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Canadian Ethnic History and Oral History

Greece Introduction:  
The history of the “Arc” restaurant, first discussed on the North Bay page, is an interesting illustration of the multi-cultural nature of Canadian history. Traditionally, written histories are narrated from the perspective of the economically dominant ethnic group or the “powers-that-be”; in the case of North Bay, this group was composed of white Anglo-Saxons from Great Britain with names such as McIntyre, Ferguson, Richardson, etc. A perhaps unintended side effect of written histories is the way in which other historical perspectives tend to become marginalized. An example would be the way in which First Nation, or native American, history was marginalized in North American textbooks throughout Canada and the United States until recent times. Thus, oral history becomes a valuable adjunct research tool for documenting subjects often unaddressed in history books: ethnic histories, First Nation history and women’s history, to name a few examples. We encourage others to collect oral histories of their families, and we offer this example of an otherwise undocumented Greek historical perspective on life in the Nipissing District and in North Bay, in particular. The Tell Me Your Stories website has an excellent FAQ page outlining basic guidelines for conducting oral history interviews.

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Pergamum, Turkey as seen at www.WOWTurkey.com Demosthenes (Dave) Loukidelis, born on 10 August 1890, was a native of Pergamum (Bergama, in Turkish), Turkey, in what was then the Ottoman Empire. He lived in Pergamum until about age 17 and then lived and worked in the United States, arriving in North Bay c. 1911. The story of Dave and his wife, Calliope Loukidelis, is one rooted in events half a world away. Pergamum, an ancient Greek city in northwest Asia Minor, is 16 miles from the Aegean Sea and about 50 miles from Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey, where Calliope Loukidelis was born. Pergamum had the world’s first hospital and a 10,000 seat amphitheatre (seen to the left), and was a center of ancient Greek civilization. But instability in the region in the early 20th century, as we shall see, led many Greeks to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

 
Dave Loukidelis with Mother and Aunts

His grandson, John Loukidelis of Hamilton, Ontario, writes: “He [Dave] worked as a dishwasher at the Arcadian. He liked the town right away, but they had trouble paying him, so he left after a few years to live in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he worked in one of the steel mills. Dave returned to North Bay just after WWI, when he bought an interest in the Arcadian for $800. It appears that John Christofolakos became a partner some time in the 1920s. Later, Jim Maroosis, the son of the ‘oldest partner,’ George Maroosis, joined them.” In this photo, Dave Loukidelis is seated, with his mother (name unknown at this time) and aunts Olympia and Kalliroi behind him.

 

North Bay, Arcadia Tea Room John Loukidelis collected the familial oral history from his father, Spyros D. Loukidelis, in Spring 1994. Spyros told John: “In 1929, they [the partners] built the Arcadian Grill, the building and the new restaurant. It was a very difficult time economically because this massive expenditure, relatively speaking, coincided with the Depression, and none of the other partners had any amounts of money. My father [Demosthenes] had saved some money and he provided the capital and the credit to allow them to weather the storm. They had a very, very difficult time until 1934, when the Dionne quintuplets were born near North Bay. North Bay moved ahead to become a tourist centre, and that saved their bacon. In 1936, they remodeled the old Arcadian candy store and made it into a full-scale restaurant. It was called the Arcadian Restaurant and the Arcadian Grill, and they developed a bowling alley on the second floor of the Arcadian Grill. That did reasonably well for them…In 1944, my father became ill…In 1945, he sold his interest in the business and he died in 1946.” Gus Maroosis and his family then operated the Arc, until they sold it in the 1950s.

 
Honourable Justice Spyros D. Loukidelis, seen in Thorneloe College/Laurentian University image

The Loukidelis family has notably contributed to North Bay and Northern Ontario history in other than culinary ways. Spyros was an attorney in North Bay until 1973, at Valin Partners LLP, until he was appointed as a judge in Sudbury. He moved there in 1974 and presided on the bench until his 1998 retirement. The Honourable Mr. Justice Loukidelis died in 2001. He also notably served as Chancellor of Thorneloe University, which is affiliated with Laurentian University for several years. The Loukidelis Foundation and the Department of Classical Studies at Thorneloe offer a doctoral fellowship in classics in his honor.

A Calliope Loukidelis Memorial Scholarship is offered by the English Department at Nipissing University in honour of Calliope (née Picramenos) Loukidelis. The family placed great emphasis on education and the scholarship was offered for the first time in 1983, following Calliope’s 16 October 1982 death.

Other excerpts from the 1994 Spyros Loukidelis interview in Sudbury are given below as they pertain to Greek immigrant history in general and to Calliope Loukidelis in particular. (Note: YaYa, the Greek name for grandmother, is used interchangeably with Calliope’s name, much as Papoo, the Greek name for grandfather, is used when discussing John Loukidelis’ grandfather, Dave.)

 
Text of Interview, Part One:  

John Loukidelis wrote: “The two of us sat down one afternoon with a tape recorder in between us, and I simply asked [Dad] a few questions about his side of the family. I had warned him about my purpose that weekend some time before, and I think this is evident from the answers he gave to my questions - clearly, he had thought about what he was going to say. However, an oral interview is not the same thing as writing a history on paper: the narrative is not strictly chronological, nor is it focused only on the Loukidelis family…It is simply a record of a father’s memories about where he comes from.”

Map of Greece

John: “It is April 9th, 1994 and Dad is going to talk to me a bit about his family. I wanted to ask you first about Yaya’s family. Maybe you can tell us as much as you know about them.”

Dave Loukidelis with Calliope and Her Father, Daniel Picramenos

Dad: “I can start with Yaya (Calliope Picramenos). She was born in Smyrna, Turkey in about 1895. She was from a family of six girls. One of the children, Evangelia, died when she was two or three. The family ranged from Maria [the eldest] through mother [Calliope], Olympia, Alexandra and Kalliroi.” Pictured in the back row (left to right), are Demosthenes (Dave) Loukidelis, his sisters-in-law, Maria and Alexandria, and Calliope Loukidelis. Seated in the front row (left to right) are one of Dave Loukidelis’ cousins and Calliope’s father, Daniel Picramenos.

“The original family name was not Picramenos but Sevastos, which means ‘respected one’ in Greek. But a [great] great-grandfather of mine had a beautiful daughter who was out celebrating at a wedding. She caught a cold and very shortly after developed consumption and died…He mourned her so much that he became known as John Sevastos O Picramenos or John Sevastos, ‘the Embittered One,’ and eventually the family name changed from Sevastos to Picramenos.”

John: “You mentioned the transition from Smyrna to Calymnos [Greece] to Athens. Do you know how long they lived in Calymnos?”

Dad: “They lived there a couple of times. They were there for part of the First World War, and they were also there for a brief period after they left Smyrna in 1905. The rest of the time he was in Athens. In order to educate some of his family, he was obliged to sell all of the land he inherited in Calymnos. It was not much, and it was not a great piece of arable land. They were just poor rocky fields actually, but he sold those because he wanted to help his daughters get an education.”

University of Athens, as seen at the University's website, www.uoa.gr

“Interestingly enough, mother taught for a few years and then went to the Arsakeion, which is the national teachers’ college in Greece - it was a two-year course. She graduated and then taught and helped some of her sisters, especially Kalliroi, graduate from university. Then she went to and graduated from the University of Athens, where she studied theology. She took various languages, and, as a result, she spoke fluent French and excellent Italian. In fact, in North Bay it was often said of her that she spoke the best Italian in town, when eleven or twelve hundred Italians lived there. She had a marvelous command of Classical Greek and Modern Greek. When her sisters wrote books, they would more often than not send them to her so that she could correct the punctuation, the accents, and the breathings [sic] that they had at that time in Greek.”

John: “Yaya’s education: She went through high school and then to Teachers’ College and then to university?”

Dad: "Yes. Yaya taught school and was for a few years a principal of a girls’ high school, a refugee high school, on Calymnos. By this time, it was part of Italy or one of the Italian possessions [returned to Greece in 1947], and that is why the family spoke Italian. I visited that school when I went to Calymnos for the first time. It was under renovation. I took some photographs but, unfortunately, they didn’t turn out too well. I brought them home so that mother could see the place where she had taught and, indeed, a number of her pupils from that period found themselves in Athens. One of them was a dentist and she had come from a refugee family after the Asia Minor catastrophe.

“My father [Dave] was not married at this point [1927]. His cousin, Papanicolou, had lost everything and was one of the refugees who had come from Asia Minor and was living in poverty in Athens. Papanicolou wrote to my father, saying: ‘Your family has been wiped out - You have to marry so that the name will be carried on.’ ”

 
Historical Perspective:  
Chrysostomos of Smyrna, Turkey

The tragedy of which Papanicolou wrote concerned the instability in Asia Minor (sometimes called Anatolia) as the great Ottoman Empire, which had come to power in 1299 and which had traditionally embraced people of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, was weakened by events of the early 20th century and crumbled after World War I, having made the mistake of siding with Germany in the war. Smyrna was an ancient town with roots in pre-Biblical times and ancient Greece. Centrally and strategically located on the Aegean coast and with its ease of defense, favorable port conditions and good inland connections, Smyrna has always been an important town. Whether the town was under Greek or Turkish rule, it always had an enclave of prosperous Greek families.

Battles for control of the town raged after WWI during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. In September 1922, as Turks advanced to retake Smyrna, Turkish troops were told they were under penalty of death if they harmed civilians. The orders were ignored, and Greek and Armenian citizens suffered greatly as a result, in “the Catastrophe of Smyrna.” The city was set on fire, and Greek property was pillaged. For four days, the town burned. Much of the Christian population was massacred and Chrysostomos of Smyrna, a Greek Orthodox Archbishop who had encouraged Greeks to keep their ethnic identity, was lynched. (He’s now recognized as a martyr and as a Saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church.) It’s estimated that thousands of Greeks and Armenians died during this time period.

Smyrna Catastrophe

Ernest Hemingway was in Smyrna at the time and his short story, “On the Quai in Smyrna,” chronicles the plight of Greeks attempting to flee the city. The vintage postcard to the left shows some of the carnage.

Dr. Esther Lovejoy, Chairman of the Executive Board of the American Women’s Hospitals and President of the Medical Women’s International Association, witnessed the events and, in a 9 October 1922 New York Times article, wrote: “Never has there been such systematic robbery. The Turkish soldiers searched and robbed every refugee. Even clothing and shoes of any value were stripped from their bodies. To rob the men, another method was used: men of military age were permitted to pass through all the barriers ’til the last by giving bribes. At the last barrier, they were turned back to be deported. The robbery was not only committed by soldiers, but also by officers…On September 28 [1922], the Turks drove the crowds from the quays, where the searchlights of the allied warships played on them, into the side streets. All that night, the screams of women and girls were heard and it was declared next day that many were taken for slaves…And under orders to remain neutral, I saw soldiers and officers of all nationalities stand by while Turk soldiers beat with their rifles women trying to reach their children who were crying just beyond the fence.”

In fact, there were ships of many nationalities in the harbor but, citing “neutrality,” they didn’t pick up Greeks and Armenians fleeing both the fire and the Turkish troops. Many people drowned in the harbor while military bands played ever-louder music to drown out their screams. Only a Japanese freighter assisted, by dumping its cargo and taking aboard as many refugees as possible and delivering the refugees to safety at the Greek port of Pireaus. The Red Cross estimates that it offered aid to about 400,000 Greeks and Armenians displaced by the great fire and by the Turks.

Great Fire of Smyrna, Turkey

It would be years before recovery from the Great Fire of Smyrna occurred, as the entire city’s infrastructure had been damaged; the formerly Greek and Armenian areas of town were erased from the face of the earth and Kültürpark, or Izmir International Fair, which is Turkey’s largest open air exhibition center, is now located where the Greek quarter once was.

Izmir International Fair, Smyrna, Turkey

Text of Interview, Part Two:  
Pakia, Greece as Seen by NASA

“My father went off to Greece and this cousin said: ‘In this town, I have met again a teacher of mine from Pergamum who has three unmarried daughters, and you should come and meet them.’ That was my mother’s family. So my father went over, but he visited the south of Greece first because most of the Greeks, at that time in North Bay, were from the south of Greece in a couple of little villages but one main one called Pakia. He did some traveling then, and he came up to Athens. They met and they were married in five days. They were married in the Y.M.C.A. chapel there because, at that time, my mother’s youngest sister’s fiancée was the National Secretary of H.A.N. Those were the Greek initials for the Y.M.C.A.”

They came back by boat from Patras to Brindisi. Then they took the train into Paris and from there to Cherbourg, and then they came by boat to Canada. My mother came to live in North Bay and they lived for a brief time, for a couple of months, with the Maroosis [family]. Then they lived in an apartment above the store before the bowling alley was put in. Then, of course, they bought the house on Fraser St. …Mother liked North Bay very much. She found the climate very cold.”

John: “Where was Papoo living before that? Was he in an apartment?”

Dad: “No, he lived in a home with a number of fellows - Sam Maransis [Maroosis?] and Alex Adams, who was their local communist [sic] at that time, and a few others. As I say, my father had made efforts through the Red Cross to trace the family and find it in Asia Minor. He found that they had all been killed.

In 1928, my mother became pregnant and in August 1929, she gave birth to a little girl called Kyriacoula, who died after three days. She had a malformed heart…Then I was born in July of 1930, and I was born six weeks prematurely. My sister had been eleven pounds and a few ounces at birth. I was 4 pounds, and then…Ernest came along on January 3rd, 1934. He was over 13 pounds in weight.”

John: “You talked about why Papoo wanted to get married. Where was Yaya coming from?”

Dad: “It was difficult for that family to have anyone marry because there were no dowries except for the oldest girl. I think my mother was of the view that she would stay unmarried because she had become a professional woman. She was the principal of the girls’ high school and a columnist for a few years. She would come home to Athens to her family.

“She was at the Arsakeion when the war ended between Greece and Turkey and just a handful of the Greek prisoners came back. They lost a whole army in Asia Minor. A quarter of a million men were lost there. She remembers being at the railway station as these soldiers came in. They were in rags. Many of them were consumptive - They had had a very, very difficult time.

“[Mother] spoke French, Italian and Greek, but she had a difficult time beginning with English, and I think she was sheltered in the sense that she was able to speak Greek. Some of the neighbors and some of the people to whom she was introduced were Italian, and there were a lot of French-speaking neighbors, so she did not start learning English really until after my brother was born. She took lessons from Sister St. Bride, who eventually became the Mother General of the Order in the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. She became friends with Grace Morgan, who was the Master of the Teachers’ College.”

“There was no [Greek Orthodox?] priest in North Bay, and when my sister was dying, she was not baptized. They asked for a Roman Catholic priest to baptize her. The Roman Catholic priests refused, including Father Chapleau, who was the parish priest at St. Vincent. One of the nuns who heard of this called my father and told him: ‘You can baptize her yourself.’ So that’s what my Dad did. When I was born, I was well enough that they did not have any emergency baptism. When Ernest was born, he was so ill [that] they decided to baptize him immediately, and Canon Sims, who was the Rector at St. John’s, came.

 

“My mother became active in the University Women’s Club. She was a member of the Women’s Canadian Club. But when my father died in 1946, she wanted to get out of those organizations. I am happy that I argued with her and persuaded her to stay, because it was a good thing…She just wanted to withdraw from everything. You know, my mother wore black from 1946 until the year I was married. That was nine years.

“That was the tradition in those days. I think it was seven years that you wore black, or something like that. I remember in North Bay, the old Italian women going back and forth to daily mass at St. Rita’s. Many of them wore black.”

“He [Dave] had purchased the building on Main Street for $10,000 - and instead of keeping it because he was the one with the money, he offered a share to his partner [Christofolakos?], who had no money. In effect, he owed my father the money for his half share, but my father bought it out at the time the business was sold and that proved to be good fortune for us. It always provided us with some income…My father had named John Christofolakos as the executor. He did all of that work, all those years, for no charge and he had the headaches and everything else. But we took over from him when Ernest reached the age of 21. I began managing the building and looking after things. Mother always got a small salary. Each time we wanted to increase it, she would say: ‘No, that’s enough. I don’t want any more.’ As you remember, she lived very frugally and spent very little on herself. She gave money away on a regular basis, sending money not only to Greece but [also] to her godchild there and her sisters, and helping out that way.

 

Because we had a priest only four times a year, or sometimes six, my mother used to attend St. Bryce’s Anglican Church every Sunday. It was within walking distance from her home and everybody knew her there. I used to attend St. John’s. I guess I started going there because of my grade 6 teacher. I started my schooling at [the] McPhail St. school and I had my first four years to the end of grade 5 because I skipped grade 3. And then in grade 6, I was at Queen Victoria School and then back to Dr. Carruthers or [the] McPhail St. school.”

John: “What do you remember of the relationship between your parents? It seems like an unusual match.”

Dad: “Well, she left business in his hands entirely. She had nothing to do with it. She had never visited a bank. She had never had an account of her own. That was unusual for a person who had been independent all those years. He looked after the money, and she did a little bit of shopping. He used to do a lot of the shopping as well. He respected her education and he wanted us to have an education. He was very, very strong on that; the idea of going on to school was his dream.

“He wanted both of us to go on. He wanted me to be a doctor. Indeed, he often said to me: ‘If you go, I’ll buy you a car and I’ll set you up in business, I’ll buy all your equipment and everything else. But one thing I don’t want you to do, don’t become a lawyer.’ I said: ‘Why?’ He said: ‘They drink too much, they’re lazy and they make black into white and white into black.’ ”

John: “Maybe you could tell the story of how you were named.”

 

Dad: “By rights, my name should have been Anastasios and Ernest should have been Daniel, because the tradition is that the first son is named after the father’s father and the second son is named after the mother’s father. Any surplus sons, you could name whatever you wanted. And the same holds true with the girls. Tradition. And so my sister was called Kyriacoula, named after my paternal grandmother. When it came time, my mother was still grieving over the loss of her first child and she had a dream. St. Spyridon came to her and said: ‘You will have a son and you will name him Spyridon.’ Actually, one of my uncles who was lost in Asia Minor was Spyridon, too. And so my father was prepared to change the tradition, not only to accommodate mother but also to memorialize his deceased brother. And then Ernest became Anastasios.

“We used to have a lot of people around our house at certain times, like on New Year’s Day. We always had not only our immediate family but [also] there were a number of bachelors and one widower [who] used to come over and there would be 8 or 10 around the table. My father would do the cooking and mother would do the sweets, but he did all of the main cooking. He loved to cook and we ate well…then after everything was cleared off, they would sit and…sing. Eventually, they would start playing poker. The same on Easter. I remember Easter was a big day because it was not only the biggest religious day but it was also Ernest’s name day, and we had people coming in. There would just be tons of people coming to wish my parents well. It was a big thing.

“Strangely enough, the Greek women were very inward-looking, very parochial, because they all came from the same villages. They never did visit mother much. It was not until a few years after my father died that they began visiting and they were always there, either getting advice or talking. She was like a mother confessor to a lot of them. I always remember they never did come around or not many of them did.”

John: “It must have been very hard for her.”

“It was very hard and very lonely, but, at the same time, it allowed her to get out and meet people in the community, like Grace Morgan. Grace was a delightful woman. She was a teacher at the Normal School or a Master at the Teacher’s College. Her father had been a Methodist minister. Her brother was the Director of Education in Toronto. After she left and was living in Toronto, she used to write some delightful letters to mother and mother would write back, often in French because Ms. Morgan spoke French…I could remember she wrote one letter to my mother and said ‘How many changes I’ve seen in my life. When I was a little girl, there were no electric lights.’ They lived just north of Toronto in Thornhill, where her father had a small church, and where the only things that counted were the Bible and the British Empire. This is what she said in her letter…She must have been in her early 80s…

Ernest and I grew up relatively well. It was a low-income neighborhood and we did not have that much. We did not have a car or anything, but we lived better than the others. We ate well and we had a cottage, where other people did not have one.”

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More as time permits, with updated photos and new articles on the Nipissing and Parry Sound districts, Temagami, Bear Island, Bonfield, Callander and Corbeil, Commanda, the Ferguson Highway (Highway 11), Lavigne and Verner, Marten River, Mattawa, Monetville and Noëlville, North Bay, Powassan and Trout Creek, Tomiko Ontario, Sundridge, Alderdale, Nipissing Village, Trout Lake, Restoule, South River, Tilden Lake, Dokis, Rutherglen, Trout Mills, Sturgeon Falls and other areas of interest. Enjoy the story of Antoine’s Moose-Yard, about a hunting trip which took place more than 100 years ago.

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