Interview with:   Chris Calomiris
Interview Date:   October 15, 2001 and December 10, 2001
Interviewer:   Bonny Wolf
Transcriber:   Betsy Barnett
    This interview transcript is the property of the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project. Not to be reproduced without permission.
 
   
Part I Part 2

 
   

[TAPE #1, SIDE 1.]

WOLF: ...about his time at the Eastern Market. Thank you for talking to me, Chris. Tell me first, where do you live? You don't live on -- in the neighborhood.

CALOMIRIS: I don't live on the Hill, no. I live in Bethesda now. I moved there when -- from my father's house. It used to be on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. But, originally, though, I lived on First Street, 221 First Street, Northeast, across from the Russell Senate Office Building.

WOLF: Oh, really. Is that where you grew up?

CALOMIRIS: For twenty years I lived there.

WOLF: From when you were a little boy?

CALOMIRIS: I was born on that block. I was born in the room where the Vice President's office is, presently, now, in the new building.

WOLF: One second. [Tape is stopped.] Go on. You were born where?

CALOMIRIS: I was born on 221 First Street, Northeast. That was right across the street from the Russell Senate Office Building, which is the old original one. And there was a row of houses in those days across from the Russell Building. Now they took it all down and made the new Senate office building there. And I lived there, I was born there.

WOLF: Were you born in the house?

CALOMIRIS: In the house, with a doctor producing the birth. I was born in the room that the Vice President's office is. [Unintelligible] somebody told me that exact position, we pointed to the window, he said that's where the Vice President's office is today. I don't know if it still is presently, but...

WOLF: The Vice President of the United...

CALOMIRIS: Of the United States.

WOLF: Oh, really. Had an -- In the Russell Office Building?

CALOMIRIS: Well, they had, evidently, an office in the Senate Office building. I don't know if they still do that or I've got the wrong information, but someone told me that.

WOLF: Well, there probably is an office. I'll have to...

CALOMIRIS: I don't know.

WOLF: Oh, really.

CALOMIRIS: It's just hearsay, but someone told me that.

WOLF: So, you were born across from where the office is now.

CALOMIRIS: I was born across from the Russell Building.

WOLF: Across from the street -- Looked right into the...

CALOMIRIS: Which, after they decided to make a new Senate office building -- what is that the Sam Rayburn? What is the name? [ed: the Dirksen Senate Office Building]

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: That took the place of all that whole block that our houses were. There used to be row houses there on First Street, and...

WOLF: Oh, really. Where the buildings are now, there were residential...

CALOMIRIS: Row houses, one of our houses was, where I was born. And I could see directly where the fountain is in the Russell Building. There's a fountain that, if you look out the window where I was born, you can see direct across the street to the Senate office building which had a fountain right in the middle. It was the -- Right now, that building, the Russell Building is -- In those days it had a horseshoe effect. It used to be open. And you could see right back in the fountain. But they put a wing to it and closed it off...

WOLF: Oh, I see.

CALOMIRIS: ...with gates. And we used to watch the workmen as a view, a few kids, go up, like a trail of ants going up at different levels with brick and mortar on his shoulders and we used to laugh.

WOLF: Really.

CALOMIRIS: That's when they were building that wing.

WOLF: They built it -- it wasn't as high tech as they build now. They actually carried everything...

CALOMIRIS: No. Now they have cranes and one crane does all the job of the lifting and so forth.

WOLF: And they carried it on their backs? The bricks.

CALOMIRIS: They carried their funny shaped things and, of course, they might -- we don't have [unintelligible]. We might have other smaller [unintelligible] heavier equipment, but...

WOLF: What year were you born?

CALOMIRIS: It was 1924, November 14th.

WOLF: How many -- so, you have a birthday coming up.

CALOMIRIS: Yes, I'm getting older.

WOLF: Aren't we all. How many children in your family?

CALOMIRIS: There's -- I've got three children, two boys and one...

WOLF: No, when you were born.

CALOMIRIS: In that house?

WOLF: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

CALOMIRIS: I've only got one brother and another brother which died. He was my twin brother.

WOLF: Oh, really. You had a twin...

CALOMIRIS: Yes. He died when he was about a year and a half old.

WOLF: Oh.

CALOMIRIS: From whooping cough, or something...

WOLF: Really.

CALOMIRIS: They didn't have ways to do anything in those days, you know.

WOLF: Wow.

CALOMIRIS: But, in that same house, we had my first cousins. Everybody, when I tell them how long we lived together, they don't believe it. Because we lived with them twenty years. My cousin's father and my father were brothers that bought the house together and we had split -- they had half of the house and my father had the other half.

WOLF: Really.

CALOMIRIS: We lived twenty years together.

WOLF: Good grief. So, how did that work? Did you have one kitchen? Or...

CALOMIRIS: That's the funny part of it. People aren't going to believe what I say. Well, there were actually more of them so they actually got the benefit of more space, maybe, than we did. Because they had five children, my uncle had five children. And we were only two. So, we just split the thing in half and we had a small -- up on the third floor, we had a kitchen, real small kitchen and one, not a full bath, but one to wash your hands and shave. And, on the second floor, the middle floor, there was a full bath. And that full bath, we took turns using it because there was no other full bath in the house. So, our two families would, sort of, somehow got together and they shared that.

WOLF: You took turns.

CALOMIRIS: Took turns whenever we could.

WOLF: Was there a bath tub?

CALOMIRIS: There was an old fashioned bath tub.

WOLF: With the feet?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, with feet, funny, isn't it? Funny thing.

WOLF: But, running water.

CALOMIRIS: Running water and everything.

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: Downstairs they had their own kitchen. My uncle had his own kitchen. And he had a living room and a dining room and a bedroom, and...

WOLF: Did you all use -- was that a common area? You used the living...

CALOMIRIS: No, no.

WOLF: You had your own upstairs.

CALOMIRIS: Yes, we had a small kitchen and two bedrooms.

WOLF: But, what about for a living room if you...

CALOMIRIS: For a living room we had one of the sections, the front -- the second floor, the front, that was the room I was born in, that was -- we made that for the visitors, a living room. And they had their living room downstairs on the first floor, looking out towards the Senate office building, too.

WOLF: So, but did you do -- did you eat together, did you eat your meals together as families or did you eat separately?

CALOMIRIS: Well, we more or less -- my mother and my brother's [ed: uncle's?] wife, they seem to have gotten along fine and they would exchange food a lot of times. And being there twenty years -- today...

WOLF: Isn't that something.

CALOMIRIS: ...when all these people can't even live one year together from what I see now. So, that's -- people won't believe that that happened.

WOLF: Did your father and his brother work together?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. They didn't work together, but they came as immigrants right [unintelligible].

WOLF: Where did they come from?

CALOMIRIS: They came from Greece.

WOLF: Where in Greece?

CALOMIRIS: From Sparta, Greece, and my mother came from Sparta, Greece, too.

WOLF: So, they all came together as couples from Greece?

CALOMIRIS: No, no.

WOLF: They met here?

CALOMIRIS: Evidently they met here. My mother has -- I think my uncle got married here, too. I'm not sure. I think my uncle must have married in New York and they all migrated to D. C.

WOLF: How come -- why did they come to Washington?

CALOMIRIS: Well, Washington they seemed to like because it's something is -- they didn't -- New York was more or less a lot of immigrants and it seemed too much for them. They didn't understand English and they had one sister, I think, here, my father. And they, more or less, were attracted to that one sister. And, most of the Greeks that came to Washington didn't speak English. They, literally, lived in these so-called courts around here.

WOLF: The courts?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. You know, the alleys.

WOLF: Oh, really. Oh, I know that there were a lot of people who lived in the alleys.

CALOMIRIS: Italians lived in...

WOLF: I'm sorry, who?

CALOMIRIS: Italian people.

WOLF: Lived in the alleys.

CALOMIRIS: The immigrants, and they didn't have any money, they didn't know the English, and they're the ones you've got to give a lot of, lot of medals.

WOLF: Oh, boy.

CALOMIRIS: Because they had no help from anybody. They didn't have no programs to go by and they worked hard. There was no such thing as eight-hour work for them. They worked from morning to dusk. The salary was as crazy as -- I mean my father was getting by with, what was it, about twelve dollars a week.

WOLF: And what was he doing?

CALOMIRIS: Well, they all seemed to end up in restaurants or produce.

WOLF: Yes. Is that what they had done in Greece, also?

CALOMIRIS: Well, no, they were just -- they came very young, around fifteen. But, there was no opportunity there and the system in Greece, they had to give dowries to the girls and a lot of them couldn't afford it. And, so, a lot of the children, they got to an age, they had the opportunity to go away from Greece to find elsewhere, you know, a livelihood. And my father's family and my mother's all seemed to have been brought into the U.S.A.

WOLF: So, your dad came -- your parents both came when they were teenagers?

CALOMIRIS: My father did. My mother came a little later.

WOLF: Did they come with their parents or by themselves?

CALOMIRIS: No, no. They came by themselves. It's a wonder how they even got here really.

WOLF: That's something.

CALOMIRIS: They only did what they knew what to do, anything that's available. My father came over as a youngster with his brothers, which were older, and they opened up, as far as I recollect -- I heard tales of them going with the horse drawn wagons for produce and they would go to Takoma Park and sell through the wagons that had the produce on it.

WOLF: So, they would take produce out to areas like Takoma Park to sell?

CALOMIRIS: Yes.

WOLF: Where did they get the produce?

CALOMIRIS: Well, in those days, everybody had produce. It's -- that was the livelihood for the city.

Of course, that was certainly...

WOLF: Did they get it from farmers?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, farmers.

WOLF: Who would come in from the...

CALOMIRIS: Come in, because all Georgetown would fill up with farmers.

WOLF: I see.

CALOMIRIS: If you study the history of Washington, it's originally from produce, to provide produce for a living. There were farms where Rock Creek Park was, where Walter Reed Hospital was, there was nothing but farms. So, it was literally anything -- there was no such thing as people going to school because most of them were illiterates.

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: And they didn't have that schooling to cope with. They only tried to make a livelihood. So, I imagine all immigrants have the same problem. And they...

WOLF: So, your father and his brothers got here and they right away went into the produce business, and they...

CALOMIRIS: And then one of the brothers went into the restaurant business. In fact, one of them had -- you know, where First Street and B Street, where the new library is, there used to be nothing but restaurants.

WOLF: The Library of Congress?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, right across the street from the old one, that street on the other side used to be a lot of restaurants. In fact, one after the other.

WOLF: Oh really.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. And my...

WOLF: When was that? What year was that?

CALOMIRIS: Well, it must have been in the '30s, as far as I can remember. They must have had it before I was born because they were talking about it and they -- as I got older, they would show me the spot where he had it. It used to be right on the corner of B Street, I guess.

WOLF: There is no B Street.

CALOMIRIS: Independence, whatever it is. That corner. It's Independence, okay? And that was right across, directly across the street from the Library of Congress.

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: The Library of Congress, across the street was that row of restaurants, and my uncle's was directly across the street.

WOLF: Do you know what it was called?

CALOMIRIS: I'm afraid I don't know that.

WOLF: It was a Greek restaurant?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. He operated it.

WOLF: Did he cook?

CALOMIRIS: Well, they all seemed to have -- they had to cook in those days...

WOLF: Sure.

CALOMIRIS: ...even the male, to survive. So, that's the reason why most of them went into restaurant business and produce.

WOLF: What other kind of -- that row of restaurants was, what other kind of...

CALOMIRIS: Oh, they had other restaurants. I don't recall too many of them. But, as I got older, I saw Sherrill's Bakery, but they were one block over, across the street. But I'm talking the main street before...

WOLF: Right, right.

CALOMIRIS: ...used to be all restaurants.

WOLF: So, is that on what is now Independence right where the Library, where the new building of the Library of Congress is?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. Say this is the Library of Congress, this whole city block, then directly across the street there were restaurants and places of business right across the street. And my uncle's was right directly, right on the corner.

WOLF: This was your uncle who you lived with?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. My uncle George, who was called Chris Calomiris, too. And, they would always tell us tales of how long they worked, the hours and everything.

WOLF: Who used to come into those restaurants?

CALOMIRIS: I really don't know. It was before my time actually.

WOLF: And they didn't tell stories...

CALOMIRIS: They didn't tell who...

WOLF: the President...

CALOMIRIS: No.

WOLF: ...members of Congress.

CALOMIRIS: No, not that I know of. And then I know they had also another Greek stand. They used to sell souvenirs, I forget his name, on that same block. Then on the other side of the same block, on the other corner, was, later on in years, my first cousin, only his name was Kalavritinos because his mother was a Calomiris and he married a Kalavritinos.

WOLF: I see.

CALOMIRIS: So, they had a restaurant right on the corner, too, and I used to joke about him, competitive with my father.

WOLF: A restaurant, also?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. So, most Greeks were restaurant oriented.

WOLF: There's one Greek restaurant, now, on the Hill. Do you know -- are you related to them?

CALOMIRIS: No, no. But I know them well. He's a nice man. It's very good.

WOLF: Yes. Is it good? Is it real Greek food?

CALOMIRIS: He's been in -- he has good food. For him to be that long in business, he must be doing something right.

WOLF: Has he been there for a long time?

CALOMIRIS: As far as I can remember, he has.

WOLF: Yes. So, your father didn't go into the restaurant business. He stayed...

CALOMIRIS: Yes, he did.

WOLF: Oh, he did?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes. I mean -- you see, they had to struggle so much, they had to define [?] one thing against the other and end up, as their children got older, they either died or their children took something else -- went into real estate or went to college. They got a little better. But the original immigrants, they struggled in their heart [?].

WOLF: Oh, sure.

CALOMIRIS: And they worked hard, I'm sure. Every nationality had that problem, too.

WOLF: Oh, yes. Well, did they -- so, they got here and they both went to the farms and they loaded up wagons with produce and went around the area..

CALOMIRIS: The original -- as far as the tales I heard, that's before they opened up another stand, where -- you know where the Archives, the building, is? The FBI and all those buildings?

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: That was all squares of markets.

WOLF: That was the Central Market?

CALOMIRIS: They used to call the old...

WOLF: Was it Center or Central?

CALOMIRIS: Old Center Market, as far as I know, they were saying. The Old Center Market

WOLF: That was a great big market.

CALOMIRIS: That's a big market where all produce from all over the area, Maryland and Virginia, would come in and show their wares, and sell it.

WOLF: Do you remember that market?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, I remember when I used to live on First Street, my mother used to take me to see my father, and his brother had a place there, too, with partners. And we used to go to that place. And I remember where the -- right next to my father's stand was this grocery place. And its windows were adjacent to my father's and my uncle's stand. And there used to be thousands of flies. And I was a little kid tapping on them to move them, you know, to go in another direction.

WOLF: The flies.

CALOMIRIS: That was a good market there. And, also, my uncle, Chris Kalavritinos, he had a stand about half a block up.

WOLF: Oh, really. Now, were these permanent stands like you have now at the Eastern Market?

CALOMIRIS: They had permanent ones, they had -- yes. But, they were operated mostly, partly on the curb [?] and if they were lucky enough to have a building they would go back into the building to close up with or put their stock. But, say this is the building, they would have -- and show display here in front and also on the other side of the aisle they would have another display. And that was part of the same stand.

WOLF: That was a big market, wasn't it? Many levels, or two levels, didn't they...

CALOMIRIS: No. I don't know -- there were some parts that I didn't even realize were there until I was told. But I only can say what I see with my own eyes. I heard they had -- it was so big they had different complexes. I don't know how. But it was a real big market where all produce would come to the city and be sold there.

WOLF: How did your father and his brother get over there every day?

CALOMIRIS: Walk.

WOLF: They just walked from First Street.

CALOMIRIS: That was one of the things they were [unintelligible]. In fact, we used to walk on First Street on the Northeast side of the Capitol, you know. And we used to, as kids, go around the Capitol, hit the Capitol grounds and commence into the west side, which is where the markets were located.

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: And we used to walk all that distance, say, from First Street, Northeast, to, I guess, up there where the Archives started, around the 600 block or the 700 block, where the FBI Building or buildings are standing. [?]

WOLF: Right, right.

CALOMIRIS: ...up to there 'til we got to the stand that my father was at.

WOLF: What kind of -- he sold all kinds of produce?

CALOMIRIS: Everything you could, yes. The only drawback was, in those days, there wasn't much food that could be transported.

WOLF: Right. Not much refrigeration.

CALOMIRIS: Refrigeration. So, they had to work with everything that's in season. Then, in the wintertime...

WOLF: That's nice.

CALOMIRIS: ...they would sell potatoes or -- that's before they had transportation and could bring other things that's grown elsewhere over. But, then they didn't have that type of...

WOLF: So, it was all local and all seasonal.

CALOMIRIS: All local, all seasonal.

WOLF: When did they tear down that market?

CALOMIRIS: Well, I'd say, with exact dates...

WOLF: Was it in the '50s, after World War II?

CALOMIRIS: I think that is was just a little before, before I think.

WOLF: I'll have to look it up. I can't remember.

CALOMIRIS: I've got some stuff here. I didn't have a chance to look. Maybe you can find out.

WOLF: Great, wonderful.

CALOMIRIS: I just hit and miss picked up a few things because I knew you were going to ask me dates and...

WOLF: No, I'd love to take...

CALOMIRIS: I can't even remember dates anymore. I just thought...

WOLF: Oh, I don't -- you're doing great. I'd love to look through that and get it back to you.

CALOMIRIS: It's okay, if you want to.

WOLF: Well, after he -- how did he get to Capitol Hill? Why did he and his brother, when they came to Washington, why did they move onto Capitol Hill?

CALOMIRIS: You must realize Washington was just a city. Half of it was not even built on the east side.

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: They had planned for it to go to the east side, but, what I hear, they were asking for too much money or something so it didn't develop. It developed on the west side and that's where all the markets are. Then, the people who were running Washington in those days, they said, they decided to have somebody for the east side, which they included Eastern Market. That's why they -- so, I think they then, too, were trying to fit to the needs of the city on the west side, which was the one I'm talking about, and also this east side where they expected more development didn't occur, the Eastern Market. And I think that's why -- the Eastern Market. And, also, when these markets were torn down for the renewed buildings, there were about fifteen other markets that sprang up the west side of the building, on the northwest side more than they did on the east side.

WOLF: So, after they tore down the Central Market, where did your dad go?

CALOMIRIS: Center Market?

WOLF: Center Market.

CALOMIRIS: Then, he worked different places trying to make a living. There was -- I know he worked at O Street Market, 7th and O. He used to work for Charlie Pizer [?]. And he also worked Florida Avenue Market, that's later on...

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: ...on Morse Street, which is adjacent to Florida Avenue Market. He had a place there, a market stand. And on Florida Avenue, he used to have, right now there used to be three sheds, if you're familiar with the Florida Avenue Market.

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: That was a good market. But, now, it's nothing like it used to be.

WOLF: No.

CALOMIRIS: It used to have, I think, three or four long sheds, from one end of the square block down to the other. One side vegetables and one had where they sold poultry and then chickens, a lot of chickens.

WOLF: A lot of chickens.

CALOMIRIS: A lot of chickens [unintelligible]. And people used to go there. And down below there was that open lot. I remember the circus used to get that.

WOLF: Oh, really.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. Then, on the 5th Street side there used to be nothing but wholesale houses, produce and meats. I remember that real well. Because the way markets operated then, say from 10:30 until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, there was just wholesale business occurring, which was the wholesale houses right across the street, a whole row of them from 4th Street on up to the hill. Oh, you can see -- that's not to show you, it's hard for me to explain.

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: But, anyway, they had wholesale houses operating for the benefit of people that operate after, say, from 6:00 in the morning until 7:00, retail. The retailers would go to these wholesalers...

WOLF: I see.

CALOMIRIS: ...and get their, whatever they wanted to buy from these wholesale houses or from any other way. And go to Baltimore. They used to bring something in, which had the same system, too, of wholesale houses open only early in the morning. At a certain time they would close and the retailers would operate their stands. And my father had these houses here, where the wholesalers used to come in, and, also, farmers used to come in. They used to come early in the morning, too, the farmers, to sell to wholesalers or to guys like my father that would sell at a later time of the day. So, the farmers would come just anytime, say, from 10:00 in the morning and stay there until about 7:00 or 6:00, just catering to potential retailers, or wholesalers would come over and buy from them, too, so they could sell it to us. And that was the way the system was then.

WOLF: Is it different from that now at Florida Avenue?

CALOMIRIS: Florida Avenue -- if people that worked in those days -- would turn over in their grave. There's nothing there, of a system there. It's mostly now wholesale houses for Oriental import stuff. All the -- just about all the wholesalers that I knew very well, it was quite a few of them, none exist anymore. Either they died or their children didn't take over or they just closed up and the Oriental business just took over and they went into their stalls.

WOLF: When you were growing up, how many -- were there three markets in the city?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, gosh, it's so many of them.

WOLF: Oh, there were a lot of markets.

CALOMIRIS: As far as I remember there was, like I said, O Street Market. There was 5th and K Market, that was what they call the New Center Market. There was R.K. [?] Market. There was Morse Street Market. There was Florida Avenue Market. There was one, what do you call it, down at the -- where the wharves are at?

WOLF: Maine Avenue?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, there used to be a market down there.

WOLF: Oh, really. Not just fish.

CALOMIRIS: No, there was a market right close to it, across the street. In fact, my father had a stand there, too.

WOLF: Was he at every market?

CALOMIRIS: Well, just about. They were so close, you could either go here or there. There was no other place to go. At their life span [?], you know, what they could earn a living. But, he was at there, too. He was at Morse Street, he was at Florida Avenue Market. In fact, he had a restaurant on Fifth Street.

WOLF: Fifth Street, Southwest?

CALOMIRIS: Northeast. My uncle had a restaurant, too, up there on the corner of it, called George's Lunchroom.

WOLF: George's?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, George's Lunch.

WOLF: So, this was not the -- this is different from the restaurant they had...

CALOMIRIS: The one in Southeast. That's different altogether. That was the same uncle, but he later had...

WOLF: And what were these -- were these restaurants for workers for lunch or for...

CALOMIRIS: For anything.

WOLF: Lunch, dinner, breakfast.

CALOMIRIS: Mostly for breakfast and lunch. For the working people most of the time because...

WOLF: What kind of food?

CALOMIRIS: They had their [unintelligible] whatever they want. Now, my father had -- in those days, the colored had to be in their own, they couldn't go into with the white, and they had...

CALOMIRIS: If you had -- like my uncle, he had a restaurant on the corner like I said. It operated for the white only in the front. In back he had, you could go in the back, there was another door entrance and a showplace where the colored people came in. That's the way it was in those days.

WOLF: Oh, yes, I know.

CALOMIRIS: And my father catered to, about a block down, just to colored only. So, he used to sell hog maw and pigs' feet and stuff, things that they loved, you know. See, you had to do that. You had to make a living somehow, you know. So, he had been in and out of restaurant and produce businesses.

WOLF: So, both brothers were always doing restaurants or produce or...

CALOMIRIS: Yes. And there was a third brother. He did produce, too.

WOLF: And how -- when -- how long did your dad live?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, gosh. He lived 'til he was around 60, 64 years old.

WOLF: Oh, he was young.

CALOMIRIS: To them [unintelligible] in those days is old. They were dying at 45, 50.

WOLF: And were you -- how long did you live -- tell me a little bit. So, when you were growing up, where did you go to elementary school?

CALOMIRIS: I went to Peabody.

WOLF: You did.

CALOMIRIS: I finished Peabody. I think her name was Mrs. Wood, was the principal. And she had, under her jurisdiction, three schools that were close by -- Peabody, Carbery, and Hilton.

WOLF: Carbery is now apartments.

CALOMIRIS: It's apartments and, then, Hilton must be torn down, I guess. But Peabody is still there, I know because they come to our place.

WOLF: Yes, sure.

CALOMIRIS: So, I went to that school.

WOLF: How'd you like Peabody?

CALOMIRIS: I loved it.

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: I remember I used to play baseball where the fence is on the side and I was small, built small, everything. My cousins were twice what I [unintelligible]. I was a small person.

WOLF: Oh, that must have been annoying.

CALOMIRIS: In a way. It was. And there was just a fence only a matter of a few yards. They would hit it over the fence. I'd always hit the net before it went over. And I remember trying to hit the thing, you know, to be in the same ball game as they were.

WOLF: Sure.

CALOMIRIS: And I used to push myself, push myself.

WOLF: So, then you played baseball right there in the Peabody...

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes. They had -- I played other sports there, too, as much as they accommodated.

WOLF: What other sports did they play?

CALOMIRIS: Also, we used to go every year to Sherwood Playground. Is that still around? Sherwood?

WOLF: I don't know. Where was that?

CALOMIRIS: It was close by. We would have meets, all the schools in the city, to, say, relays for running and jumping and baseball. We used to have a contest between each school in the city.

WOLF: And that was on Capitol Hill? Sherwood Playground?

CALOMIRIS: Sherwood Playground -- it must be something close to it. You can probably look it up.

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: Sherwood. And every year they would have meets against other schools, anyway. One school would try to beat the other school and it was nice. It was real good.

WOLF: So, Peabody went through the sixth grade?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, from kindergarten...

WOLF: First grade, whatever.

CALOMIRIS: For me, I went to -- me and my cousin, we started late because our parents didn't know the procedure. They couldn't speak English too well.

WOLF: Sure.

CALOMIRIS: They were always a close clan and they never would...

WOLF: Did you know English when you went to school?

CALOMIRIS: Well, I knew it, a little English. But, it kept me back, kept my cousin back.

WOLF: I'll bet, because you spoke Greek at home.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. We were pretty close families. And we used to laugh, we can laugh about it now because they would have groups of -- red, white, and blue groups. Red is danger for reading, and so forth.

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: And the teacher would always -- we were put in the red group because "needs work". The teacher would call up and "Well, come in the blue group." We would go up there. They would say come in the blue or one of the others. But, we wouldn't go to the red -- not intentionally, but we just didn't understand. So he says, "You boys have got to understand you belong in the red. You need work."

WOLF: Were there a lot of immigrant children at Peabody?

CALOMIRIS: I imagine there were. Yes, I imagine they had. But, after the first grade, I don't know what happened. We were, me and my cousin, we were on top of the list of good grades.

WOLF: Really? That's great. Well, --

CALOMIRIS: What was the problem is the language would be what was holding us back. But, after that, we did pretty good.

WOLF: Did you play with other children in the neighbor or mostly with family?

CALOMIRIS: No, we played -- the one thing about, as far as the life on First Street was really -- really, really I loved it. Because kids, the neighborhood [unintelligible] questioned who are you and who am I? Every 6:00 or 7:00 we had the -- all the neighborhood, or especially the Greeks and Italians, were coming to our bench. Somehow they would always meet at our house. And you could hear -- I would try to get some sleep on the third floor, all I could hear them yapping away. But, kids got to go along, got to get together. We had problems, like with -- one thing was fortunate. We didn't have any dope problems.

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: We were fortunate for that.

WOLF: And it was a lot of Greek and Italian kids?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes. All of that area. It's a mix. And the Jewish. But we never had problems with that.

WOLF: So, it was a lot of ethnic...

CALOMIRIS: Ethnic -- in fact...

WOLF: A lot of immigrant, families of immigrants, new immigrants.

CALOMIRIS: And we all had the same problems. We all got along fine. But, where we lived right next to an alley, one house away from the alley, used to be this court I was telling you about, called Schott's Court.

WOLF: Oh, I read about that.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. There was sort of all colored back there. Originally they were all ethnic but they moved out, then they filled in. And we had made so good friends with our -- say this is our back yard with the fence and right by the fence that separated it was this colored house with the same fence. And we used to throw old clothes to them and stuff. And we got along fine with these people. And to go through there in the alley at dark you were taking a chance. But, somehow, when we would go through there, we didn't -- it was no fear. We could just go right through, no problem at all.

WOLF: And did -- well, I guess you didn't go to school together because the schools were segregated.

CALOMIRIS: No. The schools were segregated. There was -- we didn't have a problem like that. But, anyway...

WOLF: You played together.

CALOMIRIS: We played together. We would play on the Senate Office -- across the street direct was a lawn, all green, okay. We used to have these boys, two or three boys, come there. They'd come to play football with us and baseball at some point. So, we had no problem on that. In fact, we didn't have a problem, even with the police there. Because they used to have police guards, guys going to college. There was no urgency or anything. It was a joke with them and when they weren't there they knew we weren't going to bother anybody. So we got along with them. And then right across the street was this balcony where the Vice President Garner used to be, the Vice President for Roosevelt.

WOLF: Oh, really.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. He used to come out and watch us play football and he would...

WOLF: Is that right?

CALOMIRIS: We would throw the football up to him. It's just a little balcony, maybe about twelve feet high. But, anyway, he would come out and...

WOLF: He'd catch the ball?

CALOMIRIS: He'd catch the ball and throw it back to us.

WOLF: Is that right?

CALOMIRIS: He had a big Texan hat. He was nice. I tell you, there's no place -- we used to sell Liberty Magazines, too. We needed the money. We used to make a little bit of money. We used to go from office to office in the Senate office building and knock on doors. We were little youngsters and they would feel sorry for us and laugh and joke with us, you know, the people working in there.

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: They were real nice. And we used to say "Liberty five cents".

WOLF: What's Liberty magazine?

CALOMIRIS: Called the Liberty Magazine. It was the name of it.

WOLF: What kind of magazine was it?

CALOMIRIS: Liberty Magazine is something like the -- almost like the same thing that you -- any information for the city and so forth. It was a city magazine.

WOLF: And you'd go door-to-door and they wouldn't shoo you away. They'd...

CALOMIRIS: No. I went door-to-door...

END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 1

TAPE 1/SIDE 2

WOLF: So, you'd go door-to-door in the office building with the magazine.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. And so you'd -- we used to sell other magazines, too. But, that's the easiest way to say it. What other magazines did we have in those days? Liberty and they had the McCall's or something, those kinds of magazines that you would find on a stand.

WOLF: So, is this while you were in school, you would also -- you were selling magazines and newspapers and...

CALOMIRIS: While I was in school, all that's while I was in school.

WOLF: Did you go to school after Peabody?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. I went to Stuart Junior High.

WOLF: Right. That's now Stuart-Hobson. I think it's a middle school.

CALOMIRIS: I don't know what it is. Stuart Junior High. I managed to finish that.

WOLF: Wonderful.

CALOMIRIS: Okay. Then, the next step would have been high school, but then things weren't too good. I decided I'd go to a vocational school to learn a trade, which they said maybe is your best bet.

WOLF: That was a very good thing to do.

CALOMIRIS: So, I went to Chamberlain Vocational -- it's now a high school, I think. I don't know if it's still in existence but they...

WOLF: What was it called?

CALOMIRIS: Chamberlain -- it's in Southeast somewhere. And real close by. And we went there.

WOLF: Did your cousin go with you, too?

CALOMIRIS: No, no. Then they went...

WOLF: Your brother?

CALOMIRIS: My brother, no, they -- oh, yes, my brother went to Chamberlain. Yes, he did, because I followed him. But, my other cousins, see, went into regular high school, Eastern, I think it was.

WOLF: What did you study at Chamberlain?

CALOMIRIS: Electronics and radio. I went there, I think, for about two years. Then...

WOLF: What year are we now?

CALOMIRIS: This is right after junior high school.

WOLF: So, that was probably what, 19 -- late '30s, still before the war?

CALOMIRIS: It's still before the war. But, I thought I had come across one of these [unintelligible] my mind way back. [Going through some papers.] You know who this is?

WOLF: No.

CALOMIRIS: That's Patricia Harris. I think she was the -- she used to come and buy at our stand from us. She was the first one to be a non-voting Senator or something. Is that...

WOLF: Oh, right, right. Patricia Harris.

CALOMIRIS: She was well known in the city. And she was a real nice lady. She used to come and talk to us a lot.

WOLF: So, you went to the vocational school for what, two years?

CALOMIRIS: Let's see. I took a few notes back there, but they're [unintelligible]. Let me see. Chamberlain Vocational School. Started February 4, 1941 to September 21, 1942, I went there. Stuart Junior High School, I went to January 31, 1941, which -- I must have got that right, because I started Chamberlain right after that in 1941.

WOLF: It's great that you kept those notes.

CALOMIRIS: Well, I don't know what I -- Eastern High School, I went when I came back from service because I had decided to finish high school.

WOLF: Good for you.

CALOMIRIS: And they were giving a program for veterans that didn't finish high school to get a diploma. Now, Chamberlain when I went was not a high school. It was just a vocational school.

WOLF: I see.

CALOMIRIS: But, after I left, they changed it to a high school. So, I decided that at least I would have a diploma in my hand to do something, you know.

WOLF: So, after you were done with Chamberlain you went into the service?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes. I've forgotten that's what happened. I see, I started the service...

WOLF: Where were you during the war?

CALOMIRIS: Let's see. I wrote something down here. Okay, I've got my rank, Technician 4th Class, my serial number, entering into service Camp Lee, Virginia, August the 12th, 1943. I was in the Infantry branch, and I was separated at Fort Meade when I came back. That was on January 9th, 1946.

WOLF: Three year.

CALOMIRIS: Three years.

WOLF: Where were you? Were you in Europe?

CALOMIRIS: No, I was in New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon, and Japan.

WOLF: Wow. Very exotic places.

CALOMIRIS: Oh, it's the worse place a person could live in that exists, believe me. New Guinea, they died at the age of 24. You'd see them, these real strong youth. You'd see them but they say they die very early. There, New Guinea is so much jungle. It's a -- we got more rashes and disease even, the troops, you know.

WOLF: Oh, I'm sure.

CALOMIRIS: I went to the Philippines, Leyte. Please, can I have a glass of water?

WOLF: Yes, absolutely.

[Tape is stopped.]

CALOMIRIS: Do you want to do the campaigns I've got listed here? New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon, Japan. This is decoration citations. I got the -- you want to hear this, too?

WOLF: Well, sure.

CALOMIRIS: Good Conduct Medal, everybody, Distinguished Unit Badge, Combat Infantry Badge, Victory Ribbon, Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon, Bronze Star Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon.

WOLF: So, you came -- were you married before you left?

CALOMIRIS: No, I wasn't. I got married after I came out of service.

WOLF: You came back and, see -- you left the service. You came back to the same house on First Street?

CALOMIRIS: We came, but not for long. The children were getting big and there were rumors that they were going to take it anyway. So, the two brothers -- one of the brothers died and then my father was left and everybody went on their own. The family split up. My cousins went into real estate. I stayed in produce because I was that age I've got to support my mother. I came out of service, I had to continue something my father started.

WOLF: Your father had died while you were away?

CALOMIRIS: No. My father died when I came back.

WOLF: I see.

CALOMIRIS: And he had a...

WOLF: Had you worked in produce before you went away? You'd worked with your dad and your uncle.

CALOMIRIS: With my dad. And I'd worked for, let's see, what is this? You know there's a place in Georgetown, the market that's an old one that resembles Eastern Market.

WOLF: Oh, yes. Where they now have -- now it's a fancy...

CALOMIRIS: Yes, a fancy one. I worked there, me and my brother had worked there once.

WOLF: Oh, really.

CALOMIRIS: Yes, for produce. They had produce then. Now, of course, I worked at all the other markets, too, just about. The Florida Avenue Market, the Morse Street Market.

WOLF: So, you came back. Did you go right to work or you went back to Eastern High School then?

CALOMIRIS: When I came back, I went to Eastern High School to try to finish it up. There was a date on that.

Oh, here, I guess.

WOLF: That must have...

CALOMIRIS: I went to Eastern -- I started February -- after I came out of service in 1946.

WOLF: What was it like to go back to school after you'd been in the service? It must have been...

CALOMIRIS: I tell you, it's really -- it was an experience. I went back and then they didn't have enough teachers just to cater to veterans. So, the few veterans that returned back like I did, to finish high school, they had to mix us into the going-on students in those classes. So, I went into -- kids were the age, for example, what is it? Eighteen? Whatever it was.

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: And I was sitting -- I was so bashful, I would always sit in back. Okay?

WOLF: And, here you are a veteran of this terrible war.

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes. I thought, you know, what am I doing here? You know. You felt, you know. So, one day the teacher -- it was in social studies -- was on geography and they were discussing different parts of the world and the teacher turned back and said "Mr. Calomiris, would you enlighten us. You've been in that part of the world." And, you should see, I wish I'd had a camera. All heads in unison turned back. I felt like [unintelligible].

WOLF: That was a good teacher, though, who knew to ask you to share the...

CALOMIRIS: Yes. She was nice.

WOLF: That same Eastern High School that's on East Capitol Street.

CALOMIRIS: Yes, same one there. There's only just two or three people that I remember. Moody -- What was his name? Moody, his first name I forget. Well, anyway, he was my age, that's the reason [unintelligible]. You know, there was another one my age, too, and what was so ironic was when he had -- we were students in elementary and we met at Eastern.

WOLF: Really.

CALOMIRIS: And he was taking a course. But, you know, I had another surprise in my life. That guy, I shouldn't use the word stupid, but up to then he was really not too good in those years, in those formative years. And that guy was so good in math and everything else the teacher was complimenting him right and left. In fact, she would get information from him on the studies that she was supposed to be teaching him. His name was Ralph, but I forget his last name. But I have to laugh, I say you don't know what life has in store for you.

WOLF: No, no.

CALOMIRIS: And he was really sharp. He was really bright.

WOLF: Isn't that something? So, did you finish at Eastern.

CALOMIRIS: I finished, or I guess what I could, I started. Did I make a little note out of it? [Looking at papers.] Started February 4, under the GI Bill of Rights, 306 or 30 -- or to June -- Can you see this Chinese? My glasses aren't too good.

WOLF: Let me see. Mine aren't so great either.

CALOMIRIS: The pencil.

WOLF: [Reading from papers.] Eastern High School, 17 -- Started February 19th to, oh, June...

CALOMIRIS: Something.

WOLF: ...1946.

CALOMIRIS: Okay. That seems right.

WOLF: Okay. Then, you went to Central High School?

CALOMIRIS: As part time, for my radio.

WOLF: Oh, you continued that.

CALOMIRIS: Went for a while, just because -- sometimes these various schools had good classes and you could take it at night if you wanted.

WOLF: Did you do that because you wanted to pursue -- you wanted to do that...

CALOMIRIS: Enhance what I had started.

WOLF: So, at this time, when you were going to these schools, did you -- where were you living?

CALOMIRIS: I was still living on First Street...

WOLF: Still on First Street with your mom.

CALOMIRIS: Yes, father -- mother and father and brother. Then, I went -- I found work at Lansburgh repair shop at Chevy Chase [unintelligible] and Electric, just before I went in service, I guess. And, also, you know I worked at Social Security Building.

WOLF: Oh, really.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. That's now no longer Social Security, it's Voice of America. It's on Independence Avenue. I worked there under the War Production Board. That's before I went in.

WOLF: So, when did you finally settle down to do produce full time?

CALOMIRIS: When I come back from service.

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: I knew I had no choice. I had to...

WOLF: Support your mom?

CALOMIRIS: Support my mom. She had a house and my father was gone [?]. So, you know...

WOLF: Was your brother working with you?

CALOMIRIS: My brother -- no -- he lucked out in a way. He went -- right after junior high school he got a chance to go into the -- it was time of the war period, and you were ready to be inducted and so forth. He decided to volunteer in the Coast Guard. And they had an electronics course, radio and TV. And my brother, we worked as radio repairmen, too, but he was so good. In fact, even the people like GE and Philco and so forth would go for him for something -- they'd come to him with a lemon they couldn't repair. They would come to him. He was very good at it. But, then, he decided he'd volunteer. He went into Coast Guard for electronics. And he lucked out. He even went from one school, college to the other, advanced because he was pretty good as he went. And, he became an electrical engineer in radio.

WOLF: Did he stay -- was he also living with you?

CALOMIRIS: No, when he got married, then he moved from us.

WOLF: So, how long -- so, now you're back from the service and you're working in -- where were you working?

CALOMIRIS: When?

WOLF: When you came back from the service and you were helping your mom out.

CALOMIRIS: Oh, then I went to my father. He had a stand at 5th and K, this other market.

WOLF: I see. That was the new Center Market?

CALOMIRIS: New Center Market, and my father was in partners with another friend of his. And then -- that was where the family was making their living when I was in service. My father was working and paying the bills. When I came back, he was still there.

WOLF: I see.

CALOMIRIS: I came back to work to help him out. I didn't know what I was going to do anyway. So, I went back in the -- my father had a little difficulty with his partner. [unintelligible] But, anyway, they split up and my father was getting old and everything and I decided to give him a hand, to see, just go along with him. And he had three stands where my father was in partners with his partner. So, I said -- but my father made a mistake. He didn't have any papers to show he was a partner. And then his sons -- he had five sons -- and they messed up everything, came in and did what they wanted. And I told my father, I said "I cannot come work with you all any more without it [?] in the long view affect the set up." I said, "You'd better find out if you're a partner or not. If you are, fine. If you want to stay, fine. But, I'm not going to stay here without papers." I said, "If your partner decides to draw a line and become partners, I want it in writing."

WOLF: Now, was your father Thomas?

CALOMIRIS: Yes.

WOLF: So, that's the Thomas Calomiris and Son.

CALOMIRIS: That's the original, yes.

WOLF: You're the "and Sons".

CALOMIRIS: Yes. I'm the "Sons". Okay. So, one thing led to the other. He made papers and everything, but they didn't live up to their promise. So, we had to split up. I said the only way to split up, you've got three stands, they've got six of them, we're two of us. We take one-third of what's there; they take the two-thirds of the six stands.

WOLF: Seems fair.

CALOMIRIS: So, we went on from then and I never separated from then and I stood with my father.

WOLF: But, you were still at Fifth and K?

CALOMIRIS: Fifth and K. And we did pretty good.

WOLF: Is Fifth and K Southwest?

CALOMIRIS: Northwest.

WOLF: Northwest. Okay.

CALOMIRIS: And we did pretty good. We worked hard, worked like a horse. My father was a worker, jeezy.

WOLF: It sounds unbelievable.

CALOMIRIS: It's almost [unintelligible] if I tell you some of the [unintelligible]. But, anyway, we did so good we knocked out the other guy in the business. Anyway, that's beside the point. And we also -- the Market meanwhile was deteriorating kind of, the economic conditions of the time, and the Market was old, too. It was a nice big market.

WOLF: Is the building gone?

CALOMIRIS: They took the whole thing. That was the biggest mistake they ever made.

WOLF: Take those beautiful buildings down.

CALOMIRIS: I think that building -- in fact, it originally had a dome like the Union Station.

WOLF: Really.

CALOMIRIS: It was exactly like that the length of the building. Upstairs was a convention alley. In fact, they named it Convention Hall, where people would meet and give conventions. But, towards the end they made it into one bowling alley, a whole block long, with spotlights down, with grandstand seats around it. When I was a little kid, I used to go there and watch them play, the bowlers.

WOLF: The bowlers.

CALOMIRIS: And hear the thunder of the bowling alley and the lights down on each individual alley. It was beautiful and you could watch it from the stands.

WOLF: This was at Fifth and K?

CALOMIRIS: Fifth and K. That was just the top part. The bottom, they had over, I think, over 200 dealers.

WOLF: Is that right?

CALOMIRIS: And the -- I still say the guy that designed that market was the same guy that designed -- maybe you can look it up -- that designed the Eastern Market, because its...

WOLF: Oh, and -- Claus.

CALOMIRIS: Claus. Yes. He's -- the big...

WOLF: And the Smithsonian. The castle he did, too.

CALOMIRIS: Well, you look it up and find out who did Fifth and K. Maybe you can find some past history on it.

WOLF: That was a fabulous market.

CALOMIRIS: That was a big market, but they had a fire in the '40s. I was in service; my father wrote and told me. And, the dome collapsed. So they made it a straight roof. But, it still was a very good market. But, this Mr. Bernstein was the name that bought the market. It was privately owned; it wasn't government owned.

WOLF: Really. It wasn't a...

CALOMIRIS: And I told my father when I was a youngster almost, I says, "Dad," -- there were rumors that he was going to sell it and so forth -- "there's a few dealers left here. Why don't you get together, find out what he wants, and buy it. You can't go wrong." No one listened to me. All they had to do was put about $5,000 apiece up, and...

WOLF: Wow. Oh.

CALOMIRIS: You know, if that place there, now, if they had it, would have been priceless.

WOLF: What's there now?

CALOMIRIS: Nothing. They tore it down. It's a lot, parking lot I think.

WOLF: Isn't that terrible.

CALOMIRIS: And it's a shame because that market was centrally located. It was real close to the library there. You know, that library that they want to make into a museum?

WOLF: Right, the Carnegie Library.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. It's only about a block away or so.

WOLF: And all where the Convention Center is now, and stuff.

CALOMIRIS: It would have been a nice place there and it got torn down.

WOLF: What year was this?

CALOMIRIS: Well, I guess it was the -- it was after 1940, after I came out of the service, because we were evicted from there. Mr. Bernstein must have sold it or rented it out for a wax museum. They didn't make out too good. I don't know...

WOLF: A wax museum?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. In fact, that wax museum is still in existence somewhere in the city. You could get information, if you want, from them. But, they messed up on that deal, because it was a good market. It was high ceilings, big windows like we have at Eastern Market.

WOLF: Yes.

CALOMIRIS: And along there they had little catwalks, you could look down at the market.

WOLF: And, weren't there places to eat, too?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. In fact, you know where the Eastern Market place is? The lady that had it before the Glasgows had it came from us. Twelve dealers left. When they tore it down, we didn't know where to go. So, twelve dealers decided to find some place to go. So, someone -- oh, it was what's-his-name. Frenchie.

WOLF: Oh, who had the poultry.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. Poultry. He's the one was at Eastern Market, too, because I heard he got kicked away or something from Eastern Market before. Then, he went to our place. Then, he...

WOLF: Then you all came back.

CALOMIRIS: All came back together.

WOLF: So, twelve of you left...

CALOMIRIS: About twelve of us came a little after.

WOLF: And what year was that?

CALOMIRIS: I guess I should have it here somewhere.

WOLF: Just even approximately.

CALOMIRIS: It was 19 -- Well, when we left it was in '63.

WOLF: So, you've been at the Eastern Market since 1963?

CALOMIRIS: Since '63 until now.

WOLF: That's almost thirty years. That's a long...

CALOMIRIS: It's over thirty years. I guess, whatever -- but, anyway...

WOLF: Pretty close.

CALOMIRIS: Yes. That's when I...

WOLF: That's a long time. So, who else came over with you.

CALOMIRIS: Twelve dealers. I can get that information from -- you know we had to pay rent.

WOLF: Is anybody still there other than you?

CALOMIRIS: Other than me, is the only one left. It's the only one really left. Except the Glasgows. They had to be there because they had the lease and they gave it to the gang.

WOLF: So, the Glasgows were there already.

CALOMIRIS: Yes, just the brothers. And...

WOLF: Who -- one brother just died, right?

CALOMIRIS: That's Charlie. He was the...

WOLF: Charlie. And there's one brother left?

CALOMIRIS: No, no Charlie. Charlie's still living. The brother that -- where Bill is...

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: Bill's father.

WOLF: Bill's father.

CALOMIRIS: He died. Now, the other brother is still living. Charlie is still living.

WOLF: But, he's sick, isn't he?

CALOMIRIS: He's been sick, yes, he's been sick. Yes, that's the only one. But, the only one left of the twelve -- now the original twelve, all the others are not original, are no longer there. Even Bowers, I read in one of the magazines somewhere that he was with the twelve. He wasn't with the twelve. Mr. Sweeney was with the twelve; he bought from Mr. Sweeney. I mean I'm just trying to keep the record straight.

WOLF: Oh, sure, absolutely.

CALOMIRIS: I don't want to take any credit. But, he'd been there long, too. You have to give him credit for that.

WOLF: When you were growing up, did you shop at the Eastern Market?

CALOMIRIS: No. I went and mostly did the shopping at a little grocery store that was around the corner on First Street. We did a lot of shopping there, every once in a while go to Florida Avenue Market. We did -- when my fathers [?] had their stand, of course, they would bring in food, produce. Where there were big markets, they would have their own. So...

WOLF: Your mother did all the cooking?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes.

WOLF: She a good cook?

CALOMIRIS: My father was a good cook, too, but my mother was real good.

WOLF: They cooked Greek food.

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

WOLF: What did they cook?

CALOMIRIS: Just about everything, everything you can name.

WOLF: What was your mother's specialty?

CALOMIRIS: Her specialty doesn't mean that the kids would like it a lot of time.

WOLF: Well, what did she like and what did you like?

CALOMIRIS: They liked a lot of meat and a lot of wine. You know, they liked -- not too much pork, but beef. They liked a lot of beef.

WOLF: Lamb.

CALOMIRIS: Lamb. They liked a lot of that. And their feta cheese, their big old sours [?] which I got with the feta cheese and the olive oil. I mean the same old things they've got now. The Greeks and Italians seemed to have almost the same thing.

WOLF: Was there a Greek church in the neighborhood, on Capitol Hill?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes. They had their share of coming up, too. It was in Southwest, the one we were going to. And one was in Northwest, St. Sophia's.

WOLF: But nothing right in this neighborhood? Southwest was the closest?

CALOMIRIS: No, no. Southwest was the closest one. In fact, there were two. One they had on top of a house. Then they went and built a church on Sixth and C. I remember that because I was an altar boy there.

WOLF: Sixth and C, Southwest?

CALOMIRIS: Southwest, yes. I think they tore that one down. Now they're up on Sixteenth and Upshur Street, Sts. Constantine and Helen. Then St. Sophia's, down on Massachusetts Avenue, Cathedral.

WOLF: Right, I see that one.

CALOMIRIS: Then, there's more out in Maryland. There's St. George and two other Greeks. But, they all expanded and went out. But, we used to walk from First Street all the way around the Capitol grounds to the Northwest side to Southwest to Sixth Street to go to church every Sunday that we went.

WOLF: Really? You walked all that way?

CALOMIRIS: That was our walking all the time. We used to walk to school, too. That's why I can't understand what's all this hip-hip-hooray about this and that. No one's going to melt. And we didn't seem as -- we were young. When you're young, you don't feel anything. So, we didn't feel undo stress.

WOLF: No.

CALOMIRIS: But, of course, when we get old or you're sick, you feel it whenever you go two feet, you know.

WOLF: Right. What else did you do when you were growing up and you were little for fun in the neighborhood?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, fun. Oh, gosh, for fun, we used to -- Halloween would come, we were devils.

WOLF: What was Halloween like in this neighborhood?

CALOMIRIS: Well, it was -- we'd go from one house to the other trick-or-treat. And, if they didn't want to treat or anything, we would put a milk bottle, the next day, you know, when they didn't give us nothing. We'd just fill it up with water and just tilt it. When you open the door, the water's coming out, you know. And...

WOLF: Did people make treats? It wasn't packaged candy. People made things?

CALOMIRIS: Oh, yes. They'd give you whatever they could. And we had no fear of that then. That's one good thing about it. We weren't fearful about...

WOLF: Was the neighborhood as -- were there as many people living here?

CALOMIRIS: Southeast? Yes, because I used to sell newspapers here.

WOLF: And how has the community changed? Are there a different kind of people than -- different jobs, different colors, different...

CALOMIRIS: Well, as far as the people concerned, to me, it's human nature. You've got to understand human nature. You take the good and the bad with it. You can't find all good people, you can't find all bad people.

WOLF: Was it a more working class neighborhood at some time?

CALOMIRIS: It was working class, because in those days higher education, there was really no such thing. It was a privilege of the ones that...

WOLF: Right. And they didn't live in this neighborhood.

CALOMIRIS: I don't know where they lived. I was too young to realize what was going on. So, but, Southeast was good. They used to have their ups and downs. They used to have gangs.

WOLF: Really?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, Southeast gangs.

WOLF: What kind of gangs?

CALOMIRIS: Kids right at a young age.

WOLF: Were you in a gang?

CALOMIRIS: Well, I never was but I know a lot of my friends would be.

WOLF: What did they do with the gangs?

CALOMIRIS: Well, they act tough and everything, try to get into mischief, or be cocky with their teachers and stuff like that. But, not this great stuff with dope and stuff...

WOLF: Weapons?

CALOMIRIS: Well, they had -- the most they'd have was a knife. Okay, a knife. And things were -- they were controllable. I remember one of my friends, won't mention names, got in trouble -- was in a Southeast gang. Anyway, I was a little older than they were then. And he was called, he and two or three others were called to a Board, a School Board or something, to answer to some charges, you know. So, all they wanted, from what I gathered being older, was to apologize. But they were cocky, especially [unintelligible].

WOLF: Right.

CALOMIRIS: So, they were saying this and saying what they had to say to get everything out of this thing. So, the one in charge -- I don't know what you would called it, chairman or whatever -- he says "Well, all we want from you is whether you think you did right or wrong here." I realized they wanted an apology. But [?] my friend was so damn cocky he started to talk and give his view. I kicked him so hard underneath the table. I said "You -- just say you're sorry." Everybody [unintelligible] just started laughing.

WOLF: Did he say he was sorry?

CALOMIRIS: He said he was sorry, and they said "Everybody go home."

WOLF: Was there crime?

CALOMIRIS: Well, there was crime but not to the extent that -- you know, we would feel safe at all times that time. You know, there were a few cases here and there, but crime wasn't to the point that we were -- like it is today. These boys don't have a chance, their families and everything. Especially how it's set up now. I don't know what you can -- I guess we're all at fault. My generation, probably, is at fault. But, I feel there should be a little discipline. I'm from the old school. I shouldn't say that. I tell that to my own children, too. But, they take it hard, too. But, I say "I'm going to say what I'm want to say. You don't have to live in it [?], live exactly like I tell you but how you fix your bed, you're going to live in it." I say, "I don't put nothing in my pocket." I say, "You don't listen to me, that's going to be your problem." And I say what I have to say and it goes against the thread of what psychologists say and everything else.

WOLF: You have pretty good kids though.

CALOMIRIS: They've got their [unintelligible], believe me.

WOLF: They're pretty good kids. So, the twelve of you left the Center Market and you came over here. Now, were you married at this point?

CALOMIRIS: Yes.

WOLF: Now, when did you meet the lovely Maria?

CALOMIRIS: The K Street Market.

WOLF: Oh, she worked at the Market?

CALOMIRIS: A little bit, yes. She was very -- well, I don't know if you'll find anybody like that.

WOLF: Oh, she's wonderful.

CALOMIRIS: [unintelligible] a lot of time, a lot of things, but...

WOLF: She's pretty great.

CALOMIRIS: ...but I think she pushes herself too much.

WOLF: Was she -- was her family -- now, she came from Greece, didn't she?

CALOMIRIS: Yes. She came at a time when they were, after the war, when there were a lot of, lot of -- what do you call it -- refugees?

WOLF: Refugees, yes.

CALOMIRIS: What is the word they used then, I forget? Greece had a civil war then and they were letting people come in from Greece much more than they did, what they were supposed to. And a lot of people from Greece left, mostly I think for poverty, nothing to do -- maybe the other countries did the same, I don't know. But, Greece, a lot of them went to Australia or a lot of them went to Canada and a lot came to America. And she must have chosen to come here.

WOLF: Did she come with her family?

CALOMIRIS: She came -- her family, her brothers came first and brought them over. That's the first thing is, with the laws, you have to -- if one comes in, then all the others, through blood, you know. So, she came in through her brothers.

WOLF: And her family had a...

CALOMIRIS: After I had married her, I wouldn't have had any problem, but she had to be here for me to bring her officially over.

WOLF: So, her family had a stand also at the Fifth and K...

CALOMIRIS: No.

WOLF: Or she was just working for someone?

CALOMIRIS: Fifth and K? No, she got married and went from -- from Canada she came here. Oh, she used to work in Canada at a factory.

WOLF: But, you said you met at 5th and K.

CALOMIRIS: No, no. That's where -- that job started with her [unintelligible].

WOLF: Oh, oh, oh. Oh, where did you meet?

CALOMIRIS: In Washington. Through the sisters and the relatives, you know how that works.

WOLF: Yes, I see. So, then she came to work with you at that -- I see.

CALOMIRIS: When we got married, she went to work with me.

WOLF: And were you living on -- where were you living then?

CALOMIRIS: With her, we were living on 10019 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.

WOLF: So, you moved after you -- when did you leave First Street?

CALOMIRIS: Well, I left First Street, I have it written here. Then I went to Buchanan Street. That was in Northwest, Buchanan Street.

WOLF: You didn't stay in the neighborhood.

CALOMIRIS: What?

WOLF: Didn't stay in this neighborhood.

CALOMIRIS: No. I didn't stay. The only time I stayed in Washington the most was the twenty years. This neighborhood -- I breathed more Washington air than I did in my lifetime because I always worked in Washington, either at the wholesale houses or at the markets. In fact, I've gotten more air in D. C. than I've gotten anywhere. Of course, the hours that I used to put in were terrific in market life. You know, you average about five or six hours each where you sleep, the others you have to be where you work. So, mostly -- at school or whatever you're doing you know.

WOLF: So at the Center Market -- on Fifth and K, where did you get the produce from?

CALOMIRIS: Fifth and K? We used to get it from Florida Avenue Market and in Baltimore.

WOLF: Oh. So, did you go early every morning?

CALOMIRIS: I went most of the mornings. When I felt there wasn't what I wanted in price or quality, I'd be forced to go elsewhere which would be Baltimore.

WOLF: Wow. That's a...

CALOMIRIS: It used to be such a hassle to go to Baltimore, believe me. And I didn't have the money to get big trucks or anything. And I would -- so, with a small pickup truck, I loaded it up so much that a couple of times I had a flat tire, and it's for [unintelligible] pickup early in the morning...

WOLF: What about by the time you moved over here to this market? Were you still getting most of your produce from Florida Avenue?

CALOMIRIS: Yes, yes.

WOLF: But, not now.

CALOMIRIS: Not now, because they're all gone. The ones that used to be here...

WOLF: Where do you go now?

CALOMIRIS: Like, the ones that I'm getting now used to be here. They all moved out. That's why I say the city did a bum job in not keeping these people in...

WOLF: Right. That's really too bad.

CALOMIRIS: We had Florida Avenue, to develop it like they should for Washington. They never did. They let this other stuff come in. They're not using their heads a lot. They let, like, Fifth and K -- they should pay people to stay in here because most businesses, nine out of ten, fail. Can't they get that through their heads?

 
   
Part I Part 2

 
   
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Capitol Hill History Project. Not to be reproduced without permission.