Paying it forward

Published on August 15, 2014

George Manos relishes his summers, having spent too many of them away from

home when his family was growing up. (Rosalie MacEachern photo)

NEW GLASGOW - George Manos flips a lot of burgers in the run of a summer, usually for family and friends, but he’ll be flipping for Pictou County students bound for St. Francis Xavier University next week.

         Manos, who graduated from the university 55 years ago and has served on the university’s alumni association and board of governors, will be on hand, as he usually is, to help with the barbecue and information session Pictou County St. F. X. Alumni Association holds at the Museum of Industry.

         “It is always a good night. You meet all the excited kids and all the worried parents,” said Manos.

         There was no such event when Manos’ post secondary education began.

         “The summer I graduated from New Glasgow High School I worked at the Gyro Swim Program. My older brother and sisters were working in the store with my father and I wasn’t needed there. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do when the summer ended.”

         One afternoon a family friend who had business in Antigonish asked him if he wanted to come along for the drive.

         “I’d never been to Antigonish so I thought I might as well go. We got there and he toured me around the town and the university.  Then he asked me if I’d thought about going there.”

         Manos liked what he saw, but had not yet received his provincial examination marks and had no reason to think he would be a shoe-in.  

         “I was more interested in sports and dances than classes. I’d never imagined myself going to university and no one had ever suggested it to me but when I started to think about it, I liked the idea.”

         When his marks arrived, he and the family friend took another trip to Antigonish and this time met with some of the university staff.

         “It was still only half real to me so when I was asked what I wanted to study I had to make a quick decision. Figuring I wasn’t great at English, I said I’d like to study science. The registration was ten bucks and he (the family friend) paid it on the spot. I went home and told my parents.”

         Manos’ parents operated the London Fruit Store in downtown New Glasgow when boxes of Ganong’s chocolates and bags of Royal Mixture were popular items. They had emigrated separately from Sparta, Greece.

         “Greece was a poor, poor country. When my father was 15 he left the family to make his own way, he had to. Somehow he got to Chicago and worked there for a while. He was in Montreal when he met another Greek from New Glasgow who persuaded him he could succeed in business in New Glasgow.”

         After getting established in New Glasgow, Manos’ father returned to Greece and brought back a wife.

         “There is a lot I don’t know because they didn’t talk much to us about Greece but my mother was 10 years younger than my father and it was a marriage arranged between the families.”

         University was something beyond either parent’s expectation or imagination, but when Manos asked if they would lend him $500 to cover his first year, they handed him the money.  He studied geology and was able to get summer jobs in his field, usually in the area around Hudson’s Bay, to cover the cost of subsequent years.

         He met his wife, Shirley, while he was in high school and when he graduated from St. F.X. they both got jobs in Ontario, hers in nursing and his with the Canadian Geological Survey.

         “Things were going great until Shirley’s mother got sick and she went home and stayed. There were no geology jobs in Nova Scotia, but I wasn’t going to lose her so I applied to St. F.X. to get my teaching degree.”

         The cut in pay was painful but Manos, who went on to be a principal and central office administrator, landed his first teaching job in Stellarton.

         “The biggest reason they hired me was because they needed someone to run their cadet program. That was part of the school system in those days and I had come up through cadets so I guess they figured I could do it.”

         The military continued to play a role in Manos’ life as he trained away from home every summer.

         “I had no choice. Until Bob Stanfield (education minister and then premier) came along a teacher’s pay was so low I needed the summer job to pay the oil bill. I made more in two months with the military than I was making all year teaching, but it meant Shirley raised the four kids on her own a lot of the time.”

         That is part of the reason Manos, who has three of his four children and most of his grandchildren close to home, organizes Sunday family brunches during the winter and Sunday night suppers at the cottage in summer.

         “From 1961-1979, I spent every summer at army camp or summer school so I missed a lot with my kids growing up but I’m trying to get the best of the grandchildren. Shirley does all the baking but I I’m not too bad with the cooking. Having everybody together is the best part of the week. ”

         He was delighted to see his first grandchild graduate from St. F.X. this spring.

         “X is close to my heart. I don’t forget the help I had to get there so I try to do my part.”

         Other organizations he has had a long involvement with include the Johnny Miles Marathon, the Pictou County Y, the Gyros, the United Way and his church.

         “I served 10 years on New Glasgow town council. The policy against smoking in public places wasn’t too popular in the North End so I was defeated but getting that policy through was worth it.” 

- Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer who seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you have someone you think should she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at