The Peras were to Geneva-on-the-Lake in the 20th Century what Cullen Spencer was in the 19th. They took the resort to the next level through investment, work and vision.
Eusebio, or “Pop” as he was known, was born in a summer resort in Switzerland. That gave him access to resort jobs, and his first one was that of assistant sauce chef. His ambition, however, was to be chef in charge of broiling meat. That led him to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The next stop was Jacksonville, Fla., where he worked in the restaurant business and continued to learn the English language.
He relocated to Cleveland after less than a year in Florida. He was hired at Adolph Menjou’s Bismark Restaurant. The owner’s son went on to become a movie star — after borrowing money from Eusebio.
Eusebio had saved enough money from his jobs to finance a six-month wedding trip to Europe with his Swiss bride. Back in Cleveland, they rented a furnished apartment for $25 a month while Eusebio worked at the Cleveland Athletic Club. She started a savings account so the couple could eventually start a business. They purchased, for $2,500, a restaurant on 6th Street and ran that until Eusobio came down with the flu. His doctor prescribed rest in the country, which lead to a visit to GOTL.
A realtor had told Pera that he could work for three months a year and take it easy for nine. They purchased the old New Inn, a restaurant and hotel, for $45,000. Eusebio didn’t want to purchase the property, but his wife told him she liked the name and lake, which reminded them of Lake Geneva. And she told him to “have faith” that it would work out. Nevertheless Eusobio says the price was too high for his wallet.
“The next morning, I give the realtor $10,000 deposit,” he says.
From 1920 to 1925, the couple cleared land and built Pera’s Park, which included tennis courts, a beach, miniature golf course and picnic areas.
Pop Pera started his Kiddie Land that was filled with rides just for children; it started with giving his daughter rides in the automobile that he drove in a section of cleared cornfield. Their Breakers Ballroom came in 1928 and was shortly thereafter renamed
Pera continued to expand his holdings on The Strip and eventually owned more than $1 million worth of real estate there. He worked at his businesses well into his 90s; his last year to work at the businesses was 1995. The prior year, his Pier Ballroom, the pride of his accomplishments at the resort, had been razed.
Martha died in 1962, and Pera was careful to give her credit for having business sense long after she was gone. He said he constantly her words to him as he continued the business in her absence: Have faith.
The following Geneva Free Press article provides details of their lives and contributions at GOTL. The article was published in the 1950s.