Little Paul Bourboulas

 Paul Michael Bourboulas was born in Myteline, Greece, on July 10, 1902.  He opened a café on 395 W. 8th Street in the area known as Busy Corner around 1933 according to The Sylacauga Advance, June 27, 1968.  He became known to the people of Sylacauga as “Little Paul,” and an article in the Sylacauga News September 20, 1935, said, “Just how Little Paul got his name is not so interesting to the average man, but when a little thing gets to be something big, that is news, and Little Paul’s Café is about the newsiest thing between Mignon and Sylacauga.    

The building was relatively small, and according to an account in the family history of Little Paul at the B.B. Comer Library, he lived in an apartment at the restaurant with his wife Ora Mae Graham Bourboulas and his daughter, Catherine, who is shown in the picture as a student at Main Avenue School in Miss Martin’s 6th grade class in 1942-43.  According to Sara Mims Price, her parents, Harmon and Sallie Mims, lived in Sylavon Court at the time and were great friends with Paul and Ora Mae Bourboulas. Sara and Catherine took tap dancing, jazz, and ballet together and were in dance recitals together, held at either Sylacauga High School or the Sylacauga Recreation Department.    

Sara Mims recalls that Catherine was a very talented dancer. Cathy, she was called, attended high school at Phillips High School as corroborated by a page from The Mirror, 1949 Phillips High School yearbook, and later became one of the Radio City Music Hall’s famous Rockettes. She married Richard Olson of Davenport, Iowa, and eventually moved to California.     

Located on Busy Corner in a relatively small building, Little Paul had the business sense to make his café successful when others had tried in the same location. He was near B. B. Comer School and Avondale Mills and specialized in short order cooking, and the restaurant became a tasty convenience for school students and office personnel from the mill.                                                                        
Elinor Coleman Jones explains why she and her brother Arthur Buford Coleman sometimes had the opportunity to eat there on their lunch break while attending B.B. Comer School.  In those days in the early 1940’s Comer School had no lunchroom, and the whole school took an hour for lunch at the same time each day.  Kids who lived close-by in the mill village, like my husband’s siblings, had time to walk home from school. Eleanor and Buford lived at Five Points, but their Dad, Tom Coleman, worked in the Avondale Mills Office and had the same lunch hour schedule as the school. His Mother, Mary Frances Coleman (Molly), lived in a garage apartment behind Little Paul’s Café, so Tom would sometimes pick up the kids and visit Little Paul’s Café and his mother at the same time.  If he had to go out of town unexpectedly, he would allow the kids to walk over to the Café and eat lunch.  Eleanor laughingly remembers that they thought their grandmother had a “running tab” at Little Paul’s so they would save the money  their Dad had given them for lunch and charge lunch to Molly (until they got discovered). This ended lunch at Little Paul’s and thereafter, when Tom had to go out of town, the kids carried sandwiches for lunch.   

A page from the Sylacauga-Mignon City Directory, 1940 lists other culinary possibilities under the title “Cafes, Lunch Rooms, Tea Rooms, Restaurants, and Sandwich Shops.” I am listing these below in hopes that some of our readers may provide additional information or funny remembrances about some of them. They are: Alley Lunch Room, Scrouge Alley; Dixie Drug Co.,707 Broadway; Five Points Lunch Room, 431 Norton Avenue; Hagan Drug Co, 823 Broadway; Hamburger King, 503 Broadway; Juanita Cave, 812 Broadway; Lee’s Café 105 Norton Ave.; Little Paul’s Café, 8th St. and Seminole; Parrish Lunch Room, 10th St. 1400 block; Pa’s Sandwich Shop, 527 Broadway; People’s Drug Co, and Silver Moon Café, 820 Broadway. None of the Broadway and Norton addresses indicate North or South. The success of so many sandwich shops certainly speaks to a time when Sylacauga was crowded with families working in plants that supported the war effort of our country.                                                                                                                      

Next time, come back and read more about Little Paul’s Café, and I even have a recipe for you provided by Mary Cullins who acquired it because it was her favorite and a Little Paul standard. Many Southern towns have notable Greek eating establishments, and in Sylacauga, it was Little Paul’s.

Special thanks to Walter Jones who gathered and organized so much information about Sylacauga.