Back in May 2012, I wrote a blog about Greek-Americans over the last few hundred years, which included some famous people. There were some from the 1700’s and movie stars over the past few decades. But in researching that blog, I came across other Greek-Americans (and Canadians) that were not so famous, but interesting. Here are a few:
Peter Pantages immigrated from Greece to Vancouver and was running the Peter Pan Café with his three brothers. An avid swimmer, who swam three times a day in English Bay, Peter wanted others to know you could swim every day in Vancouver… even winter. On New Year’s Day, 1929, over some drinks with friends, he convinced them to take a plunge into the icy English Bay and the Polar Bear Club was formed and to this day, people all-over Canada and United States take their New Year’s Day dunk into frigid water, thanks to the man from Greece.
During the late 1700s, Alaska was a possession of Imperial Russia and was controlled by different “companies,” similar to the British East India Company. Around the 1790s, Eustrate Ivanovich Delarof, born in Peloponnesus, Greece, and moved to what is now the Ukraine, was a skipper. After making about ten voyages from Russia to Alaska, he began working for the Panov Company and eventually was the manager of a Russian-American company and one of the most influential persons in Alaska. He was known as a shrewd businessman who, with diplomacy, kept the other European countries from carving out spheres of influence in Alaska. Delarof Islands, Delarof Bay, and streets are named after him. The modern-day Greek politicians could certainly learn a few tricks from old Delarof.
Anton Christoforidis was born in Messenia, Greece, and moved to the United States in 1939. He was a boxer and won the NBA World Light Heavyweight title on January 13, 1941, against Melio Bettina. He had a career 76 fights with 53 wins (13 by KO), 8 draws, and 15 losses. He died in Greece in 1985 at age 67.
Two days after John F. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, on November 24, 1963, a young reporter, Ike Pappas, working for WNEW-AM in New York, was waiting for the Dallas City police to escort Oswald out of the city jail to the county jail. When Oswald appeared, Ike Pappas asked, “Do you have anything to say in your defense” and before Oswald could answer, Jack Ruby suddenly pulled out a pistol and fired one shot into Oswald’s abdomen, killing him. Pappas is shown on the right side of the famous photograph of Ruby shooting Oswald and will, forever, be linked to that tragic event of Kennedy’s assassination. He went on to work for CBS and then formed his own production company. Here is the link to the article I wrote about Mr. Pappas.
When you see the old black and white movie, Frankenstein, what do you think of? Boris Karloff, of course. But without Jack Pierce (born, Janus Piccoula, in May of 1889, in Greece and immigrated to the United States as a teenager), there would not have been Karloff as Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, or Lon Chaney, Jr., in Wolf Man and the Mummy, and many other classic horror movies. He was the make-up artist behind it all at Universal. So next time you’re watching Dracula, and he says, “I am Dracula. I bid you welcome,” think of Jack Pierce who made it possible for you to be scared out of your wits! If you want to read more about Mr. Pierce, read my article.
Here is the story of not a Greek-American or Greek-Canadian, but of a Greek-Mexican. On March 27, 1836, as Santa Anna’s army was trying to defeat the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas Army, over 340 of the Texians were captured at Goliad and massacred. Greek-Mexican, Colonel Francisco Garay, an officer in Santa Anna’s army, together with Francita Alavez (“Angel of Goliad”), helped 20 men of the Republic of Texas Army escape the massacre. Read my full article.
Greek-Americans have also treated the baseball diamond. One great player was Miltiades Stergios Papastergios (Milton Steven “Milt” Pappas), born on May 11, 1939, in Detroit Michigan. On September 2, 1972, while playing for the Chicago Cubs, Pappas pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres 8-0. Pappas had played 17 years in the majors, pitching for the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Cubs in 520 games. He had a record of 209 wins, 164 losses, 43 shutouts, 1,728 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.40. If you wish to know more about some of our Greek-American baseball players, see my article.
There are so many Greek-Americans who have contributed to the American experience and many that we do not know. But when we do hear of one, we should always, Remember the Greeks… again!
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