Simon Alvo

Simon Alvo
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This is a picture of my father, Simon Alvo. It was taken in Thessaloniki but I don't know when.

My father was born in 1889 in Thessaloniki. He went to the Turkish school first; he knew Turkish very well. He also went to the Jewish school. Later, he went to the Alliance school. He finished the Alliance school and went straight to work.

The business of our father was founded in 1913, a year after Thessaloniki was liberated from the Turks. It was called 'Afoi Alvo' - Alvo Brothers. It was difficult for him to create a business but the circumstances helped him. The war and the Great Fire helped him a lot. People were left in great need and there was no production in Greece. Everything came from abroad. He knew many languages and this was his advantage, because he could communicate when he went abroad. This was what upset Mother mostly. He would leave at least four or five times a year to travel for business. He didn't go for a very long time, just for ten or fifteen days. He would make a deal there and then.

Initially, my father had a shop at Fraggon Street. After the Great Fire, the Greek government started giving landed property to everyone as compensation. And on Ionos Dragoumi Street, which was then called Alexander the Great Street, at number 22, where the Eurobank stands today, is where they built the shop in 1922. It was a multi-story building with four or five floors. This shop was in the style of Galeries Lafayette, because my father had visited Paris many times and he had liked the Galeries Lafayette. The ground floor and the other four floors were open in the middle and no matter how warm it would get, as soon as the entrance door opened all the heat would go away. They were never warm.

My father loved literature and flowers. He imported flowers from Belgium and the Netherlands. He would bring bulbs from the Netherlands and rose bushes and dahlias from Belgium. He read all kinds of literature. He read quite a lot, always in French. He would buy magazines like 'L'Illustration,' which was a great magazine with really nice pictures. He would buy 'Candide,' which was probably right-wing. He wasn't buying it because it was rightist, but for the information, to keep up to date. With regards to newspapers he used to buy 'Le Progrès' that was Modiano's. He would either buy 'Le Progrès' or 'L'Indépendant.' They read the papers mainly on the tram. His journey from the house to the city center would last an hour each way. He didn't buy any Judeo-Spanish newspapers. He knew some of the reporters.

My father was of very low profile. He didn't like to stand out so much. He had a hearing problem. He lost his hearing when he was quite young. From around the age of 40 he couldn't hear well, so he didn't enjoy socializing much. He was too proud and he didn't want the others to know that he had a hearing problem. This was one of the reasons that he wasn't very sociable and wouldn't go out much.

Interview details

Interviewee: Mico Alvo
Paris Papamichos-Chronakis
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Year of interview:
Thessaloniki, Greece


Simon Alvo
Year of birth:
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Died where:
before WW II:

Additional Information

Also interviewed by:
USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education
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