O, FOR HISTORY: Bobby Kennedy & Mangas Cafeteria in my hometown

April 23, 1968, 50 years ago this past spring, the newly announced presidential candidate, Bobby Kennedy, and his wife, Ethel, made a visit to my home town, Elwood, Indiana.

During his visit, Senator Kennedy and his entourage dined at Mangas Cafeteria on the northwest corner of Main and Anderson streets.

[From The Elwood Call-Leader, 27 June 1988] Mangas Cafeteria was founded by Jack and George Mangas. Jack, who came to the United States from Greece in 1916 at the age of 16, move to Elwood in 1928 with his wife Theodora and opened the Sweet Shop. A year later he sent for his brother George, then 25, to help him manage the shop.

Jack and Theodora opened The Sweet Shop at 119 S. Anderson St. February 4, 1928. In 1935 the shop moved across the street where it was located until it closed in 1948.

Mangas cafeteria was opened by the Mangases less than a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the cafeteria offered free meals to those who donated blood, but war bonds, or served overseas.

Everyone in both families pitched in and helped at the cafeteria, including the children who stood on stools to help.

The Annex on the west side of the building was built in 1942, and the Grecian Room was added in 1958.

It was not uncommon to always see lines of people wrapping around the building’s corner down the street, especially during noon on Sundays. Once inside, the line continued along the very large windows that looked out onto the very busy Main Street. After the line passed through the food line, on the right, directly across from the cash register, sat Mrs. Mangus. She was as lovely of face as she was of heart and kindness, and Mrs. Mangas always wore a lovely flower behind her ear.

I grew up a few houses from Mr. and Mrs. Mangas who later welcomed their daughter, Georgia Skalkotos and her family, husband Nick, and children Demetrious and Marina. I was fortunate to grow up with Demetrious and Marina, and I am still thrilled to remain in contact with them via social media.

One of the highlights of my youth was being asked by Mrs. Skalkotos to walk Marina to school for the first several days. As Marina entered the six grade, Demetrious was already in middle school and I was in the six grade at Washington Elementary school. I was proud and honored to be of service to my neighbors, but terribly surprised when I received a Mangas Cafeteria postcard with the words written on the back, “please offer Darin a free meal at the cafeteria with our thanks. Georgia.”

I still have the postcard. I did have my meal but asked to keep the postcard as a souvenir.

Elwood had two grand moments in its history when visited by two presidential candidates, hometown boy Wendell L. Willkie, the 1940 Republican candidate opposing incumbent president, Franklin Roosevelt, and 1968 Democratic candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

While the 1940 visit garnered international attention, the Kennedy visit to Mangas Cafeteria is still a much discussed memory of many Elwoodites, today.

How fortunate were we to have the Mangas family serving as ambassadors.

Read more about Bobby Kennedy’s Indiana tour at Anderson Herald Bulletin: Robert Kennedy visited Anderson, Elwood, 1968

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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