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Greek-American Historical Museum

Greeks in the United States, all across the nation, are making every effort to preserve

systematically their local history for future generations. Take for instance the ongoing

work of the Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington. According to its website

greeksinwashington.org: “The Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

has completed its fourth year of operation. What began in 2009 with a few interested

persons has evolved into a very successful virtual museum that has been recognized

not only within the State of Washington, but around the world. Regular communication

by e-mail is transmitted to a growing list of over 400 supporters and interested parties.”

This is an especially dynamic organization. Let me just cite just two of its 2013 projects:

“During the year 18 additional video interviews were conducted bringing the total to over

100. From those interviews over 85 online ‘exhibits’ containing narrative, photos and

video clips have been posted. The goal in 2014 is to conduct one interview per week.

Inquiries from around the world have been received from families with similar names

with requests to be contacted. One can ‘Google’ a family name (i.e., Papadopoulos-
Washington) and the Museum web site will appear among the first listings elicited from

the search.”

In a creative effort to have the local community tell its own story we hear that in 2013:

“The first Greek History Competition resulted in seven creative entries from young

Greek-Americans who documented the experiences of their ancestors. Recognition

of their efforts was made at the March 25th Greek Independence Day celebration in

Seattle. First place went to Olivia Eugenia Grosvenor who published a book about her

two grandfathers, second place to Stephanie Semandiris Sampson who wrote a short

story based on her grandparents’ flight from their village during the Greek civil war, and

third place to Themio Pallis who submitted a PowerPoint presentation and narrative

about his great grandfather. Four more young people: Abby Gray, Andrew Manos,

Alexandros Skoulis and Evan Skandalis also submitted entries.” The Museum’s website

provides a much fuller account of their sustained efforts.

What they have accomplished so far has not gone without notice. In April, the Greek-
American Historical Museum of Washington State “was awarded the Charles Payton

Heritage Advocacy Award by the Association of King County Historical Organizations.

This award is for innovation, initiation, development or presentation of a plan by an

organization or individual which has led to the advancement of funding for heritage

projects, protection of heritage resources, or development of advocacy tools such as

posters, videos, newsletters or websites.” In June, Museum received another award,

this time from the Washington Museum Association. The Seattle Greeks received an

Award of Project Excellence which was bestowed for their marked excellence involving

education projects, collections management, and public programming.

As one might expect from such a dynamic organization: “The Museum Board and

Advisory Board is now at work planning for its exhibit in the Community Focus Gallery

of the Museum of History & Industry in Seattle. The exhibit will run for several months

in early 2015. The theme of Restaurants has been chosen as the food industry portrays

the Greek independent, entrepreneurial spirit which will be explored through text,

artifacts and photographs. We already have a number of items that will be used in the

exhibit including photos, menus, ashtrays, matchbooks, newspaper articles and other

memorabilia that helps to tell the story.”

A significant element in the overall preservation movement is the publication of

historical volumes of all sorts. Among the latest in this genre is “The Greeks of Newport,

New Hampshire” compiled by Helen Coidakis Stamos (Newport, New Hampshire:

Hedgehog Publishing, 2011). This volume is composed of one to three page vignettes

on individuals and families who collectively composed the Greek community of Newport.

This presentational format is common to many recently issued Greek-American

histories. To offer but three notable examples: “761 Aubert Avenue: My Greek American

Sanctuary” by Jennie Vlanton (2007); “The Greek American Community of Essex

County, New Jersey” by John Antonakos (2010) and “Uncovering the History of the

Albuquerque Greek Community, 1880-1952” by Katherine M. Pomonis (2012).

“The Greeks of Newport, New Hampshire” at 188 pages includes, aside from the

historical accounts, illustrations, maps, black and white photographs on nearly

every page. As described: “Greek immigrants were among those who came to New

England to work in the early 20th century textile and shoe mills of Newport, NH…Here,

the American roots of 34 Greek families took hold: their native villages, arrivals,

marriages, families, business ventures, military service, and lives lived. Also, there

are sections describing celebrations and traditions observed among this subculture of

community. Families: Megalogenis, Vaeni, Cuciufiti, Catsam, Economou, Evangelou,

Ambargis, Stamatiou, Hasevlat, Condos, Mosconas, Coronis, Durmas, Latchis,

Franklin (Fragapoulos), Anastos, Saggiotes, Gokas, Lantas, Bartzokas, Karras,

Spanos, Kungulis, Zahareas, Miller (Milliou), Hagianis, Andrews (Andreas Skinas),

Ypsilanti, Kakitis, Coidakis.” Helen Coidakis Stamos’ was born and raised in Newport.

The accounts Stamos has so carefully and thoughtfully compiled reflect her lifetime

association with these individuals and families. The sale price of the book is $25.00

plus $3.00 s/h checks or money orders should be made out to; Greeks of Newport and

mailed to; Helen Coidakis Stamos 221 Owendale Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197 and/or see

%MEDIA1%

“The Greeks of Newport, New Hampshire” is not composed of formal encyclopedic

entries on individual lives or extended families. To my way of thinking its contents are

far more informative. Memories of specific events mix in with more specific references

to dates, locations, news accounts and all the rest. Please do not misunderstand me

many documents see reproduction in the pages of this book as do the identification of

exact events and experiences across people’s lives. A person’s life cannot be reduced

to how many examples of ship papers, historic photographs, nationalization certificates,

business papers or all the rest are offered. As Stamos clearly realizes we are best

remembered by those who are left behind. By those whose lives we have affected

in some personal manner. All the academic theories in the world can out trump the

memories, emotions and continuing thoughts devoted to those who have passed on that

living people maintain and continue to tell each other.

Quite a number of Greek-Americans have taken on the role of community historian.

Gust C. Kraras continues his ongoing documentation of the Greeks in (and about)

Reading, Pennsylvania. Kraras’ latest contribution is found in the William Penn Chapter

No. 61 Order of AHEPA End of the 2013 Year Celebration booklet. Kraras provides

the vignette “History of WM. Penn Chapter No. 61” and then “A Brief History of the

Outstanding Leaders and Founders of the Local Chapter.” In the survey of individuals

within this chapter Kraras provides succinct but exceedingly rich biographical accounts

of individuals that goes well beyond their involvement with AHEPA.

Museum exhibitions, publishing historical accounts, Internet websites the list of

preservation activities among Greek-Americans is growing every day. We must become

not only aware of what is being done in our name but come to some understanding of

why such a movement has seized our collective attention at this specific moment in

time.

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

Maids of Athena – 1931

From the Museum’s photo collection, this is the first Maids of Athena chapter

in the United States. The Girls Youth Organization of the AHEPA, 1931. (Left to Right):

Front, Lavana Scafturon Savage, Athena Arger Bowers, Penelope Angelus Koukles,

Marianne Stacy Klett (mascot), Maxine Manousos Kalivas, Kikki Cologeou Bishop;

Back, Mary Davis Vitos, Helen Constantine Larson, Lena Davis Gortison, Mary Ginnis

Jones, Georgia Vitos Ginnis, Joanna Manousos Tsapralis, Cleo Manousos Stacy

Tsapralis (Not Shown) Mary Constantine Hallis and Marianthe Formuzis Phill. (From

slide show prepared by Helen McClure, and A 75 Year Journey Through Saint Nicholas

Greek Orthodox church, 1925-2000, Tacoma, Washington)

Maids of Athena 2011

As part of the Museum’s visual history collection, the Maids of Athena are

portrayed through the decades. A far more recent photo, taken 80 years after the first:

(Left to Right): Advisor Voula Xenos; Vice President Deme Xenos; Secretary Anna

Teodosiadis; President Ginny McClure; Member Abby Gray; Treasurer Elizabeth Gray.

Other new members not present were Aspasia Bartell, Alexandra Schwenke, and

Theodora Teodosiadis, 2011. (From St. Demetrios weekly newsletter).

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