaving.  At the time I was 21 years of age and nothing was going to keep me home, so in mid-May of 1951 I boarded the ship TSS Nea Hellas – destination America.

3 Jim on the carFinally, we arrived in New York and the first thing I saw was the Statue of Liberty.  How exciting it was.  After going through immigration, my sponsor Paul Harvouros met me and took me to a cafeteria for a bite to eat.  I remember it was a hot summer day, June 5, 1951.  I was amazed to see all the different things that we did not have in my village.  For instance, in the cafeteria, Paul put some money in a slot and food came out of the serving wall.  While staying with Paul I met his brother Gus who owned a small coffee shop in the town of Frostburg, Maryland.  I stayed with Gus and helped him in the coffee shop.  I was mostly trying to learn the English language so I could get a better paying job.  I needed to pay back my father for the boat fare to America and I also needed to send money back home to help with the family expenses.

Paul had another relative in Long Island, New York, who just opened a 24-hour restaurant called the “Ham n’ Eggery.”   So I got a night job there working as dishwasher from 8 pm to 8 am in the morning. In those days, they did not have automatic dishwashing machines, only big three compartment sinks and my finger nails got very sore and would often bleed.  My shift there was 7 days a week and my pay was $20 per week.  I worked there for about six weeks and while I was working there, I happened to meet a neighbor girl named Maria.  She was a relative of my boss and was also from my village of Magoula.  One day she asked me if I could go along with her to pick up her cousin at the airport.  At the airport we happened to meet another relative of hers who had a large full-service restaurant in Westfield, New Jersey, so I quit my job and I went to work for him.

I was bussing tables for about two months until I received a letter from my cousin Joanne who lived in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  She and her husband whose name was also Jimmy owned the Coffee Pot Restaurant right across the street from the Johnstown Steel Mill.  She asked me to move there and work for them.  It was a very hard decision but I thought it would be better for me to be around my relatives.  So I went to Johnstown and worked in their restaurant behind the counter making sodas, pouring coffee and serving customers.

I worked there for around six months while going to school at night to learn English.  One day I received a letter from a high school friend, George Belidas.  He lived in Washington D.C. and was making good money bussing tables.  He invited me to come and see him.  George found me space in a rooming house where other Greeks were staying.  I found a job as bus boy in the Shoreham Hotel.  The hotel had three beautiful dining rooms: The Terrace, The Blue Room, and Palladian where I worked.  President Eisenhower ate in the blue room a few times, and whenever he was there we would say “The president is in the blue room.”  After a few months, I left there and went to work as a waiter at Gusty’s Italian Restaurant.  While working there I met an older friend who introduced me to a friend of his who owned a restaurant around the comer from the White House.  He was also from Sparta and he offered me a job in the evenings.  I went to work for him as night manager, taking cash, keeping an eye on the employees and closing the restaurant.  I stayed there for a while, but I didn‘t like sitting in a chair managing the workers much and the pay wasn’t that great.  So I found another job as a bartender at the Independence Grill and the owner was willing to teach me how to tend bar.

4 Harry and Jim, circa 1953My cousin Aristides “Harry” Conomos was in Pennsylvania having arrived in the United States two months after me.  He was working for his uncle but came to Washington D. C. where we lived together.  Later Harry left Washington D.C. for a better bartender job in Baltimore, Maryland. He worked at The Oyster Bay Restaurant, a large upscale restaurant with three dining rooms.  I went to visit him and the owner of the restaurant offered me a job waiting tables.  Harry and I lived and worked together in the same place for a long time and we were making pretty good money.  Harry decided that he wanted to move to California to see his uncle and he took a job in Malibu.  I was alone again, working a split shift every day and taking the bus to and from work.  I really needed a car so I bought a 1953 Plymouth.  I had my friend bring it home for me because I didn’t even know how to drive.

One day while working at Oyster Bay, an older wealthy Greek couple, Mr. and Mrs. James Zanidis, friends with the salad chef there, came in for lunch. They owned a restaurant in Flemington, New Jersey, and asked me to help them operate their business.  So I said “OK,” and worked in the dining room while he worked in the kitchen.  After a while, I became bored in the small town of Flemington and went back to my old job in Baltimore at the Oyster Bay. Shortly after I returned, the owners sold their restaurant in Flemington, moved back to Baltimore and bought a restaurant in the town of Belair just outside of Baltimore.  Again we worked the place together, but this time he wasn’t happy being away from his home town.  They sold the restaurant and we moved back to Flemington.  This time he wanted to buy the grocery store across the street from Princeton University.  I didn’t want to get involved in grocery store business, so I left my car there with them and went to New York to look for job.

I went to the unemployment office and they found me a job at a busy place.  I remember it took one hour by subway to and from work.  One month later I got a call to wait tables for the Long Chop Restaurant on 41st Street, one of the best restaurants in New York City.  I only worked there a few months because, with all the moving back and forth, from place to place, somehow I lost my citizenship papers.  The papers were very important to me so I traveled back to Baltimore where I had to apply for a copy of my paperwork.  While I was there I stopped in to see my old bosses who offered me a job, so I took it.  A few months later my cousin Harry came back from California.  He had gone to see his brother and sisters in Montreal, Canada.  He got his old job back as a bartender at the Oyster Bay – we were together once again.

One Sunday morning we were ready to open the dining room and the kitchen caught fire. I ran downstairs to get my clothes and by the time I returned to the main dining room there was a huge fire, smoke, and burning wood falling from the ceiling.  I was the last one to escape from the fire.  I thank God for that one.  Needless to say Harry and I were out of a job.  Shortly thereafter, I suggested to Harry that we go to Chicago as there were many Greeks there.

We loaded the old Plymouth with all our belongings.  On the way to Chicago Harry wanted to stop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to visit his uncle.  It was January, and there was a lot of snow.  One night we were having dinner in a restaurant and when we were ready to go my car was so full of snow I couldn’t move it so we had to take a taxi back home.  The next morning we found that the tire on the car was flat.  We fixed the tire in two-below-zero-degree temperature.  Harry’s uncle said to me, “You think this is cold.  Wait till you get to Chicago.”  On the way to Chicago Harry said to me, “why don’t we just go to Los Angeles, it is a lot warmer.”  I said, “Do you think the car will take us with all the snow on route 66?” It was the popular way to California in those days.  We stopped at a gas station to get information and the attendant suggested a southern route through Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally California.  We took his advice and made it.

5 California Waiter, circaHarry and I lived in Santa Monica, California, and we worked on the coast at Malibu beach.  I had two jobs, one from 6 pm to 2 am and later in the mornings at the Point Restaurant and I worked the lunch shift at a restaurant called the Bavarian Inn in Santa Monica.

In Los Angeles there was a restaurant called Juke’s on Wilshire Boulevard.  Working there as a waitress was a young woman named Violet.  My cousin Harry met her and they started dating.  Shortly thereafter they got married and moved to Seattle.  They had their first-born son Peter and I drove up to Seattle along with his uncle and aunt to baptize the baby.  Harry was working in Seattle at Von’s Cafe which was a very classy restaurant in the downtown area.  There was a Greek6 Jim and Carrie wedding, 196 man named Kim Kapitan who worked there as a host.  Apparently the restaurant was for sale.  Harry and Kim asked me to be partners with them.  I liked the idea as I had been working for others for the previous ten years.  The deal fell through and the restaurant was sold to some lawyers instead.  While this was going on Harry and Violet were invited to a Greek wedding and I asked them to take me along.  I was new in town and toward the end of the evening I danced with a very pretty young lady whose name was Carrie Manus.  That evening I asked her out for coffee after she got the “OK” from her parents.  We all went out together; Harry had the car and drove with Violet, Carrie and I.  Carrie and I went out almost every night during the next six months and we were married on July 23, 1951.

7 Tending bar at the Cabalerro, circa 1965           8 Jim Markezinis family, circa 196

9 Cascade Restaurant, circa     10 Cascade crew, 1978 (l-r)     11 Jim at the Cascade, early 1980s

I worked as a bartender at Von’s and made a down payment on a house in the Ballard neighborhood.  Two years later I went into business for myself.  In 1963 I purcha9 Cascade Restaurant, circased my first business, the Caballero tavern.   Five years later we bought and operated the Green Apple Pie restaurant on Fifth and Pike in downtown Seattle.  Shortly thereafter we bought and operated the Golden Egg restaurant up the street.  Then Carrie and I wanted to own our own properties as the downtown locations were leased and not for sale.  In 1976 we sold the businesses and bought the Cascade Restaurant on Highway 99 in south Everett.  Later, for a short time, I operated a restaurant called the Round Table in Pateros, in eastern Washington.

We worked hard and purchased the five acres of property surrounding the Cascade.  And last but not least in 1985 we bought Jimmy’s Pizza and Pasta in Stanwood, Washington. I would open the Cascade Restaurant at six in the morning for breakfast and close the bar at two o’clock the next morning.   On occasion I would even sleep at the restaurant. Carrie worked hard as well, taking care of the house, the children, the bookwork for the businesses and properties.  She worked the front of the restaurant taking cash and seating customers and from two to four in the afternoon would work the kitchen so that I could rest on the sofa in the office for a couple hours before the dinner hour.

13 Jim and his boys, circa     14 Carrie and Jim, 2005

When we retired, we spent all of our time together.  We traveled a few places, went on a few cruise ships and spent time in the winters in Chandler, Arizona.  During the summer months we enjoyed each other’s company on Camano Island.  Carrie is not with us anymore; October 28th, 2012, she went to heaven to be with Jesus.

16 John and Chris at Jimmy's, 2011       15 Citizen of the year, 2011

Before I close the chapter of life, first and foremost, I thank God for all those accomplishments.  Without his guidance and help I wouldn’t have done anything.  I feel deep in my heart an individual like me without skills and knowledge wouldn’t be successful without the guidance from above.  Also thanks goes to my father and mother for giving me the good upbringing.  I grew up in a God-fearing family.  I also thank this great country for giving me the opportunities.  I’m also grateful for my four sons: Michael, Theodor, Chris and last but not least, John who his mom wanted so desperately to be a girl and for my six grandchildren: Drew, Christina, Makayla, Jimmy, Matthew, and Mikey.

GOD BE WITH YOU ALL!! – TELOS (END)

By Jim Markezinis, with edits by John and Joann Nicon (December, 2014)
PHOTOS
1 Jim Markezinis, 2014
2 Michael Markezinis family, (l-r) mother Katina, sister Joanne, Yia Yia JoAanne, father Michael, Dimitri (Jim), brother Constantine, (Gus), early 1930s
3 Jim, circa 1952
4 Cousin Harry Conomos and Jim, circa 1953
5 Jim as a waiter in California, 1959
6 Jim and Carrie wedding, bridal party members not identified, 1951
7 Jim tending bar at the Caballero, 1965
8 Markezinis family, (l-r) Katina, John, Mike, Mike, Chris, Ted, Jim, Carrie, 1966
9 Cascade restaurant, circa 1975
10 Cascade crew, (l-r) rear: un-named waiter, Jim, Carrie, Chris; front: unnamed waitress, John, John the dishwasher, 1978
11 Jim at the Cascade, early 1980s
12 Pateros restaurant, circa 1985
13 Jim and his boys (l-r) Jim, Mike, Ted, Chris, John, circa 1995
14 Carrie and Jim, 2005
15 John and Chris Markezinis at Jimmy’s, 2011
16 Jim as Citizen of the year, (l-r)  Stacy Taylor, Fr. Photios Dumont, Georgine Looney, Jim, 2011
Photo 1 by John Nicon; 15 from Stanwood/Camano News; all others from Markezinis family collection
SOURCES
A Brief Summary of my Origin and Life by James Markezinis, 2013; video interview by John and Joann Nicon, May 2014