Greek-American Families

Kyriacou: John and Maria Kyriacou

John and Maria Kyriacou

by Jack Kyriakos

Life began in Yialousa, Cyprus for our family. Yiannis Pallari was born on January 12, 1926 in Yialousa, Cyprus as well as Maria Hadjipanteli on November 8, 1925 and their son Jack, who was born as Kyriakos Pallari on February 4, 1951. He was born a British subject of King George VI of England. Cyprus did not get its independent until 1960. Dad’s parents were Kyriacos Pallari and Melia Themistokli. Mom’s parents were Yiannis Hadjipanteli and Ireni Papanicolaou. When a family member became a Priest; Papa was attached to the last name. When you visited the Holy Land; the honorific title (Hadji) is placed before a person’s last name becomes Hajji. This was due to Cyprus being so close to the Holy Lands and Jerusalem.

They worked as farmers producing their own food and tobacco for income. They immigrated to America in 1952 on the Italian ship (Saturnia) From Naples on June 4th and docked at Ellis Island on June 16th with Yiannis, toddler Jack and Maria (8) months pregnant with Melanie. If Melanie was born on the way to America, she would have been an Italian citizen. They had to say that Maria was only 6 months pregnant or they would have been pushed back five (5) years on the waiting list to leave Cyprus. Their last name was changed to Kyriacou, after his father upon arrival at Ellis Island. It has been a Cypriot tradition to change the last name to the parental father’s first name when you immigrated to a new country.

So, Kyriakos had the same first name as his last name. That is why the change to Jack to simplify the difficulty of a Greek name.

They had two more sons; Nick in 1953 and Zaharias in 1956.

Dad had 2 younger sisters (Maroulla Papleonti lived in Annapolis) and mom had 4 brothers and 1 sister (Savvas Pantelides, Nick Pantelides and Eleni Kacoyianni lived in Annapolis). Our family was sponsored by Maria’s brother Savvas and sister-in-law Magdalene Pantelides. They even had a house for them to live in on Randall St across from Gate 1 of the Naval Academy. In 1956, they moved to Ridgewood Ave in the Homewood area of Annapolis which had several Greek Families (Christodoulou, Piera, Nicholas, Keshes, Alexopoulos, Yianouli, Papaleonti, Louizou, Sophocleus, and Hambi). Papou Kyriakos came to visit us by ship from Cyprus for 6 months in 1958. He became our friends favorite. The kids would ask him for “theka cents”. He built the yard patio with Old Baltimore brick that we got from the torn down houses there. They moved in 1969 to Archwood Ave in the Murray Hill area of Annapolis, which was closer to the previous church on Constitution Ave. Within a mile of us, there were several Greek Families that included the Pantelides, Nikiforou, Fotos, Kallas, Kakoyianni, Christforou, Samaras, Petros, Manis, and others. That house had plenty of Celebrations for Name Days, High School Friends and plenty of Big Family gathers. There was always Greeks that came over and sat outside to shoot the bull.

Joannis would work at the Royal Restaurant for few years before an opportunity opened up for him to start his own business with the Royal Valet. He learned the trade as time went on. He would go on to learn shoe repair, hat cleaning, clothes alterations and dry cleaning. Anything to make a buck. Maria would walk to the shop after the kids went off to school. Until the day that the Royal Restaurant was sold, Yiannis would go and open the doors to let the employees in. He was a gracious man and he did this extra function for his thanks to the Savvas Pantelides family for all they did for them. Jack would work at the Royal Restaurant when there were special parties as a bus boy. Uncle Sam would hire Andre and Jack during Navy June Week to go near to his competition and give out menus/flyers to the Royal Restaurant to get the Academy visitors to his place to dine. Most Greeks owned their own businesses. There were at least 11 of them on West Street alone.

In the early years, Joannis and Maria would raise animals for food; such as pigeons, rabbits, and chickens. Dad and Mom had a wonderful garden and fruit trees throughout the yard (Figs of all types, Plums, Apples, and of course grape vines). They would give their produce to neighbors, friends and relatives. They were very well known to have a fantastic vegetable garden and fruit trees.

Dad had a love for the water and would have a cabin cruiser boat with Paul Sophocleus called Miss Cyprus. He would set out crab cages across the street in Spa Creek. We would have crab feasts regularly in the summers. We would walk along the shore and pickup softshell crabs and have them for dinner too. In the winter, we iced skated on Spa Creek.

During our years growing up, Yiannis and Maria sponsored relatives from Cyprus and England. They lived with us until they were able to purchase their own house. The list consisted of Irene (Kakoyianni) Sophocleous; Neophtos Kakoyianni; Soto/Maroula Christoforou and children; Nick Kakoyianni; Panayoti/Maroula Papaleonti and children. That is the true meaning of family and love between them. There were 29 first cousins on both sides of the family and 22 of them lived in Annapolis. We had 11 second cousins in Annapolis, too.

Growing up in Annapolis was special because of the closeness of the Greek community. Our Holidays were always celebrated with relatives for years. At Christmas, the uncles would give the kids real silver dollars. Dad would exchange them for paper dollars and deposit into the kids’ accounts. When dad passed, we found that he had saved the silver dollars in a safe. Name Days was a big holiday, where we would gather to celebrate, too.

We had annual Greek Cypriot beach gatherings at Mago Vista Beach, Bay Ridge Beach, Sandy Point State Park, Severn Inn on the Severn River and Uncle Mike Piera beach on the South River. The church become as major part of our lives. The boys were altar boys from the age of 9 years old thru high school. Never missed church; whether it was Christmas or Easter Services. For Easter, it started with Palm Sunday thru every service during the week. Because our Easter was on a different day most of the time from other faiths, we got a special bonus a day off from school on Friday. There was a catch and you had to be in church on Good Friday afternoon. During Holy Week, Mike Panos would return home from boarding school to take over as lead altar boy. If you did not listen to him, you spent a lot of time in front of the altar with a candle for a long, long time. There was one time an altar boy was keeping his eyes on the candle light and lost his balance.

In 1965, there was a special occasion at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. We took a bus from the church. It was “Greek Night” and to add to the Orioles’ game; the pitching battery were (2) Greeks; Milt Pappas (Pitcher) and Gus Triandos (Catcher). What a night, but we lost 2-0 to Detroit!! Another trip to an Orioles’ game with Dad and the three sons (Jack, Nick, Zaharia); George Nikiforou and her son Nick was an adventure. During the game, the dads pulled out lunch, that consisted of Green Onions, Olives, Whole Artichokes, Greek Bread, Haloumi and Feta cheeses. Only Greeks would do that.

Another church related bus trip was to Pimlico for 1972 Preakness. The favorite horse was Riva Ridge for the Triple Crown. However, Ted Samaras would not let it happen. He placed his money on a horse named Bee Bee Bee; that went off at 25-1 and won. Melanie stood in line 30 minutes to make 20 cents on a Show for Riva Ridge.

Jr GOYA became an important part of our youth. We would go to basketball tournaments up and down the East Coast and as far away as Michigan. Jack was the President of Jr Goya in 1969. During that year, a church member (George Coutros) who owned the Club 4100 in Brooklyn Park was very good friends with Baltimore Colts players. Of all the players, he showed up with Johnny Unitas at our Jr GOYA Basketball Tournament Banquet. He was the Godfather of Unitas’ son, Joe. Jack sat next to Johnny U. He spilled spaghetti on him from being so nervous. There was a picture taken with Unitas; hopefully the church can locate it. We have been unable to locate it. Our Jr GOYA consisted of religious sessions with Father Paul Economides, who also was the Greek School Teacher. He was an ear puller and love to put you in the STINK Room for misbehaving. There were other Greek School Teachers that were direct from Greece and they would have you go outside and pick a small branch for punishment. One day, we did not want to go to Greek School so mom called her brother Savvas Pantelides, who was the President of the church at the time to come to the house. When he reached the house, he got out and ripped the antenna off his car. He came into the house only to see us ready to go with him. He told his sister “you owe me an antenna”. Greek School was a time to recite poems for Christmas, Easter and Greek Independence Day. On a Greek School trip, we went to see Gus Triandos of the Orioles at The Calvert House Hotel in Annapolis for autographs.

At Annapolis High School, we were known as the Greeks and the non-Greeks learned a lot of new words. They were not always the most polite ones. There were at least (15) Greek students and (1) Greek teacher; John Pantelides. Jack was nicknamed “Greek” and some classmates did not know his real name. Cousin Andre would call me “Greek” too. Jeff Alexopulos and Steve Samaras would come over to the house on school days, so we could walk over to Andre Pantelides’ house on the way to school.

Jeff Alexopulos, Steve Samaras and Jack had a wonderful summer job working as Life Guards at the Bay Ridge Beach Club. One day, there was a heavyweight girl that jumped into the deep end of the pool only to be rescued by Jeff and Jack. She was so heavy, one of us had to distract her; while the other pulled her up from the bottom. A couple minutes later, she attempted to do it again; only this time, we told her she was on her own. Another weird experience at the beach this time was a dead man floating on the water with the largest crabs you ever seen, all over him. Afterwards; didn’t eat crabs for a few years.

On the Annapolis High School Varsity Soccer Team, there were (6) Greeks, Jack Kyriakos, Steve Samaras, Bob Bounelis, Pete Kokkinos, Ted Goudounis and Andre Pantelides. During one game, Ted got upset with a referee call and started cussing in Greek; only to find out that the Referee was a Greek; George Bounelis. Mr. Bounelis went over to the coach and told him that Ted was out of the games due to his outbursts in Greek directed at the ref. At one of our games, Father George Papademetriou came to give the team a pre-game prayer and heard us speaking Greek; sometimes not nice.

When cousin, Andre Pantelides turned 18, Steve Samaras, Jeff Alexopulos, Bob Bounelis and Jack wanted to celebrate. We bought a case of (12) “Boones Farm Strawberry Wine” from a reliable source. Of course, birthday boy had to throwup in my car. Thea Margie was not happy when we finally got to the party at her house. Andre could not hide what ended up all over his white pants.

Joannis and Maria loved to work the Annual Church Festival and did so as long as they were physically able. Church was everything.

Off to the University of Maryland, where the Greeks lived in apartments in Adelphi. Jack Kyriakos, Steve Samaras, Pete Petros, Bob Bounelis, George Petros and Jeff Alexopoulos. Another apartment in the complex had Melianie Kyriacou, Irene Pantelides and Jane Bounelis. We had plenty of weekend visitors; among them Sypros Loukas, Tom Savvides, Andre Pantelides, Nick Nikiforou, Robin Thomas, Doran Thomas, and Theano Panos, among others. Jack met his wife Marianne (Bunny) Glaros at University of Maryland during Registration. They wed in 1974; had 3 daughters (Niki, Kristin, Melissa) and 8 Grandchildren with another one on the way. Melanie wed Mike Pantazes in 1974; 2 children (Demetri, Maria) and 4 Grandchildren. Nick wed Maria Malakouna in London had 3 children (Yiannis, Tina, Marcus) and 2 Grandchildren. Zaharia had 2 children (Marina, Elijah) and one Grandchild with another one on the way.

Dad passed away in October 2018 at the age of 93 years old and mom in 2021 at the age of 95 years old. Jack lives in Silver Spring, MD, Melanie in Delaware, Nick and Zaharia in Annapolis.

We thank God for a wonderful upbringing and life as Greek Orthodox Christians. YA SOU!!