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Haroians called the Queen Elizabeth home.

Byline: Ellie Oleson

OXFORD - To some, the Queen Elizabeth Motel was a minor landmark or even an eyesore. To one family, it was home.

The story of the Queen Elizabeth starts in Armenia at the turn of the last century. Kachadoor and Anna Haroian of Harpoot, Armenia, celebrated the birth of their third son, Levon "Leo" Haroian on Aug. 9, 1909. Shortly after, Kachadoor left for America, seeking work in the thriving factories of Central Massachusetts.

Four years after Kachadoor left, when Leo was 10, Anna Haroian packed up her three children to start a new life, passing through Ellis Island on their way to join Kachadoor on Hill Street in Auburn, where he had purchased a 26-acre farm.

Kachadoor's grandson, Robert L. Haroian of 218 South St., said his grandparents had to leave Armenia to escape the "genocide being waged by the Turkish Muslims against the Armenian Christians."

As a reminder of what he says "must never be forgotten," he keeps an old postcard that shows four armed Turkish soldiers standing over a table piled high with the severed heads of Armenians. Between 1915 and 1922, 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered.

Life was good for the Haroians in Auburn. Leo graduated from Commerce High School in Worcester in 1929 and found a job with the Worcester Telegram as a copy boy and artist.

Then on Aug. 17, 1931, Kachadoor, 53, and Anna, 50, were out picking corn in their field on Prospect Hill when they were both struck by bullets.

"At first, my family thought it might have been a Turk shooting at them," Mr. Haroian said.

Winton White, 15, was target shooting nearby and never saw his accidental victims. Kachadoor died. Anna survived. No charges were filed.

Life went on for the rest of the family. In 1938, Leo married Martha Shamoian of Worcester. The couple had three children, Robert, Jack and Elizabeth, who all live in Auburn, as do Jack's children, Lisa and Christopher Haroian, a member of the Finance Committee.

In 1948, Leo Haroian ran for highway surveyor, losing the election to Ray Whitcher.

On Washington Street, the Millward family built the King Philip Motel, which was very popular and inspired Leo.

"My father's friend, Tony Tarosian, owned the American Mobile Home Park down the street. He encouraged my father to build a motel," Mr. Haroian said.

Leo Haroian bought some land from Fred D. O'Shea, who owned the Mount Auburn Dairy, which later became the Mount Auburn Restaurant and then a bar. It was located at the present site of the Cabot House Furniture store on Route 20.

In 1953, Leo built a motel at South Oxford and Washingon streets and opened a 21-trailer mobile home park across the street.

He kept the family home at 13 Hill St. as a rental until it burned down and was replaced; that home was moved when Interstate 290 came through town, Mr. Haroian said.

When it came time to name the motel, friends suggested they name it after daughter Elizabeth.

"We don't know where the King Philip name came from, but it was a natural to name ours the Queen Elizabeth after my sister," Mr. Haroian said.

The motel began with four units and two carports. By the early 1960s, it had 11 units.

"My father was a workaholic. To earn extra money, he set up a fruit stand and sandwich shop. The buses would come by the Mount Auburn for dinner, and my father would sell them less-expensive sandwiches. The Mount Auburn didn't like that and stopped the buses," Mr. Haroian said.

"The motel was busy. Queen Elizabeth's airplane pilot was going through town and saw the name and stayed at the motel once. We had entertainers that played at Treasure Island in Webster stop over regularly," Mr. Haroian said.

There was a frozen-food truck driver who often traded frozen chickens for a room and other regulars who became like family.

The Haroians lived in a mobile home across the street until the mid-1960s, when they built a house on the Route 20 side of the motel.

"My mother would sit in the window and watch every move in the hotel," Mr. Haroian said.

In 1962, he graduated from Auburn High School, where he had picked up the nickname "Hara the Terror."

"My best friend Frank Tomaiolo and I were into mischief," Mr. Haroian said with a smile.

When Leo and Martha Haroian moved into a new house on South Street, Robert Haroian moved into the motel house. His new wife, Marianne R. Haroian, joined him in 1981.

"It wasn't always easy, but it was our home," Mrs. Haroian said.

After his retirement, Leo Haroian took a trip to Brussels, Moscow, Jerusalem and Armenia, the first time he'd been back since leaving as a child. He was in the area of the Ukraine on April 26, 1986, for the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.

"We couldn't reach him for several days. We called the embassies until we heard from him. He was fine," Mr. Haroian said.

Both Leo and Martha Haroian are gone now, as is the motel they built.

In the beginning, the motel was one of many in Auburn, including the King Philip Motel, Forest Motel, Standish Motel and Yankee Drummer.

"The Auburn Motel is the last one. Now we have hotels. The Mass. Pike took a lot of transit away. The biggest hurt was when the Mass 10 Truck Stop closed," Mr. Haroian said.

Bertera Nissan of Auburn is located at 569 Oxford St. South, on land that once housed the Haroian's mobile home park.

On May 14, Steve Bertera purchased the Queen Elizabeth Motel property for $375,000.

Mr. Bertera said the property will be cleared and used to display approximately 50 cars. A lighted crosswalk will allow customers to cross the street.

"We are just waiting for air quality tests to complete the demolition," he said.

Holding Bonnie Dell McHarrah, her black Scottish terrier, Mrs. Haroian said, "I know it's silly, but I will miss it. It was my home for 20 years. The Queen Elizabeth was another part of Auburn's history that is gone forever."



CUTLINE: (1) Marianne R. Haroian holds her Scottie dog, Bonnie, in front of what remains of the Queen Elizabeth Motel, which the Haroians called home for decades. (2) Leo and Martha Haroian were married in Armenia in the 1930s, and later immigrated to the United States. (3) Robert L. Haroian looks at an old photograph of the Queen Elizabeth Motel, which was in his family for more than 50 years.(4) The Queen Elizabeth Motel was in its prime in the 1950s.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 10, 2009
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