The Victory Grill- Gilroy

The far-off land of Macedonia was the birthplace of William N. Economou, where he first saw the light of Smardese, on November 6, 1892. He is the son of the late Nicholas G. and Ellene (Dinken) Economou, both born, lived and died in Macedonia. The father was a well-to-do tradesman, owned extensive properties both at Athens and Macedonia. He died at the age of forty-five, while the mother passed from this life when thirty-eight, survived by three children; William N., of this review; Apostolos, who served as second lieutenant in the Greek army, and Constantina, now attending school in Greece. Owing to the early death of his parents, William was thrown upon his own resources at a tender age and for two years worked in a plaster and cornice decoration works at Athens, Greece. Hoping to better his condition, in 1907, he came to America and landed in St. Louis, Mo., in November, where he found work for a time. In 1912 he came to San Francisco and soon after opened a cafe, known as the "Old Frisco" at Polk and Broadway. He met with financial reverses and had to go to work for others until 1917, when he opened a fine eating place in Berkeley, with a friend for a partner. This was maintained amicably until he enlisted for service in the World War.

It seems quite proper to make mention of the services rendered the country of his adoption by William N. Economou when the world was rocked by the World War. When the enrollment of men of suitable ages for military service was demanded by our President, he enlisted on May 5, 1917, at Berkeley; on April 26, 1918 he was notified to report for immediate service and was sent to Camp Lewis, Washington, where he was assigned to Company Thirty-seven, Depot Brigade; on May 25, he was transferred to Company D, Three Hundred Sixteenth Engineers, Ninety—first Division, known as the "Wild West Division" as it was made up of men from eight Western States. After months of hard and intensive training at Camp Lewis, orders were at last received to go East and they were transported across the continent and on July 6, 1918, embarked for France. When crossing the Atlantic the boat on which our subject was a passenger, sighted a German submarine and the squadron formed battle formation and had target practice for a few minutes. The Ninety-first arrived at Liverpool on the 18th and four days later were at Cherbourg, France. In order to billet the men they were scattered in half a dozen villages covering about twenty miles of territory. Their intensive training was continued until they were thrown into their first battle, and having gone to France to fight, they were elated when that call came, which was early in September; and on September 6 they started their march toward the front. September 12 they reached St. Mihiel front and were at once ordered in reserve, but they did not take part in that engagement at the front lines. But even under shell-fire for three days, they attempted to dry their clothes under cover of the woods that partly protected them. September 16 they left St. Mihiel and marched toward the Argonne-Meuse front, where they achieved fame and glory. On September 19 they were only three miles from, the front line trenches, and when they arrived there they were welcomed by gas alarms. September 24 Company D, Three Hundred and Sixteenth Engineers, built bridges over shell holes in No Man's Land by moonlight. On September 25 orders came to take their places in the front line trenches, which had been held by the French army for the last four years, and at 2:30 in the morning of the 26th they made their first move in front of the enemy. The barrage of the guns from the Germans and the American batteries was so intense that it seemed as if the whole world was rocking and that the entire woods confronting them were on fire with the terrific firing. Needless to say that the Ninety-first did its duty to the last man, accomplished their objective in the face of the heaviest odds, and after eight days of the most severe fighting, in which they had 8,000 casualties, were relieved and permitted to rest. Most of those eight days the men had no warm food, and only such as they carried or could gather as they went along; they had no overcoats nor blankets, and were so worn out with continual fighting that they often slept standing for the few minutes they had. The enemy were so firmly entrenched that it took the most herculanean efforts to destroy his machine gun nests, but the American forces set out' to dislodge the Germans and they never gave ground, once they had obtained it, and held every position through the hardest kind of work. It was at this place that our subject distinguished himself by saving many of his comrades who had fallen as they rushed towards the enemy. This is conceded to be the most severe fighting that the Americans participated in during the war.

After resting a few days and filling Sup their ranks, the Ninety-first was ordered to join the French Corps in Belgium. Traveling via Paris and Ypres in Belgium, they reached their destination and with scarcely any rest were thrown into the battle on the main road to Brussels at the crossing of the Ascout River. Here again the Ninety-first distinguished themselves and had a very important part in dislodging the Germans from their strong fortifications across the Ascout River from Audenarde, where it flowed through the town. Volunteers were called for to make reconnoissance and Economou was among the eight men selected and he was the only man who got through to the German lines, having reached their divisional headquarters, one mile inside their lines. He secured all the information possible as to conditions confronting the advancing Allied armies and made ready to rejoin his comrades. The Germans were evacuating the town and at daybreak the rear guard artillery began shelling Audenarde, trying to get the spy who held many of their secrets. So intense was the fire that our subject hid in tunnels until he heard the last bridge blown up and then came out of hiding, being surrounded by Belgians who wanted to see the first American to reach their town. The crowd drew a German airplane, who dropped three bombs near him, killed some of the civilians, but Economou was safe. As he made his way out of town he was followed by artillery fire and it was hours before he reached his own lines. He took refuge in a building which was shaken down by the fire, in fact the town was partly destroyed; at last they dropped a gas shell and he was overcome for over an hour as he was so weak and tired he could not get his mask adjusted in time.

He had his information and delivered same to his officers, and the engineers set out to build bridges over the river with material he had discovered while on his reconnaissance. He was ordered to act as pilot to the ambulances that were ordered into Audenarde that same night as he was the only man who knew the road and it was so dark and stormy he stood on the running board to safely guide them through the dangers, and here again he was gassed, as with his rifle and narrow space he could not get his mask on in time. Arriving in the town he had orders to assemble the wounded and establish a first aid station in the town, which he did at Hotel Le Ville. The Allied armies made twenty-three miles in three days, continuous fighting all the way, but dislodged the Germans after four days' hard fighting. The Ninety-first was ordered to rest and later, the rench had taken their places and had lost some of the ground gained by the Americans, they were ordered to make their second offensive on November 10, 1918. They regained lost ground and were pressing the Germans back when the armistice was signed and the war was over. For distinguished services during the two offensives here at Audenarde, Economou received his decorations—the Croix de Guerre and the Gilt Star from the French Government, and the Silver Star and the Victory Medal with three clasps from the United States Government. With the Ninety-first, Economou left France, arriving in San Francisco on April 29, 1919. and was discharged at the Presidio on May 3.

Returning to civilian life, Mr. Economou remained about the Bay district a short time, then came to Gilroy and bought an interest in the Liberty Grill, remaining there until in August, 1921, when he sold out and opened the Victory Cafe at the corner of Martin and Monterey streets. Here he has a very modern establishment and is fast building up a good and profitable business through his square dealing with all with whom he comes in contact and he has already made a place for himself in the community. He takes an active part in the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and the local post of the American Legion; is a Republican in national politics, but in local matters believes in supporting the best men. In religious faith he adheres to the teachings of the Orthodox Greek Church.

From Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,
 published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 1582


SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight