Peter D. Androutsos was born in Megalopi, Greece, January 11, 1891. In 1909, the 18-year-old made the 23-day trip across the ocean and landed at Ellis Island on November 23, 1909. Two days later on Thanksgiving Day, he was in Greensburg, Pa., where he earned his first nickel. Pete moved to Newark on June 20, 1914, at the request of a family member who lived here. Once in Newark, he worked hard. In 1914 he was selling hot tamales and hot dogs in a stroller. He later opened a shoe shine and hat cleaning business.
On June 22, 1917, Pete performed his first known act of charity for his adopted country. The Red Cross had announced that it would organize a one-day fundraiser to help with the war effort. When the day came, Pete sold the Newark Advocate for 2 cents, then donated his $ 5.85 profits to the Red Cross. In 1923, he bought a restaurant at 29 South Second Street which he called Liberty Grill.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Pete was shaving when he heard over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. He vowed not to shave again before the end of the war. Pete was quoted in a Newark Advocate article published on December 7, 1966, of his thoughts after the war began. âThe Liberty Grill has slipped into a position of secondary importance. I didn’t care about the business. I thought if we don’t win the war there is no point in having a business or property or whatever.
At 50, he was considered too old for military service, but that didn’t stop him from doing his part in the war effort. Sporting his new beard and his nickname, “Liberty Pete”, he began raising money for the war. In the summer of 1942, he raised $ 29,575 for war bonds. In October 1942, when smoking was unrelated to cancer, he began a campaign to supply cigarettes to those serving overseas. He presented a representative of the Reynolds Tobacco Company, who came to Newark, with a check for $ 1,000. It paid for 400,000 cigarettes for the troops. Each card was marked âBest wishes; Citizens of Newark, O “and each package had a sticker that read,” Best wishes boys: drop me a line if you enjoyed cigarettes: Liberty Pete, Liberty Grill care. Newark, Ohio.
In an article dated December 28, 1942, in the Newark Advocate, Pete shared some of the letters he received. Royal Canadian Air Force flight officer George McKetiok stationed in Nova Scotia wrote. âA few weeks ago a group of American boys ran into us out of the blue and they brought some cigarettes and I got a box with your name and address on it. We don’t often get American cigarettes here and if we do, we pay a lot for them, but it’s a real treat. Colonel AW Roshe who was stationed with the United States Army in an undisclosed location overseas also wrote. âSince cigarettes were extremely short abroad, I opened the cases that were returned to me and distributed a packet to each man. You can well imagine how much they were appreciated. The men knew they had not been forgotten by the right people at home. It was a nice group of men eager to take action. Such gestures and this one by you and the citizens of Newark, always keep before them that their people support them. Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.
With the success of his two campaigns so far, Liberty Pete was not done; he had just started.
Doug Stout is the Veterans Project Coordinator for the Licking County Library. You can contact him at 740-349-5571 or [email protected] His book “Never Forgotten: The Stories of Licking County Veterans” is available for purchase at the library or online at bookbaby.com.