THOMASVILLE -- If there is one subject Harry Zalumas knows a lot about, it's Thomasville history. At 92, his stories are many and his love of the area is strong.
Zalumas credits this love to his father, Andrew Zalumas, a Greek immigrant who came to the U.S. in early 1900. The elder Zalumas lived a short while in Pennsylvania before being advised to move to a warmer climate and get as much fresh air as possible. "He thoroughly Americanized us," Zalumas said.
Zalumas was born in 1911 to parents Andrew and Daisy. Of his five brothers -- Jim, Billy, Steve, Jack and Jake -- only Jake is still alive. His love sister, Olga, is living, too.
Jack and two other brothers ran the pool room on Broad Street and perfected its chili dog sauce. The family sold the business to a young fellow who worked his way up at the business. Andrew Zalumas peddled a pushcart downtown to make money, selling his own goodies. Andrew Zalumas is mentioned in the historical account of Thomasville on The Plaza's place mats. A plaque hangs on one of the buildings at Broad and Jackson streets in his honor.
Raised on the 200 block of South Madison Street, Zalumas has many stories about growing up in Thomasville. One of his fondest memories is of when the circus would come to town and a school holiday was declared.
It arrived by train in the early morning. By 11 a.m., a big parade was taking place along the crowded downtown streets.
"I remember the last thing in the parade was the steam organ," he said, also recalling the street sweeper who walked behind the animals.
Another memory that made him smile is how his street was lined with big sycamore trees.
"At the end of World War I, the next-door lady climbed a tree and yelled, 'It's over! It's over!'" said Zalumas.
He was in the first grade at the time. The students of his school were given flags and they marched down Broad Street in a celebratory parade.
Zalumas also remembered hunting for arrowheads and playing with pop guns as a boy in areas that are now subdivisions. Another happy memory involves planes. His father took people to the local airstrip in a taxi, and Andrew got to take one of the first plane rides.
"I think that's the only time he ever flew in his life," said Zalumas.
Zalumas also has fond memories of Flowers Ice Cream factory.
"My daddy would break down and give us 50 cents. That was a lot of money," he said.
His brothers and sister would go buy a brick of ice cream, take it home and divide it.
"That was a great event for us," said Zalumas.
Another thing he remembers about the factory are the Eskimo pies, recalling how they went to it one Sunday and saw workers making them. He was confused by an advertisement for the treat.
"I remember thinking, 'What in the world is Eskimo pie? and I couldn't wait to have an Eskimo pie," he said.
Zalumas finished Thomasville High School in 1931, winning the American Legion Award for Citizenship. He attended Norman Junior College in Norman Park for two years. He taught in Meigs before deciding to go back to school in Statesboro to finished his degree.
Afterward, he came back to the area and taught chemistry, physics and math at the Boston school for several years. Then he attended graduate school at Georgia and married Dorothy Upson of Quitman, an education major who taught first grade.
After working as a school principal for many years, Zalumas accepted a job with the State Department of Education and was assigned to a technical college in Clarksville. He was transferred to Atlanta to analyze and do other things relating to social security and disability claims to see if applicants could be referred for further help to get them retain gainful employment. After retiring from that job, he continued to live in Atlanta.
His wife developed cancer and died 21 years ago. They had no children.
"As far as I figure, I have three or four thousand (children) as I was a school principal and teacher over the years," said Zalumas.
One class from the 1940s still has a reunion each year. Students from it come by to take him to it.
Saturday nights have come a long way since Zalumas' childhood.
"What a day Saturday was," he said, recalling how his siblings got up early to help their father get ready with his cart. People came to town all day and hitched their wagons or buggies on Madison Street or the surrounding streets and spend the day visiting in town. In the evening, everybody gathered at "the bottom," the section of West Jackson Street near the railroad depot.
"That street was absolutely packed with people back then and things going on. The police would patrol everything and very seldom would anything ever happen," he said, remarking how that would not be the case today.
Zalumas is almost completely blind. He began losing his eyesight eight years ago because of macular deterioration. Not much is known about the condition except that there is no known cure or help for it.
"I've been through Emory University clinic several times and a number of specialists," he said. "They all came to the same conclusion. They're doing a lot of research but have come up with nothing real definite."
This is one of the reasons he returned to Thomasville. He stayed at Jefferson Place until it closed, moving to Southern Pines Retirement Community.
"It's a nice place," said Zalumas. "Of course, everything has negatives, but the positives overcome the negatives."
Zalumas' favorite thing about Thomasville is the people and their friendly attitudes. He will celebrate his 93rd birthday on Sunday.
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