Interviewer: Larry Odzak
Interviewee: Olga Fotiou
Date of Interview: October 30, 1996
L:I am about to interview Mrs. Olga Fotiou and we are sitting in
her lovely place at 28 Cadiz Street in the oldest city in
this country, St. Augustine, Florida. Just for the record, I
would ask if you could give me your full name.
F:Olga Catherine Fotiou. You want my maiden name?
F:Chetry, Olga Chetry. That is my maiden name.
L:Where were you born?
F:I was born in 1912 during the Balkan wars.
L:1912, and where?
F:In Delvino. It was during the Balkan wars and it was supposed
to have been Greek territory, but they were fighting the
Albanians and the Greeks and the Turks...
L:So this was Northern Epiros?
F:1912, the Balkan wars.
F:Yes, Northern Epiros.
L:What was the name of the place?
L:So you were born right in the middle of the war?
F:Yes. My father was in America already.
L:At this time?
L:When did he go to the states?
F:My father's home town is called Lukovo, Chimara. His father was
very active in the village and my grandfather was a merchant,
a horse merchant. Would you call him an importer?
F:He was going to Egypt to buy horses and was bringing them to the
Greek mainland to sell to the calvary.
L:Now this is your dad's father?
F:My father's father.
L:What was his name?
L:Or Stephan, I guess?
F:Yes. The Turks wanted to constrict the first born of the Greeks
in that area. In order to save his son, cause he only had
one son, he sent him to Egypt and from Egypt my father came
to America. In the meantime, he had already married my
L:Give me your father's and your mom's names.
F:My father was Constantine.
L:And your mom?
L:So he had married her still in Greece or in Egypt?
F: In Greece, the Epiros territory.
L:So it was still under the Ottomans?
F:Yes, that is what they were fighting over, territory.
L:The Ottoman Turks possessed most of the northern emperors?
F:Yes, they had taken everything.
L:What was Albania?
F:There was no Albania yet.
L:It was only formed in 1913?
L:Did your part stay on the Greek side or did it fall to the
Albanians in 1913?
F:We were still on the Greek side. I was born at this time in
Delvino. My mother was a refuge of Delvino and was migrating
L:I know Loannina.
F:On the way there was no food. All they had was coffee and
bread. My mother's breast became infected and she could not
nurse me so they served me coffee and bread and no more.
L:You were just a few months old?
F:Just born. While they were on their way to Loannina some
soldiers saw the tiny baby and said to my mother, throw it in
the ditch and run for your life. Finally, they got to
Loannina. During that period I was the only little one
amongst all them adults. I grew up some how in the war.
L:You were a tough baby.
F:I was digging and we found a cross. It looked like it was a
L:This was in Loannina?
F:Loannina. When Emperor Constantine (VI, b. 770 A.D., ruled
Byzantium 780-797 A.D.; his mother was the Empress Irene),
was in Constantinople his mother had a cross that she carried
with her. This cross, it is in the family now. My daughter
Connie gave it to her son. He is in the service. It was dug
out of the dirt.
L:You dug it out?
F:Yes. It is in the family and it looks like it goes back
centuries. So one day you will see that hope.
L:That is amazing because she was traveling through this whole
F:From Constantinople to Rome. She may have lost this, the cross.
L:But whether she did or not, it is centuries old.
F:Yes, it is. Whoever it belonged to it was something special.
L:Very, very ancient.
F:Now, where else do we want to go from here?
Well, I want to tell you about my grandfather. My grandfather was
active in the church in the town Lukovo. He was probably
running the church and the town. Papas and grandfather were
together and these Turkish dignitaries, who were doing
business with my grandfather from Egypt, were visiting us.
They were wining and dining in our home. After the
festivities they wanted to be escorted out of town. My
grandfather and the priest were the hosts and they were going
to do the best for the guests so they go and take them out of
town. They never returned. My grandmother and the labor
ladies said where is Stephanos, where is Stephan, and the
priest? We better go out and look and call them. So they
went out and they heard moans and groans. The priests eyes,
arms and legs were gauged out.
L:Oh my goodness.
F:He is still living, bleeding to death. He said, do not look at
me, go find your husband. My grandfather had been
decapitated and that was the end of the Turks.
L:By the Turks who were leaving, who were just wined and dined?
F:The guests. You see how faithless they can be. That was the
end of my grandfather. I never did see my grandfather, cause
I was tiny.
L:By 1913 the Turks were out of this region all together. All
they have managed to keep is the portion in Europe around
Thrace, Eastern Thrace and Constantinople.
L:And parts of Macedonia (this region was divided in 1913 between
Greece, Servia and Bulgaria). At least your Delvino got into
Greece, finally. I wanted to ask you whether you had any
brothers or sisters?
L:You were the only child?
F:My father had to escape to come to America. His father sent him
off and my mother was stranded as a new bride with this tiny
F:She was with her family in Delvino.
L:Then you got to Loannina. How did you finally join your dad?
F:Ten years later.
F:Yes. He had become very successful in Worcester, Massachusetts.
He was in partnership with the Mayor of Worcester, Mayor
Sullivan. He had seven restaurants, he had a weaving mill,
he had a pop factory where they have soft drinks and he was
highly thought of in the town.
L:I bet. He must have been an able man to get all this together.
F:Well, you see he had done some time in Egypt and learned
English, so the other people did not know hardly anything. He
brought a lot of his patriots here from the old country, put
them to work in the restaurants and so forth.
L:Worcester in Massachusetts was one of the communities that a
good number of greeks went to. Did it have some textile
F:No, Worcester was iron and wire.
L:I guess it was that had the textile mills.
F:There was industry but there were seven colleges in town. Now
Sullivan, the mayor of the city, his son went to Holy Cross
College and whenever they had Greek tragedies we would go
there and I would sit in the major's lap and listen to Hecuba
and all the Greek tragedies.
L:This must be in the 1920s now?
L:Do you have any recollection at all I know you were just a
child of the first World War? Did you spend most of it in
F:This is here on my mother's side now. Her sister married a
doctor and they were shipped to Serbia and she and her
husband and their child was killed in 1914 when the war
started in Sarajevo (World War I). My aunt was killed up
there. So that is what I have familiar with, that area.
L:Why I am interested is because my grandmother's folks came from
Loannina and they got to Serbia. In fact, she married a
Serbian man up there, my grandmother did.
F:She was a young lady?
L:Yes, she was about eighteen at that time but they fled because
the part of the Northern Epiros they were from fell to
Albania in 1913.
F:That is the period when I was there.
L:Then they left to the north to Serbia and she married a Serbian
F: connected. My grandfather, on my mother's side, was
very well-liked in the community. He had wine orchids.
L:Also in Delvino?
F:Yes, and we had kids. They had a beautiful home with a huge
fence all around, a stone fence, and trees inside. This is
the wall we will say and inside the wall was another
partition and they had the things growing in there, trees...
L:A rich house?
F:Yes, a beautiful house, up on the hillside and down here was the
river and as you entered the great big door on this side
there were kegs of wine, kegs that reached up to the ceiling.
He had ten children and a lovely home.
L:Forgive me for interrupting but do you remember your maternal
L:That was his last name?
L:And first name was also Stephanos?
F:Yes, after my grandfather's.
L:The first World War passes while you are in Loannina. Then in
1922, approximately, your dad sends for your mom and for you
and brings you to the United States.
F:My mother and my grandmother on my father's side is a powerful
women. was killed but she was capable of running
down anybody and making them feel like they were incapable,
insignificant nothings. We had a lot of orchids, we had four
hundred olive trees, we had twenty five walnut trees, we had
the most beautiful produce in our town. The village is here
and the mountains are there and the mountains are snow capped
and all this melting snow comes down into the village and
irrigates the beautiful gardens, beautiful produce in that
L:So you could really produce a lot of not just olives and olive
oil but also other vegetables?
F:Everything. You could raise anything.
L:Did you have any sheep?
F:We had thirty five goats. Now we had a lovely home here. We
had a big avliya we call them.
F:Not a garden, there is a name for it.
L:It is really a yard. Avliya is like a large, large yard.
F:A large yard and we had goats there. I had a pet goat, he
followed me everywhere. He was a beautiful black goat with
white .One of my grandmother's grandchildren was
our take carry you know, carry taker. He would take the
goats to the mountains everyday and bring them back at night.
One night they stole all our goats, including our pet.
L:Did you ever find out who?
F:Never, never found out who took them. We did not hear a sound.
It might have been that goat herder. Maybe he sold our
goats. It must have been somebody familiar because the goats
did not make any noise.
L:If it were a stranger they would have been noisy.
F:They would have been agitated. So it was somebody that was
familiar with the goats.
L:How did you travel from Greece to the states?
F:Let me tell you about my grandmother.
F:She would take me to all the gardens, to all our orchids, and
all our properties. Down in this area right here was an
ethimoecclesi, an abandoned church, with icons. She would
say, kiss the icons. I had a boil on my nose and I was
little and could not reach, but she would say you got to kiss
the icons. I did, I did, but I remember the boil on my nose
and it would hurt when I would try to kiss the icon.
L:It must have been a pimple of some sort.
F:Yes, a boil, you know. So then there was another garden that
was down in the depths of this one and we would go there.
That was a mill where they ground the corn. See, this was
down on a deep ravine and the water came from the mountains
and turned the milos.
F:Yes. Sh would say look in there, look in there, and it would be
full of guns.
L:Did someone hide the guns?
F:The men of the town. They threw them in the water, in the
milos, in the mill so the Turks would not find their guns.
Mill is it?
L:Well, mill is the whole apparatus that grinds and the building
F:The building itself was called a milos.
L:Yes, that is in Greek, which is very similar to the mill.
F:So that was part of my adventure with grandmother.
L:Guns that they probably used every time they had to fight off
F:Do not forget, they used to hang these guys on the city square.
They used to get hold of them and they would beat them up.
I saw them tortured. They would take boiled eggs and they
would put them under their arms and torture these young men
that tried to fight for the Greek cause.
L:This was in?
F:1912. It was little, but as we went along it was still
L:There was agitation all the way until 1918 I would say.
F:See in 1922, when we came over, they held us up at Ellis Island.
L:That is what I meant to ask you. How did you go? Did you go by
F:Yes, we came by boat, Byron.
L:The boats name was Byron?
F:Yes, Lord Byron.
L:It was a steam boat?
F:Yes, a big one.
L:Did it go from Piraeus, from Athens?
F:Yes, the Greek government held us up for a whole month. They
said there was something wrong with my eyesight. There was
nothing wrong, they were just policing us.
L:That is still in Piraeus
L:How did you get from Loannina to Piraeus?
F:We went by boat. We are back in Delvino in Epiros, not in
L:How did you get from there to Piraeus?
F:By horseback to Sarandes. From Sarandes [on lonian sea harbor
now in Albania] we took a boat to Corfu [Greek territory],
from Corfu we went to Patras [on lonian sea harbor on the
northern coast of the Peloponnesos].
L:Very good. Corfu is the Island and then to Patras?
F:Yes. That is where we had to stay home because they said there
was something wrong with my eyes. The Greek government holds
you up so you can spend some money.
L:Is that the reason?
F:Sure. There was nothing wrong with my eyes.
L:If there were they would not let you in on Ellis Island.
F:Well, when we came here there was nothing wrong with me.
L:That is what I said.
F:So then there was a question of whether we were Albanians or
Greeks? They could not make up their mind in Ellis Island.
They did not let us come through right away. My father had
to get hold of all his buddies in Worcester and write
letters. We have all kinds of letters they had to write to
the officials in Ellis Island to leave us out.
L:If you were Albanian and not Greek would they have returned you?
F:There was no such thing yet?
F:1922, was Albania established?
L:Yes, it was established in 1913. It was only established eight
or nine years.
F:Well you see, we considered ourselves Greek.
L:Yes, of course.
F:We did not want to be called Albanians.
L:In fact, Delvino stayed on the Greek side of the order. So
there was no doubt you were Greek?
F:I was raised in Chimara and the so there was
controversy but my father had the means to get us through.
L:I am so glad that he managed to get you in.
F:Yes, he would have because he new everybody. I mean, he was the
leading Greek in Worcester.
L:You arrive in Worcester. Do you remember going through the
lines at Ellis Island?
F:Oh yes, I did not like it. We ate a meal there and I did not
like any of the food and all I ate was bread and butter. I
hated everything, I wanted to go back to my grandmother.
L:You see pictures from time to time in the various history books
how when immigrants go silent the doctors inspect
them. Is it true that one doctor inspects the eyes, the
other inspects the skin, the third one looks at your mouth?
F:No, they did not do that to us. We did not look like poppers.
My mother was well dressed. I was beautifully dressed. We
were upper class.
L:Did you go in first class or on the boat?
F:It must have been first class.
L:With the Lord Byron?
L:You really never had any contact with the people in steerage?
L:So in Worcester you become a teenager?
F:My father had seven restaurants and all the relatives worked
L:Did you visit?
F:I did not like my father. I was ten years old and was brought
up by a woman. Who was this stranger? The guys on the boat
said to me, oh your father kissed your mother and I hated
L:I guess you did not see him?
F:I never saw my father. This was the first time that I saw this
man and he was my father. I did not like him.
L:How long did it take you before you finally got to like him?
F:I never did like my father.
F:I was my grandmother's pet.
He had these huge restaurants and bakeries. In the restaurants we
did our own baking. I loved creme puffs I looked like a
creme puff. I was down in the bakery where there were these
huge refrigerators and I was so thirsty. I said, let me have
some water. He did not want to get me some water. I said,
get me some water! He did not want to get me that water.
Finally, he gets me the water and I grab the bottle and
L:You were a willful child.
F:I never did like him.
L:Did you go to school in Worcester?
F:Yes, I went through high school. I took pre-med.
L:By this time you had learned English fairly well?
F:Well, it was hard for me to go to school, I did not know the
language. Oh, this was another thing, when we were in the
sixth grade in school, I loved history and I saw the oldest
school house in America. It was in St. Augustine, Florida.
L:You still remember that?
F:That was out most in my mind cause that was my only contact with
fun was school. I would be the first one to get out of the
house and get to school and the last one to leave the school.
The janitor would say to my teacher, what is the matter with
this kid, she gets here before I do and does not leave until
I have to chase her out.
L:You must have had a lovely house in Worcester?
F:We had a nice home. My mother had four brothers and they all
lived with us, my father smoked, they smoked and I was
suffering like crazy with bronchitis.
L:I may have asked you, but what was your mother's name?
L:I think I did ask you. Her brothers then have also made it to
F:My father brought all of the relatives to work in the
restaurants. They were all joy-boys. They wanted red
roadsters, and convertibles, and girlfriends, and the
business went to hell.
L:He was maybe a little bit disappointed?
F:Oh yes, he had a tough time with those guys. They were all
young men, they wanted a good time, America, automobiles, red
L:You spoke Greek at home and English at school. Did this
continue during the time that you remember living at home or
did you eventually ever switch into English?
F:At home? Never at home, always Greek. My father became ill and
he opened up a most gorgeous restaurant, all statuary. It
was the most elegant place in the whole town. Then he hurt
himself. He developed an ulcer or something and he went in
the hospital and was in the hospital for eight years. He
could not mend himself.
L:Are we talking the end of the 1920s or is this the 1930s?
L:For the rest of the country this is depression time.
F:He voted for (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt. That was in 1933.
L:Roosevelt was president in 1932, 1933.
F:Yes, he voted for Roosevelt and he died in 1934.
L:Your dad did?
L:So he was in a hospital for a few years before that?
F:Yes, almost eight years, on and off, on and off. His stomach
was opened up there and it would not heal, it would not mend.
He had trouble with his stomach.
L:So the restaurants and the rest of the business?
F:Everything went to pot. I told you he had a weaving mill, a
factory, and the bottling company.
L:And a number of other businesses.
F:Yes, all those things went one by one.
L:Your uncles did not manage to
F:No, they ran away. They went to Chicago. They did not like my
father either cause he was rough with everybody. Everything
was going bad. Things were getting bad, conditions were
L:Did you stay in Worcester?
F:I was in pre-med after I graduated from high school. I was
going to college and was studying Spanish, French and Latin,
but my father died. All my mother wanted was for me to find
a husband. I rebelled. I did not want to get married. So I
went to Greece.
L:This was in the 1930s?
L:You went back to Greece and you had access to your own money?
F:I had enough to get there. The properties were still my
father's properties so I did not sell anything, but there
was enough oil there for me to sell that oil and manage to
get around. Then I came back.
L:Did you stay in Greece for a while?
F:The reason I went to Greece was there were thirty-four kids from
Worcester, they were from the GAPA [Greek American
Progressive Association], the society. Those kids were in
the orchestra. So Helen Pantos was my friend and Helen was
going and the other young people so I figured well, I will go
along. I went free because I was still eligible to travel on
my father's privilege, by boat.
L:I see. Your father had a privilege to travel by boat for free?
F:Yes, because he was an agent, a travel agent.
L:Oh, I see, he was also a travel agent.
F:...For the mayor of Worcester. Since I was eligible I figured I
can come along too, why not. So I went with the kids.
L:The whole trip to Greece?
F:Yes. I went to the village and I went to see my relatives.
L:This is back to Delvino now?
F:Delvino and Chimara.
L:The Lukovo Chimara. So you could go back to visit the family
that had remained back home?
F:Well my grandmother had died. Her one daughter was living and
her two children so I visited with them.
L:Were the orchids and places still in good shape?
F:Yes, they were still in pretty good shape, they had not been
taken over. My father was dead, my grandmother was dead and
the cousins were fighting like hell to take it away from me.
They burned down the house. I did lose all that property.
L:This was during the time that you were absent or at the time
when you got there?
F:No, when I got there it was still mine. When I came back the
cousins were all fighting each other. They burned the house,
took the property and then the Albanians took over.
and lost everything.
L:Did you stay in Greece?
F:Well about a month and a half maybe, just a month.
L:Still a good trip?
F:I figured well, I will come back if I marry a rich man. Never
did go back.
L:Could not find a rich man?
F:No. Well, I could have married a lot of them guys. The
restaurant people from Worcester, the big shots, real
wealthy, but they were older than my father. I did not want
any part of them.
L:You wanted to marry for love?
F:I wanted somebody that I could talk to, like I am talking with
you. I did not want anybody that could not even talk
English. They all worked in the kitchens and made money in
all the restaurants, but what the hell I did not care about
L:They would not mind having a young wife, I guess.
F:Well, they did marry some other woman, they went back to the old
country and married some young girls.
L:What do you remember of the Greek community in Worcester?
F:My father was president of the community in Athenagoras, the
Archbishop. It was the first visit in 1932, maybe. His
first visit in America, he came to Worcester, was in January.
That church in Worcester had a staircase that went up maybe
twelve steps up this way.
L:Was it the Holy Trinity?
F:No, Agios Spiridonos.
F:St. Spiridon and it was January and there was snow on the
stairs. He had to climb the stairs and he fell. He was a
huge man. His kamilaki [tall hat] went this way and his
pateritsa [Bishop's staff] went that way and he was sprawled
on the stairs.
F:One of our friends says .You know what that means?
F:Your eminence, you shall never forget Worcester.
L:Probably did not.
F:He was very polite. Maybe I was twelve years old at this time
and I had to say the Pistero (the Creed, a passage spoken
during liturgy). I did not do it.
L:Well, it is a rather long
F:So I made a mess out of it.
L:It is about four times as long as our fathers.
F:I know, so I kind of messed it up, I embarrassed the president
of the community. The Archbishop said, that is a chore for
the older community. So that was my first acquaintance with
the Archbishop and then my father died [interruption].
L:Then your father died, did you say 1933?
F:In 1934 and my grandmother had come to stay with us, my mother's
mother. She was living in Detroit at the time. I have two
aunts, one in Chicago and one in Detroit.
L:These are sisters of your mother?
L:What are their names?
F:Marika and the other one is... I may have alzheimer's already.
L:You do not have it, it is just hard to remember. You will
remember it later. One was living in Detroit, you say?
F:Yes, one was living in Detroit and one in Chicago, but they both
lived in Detroit at this time. Eleftheria.
L:Eleftheria and Marika?
F:My Uncle, Marika's husband, was an undertaker. He was doing
pretty good in Detroit and my other Uncle was living in
Chicago with my other aunt. They became pretty good business
L:Despite their red cars and galavanting?
F:They had cadillacs by then and a road house and you could have
drinks with elephants. They became quite wealthy and
successful. They had good training. My father was stern,
but they made up their minds that this is how it has got to
L:When they became serious?
F:When it was not my father's property, when it was their stuff
and their property, it was different. They had learned their
L:How long did you stay in Worcester?
F:You mean after my father died?
L:Yes, and after you came back from Greece?
F:I was not going right away, I went to Detroit.
L:This would be 1935?
F:That is where I met George.
L:In Detroit? Your mom went with you, as well?
F:No, we owned a house in Worcester and my mother was still there.
I just went, I just left.
L:I see you just went for...
L:Detroit had a good Greek community too at the time.
F:My two aunts were there, my uncles were in Chicago. My uncle
kept writing me and saying come to Chicago, my partner is a
wonderful young man and I want you to meet him.
L:By this time you were about 20 years old?
F:Everybody was looking for a husband for me. I was 18.
L:You must have been a desirable girl?
F:My aunts in Detroit they all picked on these restaurant men. I
had enough of restaurants. I had no desire to have no
restaurant man, no matter who he was.
L:George Fotiou was not a restaurant man?
F:This is what happened. My cousin went with George's younger
brother. The two fellows used to visit my aunt's house, very
friendly, you know, casual. Then, one day the guy Ahepa had
a big dance [American Hellenic Educational Progressive
Association] at the big hotel in town. The fellows came all
L:It must have been a district convention.
F:It must have been or a church affair or something. So they came
all cleaned up and shined up and everything and I looked at
George and he did not look so bad.
L:Was a good looking guy?
F:He had his possibilities.
L:And not a restaurant man.
F:Yes, and no restaurant man. He was going to college, he was
going to be a lawyer. In the meantime, his father and
brother were unemployed and George was taking care of them.
L:Oh, this was the depression.
F:Yes, so we all went to the dance. I had brought some nice
clothes from Worcester and I dressed up and we went. I
noticed all the girls were dancing with George. I began
looking and they were all fighting with each other those
girls, I want to dance with George, I want to dance with
George, he is a wonderful dancer, not now, but then. He was
a smooth dancer. So they all danced with George and I
figured why not me. So I danced with him and we had fun and
the whole family was there and they were part of the family.
They were so liked in the family, they were not strangers.
So we were like a family and we kept seeing each other and
seeing each other. We went to see "Mid-Summer Night's
F:Yes. I do not think I remember any part of it. We were just
holding hands and snickering.
L:By this time you were sweet on each other?
F:Yes. So that is what happened. After that, we decided we had
to get married, there was no way out of our situation.
George worked for the Wabash Railroad. He had a nice
L:So he had finished school by that time?
F:No, he was going to night school. It was pre-law. So I figured
I will have to go to Worcester and get my mother and we will
have a wedding here. So I got married, a civil wedding, so
I could become Mrs. Fotiou and have the privilege of the
railroad to travel for free.
L:That's right, cause he was working on the railroad.
F:So I got my pass and I went and got my mother and came back.
L:Is that what happened, did you actually go to city hall?
L:With some witnesses?
F:Yes, his brother already was married so they were with us.
L:His brother and his wife?
L:The brother's wife.
F:Yes, so we got married that way.
L:Did you have to write to your mom for permission first?
F:Oh, I wrote her.
L:So she knew this was going on.
F:Yes, we would talk on the phone and write and so forth. Then I
went and got her and we came back.
L:I am thinking your aunts did not do such a good job of
F:Well, no, my cousin was with us all the time.
F:She was going with George's brother so the four of us were
always together. My cousin she was going with Leo, the
younger brother. My cousin was younger than me so she would
go with the younger brother.
L:Leo is George's younger brother?
F:Yes. So Leo and I went to get my mother at the depot and she
was tickled and we came home and I said this is going to be
your son-in-law. She thought Leo was going to be the boy.
She had the wrong one. You know George came from work and he
was not dressed up and he met the mother-in-law and the
mother-in-law was not impressed.
L:Once she got to know him things were better?
F:Well, you know how you form impressions. We got along okay.
L:So then you were living in Detroit from that time on.
F:So then his father and brother were unemployed and we got an
apartment and they came to live with us. So I had about
eighteen shirts to wash and iron for three fellows and I had
to cook for the three fellows. I did not get such a hot
deal. Then I got pregnant and I kept throwing up twenty-four
times a day and throwing up and throwing up. I could not
stand his brother and all their machinery from the
automobiles on my beautiful new furniture and I just could
not stomach it. I said I am going to go back to my mother.
I went back and he kept writing and writing and telephoning
and telephoning. I said, I cannot come back there unless
those two guys leave.
L:You were back in Worcester now with mom?
F:Yes, I said I cannot take it, I cannot stand those two guys. I
cannot do it, that is all.
L:You were with your mom and you were pregnant, as well?
F:So then he said, they are leaving, you better come home. I came
back and they were still there. Finally, they left. We
lived in a four-family apartment and I had the baby and the
people, one fellow was sleeping days and the baby would be
noisy and they would complain so then we looked around for a
house. We found a beautiful home facing a park and we put
down a down payment and we bought the house. It was a
lovely, lovely old home with Grechian columns on the outside
and Grechian columns on the inside.
L:What year was this?
L:Now you gave birth to...
F:In 1936 Connie was born.
L:Connie was your first born? The same year you bought the house?
F:Yes, to get out of the apartment. Yes, so we fixed it up and we
stayed in that home and had this lovely porch in front and I
would sit with the baby on the front and every two or three
seconds a cadillac came by. I said, geez, I do not know
Detroit very well but I really picked a ritzy neighborhood,
look at all the cadillacs. It was very beautiful with the
park and then we had the next baby four years later and I
would take the two little girls and go in the park.
L:Forgive me for asking, what is your other daughter's name?
F:Janice. They would be nice and clean and starched with
pettifors and organza, organdy, whatever, and the neighbors
all loved us because they were such lovely little girls. We
would go to the park and swing. It was nice. It was fun. The
school house was about three houses away so the kids walked
to school and the teachers all loved those two kids. I had
all the teachers one time for lunch and they thought that I
was just super.
F:When are we going to get to St. Augustine?
L:Well, let us see, we are now let us say in 1941, the war is
starting and you are in Detroit with George with the two
girls. So we got a couple more years to go. I just wanted
to ask you, during the war you stayed in Detroit?
F:You see, because we had the two children George did not have to
go to the Army.
L:Right, he was exempt which was very nice.
F:I became a girl scout leader. I was busy all the time and then
I was with the church group, I became president.
L:What was the church?
F:St. Constantine and Helen.
L:I know that church.
F:We would tour dinner and these ladies got to know me and when we
had the meeting they all wanted me to become president and I
said, but you people hardly know me. They said, oh we know
enough about you, we want you to be president.
L:Philoptochos [The ladies' auxiliary]?
F:Yes, so I became active in the church.
L:You were always a hustler.
F:Well, it fell upon me with my English, because most of these
people were not bilingual. So I had to help out.
L:I understand the women spoke less English than the men because
the men were out.
F:They had to learn so most of the women were not bilingual.
Anyhow, the King of Greece came to Detroit.
L:During the war?
F:Well, in that interim. They had big receptions, because he
worked for Ford Motor at one time, and he was very well known
at King Paul. Was it King Paul?
L:There was Constantine, Paul and Alexander so it was one of
those. So the King's visit went off okay? I suppose you
were in charge of everything.
F:By this time I got my earrings, I have got gorgeous clothes and
fur coats and it is wintertime. The Queen falls asleep at the
banquet. As church lady, there were five churches in Detroit
and the church group was all together, the leaders of all the
churches. We say that this Queen is so democratic and we
figured she is so democratic we would not have any trouble
trying to converse or communicate. We try to go up to the
hotel through the main lobby, but they would not let us
through. One policeman says to me, if you go through the
back door there is another elevator. So we get up to the
fifth floor where she is and there is a lobby there with a
nice big couch. So all us five ladies sit on the couch and
the investigating man came and said, who are you ladies and
we said well, we are church ladies and we came to meet our
Queen, okay. Then out comes a lady all dressed up real nice
she says the Queen is preoccupied. She was Mrs. Stephanos
from the Stephanos tobacco company. She was the lady in
waiting. She said you cannot see the queen, she is going out
on a shopping tour.
L:Some democratic queen.
F:Yes, some democrat. We cannot see her, we cannot see her so we
are going to start a revolution. So we were sitting on the
couch and the elevator is right there, facing us and all of a
sudden this thing came through and it runs through on the --
said the furers and the dress makers had given her such
elegant clothes to wear, all elegant and all this. She was
wearing a rat-coat, a moth-eaten coat, and this little bitty
beanie hat. My friend said Olga, you look more like the
queen. So she ran in the elevator. See the man was a guest
at Ford Motor Company and she did not want to go to Ford
Motor she wanted to go shopping so she had made up her mind
that she was going shopping.
L:Never mind the ladies from the church?
F:No, she was going shopping, so she left. So we figured to heck
with her. She did not want to meet us. That is Greek
democracy. So anyway, that was the end of the Greek Queen's
L:How long did you stay in Detroit, until George's retirement?
F:We are in Detroit now. Well, when I was in Worcester and I went
to school, sixth grade I told you about this old school
L:Yes, the oldest.
F:I had the two babies and I wanted to show them the oldest school
house in America.
L:I see so by now you have Connie and Janice?
F:Now we are back in Detroit and we have two little girls.
L:Yes, Connie and Janice.
F:Since we were railroad people we can go anywhere and we are
gonna take the kids. This is our first trip with the
L:George is still working for the Wabash?
F:So we are all going to take our first little trip with our two
little girls and we are going to see the old school house in
L:The one you knew about in Worcester in sixth grade? Your dream
is coming true?
F:That is right, I am going to see the old school house.
L:Did you get to St. Augustine okay?
F:Oh yes, that was in 1945 after the war and we could get
L:So the war had finished at this time?
F:Yes, we got our own car and our own gas and we are in St.
L:What kind of a car did you get?
F:It was a Ford Coupe.
L:A new one.
F:No, it was second hand.
L:Did you enjoy the St. Augustine visit?
F:Yes, it was fun. Then we went back to Detroit and we took a lot
of trips. We went to Quebec, we went to New York, we went
everywhere. Every Summer we went somewhere with the train,
with the kids.
L:And you took the kids because it was a school holiday and they
could travel with you?
F:Yes, it was summertime. Every Summer we went somewhere special.
We have been all over the country, California, Florida again,
Quebec City, New York, Boston, Worcester, everywhere. Those
kids are well traveled.
L:Wonderful. They probably knew how to behave.
F:Now in 1959 we are back in St. Augustine.
L:Has George retired now?
F:No, he has not retired yet.
L:He is still working for the railroad but you came to St.
Augustine on a holiday again?
F:Yes, it was on a summertime, for the summer.
L:For the duration, about a month and a half?
F:For a month.
L:Where did you stay?
F:We stayed in a motel.
L:Oh, I see, one of these along A1A?
F:Yes, up there on that beach. Then, we had my mother with us and
we went around looking. You know, you go to the beach and you
go for dinner and then you got to do something in the
F:Yes, we would go driving around town and we went down south of
the beach and there was a brand new sub-division getting
built. There was about four or five houses built already.
Oh my mother says, this is what I should do, I should get me
a brand new house, you know, build a house. She always
dreamed of building a house, so we bought a lot in this sub-
division. St. Augustine by the Sea it is called. We bought
the lot and then we went back to Detroit. Come November,
they wrote us the house was finished. So for Thanksgiving we
came to the new house and we brought my mother.
L:This was now her retirement house?
F:Now, we got a brand new house and we got my mother here and I go
back to Detroit.
L:Well, the girls have to go back to school, I guess?
F:The kids are both in college, well Connie is married by now.
L:Oh, is that right? Connie married, what year?
L:It is 1959 when you are here building the house. She is already
F:Yes. I do not know why I do not remember the date.
L:You might later. You must be excited about having a house in
F:Oh yes, because all my friends were going to move to Florida and
when I was the first one... Olga, you already beat us!
L:Of course, they might have been thinking of Miami.
F:Well, one of them settled in Clearwater. The other one would
take trips to Miami, had friends down there.
L:Cause I know when I spend time up north in Deerborn which is
near Detroit and then also in Pennsylvania in a few parts
everybody was talking about Miami. Nobody was talking about
St. Augustine, Miami was the big place to go for your Florida
F:Oh yes, it was beautiful then. The first time we went it was
beautiful, but the second time we said, my gosh and we turned
around and came right back home.
L:Back to St. Augustine?
L:So anyhow, we are in 1959, 1960 and you have a house in Florida,
girls are now both in college, Janice and Connie are now both
F:Yes, both of them. Connie is already married. She got married
in her junior year in college.
F:Terrible mess. See, my cousins owned apartment houses in Ann
F:Yes, that is University of Michigan. She was there and he was
there and my cousins were there and that smartaleck did not
want to live in the dormitories and since my cousins owned
apartments he was going to get an apartment.
L:This was the husband?
F:You did not know Neal?
L:I do not think I knew Neal.
F:Well he was just like nobodies business.
L:His name was Neal what?
L:That is right because when I first met Connie, it was Connie
F:Well, that is another story, we will skip it. Jane was not as
aggressive as Connie so she went to
F:In Michigan. Connie was a conniver, she would get
Jane to go to Ann Harbor and help her clean those apartments
cause she got a free apartment, that was the idea. You wanna
work for the apartment you are gonna have to clean them.
L:What did she get, a free apartment?
F:Yes, a free apartment. I did not think I would have to go into
that. Anyway, we are in St. Augustine the second time and I
am with my mother and I am downtown there and I pick up a
L:This is now 1959, 1960?
F:1959, so I pick up a magazine and my mother is sitting at the
park over there, the plaza, and I am sitting reading and I am
reading, the Greeks worshipped in Florida, the Greek Orthodox
for Faith was practice in Florida, the 1768, this is too
much. I am so delighted and so surprised and so elated that
I cannot live with myself. So, then I buy another magazine,
a holiday magazine and that says the same thing. My
goodness, I says, how can this be, I have been through so
much church with my Detroit experience and the Worcester
experience never heard the Greeks having practiced Orthodox
faith in Florida.
L:That is certainly not in the 1760s.
F:1768. So anyway, I have to write to the archbishop but I do not
know his address, so I write to the priest in Detroit.
L:But you knew the Archbishop was in New York anyway?
F:Oh, I knew that but I did not know exactly where. So I wrote to
the priest in Detroit and he send me the address to the
Archdiocese and I write the Archbishop and he answers me. He
said what I am reading in your letter is making my hair stand
on end. We shall commemorate those early pioneers.
L:This was his answer to your letter?
F:Yes, so I have the letter in mind. In the meantime, I am trying
to find some Greeks around here, you know. This is not all
in one night, a month goes by. So I go to and I go
to and I show them my letter. Oh, we know about it.
L:This is Tom Xynidis and Despina was his wife and then James
Kalivas and Stella?
F:Oh yes, your are right. You are
L:All I have here is a little write up about the St. Photios
National Greek Orthodox Shrine that was written by Bishop
John and I just marked it here on page five see because it
mentions George and Olga Fotiou. Also, it mentioned the
Xynidis family, the Kalivas', whom you have just mentioned,
and then of course, Photio. So you asked them about it and
they said they already know.
F:Vaguely. They did not even think it was authentic that letter I
had. They got me sore. I said, this is the Archbishop's
reply to me. It is a big, big thrill for him to hear this
L:Yes because, as he says, he wants to commemorate the early
F:So I write back and then this is what happens. I am familiar
with this gesture that the Greeks were here, but how am I
gonna find out anymore. I go to the library to follow up the
story of a magazine. So the librarian, she says to me we
have the book, but it is out, so I cannot go anywhere with
that. So I says, what am I gonna do. I better go to the
historical library. So I go to the historical library.
L:Of the St. Augustine Historical Society?
F:Yes. So the lady says to me, oh, she said, I am so glad that
you are so interested in that subject because I have taken
notes and done manuscript writing for four years for a doctor
here that is writing the history of New Smyrna, that was Dr.
Panagopoulos. He had been here four years in a row doing his
L:Yes, he was at UF at the University of Florida in fact.
F:Yes. So I said I know Dr. Panagopoulos, I know him from Detroit.
I did not tell you that part.
L:No, I did not know you met him in Detroit earlier.
F:I met him in Detroit. We were having a dinner in Detroit, a
church dinner, and there was a Miss Wayne University, a Greek
girl, a lovely girl, and I knew here, Mary Ball. I said
Mary, can you find me a speaker for our luncheon? Can you
find us a nice person to speak on the Greek activities, I
mean the history or something. So she says, yes I know Dr.
Panagopoulos and I will talk to him and I will get him for
L: He is a historian?
F:And here I meet him in Detroit and I know who Dr. Panagopoulos
is when she mentioned that he is doing this research. She
says he is writing a book and four years I have worked for
him typing, this is too much for me.
L:Now you are finding out that a whole new world is opening.
F:So I said, why is not the book printed? She says, I do not
know, I said well, I am gonna get one of the fellows from the
community here and I will be back. So I went and got
In the meantime, I had talked to her because she
would not let me take the book out, she had the book, but she
says we do not leave any of our books out this is not a
public library. You have to come here and read everyday. So
everyday I go and read up on Panagopoulos's notes. Have you
heard of Dr. Corse?
F:Yes, well she had a book over there. I was reading Corita's
L:She wrote on the Minorcan group.
F:I will show you, I have got it over there. I kept reading about
what Corita had written. This one time I said I am coming
back to here. She says to me well, just a minute, I want to
find out. It is four years now, his book should be on the
way to be published. So she gets on the telephone and she is
calling the Gainesville, University of Florida Press. So she
gets on the phone with them and they said to here we doubt
that Panagopoulos book is not being written until Dr.
Gannon's book is out.
L:Michael Gannon is another historian.
F:I went and got and I said tell them what you heard on
the telephone. She says to me, it is people like you that
make me sick.
L:Really? She was upset because you called.
F:Yes, they gave her hell. They found out that this information
should not be out. So I got in Dutch with her.
L:She was a good source for you for the information.
F:Well, by this time I had finished reading Corita's book and the
book was not out that is why I was pursuing it. Why is not
this book out and that the reason is? The reason is that
Gannon is holding it up. Gannon lives right over here, you
L:Well, I know him only for the past several years because I met
him here at the University of Florida. But I did not know he
had a house in St. Augustine.
F:His mother lived right there. She just died and that is his
L:I understand that he was born...
F:He was born Monsignore here and he married a sixteen year old
girl and got kicked out of the church.
L:That was another story.
f:See, you are learning stuff you did not want.
L:Yes, I did not know that. I mean I knew he was a fun time
F:A sixteen year old girl, she went nuts. Anyhow, we will go back
to the historical society. So I am still reading Corita's
book. I am coming home. Oh, she got mad at me, she would
not look at me anymore. Here name was Doris Wiles. For four
years she printed and typed books for Panagopoulos.
L:I think his first name is ?
F:No, Epaminondas. I will show you his book, I will show you some
of my books. historical society. There is a little
street right there, there is a little bitty college. it is
too little to sit in two rocking chairs, there are two fig
trees on either side of the little college and then laden the
face. So I said to the little lady, would you sell me some
of your figs, my mother loves figs, Oh dear, if you come
back Saturday I will have all the figs you want. I will have
some youngster climbing the tree. So I said okay, that you
very much, I will be back Sunday. So I get my mother and I
am driving back in my little volkswagen. See, George had to
have another car up there. So we come over here in the
Volkswagen and I have got my mother and the little old ladies
there and we were chattering in Greek. So the little lady
says, what language are you talking? I said, Greek. She
said, my great Aunt speaks in Greek. Mrs. Turnbull was here
aunt, the Greek lady.
L:What a small world. You found the direct descendant from ...
F:Right there in front of my face.
L:What was her name?
F:Gracia Dura Bin.
L:So she was a direct descendant of Mrs. Turn Bull?
F:She had the whole history in her trunk.
F:Yes. So, I became great friends with her and she told me about
Corita Corse living in Jacksonville and I went out of my way
and got to know Corita, but it was not easy.
L:She is not an easy lady to get to know.
F:Oh no, not her. I used to go to church in Jacksonville cause we
had no church here. I would drive my mother and me over
there to church.
L:St. John the Divine?
F:That is right. Downtown in the old village.
L:Laura and Union Streets?
F:That is right, we would go down there and it was not easy to
find a parking space so I had to park quite a distance and
the service was over and I would come out at church and I
said to my mother, you stand right here cause I got to go get
the car and there is a lot of traffic, people are all getting
out of church downtown, there is a lot of churches in
Jacksonville in that area. I said, stay right here and I am
coming right back to pick you up. I come right back, she is
busy talking to this guy, a little old man. I said, come on.
The little old man says What kind of manners have
these kids got today, they do not respect there elders.
L:You were a kid to him?
F:Yes, I figured, she ought to know better that to strike a
conversation with this guy and I am in the heat of traffic.
so finally she break away from the guy and I go away. Well
this little old man is a friend of .He comes over
here to visit all the time and I get to meet him
over here and he changes his attitude. He think I am a nice
L:What was his name?
F;Tom Christo, he has been dead a long time. You have never met
L:I do not think so.
F:A little old man. It is just that I have gone through some
lists of the former AHEPA members and through some census
and I am trying to remember whether I saw his name or not.
The Felos, like the brothers, the one that had the shoe shine
L:They were Sam and Gerry Felos.
F:Yes, they new him. All the older Felos knew them because the
little old man was pretty active in church. I am talking
about this business of the Greeks early worshipping here and
he is very much interested now. He does not dislike me
anymore so he keeps visiting here, he would come here every
time and visit people and then would visit here. We got to
be friends. Finally, he passed away. I am writing to
L:Do ask about when the publication would take place.
F:Ms. Wiles had given me his address. So I am writing to him and
he is teaching at San Jose' University. They write to me and
I write to him and we have a regular correspondence. I have
got all this kind of writings at the mission here, not at the
mission, he has got it over here at St. Photios [Greek
Orthodox Shrine]. He tells me he is going to keep it here
but now he tells me he has got it over there.
L:But these things are still in the archives here for the future.
F:Yes, I have got a lot of stuff over there, a lot of stuff. The
two magazines are there.
L:That is an invaluable collection that really needs to be
preserved and looked after.
F:Well, I do not know if they realize these people. Bishop John I
do not like. It is his business to live here and help us
become I used to give my heart and soul working in there to
interpret and make people feel so good when they visited from
out of town to the mission, to the shrine.
L:Well yes, you were showing me pictures of visitors who were
raving about the good visit with you.
F:This bishop does not come and live here so he could be doing
some of the work that I used to do. Nobody's there that
talks Greek. Father Couchell is over here now.
L:Yes, at the mission.
F:Yes, and nobody is there.
L:That is right, nobody at the St. Photoios Shrine right now is
bilingual not since you left.
F:That is right, that hurts me.
L:Cause a young fellow who was there after you was not speaking
F:No, his mother was Jewish. Now they got the Alexander Scourby
film, but people do not have time to sit there half an hour.
They want to cover a lot of territory. In a few words you
could tell them the essence of the project. He covers a lot
of territory and it is all good, but people are in a hurry
and they do not want to sit there and listen. If the bishop
was there... You see, he costs us a lot of money and he is no
value to us at all. We pay all of his comings and goings, we
pay his hotels, we pay his transportation, we pay a lot of
money to that man and he does not service.
L:But yet he is the president is not he?
F:He should not be, because he does not do any work for it.
L:How did you eventually make the project come alive?
F:The archbishop was very much interested. He sent Ernie Villas
L:This is the gentlemen whose picture I saw?
F:Ernie would stay with me here. He would sleep with me here.
Villas is very, very important. He would stay here and
together he and I and the Archbishop [of the Greek-American
Archdiocese, Akovos] were the ones that pushed it and pushed
it and pushed it.
L:Of course you would need some money for the project to buy the
place to start with.
F:The Archdiocese bought it. The Felos, they had to give a down
payment. My husband was in Detroit, I could not give any
money. My mother would not. Well, we did give a thousand
dollars, but they had to sign the contract for them for the
purchase of the building.
L:Yes, the purchase contract.
F:Kalivas and Xynidis and ...
L:Let us see, whom else do we have here. We have Zapatos and
F:Temporarily, they made a gesture to hold the purchase and the
Archdiocese took it over and paid it up.
L:Yes, the Archdiocese had to kind of approve the purchase
F:The Archdiocese was interested but these people that
owned the building wanted a down payment so these people put
the down payment.
L:Then when the finally closing came about the Archdiocese was the
F:That took it over, paid the bill.
L:That was about 1965 I understand?
F:It must be. See they have the documents, I do not have any
L:I can tell you it is 1965 that the founders put up the down
payments, but the archdiocese put up the property.
F:Now when the Archbishop came here, I had been corresponding with
the Archbishop with our connections. When he came here to
see the building I was telling him this and telling his that.
We were in Zapatos car and I was relating this interesting
spot is and what that interesting spot is and then Kalivas
says to me, Olga you talk to much you better get out of this
car. He made me get out of the car so I got out and they
drove away and they went to the Ponce de Leon hotel. It was
still a hotel and we were having a banquet there so they all
went to the banquet and I had to walk from where the Fort is
all the way to the Ponce de Leon. I cried all the way.
L:I bet, I mean that was such a rude gesture.
F:Because I talk too much. So, in the meantime, Connie and her
husband and the two little boys come from Titusville and come
for the dinner and one of the little boys is restless and I
get there and I see that the little fellow is acting up so I
am with the little fellow and they are having the banquet and
they all get introduced and this and that and the other, a
big deal you know, and nobody mentions me. So the Archbishop
is the last speaker so he says, and my dear friends he say,
last but not least I want to introduce Mrs. Olga Fotiou who
has been bombarding my office with letters about this
project. He acknowledged me, the rest were jealous. I was
bilingual, these guys are ignorant, they cannot talk English.
L:You were the one who really pushed the project a lot more than
F:Well, between me and the Archbishop and Villas maybe they put
this little down payment but they got their money back, they
made a big stink about their money.
L:It is not as if they were donating it or losing it, it was
coming back to them at the time of the purchase.
F:They got it back. So that is how it happened.
L:So this was Archbishop Lakovos but he did acknowledge that you
were the one pushing the project, you were the one writing
F:He said I was the one bombarding his office with letters. He
sent Villas over and Villas and I carried on.
L:When did they decide on the addition of the Shrine to the Avero
F:You mean when they restored it?
L:Yes, I understand they first restored the Avero House and then
they added the Shrine.
F:They all went together.
L:Oh, it was all done at the same time?
L:Were you involved in the committee that hired Pappas to do the
F:The archbishop said now you folks have to get together and raise
a little money so you can have money to work with. So I
organized a dinner with the local people and I gave them a
thousand dollars between me and my mother. Well you know
they never even mentioned that thousand dollars.
L:Is that right? But you organized the dinner for the fund
F:Yes, at the Episcopal church.
L:Well it must have been successful because something got started?
F:Oh no, then what did they do, they said we are gonna organize a
club. We are going to start a club and amongst themselves,
more family members among one family, the Sarris family. So
they started a club and the Archbishop said you folks have to
start a club and try to work and raise a little money for
your project. So George and I composed a letter to send to
all these people, twenty four letters. I started off by
saying dear countrymen. So we met over here at the Episcopal
church. One of the women said to me, who wrote this letter,
I said, George and I. She said, it is all wrong. I said,
what is wrong. She said not dear countrymen, you say dear
friends. Dear countrymen we are concerned, we have a project
we are working on.
L:You are talking to Greek Americans.
F:Yes, dear countrymen, I am not talking to strangers or friends.
So that made me hurt and I ran off. They started a Greek
club for themselves, they call it the Hellenic Society and
they wanted a church of their own and they made that church
on 7th and Waldo Street, the Sarris family and all their kin.
L:Is that right, so it is not really a community project, the
purchase of the church, it was really the Sarris family who
F:That is Greek style.
L:This detail is not well know because it is just said well the
Greek Americans in St. Augustine have a church and it is on
St. Waldo Street, it is the Holy Trinity is not it.
F:It was a spiteful thing.
L:I suppose because before that everybody was coming together.
F:Before that they had the society and I would attend the society.
So the mother of the clan over there and I said are we going
to have a dance. So they printed the thing and they were
gonna have it in the newspaper. It said the Greek Society is
starting and they are going to raise money and they are going
to have a dance and they have started raising money and they
start having the dance year after year. I said, you know
people get a wrong impression, they all think that all this
money is going to St. Photios because we were advertised and
we made headlines in the papers and the Archbishop was
working on the St. Photios Shrine we are working on this
historical thing. She said, the mother gets up and says, oh
forget St. Photios. Well that was the end of me and that,
forget St. Photios, for St. Photios brought them together and
they said forget St. Photios.
L:So what was the purpose of the whole Hellenic Society?
F:For that little church on Waldo Street.
L:So they switched from St. Pholios Shrine project to the family
F:Yes. I go there but because, I figure, God is god.
L:Yes, church is church.
F:You see the air conditioning is on top of the ceiling and it
hits you right on the head and every time I got I get sick.
So I do not go in the summertime when they got the air
conditioning. In the winter, I do not mind the heat but in
the summertime that cold hits me, I have had a terrible time
L:So how did the St. Pholios Shrine or the Avero House restoration
finally get off the ground.
F:Well, from the Archdiocese, they paid all the bills. Pappas did
all the construction and I guess he did his part.
L:Well just for the record, I will mention it. It was Ted Pappas
an architect who has his office in Jacksonville, Florida.
F:A leading architect in Florida. He is pretty good. He did it
and Ted Johnson. Ted Johnson did a lot.
L:Ted Johnson was one of the church people. I know Ted but he was
really, I guess, leading the committee that was organizing.
F:You know the picture I showed you with all the faces?
F:There was a group from Jacksonville and when we had one of our
meetings with the Archbishop and he said to form a committee
I said, you eminence you better get people from Jacksonville
because the people in St. Augustine will do nothing. They
had built a church in Jacksonville, they new what it was all
about. They were progressive and they were knowledgeable and
they could speak English.
L:That is true.
F:The people here were backward. You see they told me to get out
of the car because I talked. They wanted their kind of
L:Yes, that is just unbelievable that such rudeness exist. You
have to walk a good fifteen blocks or so.
F:Well, to be upset it was a long walk.
L:I bet, from the Fort all the way to the Ponce de Leon hotel.
F:That is right.
L:Well I know from looking at some of the stuff that the
Jacksonville Journal of April 3, 1975 shows the building as
it was then.
F:That is the way that it was in the beginning.
L:So then I guess most of the work took place sometime between
1975 and 1980 over those following five years?
F:Well it was all up to Ted Pappas. He did a lot of work. I can
show you more of the construction, but let me illustrate
something. Now you see that, the Episcopal church over
L:Yes, I saw the steeple, that is how I recognized it.
F:A Episcopal church and over here is a Catholic convent,
why am I in the middle?
L:Well I wonder.
F:I wonder too.
L:Must have some significance.
F:It is an odd thing to have a little Greek Orthodox between those
two big sharks.
L:How did you get to buy 28 Cadiz Street anyway?
F:You see we built the house on the beach and I had those severe
asthma attacks and if I had to rush to the hospital and if
the bridge was stuck I would be a dead pigeon on that side so
I had to have a house on this side. I was in Detroit and the
real estate lady wrote me and said I found a house for you
and this was it. I had to have a house on this side of the
L:So you got Cadiz Street and you kept the house on the beach.
F:Oh we still have the house on the beach and this is another
story the house on the beach. My daughter's husband was
fighting with his kids, especially the youngest one and my
daughter says mother, there is gonna be murder in this house.
You have got to get Philip out of here, give him the beach
house. I gave up my beach house.
L:This is Janice's husband or Connie's?
F:Connie's, Janice's husband died, he was in an auto accident.
L:Did they have children?
F:No, but Connie has three boys.
L:Do you see them from time to time.
F:You know people today are so strange.
L:So they are not coming around to see you.
F:See her boy is a policeman, the oldest one.
L:Just to finish up over here I wanted to add that in 1981 in ...
F:See, this is my mother and this is me and this is ...
Interviewer: Larry Odzak
Interviewee: Olga Fotiou
Date of Interview: October 30, 1996
St. J. 17
L:This is tape two and we are continuing the interview with Mrs.
Olga Fotiou. I am looking at a picture of her, very lovely,
much younger, somewhat younger, Mrs. Fotiou, her daughter and
F:It is my mother and me and the grandchild.
L:Beautiful. You were able to make such a nice picture of that.
F:It is kind of interesting.
L:So that is your mother, Julie?
F:Yes, that is my mother and me and that is George. Now did you
notice that I had a lot of material from the Clintons?
L:Yes, I see there is Bill Clinton and Hillary.
F:It is to me, directly.
F:It is to our friend, Mrs. George. Go read it.
L:I will do that. It says to Olga Fotiou, a good friend, who has
stood behind us and the party for nine years, thank you. It
is signed Bill Clinton and Hillary Roddham-Clinton. That is
F: you would be surprised. You do not want anymore? Is
this the end?
L:No, I was gonna say you were active in politics in Detroit, were
you not? You were showing me some pictures before the
F:Yes, I used to work there like nobodies business.
L:Were you always a democrat?
F:Oh yes, always.
L:Were most Greeks in Detroit democratically inclined or did you
have some republicans?
F:No, not really. Well, that is not it, I have a lot of political
L:But you are not working right now?
F:No, I cannot do it now, see my memory is not very good. It is
not very good.
L:I do not know, I am thinking about this interview and I think
your memory is very nice.
F:These are all citations from the preservation board.
L:Here is another one that says historic St. Augustine
Preservation Board, Department of State, State of Florida,
and it gives a certificate of appreciation to Olga Fotiou.
It is signed by, who else, Michael Gannon. There is his
signature, Michael B. Gannon, January 6, 1978. So you see,
what goes around comes around. He recognized you anyway.
F:See this is from the Governor Graham, all the people that have
been in Tallahassee, our state representatives and so forth.
This is all from Washington.
L:That is a whole folder, again. Is this the newest stuff you
have? You must have folders going back over the years.
F:No, I do not have, I have stuff...
L:Here is a card with a photograph.
F:That is Chelsea's cat.
L:With a photograph of Chelsea Clinton's cat. Have you ever met
the new Archbishop, Spyridon?
F:He just got to be the bishop. I will tell you about him. Now
in the Island of Corfu they have a St. Spyridon.
F:I will show you. That was my mother's favorite Saint and we
would go and he was in the casket and it was open. I have a
picture of the casket over there.
L: So his remains are still in Corfu?
F:In Corfu, yes. See this is my mother's handwriting and this is
what they do. They have slippers on the Saint. He is in the
casket, he is mummified, and they put slippers on his feet
and then you go and you want to open up the casket and then
they give you a piece of his slipper. So there is a piece of
the Saint's slipper in there and you give a donation.
L:It is a folder paper and on the bottom on the caption of St.
Spyridon it says Kerkyra, which is Corfu, and on the right-
hand side it says Spyridonos.
F:You want to see the piece of the slipper?
L:May I? That would be really wonderful. You have it with you
all the time, I guess?
F:My mother used to send money to them all the time. They would
send her a piece of the slipper.
L:Did you ever visit Greece?
F:Yes, when I was a little girl and then when I went back that one
L:Yes, 1934. Did you go anytime after the war, after 1945?
F:You see when you have a family you have so many obligations that
you just cannot do the things you wanted.
L:Of course, and you travel throughout the states with the kids.
F:Yes. We did as much as we possibly could within our income. It
was too much for us to travel to Europe with a family.
L:Well I just wanted to finish this that in July of 1981 they
established the charitable foundation for the St. Photios
Shrine. In February of 1982 the shrine was dedicated. You
have some pictures that you were showing me from that. Then
the chapel was consecrated at the same time, the one with the
many icons. Then you ended up working in the gift shop of
the shrine from the beginning after it opened?
F:I worked for ten years.
L:Did you organize all the purchases and things? How did that
F:No, Couchell would buy those.
L:I see, Father Dimitrios.
F:He was in the church service in New York he was familiar with
what they needed.
L:Did you like that job?
F:Oh, I loved it.
F:I like people and the people would say to me, have you ever been
a teacher? I would like to instruct, communicate and educate
and because they showed a bit of interest I was more than
delighted to tell them all I knew. It would be fascinating
and delightful. Then, I would meet people that I had met
through the years from Detroit and friends that had moved
away from Massachusetts they would come. I was thrilled to
see old friends.
L:Well I know what a pleasure it was for us when we came only from
Jacksonville, which is not too far, and we see you in the
gift shop, Ms. Fotiou was there, we got to go say hello.
F:You see somebody that you know that you have connections with,
that is what makes life pleasant.
L:Yes, especially when Hope got a couple of icons and things.
F:It was a nice connection, pleasant for everybody.
L:You retired from that job?
F:I got sick. You see they keep it sixty degrees in there, cold,
so the pictures do not deteriorate. They have to keep it
cold for the icons and it is sixty degrees and I get so
crippled with arthritis in there and the asthma was so
aggravating I had to give it up. They would never let me
raise the heat and there was no water and I had to take pills
every four hours with my asthma.
L:There is no running water? Is not there some upstairs?
F:Yes, but for me, I could not leave my work to go upstairs.
L:Yes, the gift shop is downstairs and they would have to lock it
up and go upstairs.
F:Now they got a bubbler with water. When I was there they would
not get me one. I even wrote the Archbishop, I said, I love
to work here but there is not any water.
L:So how do you enjoy full retirement? You cannot retire fully,
you have got to do something.
F:I sit on the porch and I talk to everybody, people are tickled.
They take my picture and they send it to me. They just love
it because it is so different, unprepared.
L:That is wonderful. Cadiz Street is right in the middle of the
F:It is downtown. You see the Episcopal Church and the Catholic
church here I am right in the middle. This is significant
for me to be in between those two churches.
L:You are right along between Charlotte on the one hand and St.
George Street on the other hand.
F:Right here, this is Artillery and this Cadiz and the Catholic,
there are thirty-one nuns there, it is a nunnery.
L:In the Catholic establishment?
F:Yes, right in back of us.
L:Just across the street.
F:There was a huge Catholic High School and when I bought this
house the kids said mother, my God, you do not want that
house it is so damp there. That school captures all your
sunshine. I said, what else can they do, there is no other
place to buy. So I bought that and God tore it down and
provided sunshine for me twenty-four hours a day.
L:It was torn down actually?
F:Because it got old, termites got it. They have a brand new high
L:Well, the Lord provided for you, sunshine. Maybe we can close
on this fine note. I hope the Lord provides for you in the
F:Well there is always faith and there is justice and I have been
through a lot, I have taken a lot of kicks.
L:But you have never lost faith, for sure?
F:That is one thing that I cannot let down is my faith.
L:Thank you very much for this afternoon.
F:It has been fun.