Paul Michael Bourboulas
Little Paul’s Café
The first hint of what sort of person a man is, may be how he treats his mother. Paul Bourboulas wrote a touching card to his Mother and sister, Maria, when he arrived in the United States in October, 1918. He would have been 16 years old (July, 1902). It was written from Peabody, Massachusetts, and apparently Paul wanted his folks to know that he and his 3 brothers had arrived safely in the United States. He writes, “Dear Mother and extra loving sister, Maria. Greetings. I let you know that all of us 3 brothers are together and working and not (????) worry. We are here for you. When you get my pictures, give them all where I write and answer my letter immediately. Greetings, your son, Apostolis M. Bourboulas.” The words Paul writes his Mother touch my heart because they convey the tenderness of love and consideration Paul expressed for home and family and remind me of the ties to family that shape who we are.
According to the Alabama marriage records Paul Bourboulas was married to Ora Mae Graham when she was 19 and he was 26 in Jefferson County. According to the Sylacauga Advance, June 27, 1968, Little Paul died in the Sylacauga Hospital after a brief illness. His wife Ora Mae died in April, 1989, according to a Birmingham News obituary. They are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
While in business in Sylacauga, Little Paul became known for his love of children and older people; and his restaurant on Busy Corner was a convenient place for mill workers and school children to get hamburgers, hotdogs, and barbecue. Eleanor Coleman Jones recalls his chili served with the little oyster crackers that she liked so well because she did not have them at home. The Sylacauga News in 1935 mentions the neon lights on the front of the restaurant, so I have to wonder if this little pig in the photo was illuminated and could have preceded the Fort Williams’ pig that made the Old Hickory Restaurant so well known.
The restaurant, as most restaurants in small towns do, became a place for friends to gather for business or club meetings or just for fellowship. The picture of such a group sitting around the table was shared with me by David Irby. His Dad, Bill, wrote the caption as he shared the event in a newspaper back in the day, but the date and name of the paper is missing.
Mary Cullins recalls that Mickey Cullins worked at Avondale and went to Little Paul’s to eat lunch often. She remembers that Little Paul would roll out balls of hamburger meat and keep them in a liquid marinade in a big pot. When someone ordered a hamburger, he would flatten the meat ball and fry the meat. He had a slaw that he put on the burger and often used it with hot dogs, and pork or chicken barbecue. My daddy, Raymond George, delivered those buns to him on the Jones Bakery bread truck when I was a child because I remember well going inside with him to meet the proprietor. Daddy had an affinity for Greeks and their culture because he had worked for the Malbis family in Mobile. Sylacauga Today published Little Paul’s recipe November 16, 2011, so here it is for those who might be interested:
Little Paul’s Slaw
1 medium head of cabbage, chopped
1 onion chopped and 1 tomato chopped
1 radish and 1 carrot chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
Combine vegetables in a boiler. Add vinegar and a small amount of water. Cook until all vegetables are tender. Delicious served on a hot dog or hamburger.
Sweet remembrances of days gone by remind us of who we are and of people like Little Paul Bourboulas whose hard work and heritage threads from Myteline, Greece, through Sylacauga, Alabama, and on to New York City where his only child, Cathy, was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall.
Special thanks to the B.B. Comer Library who has saved so much of Sylacauga’s past and makes it available to us and to the late Walter Jones and others who gathered that local history. Also thanks to David Irby, Earl Lewis, and others who share their stories with me so that I can bring them to you