DETROIT – John A. Lygizos, General Chair of the International Sons Invitational Basketball Tournament (ISIBT) Soul ’70, spoke to The National Herald about the historic tournament, about to celebrate its 50th Anniversary on March 7.
He told TNH, “In the late 1960’s, most of the young Greeks in Detroit and Michigan were united not only as friends and Hellenes, but also as members of either the Sons of Pericles or the Maids of Athena.
“AHEPA District #10, (Michigan and Toledo, Ohio) had built up its Sons and Maids chapters and their dedicated membership.
“In 1969, at the Minneapolis National Convention, we bid and were awarded the national Sons Basketball tournament.
“In fact many of us began organizing it immediately by engaging a group known as ‘Showtime Parts I & II’ (which we heard at the Minneapolis Convention for the first time). We believed it would be so good with the Motown sound that those attending would be enthusiastic about it. They were.
“We began working on the tournament in earnest immediately. It was something that came almost naturally. We picked committee heads unanimously and we, for the most part, we met either at a Greektown restaurant known as the Laikon Cafe or at Saints Constantine and Helen Church. In fact as the March 7, 1970 date approached, while meeting at the Laikon Cafe, we would receive phone calls at the telephone booth (remember?) which were predominantly for one of us.
“We decided on “Soul ’70” for the theme of the Tournament, but we later learned that the AHEPA District Lodge was not happy with that and would not help us with a requested $1,000 advance loan.
“We had contracted with the then-Sheraton Cadillac (now Book Cadillac) as the hotel for the Tournament. We also wanted the Tournament to be memorable, so we wanted to have the Trio Bel Canto (the most popular Greek group at that time). It was the Committee’s intention to have the Greek dance in the main Ballroom at Cobo Hall (the biggest in Detroit).
“Roumell Catering controlled the scheduling and service at Cobo Hall. They reduced the amount to reserve it to $600, however, since we had not received any help from the AHEPA, we, in an audacious attempt, asked the Sheraton Cadillac to advance the deposit. We were surprised that they agreed.
“We were able to contract the Trio Bel Canto, and on March 7, 1970 we sponsored the largest Greek dance in Detroit history with over 1800 people. Showtime Parts I & II played Friday night at the Hotel to a raucously friendly young Greek audience.
“We filled the approximately 450 rooms and 35 basketball teams came from all over the country to play in the ISIBT Soul ’70. The games were played in three different gyms around the City. The teams and supporters were ferried around by the use of vans donated by Chrysler Corporation through a Greek, the late Jim Pikulas, who was a Vice-President of Chrysler at the time. The team bracket and games were organized through the help of George Petrouleas, Jim Koukios, and George Caralis.
“The Treasurer was Alex Davlantes who apparently never removed his neck tie even at 3 am counting and reconciling. Our art work including the logo for Soul ’70 was done by Anna Galanis (art and architecture student then) and photography was by Andy Moundros (who later worked for Motown).
“As General Chair, I assisted everybody I could including John and Mike Manolis and Greg Georvassilis (who was Sons’ District Governor that year). The four of us prevailed upon the Hotel to advance the deposit as well as the Trio Bel Canto to come and entertain Detroit Greeks as never before or since.
“The profits from the ISIBT were donated to the Detroit School for the Deaf for the purchase of two machines that made the hearing impaired able to use the telephone. One of the reasons that we, as a Committee, were moved to do that was because the Treasurer, Alex Davlantes was a teacher there. He, many years later, became the principal. Now, he’s retired in Florida.
“Also, another District Officer who also helped in planning and carrying out the success of the Dance and Tournament was Peter Christoff, who also had the honor of hosting parties in his basement almost every Friday night where we talked, planned, played cards with the little money that we had, and, of course, had a good time doing all of these things.”
The organizers told TNH that they hope as many of the original participants in the 1970 tournament as possible will be able to attend the Soul ’70 Reunion on Saturday, March 7 at the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Church Hall, 39851 – 5 Mile Road in Plymouth, MI (located at 5 Mile Road near Haggerty Road). Doors open at 6:30 PM with buffet-style dinner at 7 PM. Live music by Lady Sunshine & the X Band begins at 8 PM. Donation is $40 per person.
For tickets and further information about the ISIBT 50th Anniversary Soul ’70 Reunion: Peter Christoff, phone: 734-624-1121 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org; John Lygizos, phone: 734-604-6839 or email: email@example.com; John Manolis, phone: 313-418-7762 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event is sponsored by V.I. Chebithes, AHEPA #391 Charities and proceeds to support National Niemann Pick Foundation and 15 other charities.