Agriculturist, author, cook, community leader all describe this man who began his life in Everett’s tough Riverside district and rose to prominence. Panos (Panagiotis) “Pete” Koutlas tells his story as a lifelong Everett resident. It began when his father, C.P. (Constantine Panos) “Gus” came to Everett in 1914 to work in the sawmills. On weekends he would buy chickens, rabbits and goats and sell the meat to local cafes and restaurants. After establishing a regular route, he began selling feed to farmers. He then rented a building in East Everett until the Depression hit, but eventually bought the property next door where he built his own building.
Born in 1928, Panos spoke only Greek until he went to school. He remembers a very patient teacher of French background and his father giving the woman some wine and asking her to take good care of his boy. The family moved from Riverside in 1930.
The Greek population in greater Everett declined from over 3000 between 1900 and 1925 to less than 100 in the late 30s. Panos shares a list of early Greek families who donated money for a Greek church in Everett, although the church was never built.
After graduating high school in 1946 he attended community college, and then graduated from Washington State University (then College) where he studied agriculture and chemistry. In the military he was assigned to the Chicago Stock Yards as a veterinary food inspector for two years. Back in Everett the family business was active. The Everett Milling Company and Farmers Garden Center were owned by the Koutlas family. Brother Fotis “Fote” ran the Milling Company, Panos ran the Garden Center and C.P. oversaw his boys.
Picnics at the Greek farms owned by the Pappas, Rakas and Tsiknis families were regular events with food, music, dancing and overall fun. While initially for locals, Greeks from as far as Seattle and Bellingham would join the festivities.
In the late 1940s the community bought a building and established the American Hellenic Hall at 2700 Walnut (it is now Judd and Black Repair and Parts store). The hall served many purposes: priests from Seattle would have services and hear confessions on Saturdays; meetings for the AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association) and the Daughters of Penelope (AHEPA’s women’s counterpart); Christmas parties; March 25th celebrations with dancing and plays performed in Greek. The Everett Milling Company was the hub of the Greek community during June of 1948 and 1950 when the AHEPA and Daughters of Penelope created their prize-winning July 4th floats for the Everett parade.
Panos married Toula Bekos from Vancouver BC in 1953. They have filled their 50-year marriage with work for Panos at the Garden store and travel business for Toula. In the 1980s Panos and other Greeks began an “Ever on Sunday” celebration once a year to share their culture with Everett citizens and dignitaries. Greek food, entertainment and social activity soon brought Greeks from surrounding areas. Here is a photo of Everett Greek natives at their reunion in early 2000. Many appeared in the picnic photo above.
In 2009 Panos and Toula traveled to Greece with their family. Here they are standing in front of the church that Panos’ father, C.P. Koutlas had built in Sklithro, Greece. C.P. had made a promise to himself and his cousin, the local priest, that he would build this church.
Panos has shared his life and accomplishments in a humble and selfless manner and continues to do so.By Andreanna Raptis-Zafiropoulos and John Nicon, June 2011
1 Panos Koutlas today
2 Feed Market in early Riverside with C.P. Koutlas and partners
3 Greek community of Everett church fund donors
4 Everett Greek picnic circa 1930, Panos sitting second from left
5 Everett Greek natives at reunion in 2000, Panos standing fifth from left in back row
6 Family in Sklithro; daughter Lynne, grandson Gus, Panos, granddaughter Helen, grandson Panos, first cousin Costa, son Dean
7 Panos and Toula today
Photos 1 and 7 by John Nicon; all other photos from Koutlas family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John Nicon and Andreanna Raptis-Zafiropoulos, June 2011; Riverside Remembered II, by the History Committee of the Greater Riverside Organization, 1986. Chapter: The Greek Community in Everett, by Panos Koutlas, 101-105