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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Chapter 4 - A Young Mechanic

  George (Yeorgos), Constantine and Vasilis (Bill) circa 1927

This is the second post related to the Family History Writing Challenge during the month of February.  Where I am focusing on my Greek family history while my father's memory is still good.  This is Chapter 4, chapters 2 & 3,  have yet to be posted, as they need a bit of tidying up.


“Yeorgo, Yeorgo….…. YEORGO”.

Olga was calling out the front of the house. 

“Where is that boy?  He is gone again?” “YEORGO!!”  Nitsa was sitting quietly in the corner, doing her homework, but Yeorgo could not be found. 

“Nitsa, run over to the field and see if you can find Yeorgo and tell him to come home.” Ever obedient, off Nitsa ran, skirts flying around her legs, her polished leather shoes kicking up the dust.  She ran down the dusty street to the edge of Tripolis, to the field by the church, where the boys would play to find Yeorgo there with a small gang of assorted boys from school, kicking a ball around.

“Yeorgo, Mama is upset, it’s dinner.  You know you’re supposed be home before dark.”
“What’s for dinner?” I said shouting, still racing for the ball that my friend had just kicked
“Egg-Lemon Soup, your favourite” replied Nitsa “come on, Mama will get angry”
I said “See you later to my friends, Vasili, come on!” and turned down the street with Nitsa, towards our house in Argos.  My four year old brother, came racing behind me, my ever present shadow.

When we arrived home, Papa was just arriving from work, hanging his hat on the hook at the door and removing his dark suit jacket.  He still looked imposing, but the aura of the judge, melted away, as he gave all three of us a hug and a kiss.

Mama was not so forgiving and scolded me for being late again, pushing both Vasili and I, out the back door to wash.  “Make sure you both wash the dirt off your face and hands, you are filthy!” 

The water was cold and I was in a hurry for food, but I let Vasili go first.  Vasili was still little and he needed some help, besides we all coddled the baby of the family. 

His smile was big as he went to the table to sit down.  His positive energy seemed to rub off on Mama, melting away the scolding she was just about to give us.

We all sat at the table, bowed our heads, requesting our Blessing from God, crossing ourselves from left to right in the Greek Orthodox tradition.  Dinner started with avgolemono, my favourite.  My mother had mastered the technique of whisking the eggs, so they seemed almost as thin as water, and then blending them into the soup without curdling them.  The result was a lovely light soup with chicken and rice.  Together with the crusty bread and the tomato, cucumber and feta salad, we had a lovely meal.  

We waited until Papa began to eat, and then we dug in.  I was ravenous, the last time I ate, was some bread and cheese before the afternoon siesta, perhaps eight hours before.

After the main course, the grown-ups had coffee and we all ate some brandy soaked cherries.  They talked a bit about what had happened in the Court House today, the farmer who was fighting with his neighbour over property lines that could not be sorted out.  The old land records used four walnut trees to describe the property line and two of the walnut trees had died.

Then it was time for bed.  My father didn’t like us to stay out late into the night, like many of the other children.  He encouraged us to go to bed and rise early, so that we could do well at school.

All three of us went up to prepare for bed and then came back down to use the outhouse and say good-night to our parents.  As I lay in my bed, thinking about the day, I listened to my parents’ talking quietly downstairs and I thought how different Mama’s life was in our house, compared to the house of Yaya and Papoo. 

Here Mama worked in the kitchen and cooked, she had help from a girl, when she lived with her parents, there were more servants.  Yaya ran the house and Papoo spent his days, roaming his property on his fine black Arabian horse, like a Prince looking over his vast estates.  It was Yaya who came with her vast dowry, but it was Papoo who bore the regal air.  It seemed they were always like that, even in the photos on our wall.  Papoo looked like King Constantine in the photo hanging in our classroom, only more handsome.   Perhaps this is why my grandparents named Mama after King Constantine’s mother1, Queen Olga, they wanted her to be treated like royalty?

What would it be like if my mother was really a Queen and I were a secret Prince? How many wonderful toys I would have, perhaps even a shiny new πατιν, a scooter?  Then the boys at school would always include me in their games and pick me first to be on their soccer team.  I wouldn’t be teased for getting the highest marks in the class and I’d be able to stand up straight and feel the same way Papoo does.

My pleasant thoughts turned sour, as I remembered my dreams of a scooter.

I had worked so hard, getting 8’s and 9’s in all my subjects, doing best in French, Science and Math.  Only Religion and Cosmology were average grades.

“Papa, here is this year’s report.”, I had said as I handed him my marks.
“Excellent, παιδακι μου,  my child.  I am glad to see you persisted.  I see the Priest won’t be surprised with your marks in Religion, but nevertheless, not too bad.”
“Papa, do we get to place the order now?” I asked.
“What order, Yerogo?”
“The order for the scooter, remember?”
Papa looked puzzled.  “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you remember Papa, you said if I worked hard and improved my grades, I would get a scooter?” I replied, increasingly anxious.
“I never said such a thing!” Papa said, leaving no room for discussion.

The disappointment, frustration and anger at my father flooded back and I vowed I would have a scooter.  

Yeorgo awoke the next morning with a plan.  Dressing quickly, hurrying through his breakfast, His route to school was not direct, heading for one of the streets running off the plaka, there he stopped at a small mechanic’s shop.    This was a place he would often stop to watch the men work.


“Good morning Mr. Georgaros.”
“Kalimera, Yeorgo.  How are you today? Doing well at school?”
“Yes, Mr. Georgaros.  That is why I am here today.  I have a project, for Physics class.  We’re study motion and inertia.  I was wondering if you have some old parts, things you would be throwing out?”
“Mmm.  What were you thinking of Yeorgo”.
“I was hoping you might have a couple of old small wheels?  Old pipe and scraps of metal?”
“ Stop by on your way home and I'll see what I can find.”

School that day could not finish soon enough, as Yeorgo was focused on his plan.  The bell rang and  he was out the door heading to Mr. Georgaros’ shop.

“Hello Mr. Georgaros?”
“Yeorgo, I think you’ll be happy.  I have found a few things for you.”  He lead him to the back of his shop, where he had a few pieces of metal and pipe laid out, but most importantly there were two small wheels. 
“Will this do?”
“Perfect, Mr. Georgaros! Thank you so much!”
“It’s nothing, Yeorgo, I’m happy to help.”

Yeorgo could not have a siesta that afternoon, instead, Papoo found him working hard when he arrived home.  His concentration intense, his tongue sticking out as he worked. 

“Yeorgo, what are you doing?”
“Papa, let me show you, it’s done!”  At which point Yeorgo proceeded to demonstrate his home made scooter.  It worked perfectly and only needed a coat of black paint, to let him feel that he could hold his head up with the boys at school.  His father smiled and watched him scoot around, before heading into the house, oblivious to what had precipitated the construction project.

 Yeorgos Papaeconomou (Γεώργιος Παπαοικονόμου) - Circa 1890

Uranie  Kokoremba (Ουρανία Κοκορεβα) - Circa 1890

1 Constantinovna, Olga. "Olga Constantinovna of Russia." Olga Constantinovna of Russia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, n.d. Web. 9 February 2014.

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