Soap Lake, Washington, had about 2000 people when Sandra (Cassandra Athena) “Sandy” Marlene Pappas (Papaioanos) grew up there. Her parents’ friendships and civic activism led to the family’s success in this small community. Sandra has used her parents’ examples to become successful in the Seattle real estate field.
Sandra’s uncle Theodore was the first of the family to come from Greece to the United States in 1910. His home was the village of Gavros in northern Greece, almost at the Albanian border. As World War I was still raging, Theodore had sent $600 to his family so that his brother Ioannis could pay his way out of a military obligation. In 1914, at the age of 17, Ioannis came to be with his brother with a promise to return. Ioannis spent 17 days wearing a life jacket on the boat as he did not know how to swim. At Ellis Island he was afraid he would be sent back to Greece so when the customs officer gave him the name John Pappas, Ioannis had no objection and was very happy to clear customs. John met his brother Theodore in Helena, Montana, where both worked for the Great Northern Railroad for the next seven to eight years. Theodore wanted John to go to school but that was not John’s desire. When John was about 27, the brothers decided to buy a restaurant and tavern in Soap Lake, Washington. However, one day while Theodore was showing some people through the railroad roundhouse an explosion occurred and Theodore was killed. Although this was devastating for John, he made the trip to Soap Lake where he operated the James Café and Tavern with his cousin, James Arvan.
Alice Margaret Thomas, the oldest of five children, was born in Great Britain in 1903. She worked for Lyons Tea Houses which were very popular in the 1920s. Regardless of the hours worked, employees received only enough extra funds for a two-week vacation each year. Thus, Alice decided to emigrate to Canada and settled in Quebec City in 1929. The Canadian immigration policy at the time automatically provided jobs for immigrants and Alice found herself working on a farm. On her first day she appeared in a white silk blouse and long silk skirt, always a truly magnificent London lady. She lasted there only two weeks and decided to go to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she knew Dot Bradner, a traveling companion from England. When Dot first asked Alice’s name, Alice was wearing a black coat with a violet corsage. Dot said, “You’re not an Alice, you’re a Margaret,” and it was Margaret from then on.
Somehow Margaret met Melita O’Hara who was writing a book, Across Canada in a Puddle Jumper, and they traveled together. When they crossed the border on the way to Spokane, Washington, Melita inferred that Margaret was her maid. Indignant, having shared expenses on the trip, Margaret said, “I’m not traveling with you anymore.” She then went to an employment agency and learned there was a job as a waitress in a wonderful resort and said “OK.” And that’s how Margaret came to work at the James Café and Tavern in Soap Lake.
John had sent a car and an employee to meet Margaret in Spokane. The employee found a woman named Ginger and some liquor which the two drank on the way to Soap Lake. When Margaret arrived safely in Soap Lake and John offered her a meal, she said she would accept anything the staff had. John said, “No, you can have anything you want.” The breaded veal cutlets were the best she had ever tasted.
Margaret’s employment ended in Soap Lake as her visa allowed her only 30 days in the United States and she moved back to Vancouver. John, the tenacious Greek, began the harrowing treks between Soap Lake and Vancouver to see Margaret. When the restaurant closed on Saturday, he would drive 12 hours to Vancouver, spend time with Margaret and return in another 12 hours to open the restaurant on Monday morning. This lasted for two years as Margaret was not ready to get married. She had been asked to train as a secretary for the mayor of Vancouver, but being rather prudish, suspected the mayor’s motives were not pure. Finally, she said “Yes” to John and he promised they would not stay in Soap Lake. It was 55 years before she finally left.
Theodore “Ted” (now deceased) was the first child born to John and Margaret on September 20, 1933. The second son, John, followed on June 24, 1935. Sandra was born October 24, 1945, in Ephrata, Washington. The three Pappas children were baptized at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Spokane, Washington, but their lives expanded to the more non-Greek ways of life after that.
Meals in the Pappas home were a combination of Greek and English, sometimes lamb and sometimes a standing rib roast. In addition to the Arvan family, Sam and Hilda Melonis lived nearby. They brought a nephew, John Lagos, from Greece. Hilda tutored him and helped him finish school. He became a successful dentist in Seattle and eventually returned to Greece. Along with John’s business partner’s family, the Notaras family was prominent in Soap Lake and continues to be so to this day. Sandra remembers Marina, April and Joyce Notaras who currently operate the Notaras Lodge and Don’s Restaurant. Sandra and Nick Notaras were schoolmates. As English was spoken at home Sandra heard the Greek language and experienced a significant amount of Greek cooking only when relatives visited in the summers. At Christmas and Easter, John would take his family to Spokane for church. When visiting her brother in Seattle, Sandra would attend St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. Sandra’s father felt no desire to return to Greece. John and his brother had left the family home and possessions to their sister for her dowry.
Despite Soap Lake’s small size, construction of Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River and the existence of nearby Larson Air Force Base enhanced the town’s business. With sun 355 days a year, visitors, many of them Greek, came to get away from the rain on the coast, rent a small cabin and enjoy the wonderful beaches along the lake. Greek could frequently be heard on the streets and as travel to Europe was not affordable for most, eastern Washington became a destination. The high mineral content of the lake was said to provide medicinal benefits although that was never authenticated. However, the water was buoyant and the black mud along the shores felt good on the skin. Margaret would sit on the porch and greet tourists as they walked by. Soap Lake was a very friendly town.
Sandra’s brother John graduated from high school in Ephrata in 1952 as Soap Lake did not have its own high school and Ted attended Gonzaga Preparatory and University in Spokane. Sandra attended school in Soap Lake, graduating high school with a class of 29 students in 1963. Her father was very active in city affairs serving on the city council and the school board and her mother contributed through a number of ladies organizations. There are several lasting tributes to the Pappas family in Soap Lake. John built a building across from the family home which was used as the town post office for years. The Pappas name remains on the building now partially obscured by an awning. Engraved stones at the base of the human figure sun dial at the edge of Soap Lake provide a lasting tribute to many Soap Lake residents, including the Pappas family. Margaret helped build the Episcopal Church in Ephrata and Sandra remembers helping by sanding the pews. Sandra was confirmed in this church and her parents’ funeral services were held there as well. John and Margaret’s headstones mark their graves at nearby Valley View Cemetery. Margaret’s epitaph reads, “Loving wife and mother. Always the lady.”
After high school Sandra attended Washington State University to become a teacher. Her father had arranged a meeting with the superintendent of the Royal City School District but Sandra found the eastern Washington towns a bit too sleepy. So, she came west and worked in the Issaquah and Northshore School Districts near Seattle. Initially she substituted and told the principals she wanted a full-time job. She taught junior high for seven years until a reduction in force found her looking for a new career. She went to Hawaii and worked for a year in real estate then returned to teach for one more year. In 1977 she began working for Sherwood Roberts Real Estate. Four years later Sherwood Roberts was purchased by Windermere Real Estate and Sandra has remained with Windermere since that time.
In 1968 Sandra joined her friend Jean Van Dyk while Jean was on a Fulbright in Germany. Jean decided to stay and marry Hans Hoerschelmann while Sandra returned to work in Seattle. The Hoerschelmanns also returned to Seattle and the friendship continued. Tragically, in 1985 Jean and Hans were killed in an automobile accident. With little hesitation, Sandra “inherited” their two sons Nathan (age 12) and Stefan (age 2). Both sons live in Seattle: Nathan an attorney and Stefan in real estate with Sandra. A grandson, Hans, bears his grandfather’s name.
Sandra’s first six years in real estate were very intense. Following a complex transaction she had lunch with a colleague who suggested they try “something else.” In 1981 they visited San Francisco and observed the operation of the San Francisco Real Estate Forum. Subsequently, for the next seven years Sandra and two partners edited, printed and distributed the Seattle Real Estate Forum magazine. Every two weeks up to 30,000 copies were distributed in the greater Seattle area. While Sandra has seen the ebbs and flows in the real estate market, the Seattle area she serves has not suffered significantly. This is primarily due to the fact that the commuting from this area is minimal and because Sandra counsels her clients to think of their housing needs for the long term, not just for investment purposes. She has been fortunate to have a group of happy clients who have made good decisions.
Sandra traveled to Greece in 2002 and met with her father’s relatives in Gavros. The tiny village of about 40 houses sits above a reservoir providing water for Athens. When she saw the family home, now in shambles, she felt rather detached and found it hard to imagine her father in this location. An elderly cousin explained that when John left for America, 17 of the 20 young men in the village also left as conditions in Greece were very poor. With the last name of Pappas few if any see the English side of Sandra’s heritage. She still has cousins in England, visits the Hoerschelmann family in Germany and her brother John and his wife Ann in California.
Sandra knows that her Greek upbringing has been of some benefit to her and that her father’s interest in real estate provided an impetus for her choice of career. Soap Lake was like living in a fish bowl. She was expected to be a well-behaved child – spending time with older people and having people stop by for tea and cookies in the afternoon. Just as the Pappas family left their mark in Soap Lake, Sandra has established her own successful career in real estate. Her words of advice are “Be friendly,” something she learned living in a small town where everyone knows everyone else.
Sandra’s Greek memories emerge occasionally and one example is a painting in the entrance to her home. During her early years in Soap Lake she remembers sipping 7-Up with a bit of five-star Metaxa (Greek grape brandy) during the holidays and sleeping peacefully afterwards. The painting hung in a Seattle restaurant and the bottle in the painting convinced her to bring it home.By John and Joann Nicon, May 2012
1 Sandra with Seattle Real Estate Forum shirt, 2012
2 John and Margaret engagement, 1931
3 Ted Pappas, 2000
4 John and Ann Pappas, 2009
5 Sandra, circa 1947
6 and 7 Pappas sign on Soap Lake building, 2012
8, 8a and 9 Engraved stones for John and Margaret Pappas at Soap Lake sun dial, 2012
10 and 11 Headstones in Valley View Cemetery, 2011
12 Nathan, Sandra and Stefan, circa 1988
13 Windermere advertisement, 2012
14 Pappas Family (l-r) Back: Ted, Sandra, Wendy, Mark; Front: Jennifer, Stefan, Melina, Alex, Nathan, 1992
15 Pappas family engraved stone, Soap Lake, 2012
16 Sandra with her Metaxa painting, 2012
Photos 1, 6, 7, 8, 8a, 9, 10-11, 15 and 16 by John Nicon; all others from Pappas family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, May 2012