Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

1-harry-and-billie-2016It was the close community of Greeks that gave Harry and Billie Platis their happiness and feeling of security while growing up in Everett, Washington.

Vasilios (Bill) Platis and his brother 2-vasili-platis-1940sSam came to the United States on November 1, 1910, on the ship RED ITALIA from, Vagia, near Thebes in Central Greece, about 100 miles north of Athens. He came with the three Valengas brothers: Harry, George and Pete. The three Valengas brothers settled in Seattle. Bill and Sam moved to White Center, just south of Seattle, and opened a market and the Rendezvous Tavern in what is now the Pike Place Market.

3-vasilil-and-eula-wedding-partyPanaeula “Eula” Argetes was from the town of Kranidi near Porto Cheli, southwest of Athens in the Peloponnese.  Her family members were sheep herders in Greece. Her thea (aunt) Lilly Kipris had immigrated to Boise, Idaho.  With three girls and two boys, Eula’s mother knew that a better life awaited her children in America so Eula and her brother Thedore joined their aunt in Boise.  It was there that thea Lilly brought Bill from Seattle to wed her niece.

Bill and Eula were married in 1940 and moved to Seattle’s 4-beacon-hill-home-1940sBeacon Hill neighborhood.   Three children were born to the couple: George on April 6, 1942, Haralambos (Harry)   Vasilios (Bill) on September 21, 1943 and Vasiliki (Billie) on December 31, 1945. Billie was an infant when their father died tragically and Eula was left alone to raise her three small children for the next six years. Uncle Sam and Effie Platis who lived in and operated a café in the White Center area were very helpful and visited regularly. There were also supportive 4a-argetes-family-l-r-george-george-theodore-virginia-eula-1940sGreek families on Beacon Hill.  The Gus Zarkades family lived nearby and the Costacos family not far away. Eula would take her children to church on the bus every Sunday, another way of remaining close to her Greek friends.

Fortunately, Connie Raptis (nee Kolyris) and her husband Andy lived in nearby Everett, Washington, and knew the Platis family.  Connie’s cousin Jim Colliers, (his last name anglicized from Kolyris) was divorced, had custody of his five sons and operated the Orient Tavern in Everett with his brother Gus.  In March of 1952 Eula’s second arranged marriage took place in the home of their 5-george-bilie-harry-circa-1946 7-eula-and-colliers-circa-1968close cousins, the Raptis family. A blended family was created. Eula’s brother Theodore had also settled in Everett where he was a notable chef at the London Café until he died of cancer at age 56.

In Everett the Colliers/Platis family of 10 lived in rooms below the Orient Tavern. Jim became their “Pops” and they loved him as their real father. Harry describes him as an outgoing, fun-loving character who always had a big cigar “flapping in the air” from his mouth. The Platis children’s sleep was often interrupted by the noises from the tavern above and it was many 6-eula-and-jim-circa-1965years before Harry remembers having the pleasure of sleeping in his own bedroom. Eula did her best to care for her five stepsons although she was not always accepted by them even though she treated them as if they were her own.  When Eula died four of the five stepsons surprisingly attended her funeral all with tears in their eyes – testimony to the years she cared for them.  Two even came from out of state.  Jim’s uncle Nick or papou (grandfather), Connie Raptis’ father, lived with the Raptis family until he died at age 96.  Eula’s father, George Argetes, known as the “ice cream man,” also lived with the family on his various trips to earn money in the United States and then return to Greece.

As the family lived in the Riverside neighborhood (Everett’s poorer area) and operated a tavern on 8-picnic-scene-harry-seated-at-right-late-1960sBroadway, they were often seen as less desirable citizens by the wealthier families that lived on Rucker Hill.  Jim Colliers opened the tavern in the morning and Eula followed in the afternoons while Jim sat with the children as they did their homework. Then, every day except Sunday, she worked at the London Café at night but was always at home to cook breakfast and see her children off to school.

The family home was a center of activity for Everett Greeks with almost an “open banquet” provided by Eula.  The Frank Drosos, Maniotis, Ramas and Koutlas (see EVERETT REMEMBERED) families were frequently in attendance.  Billie remembers Madelyn, Goldie and Georgia Backlezes, t9-jim-colliers-at-picnic-late-1960she Amunsis family and Mary Edwards.   Without a Greek Orthodox Church nearby, Eula strove to have her children keep their Christian faith and took them to the Baptist church in Everett.  There were the trips to St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle, at least every Christmas and Easter (as Jim Colliers told his family) “for insurance purposes.”

10-eula-colliers-1969Although Eula could neither read nor write English and did not drive, she helped make the Orient Tavern into a “gold mine,” even bringing “high class” go-go dancers from Seattle.  Jim Colliers died in 1968 and Eula, with help from her children, continued to operate the tavern which provided the family with a very good income in the 1960s.    In her later years, with her social security check and assistance from her son Harry, she was living comfortably in nearby Mukilteo, Washington.  Harry would visit regularly but one night in 1980 he was unable to do so.  That night, tragically, an old television set in the home shorted out and caused a gas explosion and fire leading to Eula’s untimely death.   Fortunately, a visit that night by her granddaughter and grandson had been cancelled.

GEORGE

The oldest Platis son, George, played football at Everett High 11-eula-harry-george-and-vasili-circa-1943School.  He served for four years as a medic in the United States Navy.  He loved automobiles and was an impeccable dresser.  Having been away from Everett, he had few connections for employment but was able to use his excellent sales ability selling men’s clothing.  When Nick Carras opened the Holiday Oldsmobile dealership in Everett, it was a natural transition for George.  In 1974 he acquired his first dealership, Bellevue Datsun and in 1980 he purchased the Bellevue Cadillac and Oldsmobile dealerships.  During the 1980s he became one of the largest automobile dealers in the Pacific Northwest operating up to eight 12-george-platis-circa-2000-from-memorial-carddealerships at one time. George married Jill Scofield.  Their son, Damon and his wife Trish have two sons.  Another tragedy struck the Platis family when George became ill with pancreatic cancer.  His family cared for him for over 32 months until he passed away on April 9, 2013. Billie remembers her older brother as the bossy one “with a heart of gold” who became the leader when their father died.  In his earlier years, George could not wait to leave the small town of Everett but came to appreciate the values and experiences he learned there as a youngster.

HARRY

After graduating from Everett High School Harry first attended Everett Junior College for a year, then the University of Washington.  He finished his undergraduate work with a degree in economics from Central 13-billie-harry-eula-and-jim-at-harrys-hs-graduation-1961Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington.  The year was 1964 when he was seeking work in the banking industry and “Pops” told him he was the one with the brains in the family and he should become a lawyer.  Harry had not considered the legal profession. His grades were not exceptional and he hadn’t taken the LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test) but was fortunate to be accepted, albeit on probation, in the night school program at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.  Of 85 students who began the program he was one of 21 who graduated after four years.  He has the utmost respect for the program, its Jesuit instructors and practicing attorneys who contributed to his education.  In return, he was later able to contribute funds for a room in the law school at Gonzaga with and plaque that bears the Platis name.

After law school, Harry was back in Everett without debt and with a little 14-harry-circa-2000money from his parents.   He met two attorneys who offered to let him use their conference room, library and secretary.  Thus, he began his law practice on his own and has continued independently since 1970.   Initially he was assigned public defense cases by a judge who frequented the London Café.  Harry chose not to plead the cases.  Rather, he found that working in the “pit” (courtroom) gave him the experience he needed.  His practice evolved into tort litigation and personal injury law.   Along the way, Harry also assisted two young Greek attorneys, Tom Conom and Tommy Rakus by bringing them into his firm.  At this writing, he continues his practice but with selected cases.

15-clarence-stanley-circaClarence Stanley was a “swamper” at the Orient Tavern – one who cleans, stacks supplies and performs other tasks.  He also “hustled” pool for a living from his days in New York during the Depression.  That is how Harry started playing the game.  Clarence and Harry remained very close friends until Clarence died at age 87. He was like an uncle to Billie and like a grandfather to her two children. Over time, Harry became proficient, even earning money during his college years and leaving school at age 19 to play competitively.  On one occasion in Las Vegas, Nevada, after losing to a less skilled “old timer,” Harry was told simply, “look at these gray hairs,” and Harry learned that patience and experience were the real keys to winning the game.  During law school in Spokane he won money for tuition and played on weekends at the Playfair Race 16-harry-playing-pool-2000Track.  After law school he 17-harry-with-his-pool-collage-2015missed several years of playing.  Then, after his mother died, Harry found  playing pool to be very therapeutic as he could concentrate and be in his own world.  He has since played on the professional circuit competing with every top player in the world.  And now, with his own gray hair, he plays not just better, but much smarter.   One can learn much more about Harry’s pool experiences at www.onepocket.org/HarryPlatisPoolInAction.htm or www.poolinaction.com/One-Pocket-Hall-of-Fame/2010-HOF-Inductions/i-C76Rjbg

18-harry-and-alethea-1980s 20-harry-and-alethea-2014 19-stephanie-harry-and-alexandra-1995

In 1984, Harry met Alethea Prineas at an AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Professional Association) picnic.  They were married the following year. Their daughters, Stephanie and Alexandra, live nearby. Harry and Alethea have one granddaughter, Anastasia.

BILLIE

Vasiliki “Billie” Antak (nee Platis) loves her Greek upbringing and has always loved living in Everett.  As the youngest and only girl in the family, she was a bit naïve and over-protected by her older brothers.  Some of her non-Greek friends envied the way in which her older brothers “bossed” her around and considered her lucky to have them care so much.  And, in later years Billie’s brothers treated her children as if they were their own.

As a child in Seattle only Greek was spoken in the home.  She 21-billie-in-everett-high-school-1960sremembers playing outside with neighborhood children without their parents having concerns about their safety. The name Billie came about when her father became ill and told Eula to change Vasiliki’s name from “Vicki” to “Billie.”   She attended school in Seattle for only six months before her widowed mother married Jim Colliers and the family moved to Everett.

22-billie-children-nickolas-and-tawnya-with-their-uncle-harry-1970sWhen she ran for homecoming queen, one teacher thought she was a “bit dark” to be considered.  It was also thought the school song, based on The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, might have to be changed as she had neither blue eyes nor golden hair.  When she finished high school in Everett, she attended Mr. Lee’s Beauty School on Second Avenue in Seattle, traveling back and forth six days a week from Everett.  In 1966, her former neighbor, Mrs. Costacos, helped her obtain her first job at Trend Coiffure on Seattle’s First Hill while she still commuted with a 23-harry-eula-billie-jill-george-lilly-kipris-1960sfriend from Everett.  When her father became ill and Harry was away at school, Billie ran the Orient Tavern while her mother Eula was at the hospital with Jim.   When her children became older she worked at Petosa’s On Broadway restaurant, in the Cascade Restaurant (see “SO I SAID, OK!”) and at the Harbour Pointe QFC grocery store. She has two children, Tawnya and Nickolas, and four grandchildren all who live near her in Everett.  Billie maintains regular contact with five of her best friends from high school.

LOOKING BACK

Harry remembers that his friends would rather come to the Colliers home rather than any other.  Eula had 24-daughters-float-in-everett-1950sa perpetual “open house” for his friends as well as others who congregated there.   She cared deeply for her children and stepchildren, although she would be known to say “na se vrasso” (I will boil you) when admonishment was necessary.  Billie learned that her natural father was a fine man. Then, at the age of nine, she told her stepfather, “Dad, I always forget you are not my real dad.  He said “Sis, I love you like my own.  Don’t ever forget that.” While living under a tavern may have been less than desirable, the love of family and friends more than compensated.  Harry has held every office in 25-harry-with-family-in-greece-1997AHEPA at the chapter and district levels and Billie was a stalwart member of the Daughters of Penelope (the AHEPA women’s affiliate) in Everett until the chapter closed.  She is now with the Seattle chapter.  For a number of years Harry and Billie participated in “Ever on Sunday,” an Everett Greek community event, the profits of which were contributed to a number of local organizations.  Billie can think only of Everett as her home.

On a recent trip to Greece while spending time with cousins, Harry was gratified to learn how they lived a rather simple yet happy life.  He believes if his ancestors had not come to the United States, his life in Greece would have been much less stimulating than it has been in Washington.  He learned that he had to work hard in order to make his family proud. For both Harry and Billie, that approach to life and the closeness to family have given them lifelong satisfaction.

By John and Joann Nicon, November, 2016
VIDEO SEGMENTS
PHOTOS
1 Harry and Billie, 2015
2 Vasili Platis, 1940s
3 Vasili and Eula (center) wedding party, others not identified, 1940
4 Beacon Hill home, Seattle, 1940s
4a Argetes family (l-r) George, George, Theodore, Virginia Eula, 1940s
5 George, Billie, Harry, circa 1946
6 Eula and Jim Colliers, circa 1965
7 Eula and Jim, circa 1968
8 Picnic scene, Harry seated at right, 1960s
9 Jim Colliers at Eagles picnic, Lake Stevens, 1960s
10 Eula, 1969
11 Eula, Harry, George and Vasili, circa 1943
12 George Platis, circa 2000
13 Billie, Harry, Eula and Jim at Harry’s high school graduation, 1961
14 Harry, circa 2000
15 Clarence Stanley, 1980s
16 Harry playing pool, 2000
17 Harry with his pool photo collage, 2015
18 Harry and Alethea, 1980s
19 Stephanie, Harry and Alexandra, 1995
20 Harry and Alethea, 2014
21 Billie in Everett High School, 1960s
22 Harry with Billie’s children Tawnya and Nickolas, 1970s
23 Harry, Eula, Billie, Jill, George and Lilly Kipris, 1960s
24 Daughters of Penelope float in Everett, 1950s
25 Harry with family in Greece, 1987
Photo 17 by John Nicon, 21 by Kennel Ellis, all others from Platis family collection
SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, December 2015