Son of Palace Theatre founder visits historic Greensburg venue
Michael Manolitsis was one of many immigrants who came to America with dreams and a can-do spirit that led to great accomplishments, his son said on Monday.
Alex Manos, 84, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., spoke about his father as he and his wife, Marie, toured the Palace Theatre on West Otterman Street in Greensburg.
His father's dream led to the Palace, formerly the Manos Theater, one of more than 100 theaters the family operated in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.
“This is a structure that was built because of determination and the opportunity we had in this country,” Manos said.
His father and uncles, who ran a confectionery business, built the theater in 1926 with the help of a $750,000 loan from Barclay Bank in Greensburg, Manos said.
“That doesn't sound like a lot today, but that was a lot of money in those days,” Manos said.
His father's good reputation helped get the loan, he said.
When the theater opened on Sept. 2, 1926, 5,000 people attended one of two shows, according to newspaper accounts.
The venue was a glittering showpiece of art and craftsmanship.
Architect Leon H. Lempert & Son of Rochester, N.Y., installed opera boxes; hand-cast, decorative moldings; golden Grecian marble; black-and-white floor tiles, rich velvet draperies and a candlelight chandelier.
Acclaimed Chicago artist Louis Grell, who depicted fairy stories in his paintings, created wall and ceiling murals.
Manolitsis' life in America began at Ellis Island in New York. After sailing from Greece, he encountered a guard who asked, “What's this?” referring to his father's last name, Manos said.
“Too long,” the guard said.
Manolitsis became Manos.
Michael Manos sold newspapers and lived in flophouses in New York City, then moved to Western Pennsylvania, his son said. During that time, he brought brothers and other relatives from Greece to the United States.
“They knew how to hand-dip chocolates, so they made chocolates,” Alex Manos said. The family made the candy in a one-room operation in Jeannette, then opened a store in Greensburg.
When his father met his mother, Kaliopi, in an Erie chocolate business, he was 23 or 24; she was 14. They were married for more than 60 years, Manos said.
With an eye toward selling more candy, his father expanded his business interests into entertainment.
“He happened to hear about silent movies, and he got interested in that,” Manos said.
In the early days, the Palace hosted vaudeville shows featuring such nationally known talent as Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, Manos recalled.
“People came from miles around to see the vaudeville shows,” Manos said.
Warner Brothers bought the 1,369-seat Greensburg theater in 1930, and the Manos family continued to operate it.
Alex Manos first worked as an usher in the family's theater in Indiana, then leased films for theater screenings.
The theater was sold to a private owner in the 1970s, before the Westmoreland Cultural Trust took control in 1990.
Alex Manos left the family theater business and Greensburg in 1957, working for Scott Paper for 12 years and then as a Realtor, a job he continues to do.
Manos, who was visiting the area with his wife of 61 years, said he was amazed by many of the changes made to the Palace.
“Oh, isn't this a beautiful place,” he said, gazing down on the stage from the theater balcony.
He praised the $10 million in renovations to the building made under the Trust's stewardship.
Too often showplaces like it have been lost to the ravages of time or sit vacant because of lack of public interest, Manos said.
“It's an honor to my dad for him to know that this has been kept up,” Manos said.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 Hempfield Area students charged with sexting
- Murrysville woman apologizes for scholarship fund theft
- 2 charged with copper theft from Greensburg house
- Donors’ generosity allows Clairview School girls to get fancy for prom
- Hempfield bicyclist who brought rock, knives into court office charged
- Police seek public help with East Huntingdon store thefts
- Jeannette police say 5 people caught trespassing on grounds
- Seton Hill student tells how Pa. Gov. Wolf’s tax plan will hurt her
- 2 Democrats battle for Hempfield nomination for supervisor
- Jeannette’s Monsour Medical Center demolition costs might go down
- Hempfield to take over park