“I like the Ozarks. I’m the Greek Hillbilly Now.”
Manoli Savennas visited Creekside and shared his story of how he went from growing up on the small island of Rhodes, Greece yet ended up calling Springfield, Missouri home.
Manoli was the son of a farmer and one of seven children who grew up in one-room house with no electricity or running water. His mother could not read but she saw the value of hard work. She insisted that he learn “a trade” by the young age of eleven. Manoli chose making jewelry which was a very difficult accomplishment with limited tools and supplies. He grew up during the Post-War era and times were hard for everyone in Europe. He did not see it as misfortune, it was just how it was and he enjoyed kicking a soccer ball made from rags with his friends by the Aegean. As he grew older he loved to box and wrestles much to the displeasure of his mother!
He moved to Australia at the age of 18 to seek more exposure to training in Greek/Roman style wrestling. He saw American tourists during his stay in Australia and decided that ALL Americans must be rich. Their fancy cameras and fine clothes enhanced his desire to make it to the United States to live the American dream. After four attempts to get a visa, he finally made it to America in his early twenties.
Reality struck as he navigated the streets of New York City and realized that NOT all Americans were rich. He turned to his training in Wrestling and became a professional WWE Wrestler and traveled all over the United States for many years with the team. He was able to make a living at something he loved to do……the beginning of his American Dream. (He became a US Citizen.) He wrestled in Madison Square Gardens on several occasions as well as the Shrine Mosque in Springfield. His best friend was Andre the Giant who stood 7 feet 4 inches tall. By the way, Manoli was known as the” Flying Greek” and stood a whopping five foot-one . His size was one of the unique things about him that made him so popular with the fans. He was the first wrestler to use the ropes of wrestling ring to leap off of onto his opponent.
After his wrestling career was over, he used the wisdom of his mother from his childhood to finish continue his American dream. Her words echoed in his mind. Learn a trade and it will make you successful in life. His life had come full circle as Manoli used his skills as a jeweler and worked as a jeweler repair man at several jewelry stores here in Springfield. He had fallen in love with the Ozark Hills as he traveled America to wrestle. He always knew that someday he would settle down in this area. In 1979, Manoli Savvenas opened his own jewelry store,”Manoli’s” in Brentwood Shopping Center. At 77 years old he is there not only repairing and selling jewelry, but also creating custom pieces. One of our own Community Members, Aggie Blazavitch in “V” sought his help in designing a very special family treasure. He took stones from ———- and makes a beautiful necklace that is now a unique family heirloom. Now he makes other people’s dreams come true with his talent!