Greek-American Families

Fotos: The Fotos Family of Annapolis

THE FOTOS FAMILY OF ANNAPOLIS

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Alexandra “Alice” nee Peters fka Petrogiannis (1901 to 1970) married James “Jim” Fotos nee Dimitrios Fotopoulos (1894 to 1960) in 1917, Murray, Utah.

IMMIGRATING TO THE UNITED STATES

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The Martha Washington, and Manifest of Alien Passengers for the US Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival, Ellis Island, New York. Jim is entry #28, Fotopoulos, Dimitrios.

Dimitrios Fotopoulos, later known as James “Jim” Fotos, arrived aboard the Martha Washington, which sailed from Patras October 13, 1909, and disembarked in Ellis Island November 3, 1909. There were 2,190 passengers, 2000 in steerage. Jim, who was 16, joined his father and sponsor, Fotios Fotopoulos, in Murray, Utah, outside of Salt Lake City. After several years in the United Stated, Fotios returned to Greece in the 1920s. Many Greeks, especially from Crete, immigrated to Utah in the early 1900s, primarily to work in the smelters and the railroad. The Greek community of Salt Lake City built their first Greek Church in 1921 and a second church in 1972. It is one of the very few Greek churches in the nation that has an ethnographic museum of the history of the Greeks in Utah.

Jim was born in Samara (kna Veligosti) near Megalopolis, Arcadia in the Peloponnese. Sparta is a 30 minute drive south from Samara. He returned only once to Greece in the 1930s to baptize his nephew Fotios Alevizos, who continues to live in the village.

Alice came from a neighboring village called Kotsiridi. Her father immigrated in 1904 to Murray, Utah and worked at a smelter (1.25/day/12 hrs/day/7 days/week) and amassed $1,000.00 in four years. He returned to Greece in 1908, and with his wife and four children, including Alice, returned to Murray in 1909. Alice’s mother was the first Greek woman to settle in Murray. When Alice was in high school, it was determined she should marry and it was arranged she marry Jim Fotos, and therefore was pulled from school. According to her diary, she was not happy about leaving school (Alice enjoyed reading throughout her life). Jim was ten years her senior. They married on December 2, 1917, and the first child, Theodore, was born on July 29, 1919.

Jim worked at various jobs that included the railroad in Wyoming and a smelter in Utah. He later owned a shoe shine parlor and hat cleaning business in Murray. Jim’s father advised him to sell the store, return to Wyoming to earn more money, and then plan to return to Greece with his wife. Yet fate stepped in to change the course of their lives. Jim’s first cousin, George Pappas and his wife, Effie, invited Jim and Alice to Annapolis for a business venture. On May 12, 1921, Jim, Alice, and Theodore left Utah and moved to Annapolis.

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND

They arrived and soon thereafter with the Pappas’s operated Palace Confectionary at 164-166 Main Street. My guess is that it was after Sam Lewnes and Nick Mandris operated it. According to the Maryland State Archives, the confectionary was operated in 1924 by George Pappas and James Fotos yet, an article in the Evening Capital by the late historian Ginger Doyle states they operated a pool hall in 1921.

Sometime in the 1920s Jim and George went into business together operating a pool hall named Brunswick Billiard Hall at 163 Main Street. A bit of background: William “Bill” Pappas bought the building from Constantine and Stamteke Cardes in 1919. Bill, Jim, and George were first cousins from the village, Samara. Bill emigrated from Greece in the late 1800s and became an entrepreneur in Charlottesville where he owned and operated a successful billiard hall. He decided to open one in Annapolis with the help of George Pappas and Bill named it Brunswick Billiard Hall. The plan was for George to operate it and he contacted Jim and invited him to join him in the business. Together they ran the business until George died in the early 50s. Pete Palaigos had joined the business when he married Helen Pappas in 1948. Pete and Jim worked together until Jim’s death in 1960. And later the pool hall was renamed Pete’s Place.

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Brunswick Billiard Hall, late 1920s or early 1930s. George Pappas is leaning against the counter and Jim is holding the pool rack.

TRAGEDY AND BIRTHS

Not too long after the Fotos’ arrived in Annapolis, tragedy struck the family on October 1, 1922. Three-year old Theodore was struck and killed by an automobile while the family was enjoying a beautiful day at the Naval Academy. Their second child, Eleutheria “Ethel,” was born that same year, June 20, 1922. Ethel may have been named for her godmother, Eleutheria Lewnes. Nick was born two years later on August 27, 1924.

COMMUNITY AND HOME

Alice and Jim, like many of the Greeks in Annapolis, were tied to the growing Greek community. Although the church wasn’t built until 1949, like many of the Annapolis Greeks, they were religious and followed all Greek traditions, especially name days and holidays. They entertained at their homes, attended church in Baltimore (the Annunciation), or St. Anne’s Church, which welcomed the Greek community.

Alice and Jim purchased their family home in 1925, on Munroe Court. Interesting facts about Munroe Court (off of West Street downtown): it was supposed to be a development for Anglo-Saxon and German descendants with the plans of it being homogeneous. But matters took a different course. Immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were arriving to Annapolis and many found their way to Munroe Ct. They were Italians, Greeks (Fotos, Mandris, Pistolas), Jews, and a French family among others. It was nicknamed “The League of Nations.” Chariklia Manis purchased 132 West Street right off of Munroe Ct. in 1933. (The book “Presidents Hill Building an Annapolis Neighborhood 1664-2005” features many Greek families who purchased properties in Presidents Hill, which includes Jefferson Place, Hill Street, Madison Place, Munroe Ct, and the area of West St surrounding said streets).

Both Nick and Ethel had a good childhood and attended local schools. The Fotos family loved animals and therefore had pets such as dogs and a rabbit. Jim tended a garden in the back of the house. Alice had her rose bushes. And of course they had fig trees! I think every Greek family had fig trees. Nick and Ethel both graduated from Annapolis High School in 1941. Nick matriculated at the University of Maryland but as the war escalated, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps December 14, 1942. He studied aerial gunnery at Fort Myers, FL. Ethel lived at home during that time and was later employed at the U.S. Naval Institute. She married in 1953.

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Fotos Family Portrait left to right: Alice, Ethel, Nick, and Jim

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Jim and family pet, Duke.

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Ethel in 1940s

Both photos above taken in the 1940s.

WORLD WAR II

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Nick Fotos 1944

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1994, Nick next to the tail gun of a B17 bomber, Frederick, MD 1994

After training in Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida, Nick was sent to Foggia, Italy in 1944 and served as a tail gunner on B17 bombers. At the beginning of the war, missions were limited to 21. But as the war escalated, the missions increased to 31. Nick never prayed so much in his life—each and every mission—he would recite the Lord’s Prayer in Greek.

Nick’s bombardment group of the 15th Army Air Corps division in Italy received the blue battle streamer for ‘outstanding performance of duty in armed conflict with the enemy’. This was featured in the Evening Capitol newspaper: Local Man in Bombing Group in Italy That Wins Citation. Nick’s Fortress Unit received the citation for a bombing attack against the Romano-Americano Oil Refinery, Ploesti, Rumania, May 18, 1944. “When all other groups turned back, because of extremely adverse weather condition, the Fortress Unit continued alone.” Each B17 unit included ten men.

Nick corresponded throughout the war with his parents, his sister, George and Effie Pappas, Helen Pappas (Palaigos), and Tony Pappas. Tony was a pilot and tragically his plane was shot down over the Pacific. His name is one of many memorialized at the Maryland WWII memorial in Pendennis Mount.

In one letter Jim wrote to his son about a meeting that occurred concerning the Greek Church in Annapolis.

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Letter in Greek from Jim to his son, Nick, dated Dec 4, 1944. Second page: Yesterday, we had a well attended meeting and it was decided that we will build a Greek Church near the High School. It will cost $25,000.00.

Sons and Mothers

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Photo taken in the 1940s: L to R: Tony Pappas, his mother Effie Pappas, Nick Fotos, his mother Alice Fotos

WEDDINGS

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Engagement Wedding

Nick and Christine

Nick Fotos returned from the war and re-matriculated at the University of Maryland to complete his degree. He majored in Physics and Minored in Mathematics and was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree. During that time he met, Christine Contos, of Weston, West Virginia, at Gus and Angie Pappas’s wedding in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Gus Pappas’s father, Bill (who opened the pool hall) was first cousin to Jim Fotos and George Pappas. Angie, who was friends with Christine, was related to the Samaras family of Annapolis. Christine at the time was a sophomore at West Virginia Wesleyan. Her freshman year was at Hood College. She majored in Home Economics and minored in Biology. She completed three years of college.

Nick and Christine married September 4, 1949 in Weston. As there was no Greek Church in Weston and Christine wanted to marry in her hometown, The Reverend Constantine Georgiades from St. Spyridon in Clarksburg, WVA, officiated the Greek Orthodox ceremony in an Episcopal Church. Nick’s best man was John Christo (later to become Alexandra’s godfather), and Nick Manis in addition to Christine’s younger brother, Bill, were groomsmen. Frances Contos (Baumgarten), Christine’s sister, was maid of honor.

Following a honeymoon in Miami, Nick and Chris made Annapolis their home. The first house was on Madison Place and in 1964 they moved to Monticello Avenue in Murray Hill. Three children came along: Alexandra (1954), Demetrios (1955) and John (1957). Demetri’s godfather was John Kiosses of Gardner, MA (brother of Becky Vouzikas), and John’s godmother was Eva Arhos.

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Ethel and Bill

Soon thereafter there was another wedding for the Fotos Family—this time in Annapolis. In 1953 Ethel Fotos married Bill Giokas of Chicopee Falls, Mass. His parents were from Tripoli in Arcadia. Pauline Leanos was maid of honor (and later godmother to Harriet Giokas Keenan). Bridesmaids included Athena Pistolas, and Frances “Senie” Pappas. Melanie Palaigos was a flower girl.

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The wedding was even more special for Jim. Twelve young men, including Jim, Bill, and George, all from Samara, immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. It wasn’t until this wedding that eight of them gathered together since arriving in the US as young men around the age of 16.

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Relatives and Friends from Samara, Arcadia at Fotos/Giokas wedding.

Jim is standing third from right, Alice is sitting near him. Seated next to Alice are Effie and George Pappas.

Bill Pappas is in this photo.

Ethel and Bill moved to Silver Spring, MD, and had three children: Louis (1955), Jim (1957), and Harriet (1960). They are married and have seven children and one grandchild between them.

THE CHURCH AND LOCAL LIFE

The Fotos Family was active with the Church. Alice held many positions on the Philoptochos Board and Ethel, too, until she married and left Annapolis for Silver Spring, MD. Nick and Chris were very active with the Church. In 1953, Nick held the position of President of the Annapolis Chapter No. 286, Order of Ahepa, Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. As President he attended the celebration of the 131st Greek Independence Day in New York City. He was one of the speakers: “Greeks today must not be isolated from those of Ancient Greece. We must not isolate the events and the people of that time from the people who inhabited Ancient Greece and who inhabit modern Greece today. The people who are classified as Hellenic have one thing in common with Hellenes of all ages and that is the Hellenic spirit. The Revolution of 1821, in which Greece was liberated from the Turks, was a manifestation of the Hellenic spirit. God Bless America, which carries the eternal fires of the Hellenic spirit today.” The Evening Capital

Nick is at far right

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Nick served one term as president of AHEPA, and served as president of the Board of Trustees for the Church, and was active in its Sunday School Program. Chris served two terms (not consecutively) as President of Philoptochos. She also taught Sunday school and sang with the church choir. Chris took her Greek ways to the YWCA, then located on State Circle downtown Annapolis, and taught Greek cooking. She taught Greek dancing to children at her children’s school, The Key School. And at Key School bake sales, the first dessert to be sold out was her famous diples. She also made Greek dishes (‘70s) for the Buttercup Tea Room that was located behind where the Ram’s Head is on West St. Christine was featured in Capital Cookbook below preparing a dish she adapted from a recipe found in The Greek Cook Book by Sophia Skoura, Fish Savoro, made with rockfish.

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The Evening Capital (late 60s)

CAREER CHANGE

Following the war and upon completion of his undergraduate studies at U. of Maryland, Nick became employed as an Engineer-inspector of the sub-structure of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; later as a physicist with the United States Engineering Experiment Station; then as a vibration engineer with the Bomarc Project of the Westinghouse Air Arm Division. But he decided he wanted a career change and applied and was accepted at the University of Baltimore Law School. For three years he attended classes three nights a week at law school, worked during the day, and when needed, helped his dad at the Pool Hall. And during that time, three children were born! He opened his law practice in the late 50s on School Street across from the Governor’s Mansion and was so proud to have won his first case in court. Later he relocated to Duke of Gloucester Street. He practiced law through the 1980s and had a solo practice.

DEATH ON THE HIGH SEAS

In 1960, Alice and Jim planned a trip to Greece aboard the S.S. Queen Frederica, a National Hellenic American Liner, for a special pilgrimage of the Greek Orthodox Church to the patriarchate at Istanbul organized under the auspices of Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America. They had planned this trip for many years. Tragically, after the boat set sail from New York City, Jim suffered a fatal heart attack while the ship was sailing past Nantucket. The ship turned and set port in Boston. Jim’s viewing was at the Annapolis home on Munroe Court. Alice never tried to return to Greece again. Jim, age 66, died April 20, 1960, one week after Easter. His son, Nick, age 70, died on April 27, 1995, one week after Easter.

ALICE

After Jim’s death, Alice went into traditional mourning and wore black for a few years until her granddaughter, Alexandra, said enough with the black. And she threw out her black clothes and wore floral printed dresses. Alice loved her family but also loved her friends. The ones I remember distinctly were her dearest friends, Effie Pappas, Anna Nichols, and Eleutheria Lewnes. In 1964, Alice decided to visit Salt Lake City to be with her many siblings (six) and their children and stayed for one year.

Alice was devoted to the church, to her friends, and family. She died February 1, 1970 at the age of 69. A month prior to her death, she took out her lady friends to Fred’s Restaurant to celebrate her last payment to the building 164-166 Main Street, which Jim and Alice purchased in 1959. She was known for her kindness and hospitality.

PROPERTIES

During Jim’s lifetime, he bought and sold a few properties. At the time of his death, he and Alice owned three properties: the Munroe Ct home; 164-166 Main St (purchased in 1959); and a house in Murray Hill (purchased in 1953). Granddaughter, Alexandra, purchased the house in Murray Hill in 1985, Ethel’s son, Jim and his wife, Susan, took ownership of the house on Munroe Ct. in 1991; and Nick and Chris had ownership of the Main St commercial property. The Main Street property was operated by the Fotos Family as Dimitri’s Restaurant from 1980 to 1991. The property was sold in 2013.

NICK AND CHRISTINE

They raised their children on Madison Place and later moved to Monticello Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Church when it was on Constitution Avenue. As the children grew and left home, they enjoyed traveling to Europe and visiting the Delaware and Maryland beaches. But life was not to be that simple. Nick and Chris devoted themselves to their son, John, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia December 1977. After many years of difficulties, a light came into their lives and a place in Franklin, TN, was found to help John. John died in 2004 but the last 15 years of his life were peaceful and without much of the strife schizophrenia inflicts on its victims.

Nick died on April 27, 1995 and Christine died on September 1, 2011. Christine lived with Alexandra and her husband, Neil Harpe, the last couple years of her life.

Respectfully, Alexandra Fotos, December 12, 2020

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Nick and Christine in Greece 1988

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS

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Left to right: Alice Fotos, Christine Fotos, Effie Pappas

Preparing for a Philoptochos Field Trip to Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantium Studies, Washington, DC. Late 60s. The Capital Newspaper.

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L to R: Alice wearing white gloves and long floral gown, Jim, Anna Nichols, and Theodore Nichols. (Do not know the others at the table or where this gala was held) 1940s

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Alice, John, Demetri, Alexandra, and John Contos, Christine’s father. March 1963

Touring the Naval Academy

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Martha Christo and Christine at Fred’s Restaurant

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Christine, John and Martha Christo at Fred’s Restaurant

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Gus and Angie Pappas, Charlottesville, VA

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Eva and Jim Arhos wedding. Eva’s godson, John Fotos, was the ring boy.

Eva’s nieces, Theano and Tina, and sister, Viola, and nephew, Mike in the wedding party.