Greek-American Families

Alvanos, Arhos: Alvanos and Arhos Heritage

Alvanos and Arhos Heritage

By Eva Arhos

It was 1934 when my parents, Gust and Theano Alvanos moved to Annapolis, MD from Waynesboro, PA. We were a family of six, including my two older sisters, Vasilea (Viola) 8, Anna (6), myself, Eva (3), and our younger brother, John (2). My parents rented a small house near Jim’s Corner, but within a year bought a larger home on Prince George Street. My father’s business was a bar and dance hall, located at 153 Main Street, with apartments above. When we arrived in Annapolis, the few Greek families that were established worked or lived from King George St. to Dock St. to the top of Main St. and over to Maryland Avenue. They were:

• William & Christina Katserelis – home on King George St.

• Nick & Helen Mandris – Mandris Restaurant, Dock Street

• Pete & Effie Bounelis – Wardroom Restaurant, Main Street

• John & Eleftheria Lewnes – Bakery, making chocolate bunnies, candy, etc., on Main Street • George & Effie Pappas, & James & Alexandria Fotos – Pool Hall, Main St.

• Nick & Efrosini Bounelis -Capital Restaurant at top of Main St., & Inn, located in back of restaurant facing State Circle.

• Theodore & Anna Nichols – The Little Campus, on Maryland Avenue

• Gregory & Artemis Characklis – G & J Grill, on Maryland Avenue

This was the group that convened with each another and began talking about establishing a church and Greek school. The Annunciation Church in Baltimore was the nearest to Annapolis, and Father Papachristou would come and perform services in St. Anne’s Church for weddings, funerals, etc. A small group would get together for special holidays and my father would drive us to Baltimore to attend church and receive communion.

Our house on Prince George St. had a back yard with a huge grape arbor. My mother would pick grape leaves and make yaprakia, (dolmades). Adjacent to our home was an alley that ran down to Dock Square. At the end of the alley was Pinkney Street on the right and on the left was a small restaurant, which is now known as McGarvey’s. In the first house on the corner of Pinkney St. lived an African American family who had a little girl Viola’s age. They were friends and played together. My mother would send Greek food to them, and their friendship was very special. Across the street was a small retail shop owned by Mr. & Mrs. Nathan Greenberg. They lived in an apartment above their store. They had an only child, Joan, who was my age, and we played and also started first grade together at Green Street Elementary School. Joanie helped me with the English language, since Greek was all I knew at that time. We always joked about that, as we went through high school together too. We became even closer friends, when we both ended up living across the street from each other on Conduit Street. When Joanie got married, she asked me to be a bridesmaid. It was my first Jewish wedding. We were life-long friends until she passed away a few years ago.

My father worked hard and ran a profitable business on Main St. His nephew, Charles Alvanos, whom he bought over from Greece, worked with my father in the business.

My father passed away from a heart attack and asthma on December 18, 1939, a week before Christmas. He was only 62 years old. I was 8 years old and remember my mother coming up the stairs that night, with Dr. Klawans holding a large brown suitcase, which was the resuscitating equipment. Mrs. Kalandras was with my mother and children in the back bedroom. When my father passed away, mama came and told us he had gone to Heaven and we should come in to kiss him and say goodbye. Viola, then Anna, went before me. When I got up on the bed and I put my arms around him hugging him I remember thinking he is so cold. I kissed him and whispered in his ear, “Evanthoula, Permathoula (which he always called me), I love you, patera mou.” As I was only 8, I didn’t know what was expected of me, but followed my sisters before me. I’ll always remember that night forever. The funeral was at Saint Anne’s Church, with Father Papachristou from Baltimore doing the service. He was buried at Cedar Bluff Cemetery. Many years later, my brother John had our mother and father’s graves bought up to St. Demetrios cemetery on Riva Road, where the family is together now. My mother, with Frosso Bounelis, wrote the epitaph on my father’s tombstone in Greek letters, which says:

Ας ειν το χωμα σου ελαφρο,

Και η γη που σε σχηπαζη

Η καλη σου η ψιχη,

Ας πτερουγη στο πλαστη

Περαν του σκωτηνου τουτο ταφω Ηπραχη αλλη ζωη αιωνια και μακαρια

Translated: May the soil on your grave be light,

As is the ground that covers you.

May your good Soul,

Fly up to the Heavens

For far from this dark grave,

There is Everlasting Life.

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My Parents on their wedding day

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Alvanos Family 

Back row left to right: Theano, Gust, Charles (cousin)

Front row left to right: John, Eva, Viola, Anna

At the time of my father’s death, my mother had two brothers, Mitchell and George Mamoulides, living in Crowley, LA. She felt it necessary to move to Louisiana to be with her two brothers and their families, and we left Annapolis on August 29, 1940. During that year, my two uncles took us to New Orleans to the Mardi Gras and also to Baton Rouge (the capital), where the closest Greek Church was located. It was a beautiful church where we attended services and received communion. Unfortunately, we could not attend often enough and this distressed my mother.

The town of Crowley was known as the Rice Capital of Louisiana, and a huge festival was held annually, bringing large crowds to that small town. My two uncles owned a restaurant called The Rice Café, and were well known and respected in the town.

Philoptochos swearing in of new officers with my mother, the retiring president, and Mrs. Skordas the new president

Unfortunately, there were no Greek families in Crowley, other than my two uncles and their children. My mother missed her friends, and the Greek camaraderie in Annapolis. She celebrated the Holy Days with all of us, and made sure we held on to our religious beliefs and customs. I attended 4th grade in Crowley, and Viola and Anna were in High School. John was in 2nd grade. However, a year later in August of 1941 we returned to Annapolis where we had formed strong friendships with the Greek community. We lived in an apartment at 73 West, over Wally’s Bar. There were two other Greek families living there as well. Charlie and Bessie Samaras lived above us on the 2nd floor with their two sons George and Ted. Adjacent to us lived Bill and Despina Leanos, with their three children, Ginny, Gus, and Katherine. We all became close friends through the years. Mrs. Penelope Skordas lived around the corner on Cathedral Street, and had an alteration shop on West St. My mother, who was also a seamstress, worked with her and they became lifelong friends.

My sister Viola’s wedding day at St. Anne’s Church.

My cousin, Charles Alvanos, ran my late father’s bar and dance hall on Main St., but mismanaged the business and lost much money. In 1944, mother decided to buy a home on Conduit Street. That same year Charlie died from apoplexy and my mother received word that her brother, Mitchell, in Louisiana had also passed away. She was devastated. In April of 1946, Viola married Sotirios Panagiotareas. They had 3 children, Tina, Michael, and Theano, who grew up in Annapolis and were active in our church and Greek community (Viola’s children have written a family history regarding their mother). In 1946 my mother also sold the business to her son-in-law Sotiri who had become partners with John Highland, a koumbaro of my mother, and godfather to my sister, Anna. They bought the bar business down a few doors from my father’s original store, which eventually became a clothing store called “PEPPERS”.

My sister Anna married Russell Thompson on May 2, 1965.

My father in his bar at 153 Main St.

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My brother in law Sotiri and John Highland at their bar.

My sister Anna (born 1928) graduated from Annapolis High School and started working as a stenographer at the Naval Academy. In a few years, she transferred to Washington, DC and began working for the CIA. She always told us she worked with the Dept. of the Army, and didn’t reveal her true career until she retired 30 years later. She traveled and worked in Greece, Germany, Switzerland, Beirut, Taiwan, China and Panama. She shared so many stories with me after her retirement and I was amazed and so proud at what she had accomplished in her lifetime. She married Russell Thompson in 1966 and they retired in Melbourne, Florida. Jim and I visited them often, as did the rest of our family. Anna passed away in 2000 from emphysema.

After I graduated from Annapolis High School, I worked for two years at the C & P Telephone Co. as a switchboard operator. Then I became secretary to the Plant Wire Chief and later I was promoted to the secretary to the District Plant Chief. I then advanced to the Commercial Business Office as a Commercial Representative. I retired in 1962. While I was working full time, I also managed to keep up with my music, attending the Peabody School of Music on Saturdays in Baltimore. I rode the old trolley train from Annapolis to Baltimore. I also completed the secretarial course at Fleet’s Business School and attended night classes at the University of Baltimore for 2 years. I was active in GOYA. My sister Anna and Anna Samaras organized the first Annapolis Chapter. I was president of the local chapter in 1955 (my swearing in as president pictured at left in newpaper clipping). I attended many of the National GOYA Conferences in different states. As a Delegate, I worked on the Liturgical Music Committees. Most of the musicians, directors, and organists from all over the country attended. We practiced the Hierarchal Liturgy to sing that Sunday before adjourning. I met Frank Desby from California, who had written many beautiful Liturgies, which we sang at the Conferences. I also met Anna Gallos, who later came to Annapolis with Fr. Gallos to minister our Church. I joined the choir the first day our church doors opened in 1945. Beginning as a choir member, I filled in playing the organ, directing, and attending the Choir Federation meetings. I enjoyed playing the organ at many weddings and baptisms. In November, a day is set aside as Choir Appreciation Day. Father Gallos would acknowledge our choir, and one year he bestowed me with a certificate of appreciation and a beautiful blessed Pewter Cross. In 1990, Archbishop Iakovos and the Choir Federation awarded me the medal of St. Romanos the Melodian, Patron Saint of Church Musicians. I was honored and humbled, after serving 45 years with our choir.

My brother John graduated from Annapolis High School and he joined the Army. He later graduated from the University of Maryland. (His story is told by his wife Celia and sons, Costa and Peter in future “Heritage” episodes.)

I met Jim Arhos on September 7, 1962. Jim was related (through his mother’s side of the family) to Bill Pavleros and his sister Garafalia Christo, who lived in Annapolis. Jim was born on January 17, 1925 and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the 4th of five children born to Nicholas and Maria Arhos. He had two older brothers, John Arhos and William Arhos , an older sister, Helen(Arhos) Loewer, and a younger sister Georgia (Arhos) Kanaras. When he was only 5 years old his parents divorced and he and his brothers were raised by his father while his mother raised the girls. In 1942, at the age of 17, Jim talked his father into giving written permission (since he was underage) so that he could enlist in the U.S. Navy. During World War II, he served as a leading seaman from 1942-1946 on the DD Wadsworth 516 and on the APA81 USS Fallon; serving in the Battles of Bougainville, Saipan, Marianna Island and Tinian in the Philippine Seas. Following his discharge from the Navy, Jim joined the Merchant Marines where he enjoyed life at sea. However, when his mother’s second husband passed away, she asked him to come home and help her in running the Ft. Liquors Package & Grocery Store, in Ft. Meade, Maryland. Jim was close to two of his cousins who both happened to own restaurants and he would stop in to visit them when he wasn’t working. George Dezes had a restaurant in Waterloo, MD not far from Ft. Meade and John Christo, who owned Fred’s Restaurant in the Parole Shopping Center. It was at Fred’s that I met him for the first time. I was working for the telephone company in the business office on Main St. along with Marye Leanos who was also part of our Greek community.

We had such a fine relationship, talking Greek about some of the people that would come in the office, and then remembering their names by changing them to Greek origins. We’d laugh at everything and it made life easier all around. Our manager and co-manager were terrific guys. A supervisor from our office was retiring, and a farewell party was planned in the front cocktail lounge at Fred’s Restaurant. Marye and I attended with a large group from our office and after dinner, and before the speeches started, I was walking through the bar area and saw my koumbari, Nick and Chris Fotos, who were also having dinner there. After a few minutes I noticed a young, handsome man had joined them. Chris & Nick introduced me to Jim and invited me to stay. We chatted only a few minutes because I had to get back to my party. A few days later, I ran into Stella Christo Donovan, and she told me her cousin Jim enjoyed meeting me at Fred’s and asked if I would go out with him if he called me. Of course, I said “YES”! That was the beginning of a fine romance and our courting period began.

Jim and I at Fred’s restaurant.

Jim, being a big Baltimore Colts football fan, had tickets, and we’d go to most of the games. We spent many evenings dining, dancing, and meeting his friends in Baltimore or mine in Annapolis. George Coutros, who was a close friend of Jim’s, owned a restaurant called Club 4100 in Brooklyn, Md. It was our favorite place to stop for dinner, going or returning from Baltimore.

We had our Engagement Party on Christmas Day at our house on Conduit St., and my mother, who loved Jim from the beginning, was so happy. Our wedding date was set for May 26, 1963; however, my mother was fighting Lymphoma and was in and out of

the hospital regularly. Whenever we visited her at the hospital, she would help me by giving advice for the wedding and making me promise to do everything likewe planned, whether she was present or not. I had her gown ready for the wedding, and if perchance she couldn’t make it to the church, my Telephone Company friends would do a hook-up from the church to the hospital so that she would be able to hear the services. Then Jim & I would drive to the hospital for her to see us and bless us. Sadly, she passed away on May 6th, three weeks before our wedding. As difficult as it was, we kept our promise and were married three weeks later. George and Voula Coutros were our koumbari and we were blessed with their friendship for many years.

Our wedding day

Jim and George Coutros became active at Sts. Constantine and Helen in Annapolis. Jim served on the church board and later George served as the parish council president. Within a year we were blessed with our first daughter, Melissa (Missy), and two years later with another daughter, Mia. We continued to be involved at church with

Jim watching the girls during the service while I sang and played the organ in the choir. Every year at Easter, George Coutros would host a big event for children with rides, food and games on the grounds of his restaurant Club 4100. He was good friends with so many of the Baltimore Colts football players, especially Johnny Unitas and they

would always be there for the event. There was a lot of TV news coverage of this event and George always invited us to come with the girls. George was Missy’s godfather, as well as godfather to Johnny Unitas’ son. He always made sure she received a football signed by Unitas as well as many other gifts that were distributed to all of the children who came to the event.

During the 1970’s we raised our girls in the Greek church community, and they were involved in Greek school, youth choir, and GOYA. I worked as the Church secretary from the mid-70’s to mid-80’s, under the pastoral guidance of Fr. Pappademitriou and Fr. George Gallos. Mia married Bill Cranford (of Annapolis) in 1990 and have raised 3 sons on Eastern Shore in Grasonville, Md. where they live in a home on the water. Missy married Dino Katsoulas (of San Diego) in 1991 and they have 3 children. They moved to England in 1999, where they lived for 10 years before settling in Denver, CO. in 2009. Jim and I enjoyed traveling all over Europe with them, with the most memorable trip being to Greece in 2006. It was my first time back to Greece since I traveled there with my mother in 1956! However, it was Jim’s first time to visit Greece, as he was a first-generation Greek born in Baltimore.

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Viola, Anna, John & Eva- 1979

We were blessed with two wonderful daughters. After Mia was born, the yiayias from our church would tell Jim, “You have to have one more child, and it will be a boy!” Jim would answer, “my daughters will bring us our sons, ready-made” and they certainly did!

Anna & John – 1947

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Easter at Sts. Constantine and Helen-1954