AJ Economides and Theo Economides
DescriptionAJ Economides (88) talks to his son, Theo Economides (49), about playing sports when he was younger. He talks about his family's cooking, and some of his accomplishments.
Subject Log / Time Code
- AJ Economides
- Theo Economides
Recording LocationChicago Cultural Center
Venue / Recording Kit
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00:02 Are we on?
00:04 Okay, I go by AJ because my full name is that an atheist and when I went to school there, I was called Tom because of increased these shortened. Athanasius to for not and he returned us is similar to Thomas to most people of Greek descent who have my name go by Tom, but when I went to school teacher said, oh, I have a nice just what a beautiful name. You can call them Athen. Where do you get the power come from that?
00:41 Such an ordinary name. So I became Athen and of course paid for with ridicule and teasing and stuff. But I took the well anyway, now I go by Ajay Khanna meet us and I just turned 88 years old week ago.
01:05 And today is May.
01:13 May 14th
01:22 Location do they want location where I was born or
01:32 Jose Chicago Chicago Cultural Center
01:43 And my partner across the way here is my youngest son whose only
01:52 40 what are my guests my turn to get into that? I'm Theo economy. This full name is Gregory b o b kind of meat is Theo is a cooler name. So when I turned 40 I decided to go by Theo. I'm 49 and 50 in a few months. Today's date is May 14th, 2015. We're at the Chicago Cultural Center, and I'm here with my dad.
02:18 So let's get started dad.
02:23 I kind of want to start out with a little bit of History tell the tell the story about how you met mom you already talked about being Greek we're Greek and I think that played into how you met mom didn't it
02:38 My mom or your mom my mom how did you know how you met your mom how did you meet my mom she wasn't my mom then
02:47 Well our families knew each other
02:51 From the get-go and
02:54 Reason was because the Christophers
02:59 We're related to my dad. Mr. Christopher. Mrs. Christopher was related to your mother's mother.
03:08 So we got to know each other and I I remember your mother when she was like 14 years old and cousin Chris Wood.
03:19 When we go out driving when they visiting and so on and Chris would push Frieda towards me and I would look good on chubby.
03:34 Hair on the legs and Mediterranean wasn't interested, but
03:44 Shoot forward a few years. I had just gotten back from the Army and
03:53 I was invited to a wedding in Joliet.
03:58 And freezer was standing up for the wedding and I asked a friend. Who is that beautiful girl with the long hair plaiting? Oh my God. I hadn't recognized so shortly that day. I hit her and the rest is 54 years of marriage. I want to hear a couple of stories about your parents in particular growing up for me. I remember you teaching us to break hard boiled eggs on our forehead and one particular memory, which will never go away of when you used a non hard boiled egg on my forehead and gave me an egg shampoo, but there is a story about your dad bringing his new wife over on the on the boat right about hard boiled eggs and and her forehead.
04:58 Well, it was typical of men and Grace.
05:04 Because they heard of the new land with gold lying in the streets to come over and try to make their way here rather than in the Old Country Inn. Actually both parents were in Turkey were born in Turkey, but they were Greek areas and they never acknowledged that that was Turkey playing but on my birth certificate, they said it was greased. They were born in anyway. She typically men came over.
05:46 Living and so on and then went back to Greece to find a wife and typically they task friends and neighbors. Is there an available?
05:58 Nice person
06:01 I could marry her and
06:04 They mention my my mother and he met her and a few days they were on their way back married.
06:16 My my mother was never too happy about right that kind of thing. But on the other hand there weren't that many suitors to
06:29 Find love such and it was it was a typical thing that most of the women there were happy to get a husband who's coming to the United States. So really wasn't arranged marriage, but it was friends.
06:52 Anyway, the one thing that Mom.
06:56 Didn't care for
06:59 Was that we were sort of isolated because we were on a farm and there were no neighbors, but she did she tried learning how to drive and couldn't handle it would have been very good for her but
07:18 She she never managed didn't want to try it on her own. So we'd go to church Sundays was the workday for the farm because the Monday Market was the biggest.
07:37 Dave Market Soul Sunday was so busy day Saturdays for the the off days so to speak.
07:47 But a lot of times mom would get
07:52 My brother or me or
07:57 The third brother or the 4th of others to the driver to church church for our ceremony at church, right which none of us particularly like to do but we all like to drive.
08:19 So that was a trade-off, but I wanted to get to the egg story on the on the boat coming over with your your dad and his new bride.
08:32 Everyone I'm talking about. I don't remember a story about where can I get Thunderbolt? Remember that story?
08:47 No, but I can believe it. I remember you you you telling a story that I think it was on the boat at the Captain's Table that he your dad was a bit of a prankster, right? And he he knew that if a few bash the egg on the wide side to soft it doesn't hurt. But if you hit with the tip it can hurt and I think he grabbed a hard boiled egg and bashed it on your your mom's forehead on the south side, but it freaked her out and she ran away that probably we're not here to hear my stuff about about driving.
09:33 Then it goes into driving the church driving to Chicago for the Farmers Market.
09:40 Well, I like working on the farm.
09:46 Active Outdoors person Connie was more of a radio personality sitting in the house with listen to radio while I'd be outside. I made of a basketball.
10:03 Target with a bushel basket and I would throw wrapped wrapped up block brick wrapped in a gunny sacks and I was told up there and how was your basketball that will make basketball eventually. I got a real basketball, but that bushel basket was still the hoop and cut the bottom off.
10:36 Write that diet for a shark guy. I was an avid basketballer. That was my favorite sport and in grade school. I was on the basketball team is a matter of fact, I was the shortest guy on the team and I was the center for the first year because I could jump higher than anybody. I know. I remember you talking about the back and in those days basketball wasn't a tall guys sport, right? The tall guys were were considered to be too slow for been. Well. Yeah, some of the tall guys were clumsy and three young guys were
11:21 Fasting on the ball with so that's what you were fast and quick and you can jump like any other guys.
11:29 That was pretty good at jumping in in grade school. We had all kinds of sports the the track and jumping track and field over the hurdles.
11:46 Over hurdles sweet we even had a high jump on a pole vault. I was the only one that I ever saw who is able to get over the even the lowest.
12:02 Part, and I got pretty good at it. But we had one pole and I ended up breaking it.
12:11 So that was that was the end of the pole pole vault. For only yourself cuz no one else is doing it.
12:20 But the way we played baseball modified tennis.
12:27 I got involved.
12:30 Antennas because I'd like that and we have to carry our own net.
12:38 The parts didn't have nuts. I had one I had in my bike. And if I put up an that you'd get a few people coming around to play it. I would carry an extra racket with me. So.
12:56 Somebody I can just show up and then rejoined and I love tennis in high school.
13:09 The captain of the tennis team I would practice with and play them an offer and I would beat him anything. Why aren't you on the team my reasons he never found out that I couldn't do backhand all the all the records were the same size handle. Do I have short fingers to try the back in the
13:36 Direct comes right out of your hand. But anyway, she had he had talked to the coach and his sister.
13:47 So the coach asked me to play a game with them.
13:53 And I said, you know, I don't have any back hand.
13:57 Why so my hand is too small in the records to Big 12 today is Prince. They have different sizing and they also use to him right now. And that's why you're playing tennis now. I wish I were.
14:19 Played with the coach and he says are you are good. That's what I can put a spin on that ball like you wouldn't believe but
14:30 I should know hit the bottom of my left side and I was pretty fast and usually can get around with the amateurs work. We're doing the ball with my right hand, but
14:48 But he he hit some fast ones left you realized I couldn't do the back and get a little bit more. Just a couple more questions about your your your family early on. What is your what would what would you say is your earliest memory the earliest thing you can recall on ground. It was a two and a half story old wooden thing in there from the chimney. I just got them Sparks in the I think it was a wooden ceiling. This is a Joliet in Joliet on the farm.
15:33 And I vaguely remember something like that cuz I wanted to play with the fire bomb gravity, but for several years after that.
15:48 And as I got older.
15:52 I would have dreams of running away from something and not knowing what it was sort of a
16:02 What are they call those wacky dreams from the Scary or nightmare nightmares dream for for a number of years until I was like 15 to 18 and finally it diminished.
16:25 But anyway, I'm at your earliest memory here. You have some other ideas there in your paper.
16:36 Well if there was an incident, my dad had had helpers.
16:44 Search string relatives sometimes working on the farm and
16:51 Because they would live in the house with us by mother was unhappy about that three meals a day right for big eaters such but the there was one time when we go out to the asparagus patch, which was my favorite vegetable.
17:16 And somebody was cutting it during the night.
17:23 This guy whether he was an uncle or something. He he was a hunter.
17:31 So you took the shotgun and laid for him at night and I snuck out of the house and lay down with them in a depression there and received the two guys come with a wagon and they start cutting the stuff and I tell him to shoot them don't know let's cut the stuff because they obviously with cutting it with the right to own doing well. So finally when they had both wagons pretty much lower than the entire field was cleared, then he stands up and yells that expires the shot in the air and they start running and left the wagon. So you got some free one labor the one wagon they managed to take with them, but they dumped all the stuff.
18:31 Running in the tracks were right there. They ran up the tracks and he shot Adam with the with a fine.
18:43 Shot number 6 and at a distance it hurt them, but it didn't know it was going to kill him. So they learned a lesson. They never came back. If so, I can breathe and you got some free labor. I want to start.
19:01 Feel how long did that take?
19:05 How to get a feel for close to an hour so they weren't they came there to steal the crops and you used it was free labor and and shot him in the chest and we ended up with the the broken-down wagon there wasn't yeah it was a wagon but it was good but
19:28 They never came back. So we have to cut our own asparagus was my favorite crop because
19:37 When my birthday was coming around dad would say
19:42 You know, I'm out of money no spend it for fertilizer for seeds and for this and that and then when when the asparagus crop comes in that the first thing the first money we make from that I'll get your birthday present and I'd be out there breathing on this because by May 1st, it didn't come up yet. Right, right. What was your your favorite birthday present that came from asparagus money?
20:21 I don't remember. I think I think it was the scooter and we didn't have a sidewalk and both Diane and Mom wanted to Stay Puft today it put in a sidewalk. It was a narrow one and it wasn't that long but that was okay for scooter. Okay later on.
20:51 Weed with tiny we bought a bike.
20:58 We put it on layaway.
21:01 You know how layaway works it's your bike, but you can't have it until you pay for it.
21:09 So Christmas came around and we owed.
21:14 I forget how much I want to say $50, but it wasn't.
21:20 It might have been.
21:22 Five or ten dollars and dad gave us the money go get the bike and it was snowing outside, but I was gutsy and I I wrote it in the snow. I was the first one to ride it and kind of thing. Don't hurt the bike right really care about me. I can head butt.
21:52 But he didn't want you to ride go out in the snow with it, right so
21:58 He wrote it in the spring. Have you got a favourite memory of your mom?
22:08 Well, she was a terrific Baker between cakes and buckle all the other Greek.
22:20 Things stuff
22:22 It was amazing that she could find time to do those things and she couldn't go to the grocery store buy. Phyllo very often. Give my hula mrs. Christopher if he would come over and
22:43 Clear the table and we would help pulling on the
22:49 An adult to get a nice and thin right then made make
22:56 Might my dad favored
23:02 Get Shorty go and they called it that Molina but my dad was from Visa in turkey and because he loved her so much it became be. Jodeco. The Greeks to Joliet not many others made that rolled up ice everything with you serve pulled over. Right right. So that was right inside in the Philo would roll around it and then the other report over the top.
23:35 I've made it a couple times and you may not have outside of our family. Nobody knows video Tycho.
23:43 They normally not though. But it's not that popular.
23:51 How did how did your wife my mom had her baking compared to what you what you're used to growing up? How was it different? If she came from a different family different editions. Was it the same as her mother and my mother that they were they all came from?
24:11 Turkey right there and their food with start a flavored a little bit by the Turkish kitchen.
24:27 Show date, they pretty much said the same things and Frieda's mother would would cook meals and Frieda would do the baking soda. She was pretty good Baker when when we got married. She learned how to boil water after a while. I was I was a good cooking at our boardinghouse the the last year when Gotti and I graduated and he left and we hadn't sold the guardian that was in Champaign right after work in the boarding house while you were in college and then after college price,
25:17 But then I had graduated and in two and a half years with honors. I might say both years and Connie graduated in four and a half years. I think maybe five years. I don't remember what it is, but he graduated in January of 1949. I graduated in August of 1949. He had a girlfriend in Colorado homie ended up marrying Twyla.
25:51 But the
25:53 He took off and said sell the house.
25:57 Well the market for for tenants had gone way down because it was right after World War II 1945 all the GI came back. They had the GI Bill.
26:14 4 years later
26:17 There what's that word? Very many GI coming. So the attendance drop. Hit the high of like 18,500 enrolled. He's at the University of Illinois.
26:34 When the G ice left in 1949, we're down to 15 thousand enrollment. And in the meantime, the University was building more billeting and it became a tough tough way to go for the independent houses, which we were and also in selling it. It was hard to self Connie Wilson.
27:04 In in Colorado and call me. Haven't you sold it yet. Haven't just over yet. I think you come here and try to sell it after a year and night instead of hiring a cook. I did the cooking guy. I went I went on the recommendation of a friend. I wanted a nice job. So I'd be in the house during the day. So the kids wouldn't tear it up and
27:34 There's the night job loading trucks at the dock. I should all dead be perfect. You got this pays pretty good, then 11 to 7 that shift. So I went talk to the foreman. He hardly.
27:50 Come Thursday night 11.
27:54 He was it was crushing me because it's your you start a small and can you handle these think I can handle it and I was I was strong so I convinced them. He was fine with it that morning. I get a call to go and see mr. Ice Nerf who was president of the company. Okay, and incidentally it was the company that we bought Provisions from for our kitchen and apparently they are salesmen sell my application on this desk.
28:33 So he called me in and he said I understand you made an application to work on a dock. That's just I did.
28:44 Denise is a guy understand your college graduate. He said you didn't put that on your application. I said I didn't feel that with the necessary attributes for that county college graduate. I can't have a college graduate working on the docks.
29:07 If it's just not right, so I begged him. I said it's not going to be my career, but I need a job at night.
29:18 Like I can't do that. I'll make you a assistant manager and what about stores? They had the Piggly Wiggly Shane, I sweetheart.
29:28 I said that's a day job. I need a night job. She would not hire me really that wasn't right for a college graduate to be loading trucks. Good night.
29:42 That's a little different today. Right? But anyway, that's when I decided that I do the cooking for 44 and finally get back to me as soon as you guys spent a year-and-a-half down here trying to sell the place. You'd come down to try and sell it.
30:08 So I took off and left it at that point. I wanted to get married. I was going with your mother.
30:16 But the
30:19 He wasn't able to fill it with with students. So he's just made it there their home and would house some students without food. It was easier to get those students, but we did all right with that. We make some money towards the end of our interview. I want to come forward in time a little bit.
30:44 Was there something on your on your sheet that you wanted to get into? That was just got about 10 minutes left?
30:53 I will I told you about the asparagus attack, right?
31:05 Off the farm was bordered by Hickory Creek 3/4 of the way around the other side was the railroad track.
31:17 I was adventurous much more so than Connie was.
31:23 And my mother would be scared to death but are crossing the tracks playing in the water rightly. So and wasn't one time I found a raft little raft that I captured it and I thought Connie is getting on it with me. So we went up and down the creek bit and we came to the landing spot and I jumped out.
31:52 And this is okay. You got to jump.
31:57 She didn't make it one one leg made it the other one.
32:02 So you ended up going in the water which was 2 and 1/2 ft. But he still has clothes and tried to get in the house hiding mom clowdus.
32:17 And she was angry mostly with me because she knew I was the instigator and who is Connie wouldn't do anything like that. I just don't he just didn't have that kind of
32:31 Dangerous stuff. Anyway, she tied Us in the basement KC Titus because she always worried about playing on the railroad track or did the creek and
32:53 Just as punishment. She she died us there because we invited a couple of minutes, but when she was coming down the stairs we pretended to the Rope was still tired. Anyways, she was pretty pretty desperate and
33:15 I guess I lie. I wasn't.
33:18 A very good Chad Reed as I gave her a lot of carpet consternation. You caused the gray hairs on her head. Yep. You got there.
33:38 Girl, I got you that I was a champion tree climber, which I was nobody could try and climb a tree higher than that. I could do this was from last year.
33:58 Well after high school, I went into the service at like the end of World War II but it was still considered wartime in 1946 in basic training in Little Rock Arkansas. I was the only one to ever shoot a perfect score on the rifle range that was because of the BB gun. I said didn't have a frightful of practice with but the big shots didn't quite believe it. So
34:33 Had three big time officers major Colonel had me do it again. And I did it again except on the lamp.
34:47 I missed it by the BullsEye by quarter of an inch. So they they agreed that I'd done a perfect shot. No one else could ever done it. So that was quite a crowd in point, but I figured you know, they're going to make me a diaper and send me to check with tooth happy about the end up going to Germany. I had applied for OCS officer candidate my Britain.
35:27 Is it 10 minutes or my written score was second to this guy that I was helping with his calisthenics because she was right but she was clumsy good. So they they disqualified him and I was at at the top.
35:51 But the
35:55 It meant signing up for another 4 years after going to school and
36:02 Then they would have to stay up before they screwed up and orders came through for me and a couple other guys who were who were also scheduled to go to the next OCS class.
36:19 Will be shipped overseas. Actually, there were five of us who Who's Who of the guys went to the Inspector General and I think they got it straightened out, but I wanted to go over anyway, and
36:35 When my time was almost up.
36:39 It turned out that I became a radio operator because they were teaching the kids 13 words a minute.
36:48 And I already could do 25 to 30 words a minute in high school Morse code playgrounds Morse code. So when they found that out on the top radio operator in a in a company, but
37:09 The records for OCS
37:12 Caught up with me and they hit open up enough supposed to yes in Germany.
37:18 But it was getting close to the time that I'd be released and they tried we were still short of men then that they were trying so very hard to get us three and list the major who was in charge of enlistment was also in charge of communication. So he was my boss and he was putting the pressure on it to see how are you how are you? How long will I have to sign up for after going to the store for years? So I got two years in now six months School + 4 years long enough to just stay in and make yummy Korea.
38:05 You should be in the army of the career. You're so good at this and everything then I thought about it, but I decided I'd rather go home. Go to college next what I did and I graduated four-year course in two and a half years and I made honors sounds the smarter still are I wouldn't want you any other way of anything.
38:44 Anything else on your list if you wanted to go over?
38:55 Mountain in Germany, I was involved in the capture of the fourth person on rcic list who was a major at one of the death camps and that was quite a quite a catch cuz you've been looking for that person in in particular while we had a list of 10 most wanted from the cic, which was former Nazis the list from the CID criminal investigation division of ordinary criminals that he was number 4 on the on the SS list and when when we brought them in I wanted to be in on the interrogation is not on nobody. Nobody comes in.
39:48 Building dangered ourselves going after the skies. Finally. They said there's a corner in a chair that corner you're not there. You don't see anything. You don't hear anything. You don't never talk about anything and now and they let him stay in there. And that's that's what I've learned that there's the good cop and the bad cop and this major.
40:20 Had a degree from Oxford in England and refused to speak English and the guys knew that she knew better English than most of us and they wanted to get them to speak English and you can think Nick and just did that. He finally
40:41 Crackdown and started crying
40:45 But the beat on them pretty viciously and you weren't there. You didn't watch the whole thing. That's the way it was that time up.
41:01 Okay be nice of you are as as I knew you would dad you easily filled the time to record your full of stories. And that's why I wanted to bring you here today didn't have time to say anything about your brother's probably better that way.