Back from Greece!

I continue to get clippings about my family (just skip this if you’re bored!). Here’s the family returning from our 2.5 years in Greece, as reported in the Evening Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) on July 15, 1957. I was seven then, and if you can make out the words below, I was reported to speak fluent Greek (something that I’ve been told several times, and which I believe, for I pick it up quickly when I visit Greece).  The statements of my folks about Greece show that they enjoyed it, but were glad to get back the “old hometown”. My father was fond of such bromides.*

We had a sizeable mansion in Greece, living in the small town of Kiffisia—a suburb of Athens. (I still remember the address, 23 Pentelis Street, but when I went back some years ago the house was gone.) An Army captain could afford such luxury because everything was cheap. We had several acres of gardens, tended by two gardeners named Yiorgos and Bobby, and a maid named Despina. There were also lots of stray cats that my mother fed.

As my dad noted, he missed fresh fruit, and I remember that an orange was a hard-to-find treat, even though it was Greece. Remember, this was ten years after the end of WWII, and the country was still suffering the aftereffects of the war and occupation.  I remember having to go down to the basement every morning to fetch two big cans of milk, as we weren’t supposed to buy fresh milk.  Some of the canned stuff went to the cats.

I was able to make out the text below, but it took time. Note that I had a big grin, for these were the days before I became lugubrious.

Tomorrow: How my grandfather killed his cousin.

*Every night my father would tuck me in, and often dispensed a witticism or bromide at bedtime. I remember several; here’s one: “Jerry, I’ve only been wrong once in my life, and that was when I thought I was wrong but I wasn’t.”

28 Comments

  1. Adam M.
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    “Jerry, I’ve only been wrong once in my life, and that was when I thought I was wrong but I wasn’t.”

    Hahah, I love it. 🙂

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    “Jerry, I’ve only been wrong once in my life, and that was when I thought I was wrong but I wasn’t.”

    My dad had a similar one. When he’d accept an admission of guilt from one of us kids without imposition of punishment he’d say “That’s ok; I made a mistake once myself … Didn’t like it, never made another again.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 1, 2018 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      I always assumed they gave dads bromide-training during boot camp — like how to don a gasmask — before shipping ’em overseas during The War.

      • David Coxill
        Posted February 1, 2018 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        I thought bromide was to stop them becoming dads while they were overseas ?

        Two former soldiers are talking ,one says .
        “You know that stuff they gave us in the army to stop us thinking about neked women ?”

        “Yes ”

        “I think it is starting to work” .

    • Walt Jones
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      My favorite variation is: I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.

  3. mirandaga
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I lived in Greece for three years (1970-1973) as a Fulbright Lecturer in Amercian lit at the U. of Athens. I lived first in Pireaus, south of Athens, then moved north to the more plush surroundings of your “home town” of Kiffisia.

    Though this was well after WWII, Greek families were still preoccupied with the food supply, but in this case it took the form of over-feeding their children. Parents stuffing food into the mouths of their not-so-young children was a common sight at Tavernas. As a result, almost all of the young children were fat. Strangely, very few teenagers were, leading me to the conjecture that the Greeks shipped out their children when they reached puberty and imported other children from somewhere else.

    As for the language, there are really only two expressions you need to know to get my in Greece: “Then birazi,” which means “It doesn’t matter” or (as most Greeks translated it) “Never mind!” and “Siga, siga,” which means “Slowly, slowly.”

  4. Posted February 1, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Hardly boring. The charm of a bygone era when an army Captain and his family returning from abroad would warrant a story and picture in the hometown newspaper. There aren’t any hometown newspapers anymore.

    • Paul S
      Posted February 1, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Sure there are, we have the Homer Horizon. Local stories, events and of course the police blotter.

  5. Posted February 1, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I like these bits of Coyneiana. It’s like a personal geography. That bedtime bromide is a great one!

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 1, 2018 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I enjoy these bits of family history very much.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I do not know the history of our U.S. military in Greece but it use to be substantial and then we mostly got out. I think Greece got out of NATO and we went through an unfriendly period. Maybe still some Navy in the area but not much else. France was another place we got out of long ago as they left NATO. I guess they are back in now. When I was in the service many years ago we had commitments to other European countries like Turkey, Italy, Spain, Denmark. Those places I went to but never Greece.

  7. EliHershkovitz
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Nothing lugubrious about this post.

  8. Posted February 1, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    That is a swim coaches favorite thing to say:

    _____,I’ve only been wrong once in my life, and that was when I thought I was wrong but I wasn’t.

  9. Cate Plys
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Keep it coming, especially the bromides!

  10. Paul S
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Learning family history can be fun, but I’m curious about the fishing boat disaster with 270 drowned. That’s a big fishing boat.

    • Nobody Special
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      It was probably a fishing boat and processing plant combined, a veritable factory-scale operation at sea.

  11. Posted February 1, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I suppose your mother was often taken for a Greek woman, she has a beautiful face, with very fine features.

  12. Posted February 1, 2018 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    It’s sweet, Jerry. Nostalgic and sweet.

  13. shelleywatsonburch
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Love these posts!

  14. David Coxill
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    I thought bromide was to stop them becoming dads while they were overseas ?

    Two former soldiers are talking ,one says .
    “You know that stuff they gave us in the army to stop us thinking about neked women ?”

    “Yes ”

    “I think it is starting to work” .

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 1, 2018 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

      Seems i have posted this twice .
      Doesn’t get any funnier.

  15. Helen
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    I was so excited to come home from a late shift to see this after taking care of things that needed doing. I had a conversation at work about how names change, explaining some name changes in my own family and learning a lot about how common it really is with more people than I ever thought.

  16. Posted February 2, 2018 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    Language learnt before about 8 & not reinforced is apparently more easily forgotten bu children, sometimes completely.

    • Nobody Special
      Posted February 2, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      Looks like you’ve remembered just enough English to make yourself understood. 🙂

  17. Bob
    Posted February 2, 2018 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Who we are is very much a product of those who came before us. My great-grandfather and his brothers left Ohio for Kansas in 1855 where my great granduncle was murdered. Why was he murdered? They were part of the abolitionist who flooded Lawrence, Kansas to ensure it would be a free-soil state rather than a slave state. Border Ruffians killed him. My family and I have always been left of center and I do believe it is in the genes. By the way, George Washington Barber is buried on the University of Kansas, Lawrence campus cemetery.

  18. Posted February 2, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Interesting that the newspaper would do an article like this – it makes documentation easier later on!


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