Monday, March 9, 2009

Year 1935 - 1936

JM was abandoning his baby innocence to explore the world around him with his boyhood friends. He was walking to Monastiraki, two miles away from Efpalion, to go swimming in the sea, which was awesome in its beauty and yet frightful in its power. It was time for sleep, when all adults and children traditionally took their noon nap; it was hot and humid, with mosquitos buzzing all over for a meal.


It was time to choose between the umbilical cord and its safety net, or the unknown temptation of nature. He remembers the dilemma of his first white lie, he had in telling his mother that he did not take a nap but went swimming instead. He said nothing although somehow he knew that his mother was aware of it. Her knowing look said everything, but she chose not to make any fuss.

Peer pressure is as powerful as an awakening, bringing new emotions.
For the first time in his short life, he saw the naked bodies of his friends, heard stories from the “wise” and “cosmopolitan” boys of the difference between boys and girls. He felt the sensuality of the sun and the smell of the sea. JM wondered if one day, he would experience the excitement the other boys were bragging about. One of the boys gave the answer, as you can see in the picture.

(He thanks Pauli for this Photo)

Early in 1936, he saw a beautiful old lady standing by the doorway in the lower level of his house. It was his paternal Yiayia. She was named Athena and was a lithesome beauty who deserved to be named after the goddess Athena. (His sister was named after her and inherited her beauty.)

He was wondering why she stood by the door with an adoring and questioning smile, begging him to come to her but never verbalizing her feeling. Her white hair and black dress covered her graceful body. She never touched him nor gave him any toys or goodies.
Later at her deathbed, he was told that his Yiayia had an unmentionable disease [TB]; it was the reason that he could not hug her or even get close to her.

(Grandmother Athena)

(sister Athena)

She was buried in the cemetery of St. Ileas, overlooking the north side of Efpalion with its colorful mountains, fertile soil, and lush green vegetation. On the south side, you could see Monastiraki and its peaceful cerulean and deep blue water, adorned with small fishing boats. There her husband Xristos, and her son Tasos were buried, and eventually JM’s father, mother and his brother Xristos.
JM’s maternal grandfather, John P adjoins her graveside, lying head to head.
(There is no picture of his grandfather, Xristos Mihos.)

(from top to bottom: Father Vasilios, Mother Sotiria, Brother Xristos, Grandfather John P, Uncle Tasos)

Historical Note:

Potidaneia and Efpalion were in existence in 480 BC. Thucydidis wrote in his book “ History of the Peloponnesian War” of the general “Demosthenes, on his first day, took Potidania, on the second day, Crocylium, and third, Tichium. Here he halted and sent back the booty to Eupalium in Locris.”


Saturday, February 21, 2009


1930 Long long ago

JM was perfectly happy in his environment for almost nine months when all of a sudden his serenity was broken when a downpour of amniotic fluid and blood swept JM to a place where lights were blinding. There were new voices, new faces, and an unexpected spanking landed on his innocent butt.

His environment was coming to a halt. It was time for a new journey.

The year was 1930, a year known for such men as Noel Coward, T.S.Eliot, William Faulkner and Einstein among others. Herbert Hoover was President of the United States. Popular songs included Stardust and Singing in the Rain.

It was in the middle of the year, in the middle of the month, in the morning hours in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was a confusing time for JM to decipher the noises he was hearing, sounds he had never heard before. Doctors and nurses were making sounds which were totally different from the sounds of the Greek relatives, except for the calming sound from his mother.

After a few hours of quiet time, hunger waked him to fulfill the second need of his short life. When his hunger was satisfied, he slept peacefully again.

Aunt Olga recalled that the cold winters of Springfield, MA found JM bundled up on the balcony of their apartment on Chestnut Street. Somehow his mother knew that he had a deviated septum, and summer always meant time in the sun, which she believed would cure it.

A bundle of joy, he was passed around from relative to relative, from cousin to cousin but always returned to his Mother and Father, until the day JM's cousin John put him on his shoulder on the way to Boston, for a long trip to a world totally unknown to him.

On June 3rd 1932 he and his older sister, Athena, and their Mother embarked on the SS Saturnia, which is pictured below, and arrived in the Port of Piraeus Greece, June 17 of the same year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Years of Awareness 1934 -1940

Years of Awareness 1934 -1940 :

JM’s Awareness of status, responsibility, athletics, power, sensitivity, religion, sexuality, compassion, geography, loneliness, death, and education, and not necessary in that order.

Year of status:

JM was the center of his earth, which was spinning around him from relative to relative in Efpalion, Potidania, and Patras. No one was more sought after than the smiling JM, being always picked up and kissed and fed with the best there was. Once in a while, his sister would butt in, but her whining [Grinia] made JM more attractive and his good nature would win everybody over.
In his later years he would reminisce in the early mornings when it was time to go from Efpalion to Potidania to visit his cousins, Eleni, Calliopi & Diamando Papaioannou.

My Grandfather’s house in Potidania

Half asleep he would be dressed and put on a mule for the hour long ride to Potidania which he “knew” was on the other side of the sun. The morning dew would give him the chills, but the awesomeness of the mountains with its pine, sycamore & platanos trees, would let the sunshine shower him at intervals and warm his little body. The unending voyage was the price paid to see his cousins and his yiayia Eleni.

Eleni, Diamando, and Calliopi

It was the time JM could taste the figs and chestnuts, walnuts and grapes from the huge fruit trees in Potidania aka Paleoxari, and JM was impressed by the large farm on the side of the mountain that supported such a variety of trees. It bordered a creek where JM was amazed at the speed of the little fish, avoiding him so he could not catch them. Nearby were about a dozen huge chestnuts and walnuts trees. JM would throw a rock to get the chestnuts and walnuts off the tree, and then remove the outer soft shell and crack the inner one to get to the edible walnut
. What a treat, and what a mess for his hands which would be black for a week.

Year of responsibilities:

As much as JM was free of guilt, he learned that he had to obey some family values and health practices such as taking a nap at midmorning, JM was the youngest of the group but he adjusted without much ado.

JM’s Yiayia would throw a blanket on the floor where all the cousins took their noon naps. They had to be quiet even when the mosquitos were buzzing all over them. She had a nettle stick that we knew makes your skin itch and she used it as a threat which was very effective. She was one of the best Yiayias any one can hope for. She told family stories, always making sure that family was the binding force for survival and the best in JM’s world.

Year of Religious Awareness:

When Yiayia took a stroll in the village, which was half a mile long, to show off her grandchildren, she would be dressed in her Sunday best and whenever the priest would pass her by, she would tie a knot in her scarf. When asked why she would reply, I am tying the devil that resides in the priest. She would always take us in the Church and only once in a while she would stay. Stories were told that Yiayia would put money in the offering tray and get back change which was more than the original offering. It is story JM heard in later years. Yiayia never acknowledged or confirmed this story.

Years of Geography:
Although his world was Efpalion and Potidania, JM discovered the existence of another world in Patras. JM would travel to Patras early in the morning by way of Monastiraki to take the Kaiki [small gas powered boat] to go to Patras. It was an exhilarating journey, the sea, the morning mist and the noise and smell of the gas engine is still in JM’s memories. Patras was the home of JM’s uncle Andreas and Costas but the favorite aunt Koula was there too.

Her presence was always felt, she was the youngest of the twelve Ioannis Papaioannou children. She was the one who always gave her love to all of the nieces and nephews at her own pleasure, while Costas and Andreas were the disciplinarians.