Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

She’d Rather Dance Than Eat
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She’d Rather Dance Than Eat

Marina Dochios Plastino
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Marina and martini friendsAt three years of age Marina Dochios Plastino followed her older sisters to school as she felt she belonged there with them.  Eighty-three years later, at 86, she is still on the go.

Marina’s earliest memories of dancing were at Greek picnics on the family farm in Rathdrum, Idaho, with musicians who had come from nearby Spokane, Washington.  The bouzouki player loved to practice his music and dancing with Marina and her three sisters. At the church socials in Spokane she would dance with her young friends while the mothers sat and kept watch.  During Marina’s 12 years of school in Rathdrum, she was active in music and drama productions.  After earning her college degree in business education, she taught typing, office machines and mathematics, but also found time to teach drama, music and choral singing.  When she lived in Vacaville, California, Marina taught Greek dancing at the University of California at Davis.  She remembers dancing in Oakland with Greek sailors and at Greek clubs in San Jose, San Francisco and Walnut Creek.  At her 84th birthday party she danced on a table top.   While traveling by car in Greece with her family, whether in Karditsa, in Athens, in the Peloponnese or on the side of the road along the way, when the car would stop, Marina would get out and dance with her nephew.  It comes as no surprise that her daughter Eleni has said, “She’d rather dance than eat.”

SPOKANE CHURCH PICNIC 8-15-1927

Marina’s father, Christos Nicholas Dochios (Dotsos) came to the United States in 1907 from Litohoro on the east coast of Greece south of Thessaloniki.  He was accompanied by his brother John who, as it turned out, didn’t like MARINA TABLE DANCING AT 84America and returned to Greece.  Upon arriving in New York, Christos worked on the railroad and eventually settled in Endicott, Washington, where he developed a 2000-acre wheat farm.  After World War I, he went bankrupt and found himself with his wife Eleni, three daughters, Catherine, Vaselia and Mary and only ten dollars in his pocket.  In 1925 the family moved to Squaw Bay, Idaho, then to Cougar Gulch near Coeur d’ Alene.  Marina was born at Squaw Bay on June 1, 1925.

Christos and Eleni DochiosHer mother Eleni Deligianis was born in Kandila near Tripoli in the Peloponnese area of Greece.  At the age of five, her uncle brought Eleni to Athens as he wanted her to be a maid for his daughter.  Although Eleni had no formal education, she did learn the niceties of proper home care and etiquette.  This Athenian experience left her somewhat more sophisticated than her peers.  A quick learner, she adapted to American ways and learned English with her children.  Christos established a dairy business and Marina remembers doing the milk run with her father in the Coeur d’ Alene area.

In 1929 Eleni and Christos purchased their 200-acre farm in Rathdrum, Idaho.  Eleni loved the farm as it looked exactly as she pictured it in a childhood dream.  Marina remembers the many Greek bachelors that came by horse and buggy and Model T from Spokane MARINA on the farm with SPOT 1940to help clean up and develop the land.  As she says, “We were all poor, but didn’t know we were poor as we had everything: food, love, our church and our Greek friends.”  At Easter, and on other occasions, a lamb would be cooked on the spit, Christos would say the prayers, and guests would eat and party on the farm.

Marina and her sisters were not allowed to work on the farm as their parents felt their education was more important.  Marina finished the 12th grade in 1943 and graduated from the University of Idaho in 1947.  Ten years later she obtained her master’s degree in business education.  She taught school in Kellogg, Idaho, and worked at a local bank on Saturdays “because I wanted to move ahead and save money.”

VASILIA, MARY, CATHERINE AND MARINA CIRCA 1940       MARINA, MARY, VASILIA AND CATHERINE 1971

Marina met Charles “Chuck” Ross Plastino at the University of Idaho, married him, and taught for two years until the birth of their first child, Eleni.  Their second child, Jeane (Yianoula) was born and when CHUCK AND MARINAChuck began work with the Brunswick Company, the family moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, where Marina taught for eight years.  Chuck was of Italian and English descent and Marina’s family referred to him as aftos o xenos (the stranger), and for some time Chuck thought that was his name in Greek.  He said he learned Greek in self defense.

In 1960, with poor economic times in Idaho the family moved to Vacaville, California.  Chuck worked as a marriage and family counselor and Marina taught school for 35 years, visiting the family farm in Idaho every summer.  Chuck always loved Idaho, so it was logical that they would move back there when he retired in 1994.  After the passing of her parents and her husband, Marina now lives on the family farm with her two daughters nearby.  She works at her daughter Jeane’s business.

Marina surely knows how to live life to the fullest.  She will be remembered for that but even more because she would still rather dance than eat.

By John and Joann Nicon, July 2011

PHOTOS
1 Marina Dochios Plastino and her martini friends
2 Spokane church picnic, 1927
3 Marina table dancing
4 Christos and Eleni Dochios
5 Marina on the farm with Spot and her trumpet, 1940
6 Vaselia, Mary, Catherine and Marina, circa 1940
7 Marina, Mary, Vaselia and Catherine, 1971
8 Chuck and Marina
Photo 1 by John Nicon; all others from Plastino family collection
SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, July 2011