From 1972 to 1984 the Greek Radio Hour, with disco cavalaris (disc jockey) Spyridon “Spiro” Demetrios Savvides, served to entertain and inform with music and news from the homeland. This was only one of the many endeavors Spiro developed in his varied career.
Spiro is an extrovert. He would go to night clubs, dance at church festivals and get involved in as many activities as possible not only to promote his businesses but to seek variety in his life. Thus, after Pete Farmasonis and Terry Karis began the Greek Radio Hour in 1972 and the station needed someone with a radio engineer’s license, Spiro took over. The program aired every Saturday on KXI until 1982 and then on Sundays on KQIN and KRAB, all Seattle radio stations. It was discontinued in 1984 due to lack of sponsors. Spiro said, “Its purpose was to provide the recorded sound of Greece.” It was indeed a dedication, a hobby, from Spiro’s heart, through music, speakers and his personal, often humorous, comments.
As the program developed, Spiro researched the recorded sound of Greece and purchased an extensive library of recordings. The collection has over 2000 recordings in 25 categories such as Laika (popular or urban folk), Dimotika (country folk), historical, religious, humor, operatic, dancing, patriotic and children. Spiro believes the collection is the most complete of its kind on the west coast. On particular holidays or at festive events, Spiro would choose music to match the occasion. The collection is very well organized by type of music, areas of Greece, and by artists within the various categories.
In 1998 Spiro donated the collection along with the related equipment to his Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle with the idea the records might benefit the Church in some fashion. A few records were used or sold but the future of the remainder of the collection was in doubt. George Maroutsos learned the records might be destroyed and quickly loaded 28 boxes of records in his van. George, an active member of AHEPA (American Hellenic Progressive Association), consulted with Chris Economou, a fellow AHEPAN. They decided to store the collection in the basement of the Ballard Smoke Shop, a restaurant and lounge operated by Chris’ father and uncle. In the spring of 2011 the entire collection was acquired by the Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State. Included in the acquisition are two large binders, one of correspondence regarding the development and operations of the program, and another with letters from listeners. Both provide some interesting historical anecdotes.
The Greek Radio Hour is only one of Spiro’s many endeavors. Over time, he has been involved in over 14 corporations, many of which he established himself. Initially, his expectations of life in the United States were much less than what he found. He was able to expand his interests and make changes when he wanted to and fulfill his dreams. “I was free.”
Spiro was born on November 30, 1927, in Pireaus, Greece to parents Demetrios Savvides from Istanbul and Penelope Matzaridou from Bursa, Turkey. Spiro’s first employment was in a machine shop and he eventually became a marine engineer. He worked for a while on an electric railroad in Greece and eventually used his engineering diploma by going to sea.
While in the Greek Merchant Navy he met an American sailor in Calcutta, India, an encounter that would aid him in the future. He was assigned to a ship with a crew from the island of Chios, Greece, but as the only ”foreigner” in the crew he was disliked. At the age of 23, Spiro jumped ship in Baltimore, Maryland, and found his way to New York City. There, he found his sailor friend from Calcutta who gave him a Social Security card bearing another person’s name. Despite his reservations and the risk involved, Spiro used the card to find work in New York.
It was there he met New York-born Ekaterini “Kay” or “Cookie” Galanos. They were married in 1953 three days after they met. They have three children, Penelope, Eleni and Michael. Shortly thereafter Spiro returned to Greece to get his legal papers in order.
Back in New York, Spiro saw a Boeing Company advertisement seeking engineers to help design rockets. He applied, was hired and came to Seattle, Washington, by himself in 1957. His family followed a few months later and Spiro worked until the rocket program ended. He then worked on the Supersonic Transport (SST) and 747 programs until he tired of getting up early and sitting at a desk. He wanted something more and entered the insurance business. At the same time, he joined with four Greek partners, George Serpanos, George Erhos, James Anas and Angelo Trivelas, to open the Continental Pastry Shop in Seattle’s University District. Spiro slowly bought out their interests and managed the business.
Also during this time, Spiro was assisting Greeks and Greek-Americans with document translation and interpretation. Knowing he would always need something to fall back on he began training to become a symbolografos, a Greek notary public. As opposed to a U.S. notary, the symbolografos is responsible for preparing all legal documents except those that will be presented in court. Since 1971, Spiro’s primary business has been The Greek Affairs Bureau specializing in Greek legal services and translations. It began with help of another symbolografos and the Greek Consulate in San Francisco, California. Files of documents prepared over the years number more than 3000. His love of the law and learning something new from his clients continues to sustain him. He also opened a travel agency, Cosmos, having chosen the name because of his interest in urging people to experience travel throughout the world. He stayed current by making as many as five trips to and from Greece each year.
Spiro wants to be remembered as a smiley person, one who is happy, accurate in his work and appreciative of his good fortune. His smiling eyes, his subtle wit and his ever-present concern for others belie any limitations that have come with age. When he compares his early life “sleeping on boards with now sleeping on an expensive mattress” he says, “So how can I complain?”By John and Joann Nicon, August 2011
1 Spiro reviewing correspondence
2 Spiro with Greek Radio Hour tapes and document files
3 Demetrios and Penelope Savvides
4 Spiro in the Greek Navy
5 Wedding in New York: Eleni Galanos, Kay, Spiro, Stamatis Galanos
6 Spiro and Kay, circa 1990
7 Spiro at work today
Photos 1, 2 and 7 by John Nicon; all others from Savvides family collection SOURCES
Video interview with Spiro Savvides, July 2011; correspondence between Spiro and Church of the Assumption, February, 1998; statement from George Maroutsos, March 29, 2010; Matt Barrett’s Travel Guides, http://www.greecetravel.com/music/rembetika/