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Rediscovering ‘Sam the Greek’ and his restaurant

March 24, 2016
By Marybelle Beigh - Westfield Historian , Westfield Republican

One of the more difficult things about being a local public historian is sorting out myths and memories from primary source documentation to discover the "truth" about people and places. Finding the "real" Sam the Greek has "proven" this again, "for sure and for certain!"

Several faithful BeeLines readers responded to the request for more information, stories, and ephemera about Sam the Greek after a recent article and photo of him inside his restaurant at what was then a small wooden building at 8 North Portage, next to the Grand Theatre. But only one couple had actual ephemera and confirmable memories to provide a delightful personal interview including photo-ops of items from the restaurant that had been next door to the barber shop at 10 North Portage where the husband had worked for a number of years.

Sam was a "hunter" according to the barber. "What did he hunt?" "Birds!" "Oh! What kind of birds - ducks or geese?" "Nope! Pheasants! And Rabbits, too!" "Did he serve these at his restaurant?" "Oh, no! He also hunted mushrooms! Knew the safe ones to eat! We used to have big puffballs here at our place and he said they were good to eat! Slice 'em and fry 'em in butter! So we did" "Would you like to see a photo of Sam in his restaurant?" This question was answered by a big smile and nod, and an exclamation, "YUP! That's him!" "Oh look!" said the barber's wife, "We have that milkshake maker from the restaurant! It's down in the basement; I'll go get it." And off she went and brought an ancient milk-shake maker up from the basement for photos. She even offered to make us milkshakes! "Can you remember anything else about Sam?" "He lived on a farm up on Bliss Street, not too far outside the village!"

Article Photos

Submitted photo
This 1936 photo shows Sam’s Restaurant on North Portage, between the Grand Theatre in the Carlson Block, and the barber shop mentioned in the column.

The couple remembered that Sam had sold his restaurant to Bud Osborne who turned it into a sort of Army-Navy type of store that sold clothes like coveralls. This corresponded to my mother's memories. And they both recalled eating the delicious "red hots" and slices of the best apple pie in town. They believed that Sam moved away after selling his restaurant in the late 1950s.

After the interview, more research was attempted, but no further documentation was located. So Michelle Henry, Chautauqua County Historian, was contacted, and we exchanged a series of Q&A emails until a couple of days later when, "FINALLY! Went through the microfilmed tax rolls and found him on the roll for 1950 (assessed in 1949) Name Spiridon Stamboulis [found] his naturalization papers (Spiridon Thomas Stamboulis), and three deeds for him purchasing property in Westfield. One deed, in 1936, for property on N. Portage"

So armed with a differently spelled name, more research was done on, which located a U.S. Social Security death index record for Spiridon Stamboulis, born April 25, 1893 and died Oct. 1962. A big surprise was that "Find A Grave Index" shows Spiridon T. Stamboulis, 1893-1962, is buried in Westfield Cemetery. This was confirmed in the cemetery record book. Three possible passenger ship listings for the name Spyridon Stamboulis were also found.



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