This story of The
Mayflower Cafe and the Janoplis Family written by John Bell was
The Provincetown Advocate the
local newspaper around 1975.
"Mike Janoplis has been a worker all his life. He will never retire. His
brother Sam, five years younger sold Mike his share of The
Mayflower Café long ago and retired-a familiar
tall figure greeting friends with two-handed handshakes and Old
World courtesy. Mike’s first employer here, Nicholas
Melitopolous, retired from the food business decades ago. Mike
Janoplis keeps on working behind The Mayflower bar.
His sons Mike Junior and Sammy, say their father is
semi-retired. This may only reflect the change in mike’s
position in 1962 when his sons bought the business from him and
became the second generation of Mike and Sammy owners of The
The boys hadn’t been born yet when their father and uncle built
the café in 1929-30. Later they spent their after school hours
there, providing perhaps the first unlicensed entertainment ever
offered in Provincetown. Their antics drove Uncle Sammy into
arm-waiving frustration and brought sharp words from Mike Sr.,
but the customers loved it.
After WW II, when I first knew Mike, most of The Mayflower’s
five o’clock customers were carpenters stopping in for a beer
before supper. They could be sure, of one thing, that Mike would
remember what brand of beer they liked, and would have it poured
by the time they sat down. For another they could be sure of
Mike’s attention while they discussed the day’s work, for Mike
was quite the carpenter himself. Every winter Mike improved the
place, rearranging the bar and food counter, repainting the
ceiling and walls. He did good work in spite of interference by
his gang of sidewalk superintendents.
And while his changes updated the food service and his help’s
working conditions, they left the high wainscoting on the walls,
the beamed ceiling, and the large dining booths. The Mayflower
remains a "sit down" restaurant in comfortable contrast to it’s
"through the window" neighbors.
See America First
Mike wasn’t always a restaurateur. When he got off the boat in
New York in 1908, he and his compatriots were put aboard a train
to Kansas City Missouri. From there they were sent to Oklahoma,
where severe washouts had halted rail traffic. Directed through
a Greek interpreter, they rebuilt the railbeds, living in
company owned shelters, buying clothes from the railroad
timekeeper who deducted the cost from their wages.
Fifty cents may seem cheap today for a jacket or a pair of
overalls. But Mike and his companions worked six ten-hour days a
week for 11 cents an hour. Occasionally they worked Sunday’s,
too, for an extra 1.10- no such thing as overtime wages then.
Mike’s next job, on Rock Island Railroad, paid him better-15
cents an hour.
From railroad work Mike moved to the Pacific Northwest, helping
on gangs that erected power poles in Washington. He saw a lot of
the U.S.A., including Boston, before he enlisted in the Army in
1918. six months in a New Jersey training camp followed. When he
got out, the war had ended. Temporarily footloose, he came to
Provincetown July 3, 1919, just for a weekend holiday. He met
Nick melitopolous and was invited to "put on your apron and go
to work for me."
Subject to Change
Nick’s Fruit-Candy-Ice-cream stand, believe it or not, stood on
the corner where the Soldier’s Monument is now. Mike’s job there
ended during the Tricentennial observance of the Pilgrim’s
Landing. Around 1920, Ryder Street was moved Eastward about
fifty feet and widened. Nick’s stand was one of the buildings
removed during the change.
Mike then built the Blue Moon Restaurant on Standish Street, six
feet east of the New York Store, on land leased from the New
York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. The
bankrupt railroad later decided to sell all its land. It
terminated Mike’s 30 day lease, and that was the end of the Blue
Moon. During the winter of 1929-1930- the Janoplis brothers
built the Mayflower Café where it stands today.
By hard work and no-frills living, they survived
the depression years. Long before prosperity returned, Mike and
his wife, the former Annie Crawley, were raising their family,
never dreaming they would celebrate their golden wedding
anniversary October 8, 1975. (It was a quiet celebration;
daughter Louine and husband Jim Daugherty came out from Ohio to
spend last week visiting) Mike and Sam opened their restaurant
early and closed late, trading friendly service and good food
for the business that kept their families going. But they never
got rich at it.
Part of Mike Janoplis’ high standing in his adopted town comes
from this habit of hard work, part from his quietly friendly
ways, and part from his sympathy for other workingmen. I learned
this last quality on a memorable day long ago.
I was building Mike a concrete drainage pit on the shore, across
Commercial Street from his restaurant. His old pit had
collapsed, threatening to shut down the Mayflower during a July
4th weekend. Jimmy Silva’s bulldozer dug the hole, clearing
Mike’s drainpipe so he could open again.
While I was working there a sudden rain began soaking the bags
of cement. I loaded four or five bags onto Mike’s two-wheel
truck and brought them across the street to put them under
cover. The truck, under that load, refused to jump the curbing
onto the sidewalk. Backing it off, I gave a great pull-and the
truck not only jumped the curbing but put it’s steel handles
through the plate glass window of Cutler’s Pharmacy behind me.
Before the glass had stopped falling, Mike had come out,
assessed the situation, and taken over. He helped board up
Cutler’s window and insisted on paying the $75 replacement cost,
refusing to let me even share it.
Mike Sr. passed away in 1979, Sam in 1994. In 1980, Sammy sold
his half of the Mayflower to Mike Jr., and The Mayflower is
currently owned and operated by the third generation of Janoplis' Donna,
Darin, and Michael.