Pauli (Pauline) Diafos’ name is interesting. Her given name, Polixeni, literally translated means many strangers and her first married name, Diafos, was originally Diafilakis or two little kisses. Considering the many people who visited her family home in Seattle, Washington, and the friendships established there, the name is very appropriate.
Polixeni Papageorgiou (changed to Wells) was born in Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital on November 29, 1925. Her father, Panagioti (Pete) Nicholaos Papageorgiou, was nine years old when he left his village of Mavrolithari (Black Rock) southwest of Lamia on the Greek mainland to go to Athens where he worked washing dishes. He did not see his family for the next five years although he sent money to them regularly. When he arrived in the United States through Ellis Island, the officials said, “Not another Papageorge,” so Pete took the last name of his cousin who was already in the country and was known as Pete Wells for the rest of his life. Pauli believes he was sponsored to come to America and somehow learned that many people were being hired in Everett, Washington. He preferred restaurant work to heavier labor. When Pete’s friends wanted to party with parea (their friends from Greece), he chose to stay and watch the cook so he could learn how to make soup, carve the meat and learn the business. He knew he could be a successful restaurant businessman in the future.
In Everett, Pete met Efthemea (Effie) Chakos who had come with her parents Christos and Polixeni and two siblings, Cleopatra and George, from Avariko, a small village in the hills just east of Agrinion off the Adriatic coast of Greece. Pauli tells the story of her mother’s ocean voyage in steerage at the age of 10 when another passenger put a fork on the floor and Effie told them to put it on their dish–an example of her proper etiquette in any situation. Christos and Polixeni had two more children, Jim and Clara. Effie was working in her parents’ restaurant when Pete saw her and said, “When she grows up a bit I’m going to marry her.” Cleopatra, the oldest sibling, had married and Effie was living with her uncle John, brothers George and Jim and sister Clara. It was love and not proxenia (arranged marriage) as was common at the time. So, when Effie made Pete aware of her large family and said, “Marry me, marry my family.” Pete replied, “OK! We start a village.” Their marriage took place in Seattle on October 17, 1920. In Seattle Pete operated the Eagles Café with Nick Cooper, Pericles Scarlatos (See THE GRILLING OF PERICLES under Keeping Community) and Don Andrews. Pete and Effie’s first child, Nicholas, was born in Seattle in 1921. In 1923, Pete opened his own restaurant on First and Stewart called the Lotus Café, the name kept from its previous operation as an Asian restaurant. The Lotus was known for its “good-old-American” food and, when the leftovers were brought home, the family could expect a broad range of American and Greek dishes. Pauli’s parents were very flexible and assimilated easily. Pete joined the Odd Fellows and the Elks Club (Benevolent Order of Elks) in addition to AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association). He saw himself as an American-Greek rather than a Greek-American and believed in helping others through these organizations. Effie was shyer but Pete urged her to participate with him, partly because her English was better than his. In addition to raising her family, Effie devoted much of her time to volunteering for Northwest Food Harvest, World Vision, Greek War Relief during World War II, America Gold Star Mothers (those who lost a child in military service), Rebecca’s (branch of the Odd Fellows), and for the Red Cross and Millionaires Club. Her 34-year involvement with CARE (Committee for Remittance to Europe) was further evidence of her concern for others. In 1986, Effie was the first person to receive the Spirit of Liberty Award from Seattle’s Ethnic Heritage Council. This award is given to a naturalized citizen who has made a significant contribution to his or her ethnic community and ethnic heritage, as well as to the community at large. Pauli changed her name officially from Pauline to Pauli after her mother died, leaving the “ne” off the name. She was previously known by the nickname “Polly” but wanted a change close to her original name.
The Wells home was at 4326 Fourth Avenue Northeast in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. Some of Pauli’s memories are inserted throughout this exhibit and are quoted from a book about the home written by her aunt, Clara Nicon (see STITCHING THROUGH TIME under Making a Home).
“It was not just a house, it was our home. It was not pretentious but of mighty free spirit and always full of friends and family.”
“Our home was like Alpha and Omega! Many blessings, from the beginning to the end, and then it came time to move on. Dad and Mom moved to Capitol Hill, to 13th Avenue near the church. After many years at 4326 4th Avenue N.E. they left the home that had given so much to so many.”
The senior member of the family was Pauli’s great Uncle John “Shushu” Chakos, so named because her brother Nick could not pronounce uncle John’s name.
“Shushu had an awesome garden with every vegetable and herb he could manage. Many hours of labor and love went into that yard. Some years later, after much overwork and with his advancing age, he fell one day, and lay there for hours until we got home. When we entered the kitchen and there was no rizogalo (rice pudding) on the stove, we knew something was wrong. Soon afterwards Uncle Shushu became bedridden and passed away.”
In addition to the Wells family (Pete, Effie, Nick and Pauli) there were the younger Chakos children, Clara and Jim, cousin Amalia “Emmy” (orphaned after a house fire at her parent’s home in Everett) and many “comers and stayers” as they were described.
“I slept on the second floor, where we had two bedrooms and a large hallway with several cots for the overflow of friends and family. If the doors to the bedrooms were closed, I knew where I had to sleep. And the overnight guests might have stayed a few days or forever. (No wonder we married when I was just one month from my 18th birthday).”
”What else to say? To begin with, the outside entrance was always beautiful with many colorful ﬂowers down the walkway. There were also lots of ﬂowers by the driveway, all the way back to our beautiful backyard with its famous cherry tree. This was the same tree that I fell from while trying to reach more cherries and while trying desperately to catch a bluebird.”
When Nick Wells first went to Latona Elementary just down the hill from their home, he ran back home because the teachers couldn’t understand him. He was speaking Greek. When Pauli attended four years later, there was no problem as English was increasingly used in the home. She had the special privilege of ringing the school bell when she arrived early. Pauli’s godparents, Mary and Nick Zanides, lived a few blocks north. The Shilous and Nicon families were a few blocks farther away. The Carras and Gregores families were also good friends and lived near Woodland Park. Pauli remembers all these families attending parties and celebrating name days (the recognition day of the saint after whom a child receives his or her baptismal name) which were more important than birthdays. School was not her favorite pastime as she preferred to be outside, riding a bicycle or roller skating.
At Hamilton Junior High Pauli wanted to sing but the teacher tactfully said, “Wouldn’t you like to do something different?”. Instead of singing Pauli pursued other activities. At Lincoln High School she was proud of making a sugar scoop in metal shop as few girls were allowed in those classes. On one occasion when hobbies were being shared she brought several Greek dolls that her mother had collected. When asked to describe them in Greek, she hesitated but did so knowing her fellow students wouldn’t know if she made a mistake. With several of her Greek friends, Pauli enjoyed the social and philanthropic activities of the Maids of Athena, the young women’s counterpart of AHEPA. She also worked at the Egyptian Theater in Seattle’s University District.
After completing a summer school session, Pauli graduated from Lincoln in January of 1943. At the time, during World War II, life was different (gas was rationed and nylons almost nonexistent) and it was difficult seeing her friends, including her brother, leave for military duty.
Angle Lake, south of Seattle, was the location of Greek picnics for years. Pauli was not quite 15 years old when she attended the picnic and went to the dance hall to have a coke and see if she could get a dance. Apostolos Miltiades (Milton) “Milt” Diafos was dancing with Katy Zournales and Pauli with Mike Zournales. As Katy was flirting with someone else, Milt left her and danced with Pauli. When the phone rang at 4326 the next day, Nick answered and said to Milt “Why do you want to talk with her?” When Milt said he wanted to arrange a date, Nick agreed, with conditions. On their date to Lake Wilderness where dances were also held, Milt tried to kiss Pauli and she shyly turned her head away, pretending she had something in her eye. Undeterred, Milt pursued. Pete and Effie knew him to be an upstanding boy and, despite Pauli’s young age and her vow not to marry a Greek or a Greek restaurant man, they were married on October 17, 1943.
It was war time and Milt had enlisted in the United States Navy along with his brother-in-law Nick, Greg Gregores and Paul Pishue. Pauli’s two uncles, George and Jim Chakos, were already in the Navy. Milt was sent to Hawaii where he worked in airplane hangers and suffered a hearing loss in one ear as a result. Meanwhile Pauli and her friend, Marge Granger, enlisted to become welders but the risk of eye damage for Marge found them working as ship fitters helpers in Bremerton, across Puget Sound from Seattle. Of course they would stop off at the Lotus Café for breakfast on the way to the ferry. When Pauli brought her check to her father, he said, “You make more money than I do, so subtract the cost of breakfast from your pay.”
“The worst news came of my brother’s being ‘missing in action,’ with extreme sadness for all of us, especially Mom and Dad. The horror of getting the ﬁnal news (his death in the submarine Escolar) came all too soon.”
Pauli and Milt’s first child, Georgie, was born in 1944.
“God has a way of comforting us and helping us understand, he sent to us a beautiful ‘angel Georgie’ to help lift us from our sadness. But Georgie was just on ‘loan’ for a short while! He lifted our spirits with his awesome laughter and sweetness, which I will treasure forever. And more blessings came to us with more children for Effie and Peter to cherish!”
Their second son Nick followed in 1946 and daughters Paulette in 1947 and Jenise in 1951.
Milt would have preferred to work somewhere other than his father’s restaurant, George’s Café. However, he knew a regular income from the restaurant business brought a steady income for his growing family. Milt also worked at Frederick and Nelson (now Nordstrom flagship store) selling suits and shoes and later selling pneumatic tools south of Seattle. When Georges’s Café sold, was demolished and replaced with a parking lot, the income from that venture provided him with an early retirement.
When Pete and Effie were able to travel, they would bring home a doll from each country they visited. Pauli has given many of those dolls to her grandchildren but the rest are displayed in a cabinet in her home. In some ways, perhaps because of her youth, she believes raising her children was much like playing with dolls and was effortless. From 4326 to apartments, to homes and a recent move to a retirement community, Pauli has moved 29 times. She now has seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Ten years after Milt’s passing Pauli married Bob Cave (humorously “Caveopoulos” in Greek) in 2000, attracted to him for his sweetness and Christian faith. Golf has been one of their mutual pastimes and Pauli recorded a hole in one in her golfing career. They have actively supported the Greek Orthodox churches both in Seattle, and in their winter home in Palm Desert, California.
For Pauli her Greek Orthodox faith has been more important than her Greek heritage. She was raised in the church and her memories of Easter, Christmas and church holiday celebrations remain strong. Going to church and fasting for holy communion was not mandatory but was pleasure for her. Every Easter she looked forward to donning a new outfit, a very special tradition in the Wells family. Being Greek wasn’t “the thing to do” when she was growing up so she was American first and Greek second. She acknowledges that being Greek and Greek Orthodox are two different things. While she feels it may have been a mistake not to teach her children Greek or to speak Greek at home, it did not deter them from keeping the Greek traditions. She prays they will continue with the faith.
If asked to teach someone a Greek word or saying, Pauli responds “se agapo” (I love you). Or, when her brother Nick would bring his football colleagues and his coach to the Wells home for dinner, the saying would be “masa, masa” (literally chew, chew or eat, eat) not a surprising suggestion among Greek families. Pauli believes that the independent nature of Greeks has been good and bad and often stood in the way of any cooperative efforts among them. She recalls her uncle Shushu saying that Greeks were at the bottom of the list on that point. On the other hand, meeting Greeks in several different cities and sharing a common background has been very important for her.
Pauli simply wishes to be remembered for her humor and for having a good attitude. Those attributes, along with her faith, have given her the strength to deal with the misfortunes in her life.By John and Joann Nicon PHOTOS
1 Pauli and her doll collection, 2013
2 Grandparents Christos and Polixeni Chakos, early 1900s
3 Pete and Effie Wells wedding, (l-r) Clara Chakos, Pete, unknown, Effie, Persephone Rigas, 1920
4 Effie and Pete at their 50th wedding anniversary, 1970
5 Book cover, 4326 4th Avenue NE
6 (l-r) Clara Chakos, Pauli, Nick, Emmy, circa 1930
7 Wells family (l-r) Nick, Pete, Pauli, Effie, 1930s
8 Family and others at 4326 (l-r) standing: Presvytera and Fr. Stephanos Phoutrides, Shushu, Jim Chakos, Effie, Pete, Anna Papadis, Chris Shilous; kneeling: Nick, George Papadis, circa 1940
9 Shushu, Nick and the girls (l-r) Effie, Emmy, Pauli, Nick, Shushu, Nick, Clara, late 1930s
10 Effie, Pete and Pauli, 1943
11 Pauli, Nick and the cousins front (l-r) Faye Nicon, Paul Chakos, Merihelen Cazone, Chris Chakos, Pat Chakos, Pete Chakos, John Nicon, circa 1942
12 Milton and Pauli Diafos wedding, 1943
13 Painting of Nick, Paulette and Jenise Diafos, circa 1954
14 Paulette, Nick and Jenise Diafos, circa 1990
15 Family (l-r) rear: Pauli, Gene Cazone, Milt, Emmy Cazone, Effie, Hazel Chakos, Clara Nicon, Jim Chakos, Spiro Nicon; front: Lois Chakos, George Chakos, 1970s
16 Sketch of Pauli, circa 1940s
17 Pauli’s license plate, 2008
18 Pauli’s humor (l-r) Zoye Fidler, Clara Nicon, Effie Wells, Emmy Cazone, Pauli, 1971
19 Pauli’s humor, Pauli and her aunt Clara, 1980s
20 Pauli’s humor (l-r) Clara Nicon, Zoye Papagiani, Pauli, early 1990s
21 Pauli’s humor2005
Photos 1 and 5 by John Nicon; all others from Wells and Diafos family collection SOURCES Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, July 2013; 4326 4th Avenue NE by Clara Nicon