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Zaharakos has always been a major landmark. I remember my mother telling me that years ago, when cars were very new and the Zaharako family lived above the ice cream parlour, you could drive up, flash your lights and receive “curb” service.

The Greeks' newly invented popcorn machine was a great attraction. As a grade school student, getting a cinnamon coke, a green river soda, or a rich marshmallow sundae was a big event. Later, when I worked in a local office, lunch was often a coney dog or a cheeseburger. My son worked there as a soda jerk.

After church on Sunday (if everyone was well behaved), a treat at The Greeks was a big reward. It just wasn’t Christmas without a trip to The Greeks. I probably sat at that little miniature table, and my children and grandchildren did, too.

--Martha S., Columbus, IN

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Soda Jerks

Although I began working at Zaharakos 60 years ago, I remember it well. Other than being a paperboy, working at The Greeks was my first real job. Being a soda jerk was really fun because it was always busy at nights and on weekends. The Greeks had a popcorn machine and on Fridays and Saturdays they put it outside. The Mode Theater on the alley didn’t have a popcorn machine so business was really good on the weekends.

The year I was at Zaharakos, there were some changes with the 5 brothers who ran The Greeks: George, Pete, Lewie, Manuel, and Gus. Pete and Manuel rode their bikes to work most of the time. George seemed to be the “ram-rod” while he was there. Pete used the phrase “be there Kazaza” when he wanted something to happen. (I still find myself using that phrase.) Gus left to go to either Lebanon or Frankfort to run a business and Lewie got out of the Army and brought home a beautiful bride.

Lewie was always the one you could go to if you had a problem. He would talk to you about anything. Manuel was very quiet. Gus wasn’t there long enough for me to get to know him.

As a soda jerk, I started at 35¢ an hour and no tips. Tips were put in a glass jar on the back bar. Only boys were soda jerks when I started and for quite a few years after that. I met my wife of 52 years while working at Zaharakos. Over the years, whenever I came back to Columbus, I always stopped at The Greeks and talked to whichever Zaharako brother was there. After all these years, I can still make a great ice cream soda.

--Edward L., Jr., Former Soda Jerk, Seymour, IN

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christmas

Zaharakos served five generations of satisfied customers in this family.

I’m 82 years old and have a lot of fond memories of The Greeks.

I was in high school in the late 1930s and early 1940s when everything was downtown. No McDonald’s, Taco Bell or Burger King then.

Sometimes on Friday and Saturday nights people would be lined up waiting to get in. Pete, Lewie and Manuel were there then. My friends and I liked sundaes made with chocolate ice cream and marshmallow syrup.

In the 1950s, my children liked to sit at the little round tables and eat chili dogs, cheeseburgers and especially the Green River sodas.

In later years I didn’t go as often but always managed to go at Christmas time. We enjoyed the decorations and music.

My youngest son Dean was a regular customer until his death in 2004. He worked there for a short while when he was a teenager.

So counting my mother, me, my 3 kids, 5 grandkids and Dean’s grandson Max, there are 5 generations of satisfied customers in my family.

I’m so glad it’s being renovated, and I’m looking forward to saying, “Let’s go to The Greeks!”

--Katherine K., Columbus, IN

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kids from North

Memories of The Greeks bring back the faces of Lewie, George, Pete, Manuel and Gus. The Greeks was the place to be seen, especially by the boys. Many times I would leave a basketball game and run to The Greeks to grab a table before everyone else arrived. If I did not have a table, I would have to wait outside until one was available – regardless of the weather. The waiters who took your order were high school boys. They did not write it down and they were seldom wrong.

After World War II started, I spent many an hour sipping a coke and writing letters to friends to keep them up to date on the happenings back home. Originally, The Greeks sold only soft drinks, candy and ice cream. In warm weather there was a popcorn machine outside. One of my habits was buying a bag of popcorn with extra butter to take to the movies.

No one had much money back then, so it was not unusual to have a date, go to The Greeks and share a coke with two straws. A nickel meant more to us than $5.00 does to kids today. Many friends I laughed and joked with at a table in The Greeks are no longer here, but we will always have our memories.

--Joan W., class of 1943, Columbus, IN

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snowman

My family and I would go every December to get the world’s best hot chocolate and look at the beautiful Christmas decorations. My mother always enjoyed the organ the best, but as a child I was always a little frightened of the “gigantic beast.” When you’re a child, everything in a place like that is a bit of a fairyland!

I had my own tradition at Zaharakos until I was eight years old. In the dining area there was a small table and chairs just for children. At Christmas time, they set a large Frosty the Snowman that lit up by the children’s table. This was the best thing ever. Yes, the snowman was only plastic decoration, but it seemed every year that he always saved my seat for me so we could share hot chocolate and endless conversation (just on my end, that is!).

When I was eight, I couldn’t wait to get my creamy hot chocolate and sit down next to Frosty like I did every year. That year, I saw Frosty had made friends with someone else: a little boy who refused to get out of “my” seat because he got there first. I shoved him out of his seat and onto the floor.

Both sets of parents came running over to us. They weren’t the only ones who saw this disgrace. The lady who also served me my hot chocolate came over. Her big dark eyes looked at me in disappointment. She asked why I shoved the boy and I told her that was my seat and I always sat with Frosty.

I could tell she was trying to hold back a smile when she said, “If you apologize to the boy and sit together and make friends, I will bring you both another cup of hot chocolate for free!”

The boy and I quickly became friends for the evening, enjoying hot chocolate with our buddy Frosty. As the years went by, I no longer needed the company of Frosty nor could I fit at the little table anymore.

Now I am 31 years old and it all seems so long ago. I will always keep the memories of hot chocolate, Frosty the Snowman, and the best little confectionery ever in my heart!

--Cheryl L., Columbus, IN

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welte memories

As we opened the door to the store, a bell rang loud so that everyone there knew we were in the store…seven children and 2 adults.

We all looked around at the history of this store. It was like walking back in time. There were soda fountains and all kinds of ice cream, and I believe even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were on the menu.

Everyone who worked there was so nice and willing to help. Each one of us told the kind old man who owned the store what we wanted. Then we sat in a booth near the old organ. The owner came to the back of the room and seemed to crawl into the organ to turn it on. It was a real treat to be entertained by this organ as we enjoyed our ice cream.

The great time we had that day will always be in our memories with a smile.

--Darlene S., Columbus, IN

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interior

In 1960, we moved from Brown County into an apartment on 5th and Washington Streets. The Greeks became a second home for me and my brother and sister. We stopped in daily, sat on the round stools and ordered orange-ade drinks.

If any of our relatives visited from out of town, we always went to Zaharakos. The little kids sat at the kiddie tables and adults at the long tables. We always had to have the “famous” cheese-brrr-grrr. The kids loved the Black Cow floats.

In 1964, I married and got my husband hooked on orange-ades. Zaharakos used fresh oranges, put them in the machine and then “shook ’em up.”

In 1970, my children started coming along and were introduced to The Greeks and the kiddie tables. Every Christmas, a Zaharakos visit was a must for us to listen to the organ and eat ice cream and cheese-brrr-grrrs.

In 1988, our grandson Adam was introduced to The Greeks. He is now in the US Navy in Japan and was so sad to hear Zaharakos closed. This was his favorite place to eat.

In 1994 and 1998, two more grandchildren came along and were introduced to The Greeks. They all miss it and can’t wait for it to re-open.

Now, I have a new grandson waiting to experience The Greeks!

--Pamela R., Elizabethtown, IN

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guy with hat

In the early 1930s, I would beg for 15¢. Then I’d have 10¢ to go to the Saturday afternoon western at the Red Theater and then on to The Greeks for a 5¢ coke. During my high school years, I spent many evenings at The Greeks enjoying a chocolate soda. (It was difficult sometimes to find a table or a place at the counter.) Those were good times. I worked at Reeves Pulley from 1943 to 1993. When I worked at the Reeves plant as Reliance Electric, I could walk downtown for lunch at The Greeks. We were soon known as the lunch bunch at Zaharakos. This included Edna Murry of Capital Finance and Betti Burbrink of The Republic. Lew, May, Nan, Judy and others took care of our lunch orders.

One of my favorite meals was May’s potato soup with a minced ham sandwich on wheat bread with a cup of coffee (25¢). The meal cost less than $2 if I remember correctly.

In later years in the 1990s, I still went to The Greeks for my cup of coffee with Lew. Oh, what good memories!

--Hollace M., Columbus, IN

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