Four children, 13 men named George, a happy family life and unselfish dedication to their church and community. That is the legacy that George and Theodora Plumis left with the four that have been endeared with the name “The Plumakia” (little Plumises).
GEORGE and THEODORA
George Apostolos Plumis came from the village of Tripotamos (formerly Tatarna) near Karpenisi in the mountains of central Greece and, although there is no precise documentation of his birth, his tombstone reads 1889 even though his children believe it was 1884. He sailed into New York City in April of 1907 and somehow traveled west. It is said he met a German man on the ship who had a brother in Idaho and directed George to Pocatello, Idaho, where he worked in a hat shop. From there he went to Vancouver, British Columbia, then to San Francisco, California, in 1912 and owned a grocery store on Eddy Street. His two brothers, Louie and Paul, were in Seattle and encouraged George to join them. In Seattle he owned Aurora Billiards at Fourth and Pike Street while still in his 20s. In 1931 he traveled to Agrinion, Greece, where a marriage was arranged with Theodora Trikas with the help of Effie Wells, a Seattle friend also from the Agrinion area. Five months later George brought his new bride to Seattle. While he was gone, his partner had sold the billiard business and George had to start over. It was during the Depression and he worked for a while in the WPA (Works Progress Administration). In about 1940 he purchased a card room, then bought the Madison Tavern in downtown Seattle after World War II. Although he lost the lease on the Madison, he had also purchased the Columbus Tavern on First and Madison from Alexander Neckas and operated it for a short time. Then he operated the Hideout Tavern in the public market which at that time was a rather unsavory area and finally purchased and co-owned the Shellback Tavern on First and Union until he died in the spring of 1959. He had learned English through his many, often risky, business ventures. He was an avid newspaper reader. Time with his family was usually on Sundays as he worked long hours, primarily nights. George would often remind his children how wonderful Greece was and how proud they should be of their heritage.
Theodora Trikas was born in 1910 and had three sisters, Eleni, Maria, Olga, and a half-brother George. When she married George Plumis, he told her not to worry about bringing a prika (dowry) to America as they would return in two years. However, it was 25 years before she returned to Greece and was able to see her aging mother. Theodora was called arhontisa (the royal one) by some and the name suited her. She was a cook, a homemaker, a seamstress and was very progressive, often taking her daughters to movies or plays and participating in their non-Greek school and community activities. When George died in 1959, she assumed operation of the Shellback Tavern along with her son George. At the tavern she seemed to assume another personality and was called “Maria” by the customers.
Frances (Fotini) “Fran” Plumis Barnecut, named after her paternal grandmother, was born on December 24, 1932, in Seattle. Until she was five years old her family lived with the Neckas family on Capitol Hill. (see Keep the Home Fires Burning under Making a Home.) Catherine Neckas Iles is like an older sister to the Plumakia. When the family moved to their home (affectionately known as Plumis Manor) in the Crown Hill area in 1942, it was like moving to the exochi (country). Fran attended Crown Hill Elementary School, Saint Alphonsus and finished high school at Holy Angels. She began the University of Washington with a desire to study education but, with money short and three younger siblings to educate, she left school to work with United Airlines. Fran spent 15 years with United in its downtown ticket office in the accounting division. She married George Barnecut on December 8, 1963, and they enjoyed a number of trips together sponsored partly by her employer. The United offices later moved to SeaTac Airport and Fran decided to stay home with their children George and Elizabeth rather than commute. When the Barnecut son began college, Fran began working at I. Magnin & Company (women’s apparel store) and eventually became its credit office manager. I. Magnin closed in 1993 and she retired to enjoy her grandchildren and spend time in Palm Springs, California. She keeps busy tutoring at High Point Elementary School and volunteering at her St. Demetrios Church as treasurer of the Philoptochos(women’s philanthropy) and “doing what I want to do.”
Alice (Aglaia) “Lala” Plumis Panagakis was born December 2, 1934, in Seattle. She was named after her maternal grandmother and has fond childhood memories of living with the Neckas family. Alice remembers being very shy when starting school at age four. After Crown Hill Elementary, she attended James Monroe Junior High and Holy Angels, graduating in 1952. Following two years of studying business at the University of Washington and working part time at the Bon Marche (now Macy’s), she followed her love of retailing and began training to become a buyer at age 21. She traveled to Europe including Greece in 1961 and returned to work at the Seattle World’s Fair where she managed an Asian gift shop owned by the Doces family. Alice then returned to the Bon Marche until she joined I. Magnin & Company in 1966 where she was designer and sportswear clothing manager until it closed in 1993. She then worked for a short time at John Doyle Bishop before opening her own “trunk show” business named Entourage, retiring in 2000. Alice has had two wonderful marriages, first to Dick Dwyer and then to Paul Panagakis and has been widowed twice. She has the time to enjoy her three stepchildren and three grandchildren, spend time in the sun in Palm Springs, care for her home and garden and dabble in photography. As chair of the sunshine committee for Philoptochos she creates greeting cards from her photos and sends them to Philoptochos and St. Demetrios Church members.
George G. Plumis is also known as “Jack” but only to his family. When his parents could not agree on a name, a babysitter said, “Just call him Jack until you decide.” Born July 7, 1938, he also attended Crown Hill and St. Alphonsus, then finished high school at Seattle Preparatory Academy. Although he was the long-awaited and favored son, George has two stories about being left behind on two occasions at the age of five and again as a teenager by his loving but busy parents. He tells the stories in the video George Gets Left Behind. After community college in Everett, Washington, he graduated from University of Puget Sound, in Tacoma, Washington, in 1961. He also attended graduate school in his field of education at Seattle University. George’s 30-year teaching career included Luther Burbank School for delinquent youth, special education, drop-out prevention and vocational counseling programs in the Seattle School District. He served in the Washington Army National Guard Military Police from 1967 to 1977. He also worked part time with “Maria” at the Shellback Tavern for seven years and spent another 25 years working part and full time for Riverside Beverages in Everett, his father-in-law’s business.
George’s volunteer work for his church has been extensive. He served as president of St. Demetrios in the 1960s and started the youth camping program in 1969 which has evolved into a very successful All Saints Foundation and Camp Agape for Kids ‘n Cancer, a ministry of the Greek Orthodox Western Diocese. In 2001 he helped establish Holy Apostles, an English-speaking Orthodox parish, which shared space with an Episcopal Church until finding its own facility in 2006. Now, he helps with maintenance at the church in addition to his respected standing as a layman. George married Diana Jurgich in 1971. They have two sons, Theodore “Ted” and Gregory and two grandchildren.
Paul (Apostolos) John Plumis was born August 17, 1948, in Seattle. Ten years younger than George, he has been called both a blessing and a mistake. He was raised in Plumis Manor and still lives half a mile away from the old family home. Paul attended Crown Hill and North Beach Elementary Schools, Whitman Junior High and Seattle Preparatory Academy. His ties to Greece were strengthened at age seven when he accompanied his mother on her first trip back to Greece when they stayed for six months. After high school he attended community college in Yakima and Seattle before being drafted in 1970. With the Vietnam War winding down his one-and-one-half years in the Army were spent at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in the Military Police. Paul worked for five summers in an Alaska fish cannery, longshoring and operating a small store. He continued his education at Seattle University and ultimately earned his master’s degree in Public Administration. His work over the past 35 years has been in support services, primarily transportation and facilities management, for the Seattle, Tacoma and Shoreline School Districts. He currently works on capital projects for Shoreline. While in college he was a summer counselor at Ionian Village, a church-related camp program in Greece. That’s where he met Pam (Paraskevi) Bartz whom he married in 1977. They have three children: Katherine, Kristina and George. Paul’s volunteer work for the church has been extensive (If there is an event at St. Demetrios, he is there). From serving as an altar boy, on the parish council and now as president of the All Saints Foundation he was recently recognized as an archon, a service award at the Patriarchal level. Paul modestly says he is but one person recognized where it takes many to do the work.
PLUMIS FAMILY LIFE
There were no other Greeks in the Crown Hill area so it was a dual life style for the Plumis children, Greek at home and English in the community and at school. Up to 25 Greek friends, often the Babunes, Neckas and Barbas families, would travel to the exochi (country) for dinners includingdolmathes, (stuffed grape leaves) fish or lamb while the children gathered in the kitchen and helped Theodora. George was active in AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) as well as the Fraternal Order of Eagles and Theodora was active in the Daughters of Penelope (AHEPA’s women’s counterpart) and GAPA (Greek American Progressive Association). She kept busy in her church, sold bonds, collected clothing for the Greek War Relief and volunteered for the Red Cross.
Theodora was independent and imposed few restrictions on her children. Paul and George recall that she could wield a mean koutala (wooden spoon) if necessary. On one occasion Alice thought her mother would probably not attend the first grade PTA meeting after school. When Alice came home to an empty house and Theodora arrived later having gone to the meeting, Alice was surprised. In 1980 Theodora was the senior advisor for the revised Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen, the St. Demetrios cook book with Fran, Alice, Anita Leonidas, Evi Rigas, Jean Katsandras, Maria Kaltsounis and Artemis Demopoulos. Cooking and eating have been significant activities for all four Plumakia.
George was a farmer at heart and purchased property next to the home which he developed into a large garden with fruit trees, vegetables and even chickens and two goats. Fran and Alice remember holding their noses while drinking goat’s milk, a healthy requirement of their father. One time when the goats got loose, Alice and a friend spent a long evening chasing them and returning them to the “farm.” A neighbor with his horse and wagon would plow part of the garden every spring and George would work the garden in the morning before going to work. That garden was donated to the City of Seattle when Plumis Manor sold and is now a park. Another example of his risk taking was the purchase of acreage on Orcas Island in the San Juan Island chain, a four-hour trip from Seattle, on which to raise sheep. It probably reminded him of his horio (home village). The property was sold after George died in 1959.
The Plumakia have vivid memories of growing up amid a variety of Greek friends and relatives. The stories are many. One of the best is about George’s nouno (godfather) Vasili Tsumaris, a bachelor, who resembled the old time comedian Lou Costello. Tsumaris worked for the phone company as a lineman and custodian. The Plumis family never needed a plumber or electrician as Tsumaris was frequently at the home performing a variety of handyman tasks and even babysitting. After a few glasses of wine he would begin singing. “O Sole Mio” was his favorite. If told to quiet down he would say, “I’m leaving and not coming back,” but would usually reappear the next day. At Greek picnics he would find a nail, pound it into a tree, hang his hat and coat and take a nap. He always thoroughly enjoyed himself.
FAVORITE SAYINGS AND REMEMBRANCES
If Theodora tugged at Alice’s hair while braiding it, she would say “vasta pono yia omorphia” (endure pain for beauty). When Fran was in trouble, the response was “pai to fithi na to fyaso” (the snake is going to bite you). When upset with all four children, the words were “kane pethia” (have children) or “na to efharisto” (there’s the thanks I get for all I do). Their father reminded them that the Plumis name was everything and they should never embarrass it. With all the Georges in the family, “o pou Georgio kai malama” (where there is George there is gold) is said with some smugness.
Fran and Alice’s parents preferred they marry Greeks although neither did until Alice’s second marriage. It may be that when growing up with other Greeks in a close community one saw the opposite sex as brothers or sisters rather than potential spouses. George remembers taking the bus with his mother while she was speaking Greek and turning to look out the window to avoid being with her. However when he attended Seattle Preparatory Academy, differences in cultures and traditions were studied and applauded. He believes real change occurred during the Kennedy administration when world languages and cultures were increasingly recognized. He recalls a priest referring to hiding one’s culture as a “subculture inferiority complex,” common among first generation immigrants. His father once said, “Only the animals speak one language.” One day Fran’s friend said, “I didn’t know you had a maid,” after Theodora answered the phone with her Greek accent. However, in a Catholic high school Fran’s Greek Orthodox faith was more acceptable than Protestantism. Alice felt awkward peeling her red dyed eggs (a Greek Orthodox Easter tradition) inside her lunch sack as her fellow students did not understand why Orthodox Easter could be as much as a month later than the Western celebration. For Paul, it seemed everyone’s parents in elementary school had accents, mostly Scandinavian. He also observed that store clerks don’t argue with people with accents when they return items. Thus, Theodora never had problems with that task.
Fran is proud of her heritage and the fact that all the Plumis family members get along well. She wishes to be remembered as a loving, kind person who has made a difference by volunteering and helping where she can. Alice echoes her sister’s thoughts and when she thinks about her friends’ reactions to her “Big Fat Greek Wedding” family, it brings a smile to her face. George is proud of his role with the church camp program and establishing Holy Apostles parish. Paul believes raising three children to be productive members of society and sharing time with their cousins is very important. Whether in a major or minor role, making a contribution to help improve the family or an organization is how he wishes to be remembered.
On one occasion, their father told a bus driver he had four million dollars. When the bus driver responded in disbelief, George said he was referring to his four children. Now with seven children, seven grandchildren plus 15 god children among them, the Plumakia must be considered multimillionaires if not billionaires.
.By John and Joann Nicon, April 2012 PHOTOS
1 George, Alice, Fran and Paul with a photo of their parents, 2012
2 Louie, George and Paul Plumis, 1926
3 George Plumis, circa 1930
4 Eddy Street Grocery Store, circa 1920
5 Plumis family documents
6 Aglaia, maternal grandmother, circa 1920
7 Theodora, circa 1940
8 Frances, 1934
9 Frances, 1950
10 George and Frances on their honeymoon, 1963
11 Frances and George in Hawaii, 1989
12 The Barnecut clan, (l-r) Back: Elizabeth, Alice, Luke, Andy, Branson, George III; Front: George II, Madeline, Fran, Jack, Taylor, Beth, 2012
13 Alice, 1937
14 Alice, 1962
15 Alice wedding to Dick Dwyer, (l-r) George, Theodora, Fran, Alice, Dick, Paul, 1971
16 Alice and Paul Panagakis, 2010
17 George the ring bearer, circa 1944
18 George high school graduation, 1956
19 George in the U.S. Army, circa 1965
20 George receiving Scouting award, (l-r) Fr. Homer, Diana, George, Fr. Michael, 1985
21 George and Diana, circa 2010
22 George Plumis family (l-r) Back: Ted, George, Greg; Front: Alex, Kim, Melia, Diana, Bond, 2011
23 Paul at North Beach, 1951
24 Paul in evzone (Greek honor guard) uniform in Greece, 1956
25 Paul in U.S. Army Military Police, 1971
26 Paul and Pam wedding, 1977
27 Katherine and Vasili Dikeakos wedding (l-r) George, Paul, Pam, Katherine, Vasili, Kristina, 2008
28 Plumis family (l-r) Standing: George, Alice; Seated: George, Paul, Theodora, Fran, 1956
29 Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen book cover
30 Plumis family dinner (l-r) Alice, Theodora, Phane Ritus, Jim Ritus, Alexander Neckas, Steve Babunes, George, Aliki Babunes, Andromachi Neckas
31 Plumis Manor, circa 1959
32 The Plumakia with Theodora, (l-r) Paul, Fran, Alice, Theodora, George, 1965
33 George at Madison Tavern, circa 1950
Photos 1, 5, and 29 by John Nicon; all others from Plumis family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, April 2012