Two Carrabelle women, both of great local influence, each in their own unique and lasting ways, died in recent weeks.
Mary Giles, the tiny lady who sold antique furniture from her quaint and always crowded Traders Antiques store on Highway 98, and Eva Papadopoulos who sold food and beverages from her various family business locations - including the locally famous Harry’s Bar on Marine Street - both made strong and lasting impacts on visitors and local residents alike. Both gave much of themselves to Franklin County and often reaching far beyond, but especially to Carrabelle where they made their final homes.
While there are few business women of influence and presence today on the Carrabelle main streets, both Mary and Eva were pioneers in their own business activities. Years ago, Mary took over a small, unused piece of highway intersection frontage and attracted buyers and lookers and newfound friends to her fascinating and cozy store. A few pieces of furniture carefully placed outside her welcoming door would slow lookers and invite them to explore her ever-interesting and changing items and wares. Her famous cats joined her in business, sometimes remaining aloof but always ever-present in or near the shop or in her lap.
It was many more years ago in the community’s history when Eva’s family began to welcome fishermen, shrimpers and visitors with the promise of good food and beverages, naturals from their traditional Greek heritage. A weekly family spaghetti dinner was open and free to all who wished to attend. Eva’s presence was felt through many, many years of Carrabelle area history and extended family connections, and even through her later days, she stayed involved with strong opinions about politics and community as long as her health permitted.
Ms. Eva never married but loved family and was known as “Theia,” meaning “aunt” among her extended family and many relatives. Although conceived in Greece, according to her own tales, she was born in Tallahassee and graduated from Carrabelle High School in 1947. During the wartime heyday of Camp Gordon Johnston, she was selected to be Miss USO. Although still a teen, she served as box office manager at her family-owned Rex Theater, refurbished for the enjoyment of area soldiers and located adjacent to Harry’s bar at Marine Street and Avenue B.
She continued her food service hospitality at the White Kitchen restaurant – also on Marine at Avenue B - after her father died. She became an important part of the marketing of decommissioned Lanark CGJ military housing; it was told that the Miami development company created the Gulf Beach Club which Eva then managed. Developers would advertise the purchase of cheap apartments on the Gulf of Mexico during the winter months. A charter bus would bring chilled citizens south from the cold climates at no charge, where they were wined and dined before 90 percent left after signing contracts to buy the ‘winter-friendly’ properties with their retirement incomes.
Ms. Eva could usually be seen driving a Ford station wagon around town; it was always her vehicle of choice. She was an excellent businesswoman who also owned and managed local real estate business locations through the years but always made sure her family had homes, caretaking and comfort. As with Mary Giles, chasing the American dream via customer service and community promotion were foremost in the efforts of both these successful and well-regarded businesswomen.
While Mary’s quiet voice and presence may have seemed lower key in comparison to Eva’s strong deep-toned words, Mary also made herself heard as a deejay on Oyster Radio, thus extending her Carrabelle presence far beyond our local borders. In addition, in her own quiet way, she volunteered hard and long as a successful advocate for the welfare of those incarcerated, touching uncounted lives by trying to help prisoners better prepare for life after jail. She also served as a correspondent to the Apalachicola-Carrabelle Times newspaper, again raising the strength of her voice far beyond the parameters of her home community.
Too many of the leadership women of Carrabelle’s making and history are gone now – with their stories and their strength. So “goodbye” to Ms. Eva and Ms. Mary – and the others too. We thank them for their part and their inspiration in our community’s growth and development. We are grateful that they chose to make Carrabelle their home, for each helped to make it a better town for the rest of us.