On this day in 1920, Manolis Chiotis, the famous singer, composer, and soloist bouzouki player, was born in Thessaloniki. At the age of 14, Chiotis and his family moved to Athens where his father opened a cafe. It was there that Chiotis began his stage career, and one year later, he recorded his first song. The German Occupation eventually became a reality and many record companies in Greece shut down, and it was after this time that he started to gain much popularity. He became known for blending popular folk music (laika) and more modern Greek and international sounds. It is said that Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis took Princess Grace Kelly to one of Chiotis’ shows. Callas told Chiotis that she had been translating the lyrics for the American actress and that she loved them. It was then that Kelly asked Chiotis what the difference was between a bouzouki and an electric guitar. Chiotis said, “Ms. Callas, please explain to Princess Grace that the strings of an electric guitar are vibrated due to electricity, while the song of the strings of a bouzouki come straight from the heart.”
On this day in 1896, Charilaos Vasilakos of Greece won the first modern marathon in three hours and eighteen minutes at the Panhellenic Games. The main purpose of these Games was to help the country assemble the team that would compete in the first Modern Olympic Games later in the same year. Vasilakos ended up being one of the seventeen athletes to start the Olympic race on April 10, 1896. He finished with the silver medal, behind Spiridon Louis, with a time of three hours and six minutes (as one of only nine finishers). Vasilakos, a man with a reputation for honesty and integrity, went on to become a customs director in the Greek Ministry of Finance. To this day, there are annual marathon races in Olympia that commemorate his memory
On this day in 1985, Peter Charanis, the Greek-American historian, was born in Lemnos, Greece. In 1920, Charanis immigrated to the United States, coming to New Brunswick, NJ – where he spent the majority of his adult life. Charanis eventually became a scholar of Byzantium and a professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University. He received his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. After postgraduate work at the University of Brussels and the University of Salonika in Greece, he joined the Rutgers faculty in 1938. Between 1964 and 1966, Charanis served as chairman of the university’s history department and retired from teaching in 1976. In many ways, Charanis embodies the American dream: he arrived in the United States as a poor immigrant boy but when his life was ending, he was one of the most respected members of the American academic community.
On this day in 1921, the first Women’s Olympiad (Olympiades Féminines and Jeux Olympiques Féminins), the first international women’s sports event, began in Monte Carlo at the International Sporting Club of Monaco. The Olympiad was a 5-day multi-sport event that was organized by Alice Milliat and Camille Blanc as a response to the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to include women’s events in the 1924 Olympic Games.