Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

A Sister and Brother Act
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A Sister and Brother Act

Dina Salagianis Baker and Pete Salagianis
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1 Pete and Dina with family scrapbook, 2012Born just a year apart, Dina (Constantina) Salagianis Baker and Pete (Panagioti) Salagianis recall their early life in Yakama and Spokane while they enjoy retirement in Walla Walla, Washington.

Dina and Pete’s father, Artemis “Art” Panagiotis Salagianis, came to the United States from Greece in the 1920s to join his brother who was already working on the railroad in the Yakima Valley of Washington.  By the 1930s Art knew it was time to get married and returned to Greece.  He traveled through Canada and toured the European continent, arriving finally in the village of Mavromata near Karpenisi in the mountains of Central Greece.  His family members were sheep herders from another town but went to Mavromata in the summers to care for their flock.  It was there he met the Bakolas family.

Eleni Bakolas was an infant when Art first left Greece.  Now he was seen as somewhat of a hero and he saw her as the best and prettiest girl in the horio (village).  Despite some strained relationships between the families, Art and Eleni were married in a large wedding in Mavromata.  Art returned to Yakima with his bride where he worked his way up to section foreman on the Northern Pacific Railroad.  He had taught himself to read and write English and had beautiful handwriting.  Dina and Pete remember how their father grew to appreciate the luxuries in America and bought a 1934 Chevrolet.  He also sent money to the Bank of Athens thinking ahead to the time when the family would return to Greece to live. That was not to be.

2 Dina on the railroad tracks, circa 1934 3 Pete, Artemis and Dina on railroad putt putt, late 1930sThe family was living in a Northern Pacific Railroad house north of Yakima, Washington.  Their home was on a section of the railroad on the west side of the Yakima River.  Dina was born there on March 9, 1932, and Pete followed on August 15, 1933.  At that time the only way into Yakima was either by train or by car across the river on a very precarious swinging bridge.  They recall the Alex-Gianetsas family (see SPOKANE’S GENTLE GIANT) who lived nearby in Wymer but all the other Greek families were in Yakima.  Dina and Pete had begun grade school in Cowiche, Washington, but, because Art had a heart condition, he was unable to work on the main line of the railroad.  Thus the family moved a short distance to Weikel, mostly a fruit packing facility and a railroad station, where Art found a section foreman position.

4 Dina, Artemis and Pete with the Chevy, circa 1930s 5 Dina, Artemis, Eleni and Pete in front of Odd Fellows hall, Yakima, circa 1936Until they began school, Dina and Pete spoke only Greek at home.  Eleni’s father was a teacher in Greece and had sent her books which she used to tutor her children.  They value that early experience which was of considerable assistance throughout their schooling.  Pete says, however, that he never learned any swear words!  Although isolated from other Greek families, there were celebrations at the Salagianis home for namedays (the day commemorating the saint after which an individual is named in the Greek Orthodox Church), birthdays and holidays.  Greeks from as far as Cle Elum to the north and Pasco to the south would gather at the family home.  Art’s heart condition worsened and the family moved into Yakima shortly before he died in 1944.  Until his health began to fail, he would buy two lambs, feed them over the winter and by August 15 (Pete’s nameday) they would be ready for the feast.  Dina and Pete also remember festivities and gatherings in Yakima held by the Garras family.

6 Salagianis family (l-r) Eleni, Dina, Artemis, Pete, circa 1936 7 Dina and Pete with friend (at left), circa 1940In Yakima Pete never escaped work and in 1943, his mother sent him to get a job selling papers for the Yakima Republic.  Eleni even obtained an early dismissal from school for “Pano” (she was the only one who called him by his nickname).  Pete would catch a bus into town and “draw straws” to get the first 50 copies of the Yakima Republic in order to get to the best spot for selling.  He earned two cents per paper and would turn over his hard-earned dollar to his mother.  Pete remembers a number of Greek restaurants, one in an area with minorities and rowdy cowboys where he avoided selling papers.

8 Pete in evzone (Greek Honor Guard) uniform, circa 1944 9 Dina in traditional Greek costume, circa 1950Dina worked at a small Greek-owned convenience store called the “Pop In” on Yakima Avenue where newspapers, magazines, popcorn and soft drinks were sold.  It was on the same block as the Coney Island Café owned by  Harry Rallis and Mike Poulos.  (See REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN). Pete would occasionally fill in for his sister and remembers sneaking some popcorn and Nesbit’s Orange drink while the boss was away for a coffee break.

Dina and Pete attended Roosevelt Elementary School and Franklin Junior High in Yakima.   In 1947, after Eleni married Tom Panagos, they moved to Spokane where the children finished high school at Lewis and Clark.

10 Dina on her porch, late 1950s 11 Dina and Eleni, 1955Pete’s studies at the University of Washington were interrupted in 1954 when he spent two years in the Marine Corps.  He was stationed with the Marine Air Wing K-3 headquarters squadron in Korea.  He worked in a small office designed to prepare orders for atomic, biological and chemical warfare defense if necessary.  Fortunately, his time was limited to spending 24-hour rotating shifts answering the telephone.  When he returned to Washington State, he completed his course work for a degree in pharmacy and then worked as a pharmacist for six years in Spokane.  In 1966 he learned of an opportunity in Walla Walla, and moved there.  Over time Pete was able to purchase stock in a chain of low-cost drug stores and managed one of the stores.  He retired in 1993.

12 Pete, Dina and Nick Galanos, circa 1962After Dina finished high school at Lewis and Clark in Spokane she began her studies at the University of Washington.  She moved back to Spokane and worked for the Old National Bank where she met her husband, Carroll.  She eventually finished her bachelor’s degree with majors in French and psychology.  Her French has come in very handy while traveling in Europe.  Dina moved to Walla Walla a few years after Pete when Carroll transferred from Spokane Eastern Bank to what is now Bank of America in Walla Walla.

13 dina from directory While growing up Dina and Pete were never treated differently because of their Greek language and culture.  With their isolated home and work schedules, any socializing outside of Greek gatherings was almost nonexistent.  For Dina she recalls her teachers’ appreciation of her heritage.14 pete from directory  Both Dina and Pete value the closeness they had with their family and the good friendships with other Greek families both in Yakima and Spokane.  They value their parents’ example of not speaking badly of others and doing something constructive with one’s life.  Now living in Walla Walla with only one or two other Greeks in the area, they fondly remember their earlier days as young Greeks in Yakima and Spokane.

By John and Joann Nicon, August 2012

PHOTOS
1 Pete and Dina with family scrapbook, 2012
2 Dina on the railroad tracks, circa 1934
3 Pete, Artemis and Dina on a railroad “putt-putt”, late 1930s
4 Dina, Artemis and Pete with the Chevy, 1930s
5 Dina, Artemis, Eleni and Pete in front of Odd Fellows hall, Yakima, circa 1936
6 Salagianis family (l-r) Eleni, Dina, Artemis, Pete, circa 1936
7 Dina and Pete with friend (at left), circa 1940
8 Pete in evzone (Greek honor guard) uniform, circa 1944
9 Dina in traditional Greek dress, circa 1950
10 Dina, late 1950s
11 Dina and her mother Eleni, 1955
12 Pete, Dina with family friend Nick Galanos, circa 1962
13 Dina, circa 1990
14 Pete, circa 1990
Photos 1 by John Nicon; 13 and 14 from Holy Trinity Greek Orhodox Church directory, Spokane, Washington; all others from Salagianis family collection
SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, June 2012