If a picture is worth a thousand words, there are millions of words in Vivian (Vasiliki) Arger’s (nee Deliganes) home. Fondly known as “Viv” her family’s history covers almost every wall of the home. She has also written extensively about the businesses, achievements and chronology of activities in Spokane, Washington’s Greek community. Much of the early history of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek community was researched and written by Vivian.
Both of Viv’s parents came from the town of Kandila near Tripoli in the Peloponnese area of Greece. Her father Gregory was born in 1890 and came to the United States with several cousins. He worked with them on the railroad and they all settled on a farm near Penawawa, a small town just above the Snake River in southeastern Washington.
Viv’s mother Maria Kutulas was born in 1900. Maria had heard that Gregory Deliganes was the President. Gregory’s father Anastathi Deliganes chose her from among all the girls in Kandila to be the President’s bride. He took Maria to Athens, helped her obtain a passport and improve her reading and writing in preparation for the marriage. Maria came to the United States in 1921 through New York and traveled by train to Spokane. When Gregory met her there, she learned she would not be the First Lady of the United States. Rather, she would be the wife of the local school board president. The school district consisted of two teachers and 12 students. A priest was brought to Penawawa from Chicago, Illinois, to marry Gregory and Maria.
Maria gave birth to a girl who became severely ill and dehydrated. The doctors said the baby would die. As Maria walked down the hall of the hospital crying, she came across a statue of the Virgin Mary. She knelt down and prayed for the baby to live. She promised the Virgin Mary to provide the holy oil for the Monastery of Panagia (all holy mother of God) for the rest of her life. Viv’s parents experienced a miracle when the baby recovered dramatically. The baby was named Panagiota after the Virgin Mary. “Viv” (Vasiliki) was born in Colfax, Washington, on July 19, 1924. Maria asked the nurse for a name with lots of Vs and the nurse suggested Vivian, but to her mother she was “Vaso.”
Maria heard there were many Greek families in Spokane. Gregory and Maria decided to move to Spokane in 1925. Maria wrote to her brother Harry Kutulas to join them so they could all be together. Harry left Chicago and moved to Spokane. Cousins Chris and Gus Deliganes remained in Penawawa with their spouses. George, Mike, and Athena went to Lewiston, Idaho, with their spouses. Gregory’s sister Helen (Eleni) and her husband Chris Dochios moved to Rathdrum, Idaho (see SHE’D RATHER DANCE THAN EAT – under Making a Living).
During the Depression Viv remembers her father as a truck driver delivering produce for Pacific Fruit. The only routes he had were the “suicide ones,” those which the other drivers wouldn’t take. Gregory drove the treacherous roads in bad winter storms and snow blizzards. Maria prayed for his safe return. With Gregory working in the produce business, the family was able to eat fairly well during the Depression. There were lots of vegetables and Maria’s lentil and bean soups were wonderful.
Maria told Viv and Pauline (Panagiotia) many stories about the family, especially about Maria’s grandmother Eleni who was very spiritual. She taught her grandchildren stories from the Bible and Maria did the same with Viv and Pauline. Eleni was like a naturopath using traditional Greek remedies to cure many people.
At Viv’s home only Greek was spoken. In fact Greek school classes were taught at the Deliganes home in the Spokane Valley. She remembers the Maglaras, Paras and other families attending. Viv also remembers the Sellinas, Hanches, Paras and Damascus families spending time in their home on East Sprague.
When Viv and Pauline were little girls, they worked on farms owned by the Paras and Malarias families. As teenagers they worked at Liberty Lake where John and Mike Damascus along with their cousin Pete Lambros owned a resort with Merry-Go-Rounds, an arcade and picnic areas. It was the site of many Greek picnics and a great source of employment for Greek teenagers during the summer months. Because the Deliganes home was on the route half way between Spokane and the lake Greek friends would stop and visit. The home became a social center with food, music, song and dance. Gregory loved music and had his daughters take music lessons. Pauline played the piano and Viv played the violin. Maria, with her philoxenia (love of strangers or hospitality), would prepare the spaghetti, vegetables and fruit (from the produce business) or even kill a chicken for the guests. Spokane town and valley family friendships were strengthened there. On Gregory’s name day (the feast day of his namesake saint) the entire Greek community would be invited. As is tradition in the Greek Orthodox faith, the Deliganes home had been blessed several times and was very important to the family. Thus, when the property was purchased for development in 1984, the home was moved to its present location in Spokane Valley rather than being demolished.
Vivian began school at Veradale Elementary School. In elementary school Viv remembers raising money for a school operetta and how the Greek bachelors and family men in downtown Spokane were very generous with their donations. Information obtained through these contacts was of considerable assistance when she wrote the early history of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church with Mary Damascus in 1997. Viv’s parents were very strict. She remembers one dance at the community hall where parents would bring their children, sit in the hall and watch the boys and girls dance, then escort their children home, assuring no “improper behavior.”
Viv remembers Sam Sellinas as a gambler and race track owner in the mid-1940s. When her father did not have the money to donate for a new church building which was constructed in 1948, Sam offered to contribute in the Deliganes name. Gregory’s pride took over and he secured a loan from the Washington Trust Bank instead. Viv was very close to the Sellinas family and baptized Sam’s daughter Mary (see MY HEART IS IN THREE CHURCHES under Keeping Community). Viv also recalls that her uncle Harry Kutulus and John Damascus documented much of the history of Greeks in Spokane. John Kakakes did all the publicity for the Greek bazaars (now called festivals) and Gus Hanches was a major ticket seller for the events. As was customary, the older women in the community would cook all day, then put on their fine clothes, a bit of rouge and lipstick to look their best while serving the meals. As a member of Maids of Athena, the young women’s affiliate of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association), Viv remembers pouring coffee for the bazaars and other events in the Greek community hall. She also remembers the Maids as a powerful group that helped raise money for the Greek War Relief.
At age 14 she had begun working part time at her uncle Harry’s New Deal Produce House. She graduated from Central Valley High School in 1943 and was ready for college but, when uncle Harry’s bookkeeper was drafted for World War II, Viv took over that responsibility and continued until 1946. During that time a number of servicemen were invited to events at the community hall and that’s where Viv’s sister Pauline met her husband George Menegas.
The Sons of Pericles (the young men’s affiliate of AHEPA) had basketball teams that competed around the state. When the Tacoma team came to Spokane in 1946, Gene (Evyenios) Arger (Argeropoulos) had been student teaching at Rogers High School in Spokane where he came to love the Greek people there and played for their team. Gene had also played football at Washington State College (now University). At the Valentine’s Day dance after the tournament, Gene and Viv became acquainted and fell in love. They announced their engagement and were married on June 2, 1946 in the community hall. Gene passed away in 1997 after 51 years of marriage.
During their first year of marriage Gene taught in Buckley, Washington, near his family in Tacoma. After that Gene moved to Spokane with Viv and taught biology and coached football at Lewis and Clark High School. He loved his students and would help them improve their grades in order to play team sports and attend college. Gene had a great sense of humor and made Viv laugh a lot. He loved people and was very dedicated to his Holy Trinity Church. He coached church baseball and basketball teams, served on the parish council for 25 years and was president in 1954-55 and 1973-75. Viv taught Sunday school and served as president of the Philoptochos (women’s philanthropic arm of the Church) in 1987-88 and 1996-97. Viv and Gene created the Arger Beans which their sons cooked with their wives and families at the church festivals.
The Argers raised four sons: George, born in 1948 but tragically lost in a car accident in 1981; Gregory, born in 1950 and named after his papou (grandfather); Anthony, born in 1951; Prokopios “Prokey” in 1954. All four graduated from Washington State University and have been very active in their Holy Trinity Church. Anthony, a mortgage banker, lives in Arizona while Gregory and Prokey operate the Evergreen Fountains Senior Living Facility in Spokane Valley. Viv has 14 grandchildren and five great grandchildren who love the Greek traditions. Vivian worked at Washington Trust Bank, then for her son Gregory at his real estate company G. Arger Real Estate, Inc. She enjoyed setting her own work schedule and found it much less demanding than the hours at the bank.
Vivian fondly remembers Greek Orthodox Church services and celebrations on Greek holidays, especially receiving hugs and kisses on her name day. She believes that one should put God first and family and friends next. She values her mother’s saying, Theos mazis su (God be with you) but recognizes the practical as she says matia tessera (four eyes or be extra cautious).By John and Joann Nicon, August 2012
1 Vivian Arger with just a few of her photos, 2012.
2 Gregory and Maria Deliganes (standing back left) wedding celebration, Penawawa, 1921
3 Franklin Park picnic, Spokane, 1925
4 Viv (Vasiliki) and Pauline (Panagiota), circa 1930
5 Gregory and Maria Deliganes, circa 1958
6 Spokane Greek Businesses, compiled by Vivian ,circa 1990
7 Book cover of “From the Beginning…”, An Informal History of our Parish, 1997
8 Viv and Gene, 1946
9 Gene and Vivian Arger wedding, (l-r) Standing: George Menegas, Bill Garras, Gene, Viv, Pauline, Nitsa Sellinas, Virginia Arger, Mary Sellinas, Kneeling: George Kutulus
10 Gene Arger family (l-r) Gregory, Prokey, Gene, Vivian, Anthony, George, circa 1955
11 Gene Arger family (l-r) Anthony, Gregory, Prokey, George, Vivian, Gene, circa 1964
12 Arger boys (l-r) Prokey, Anthony, Gregory and George, circa 1970
13 Gregory, grandson Gene and Prokey, in front of Evergreen Fountains, 2012
14 Gene and Vivian, 1997
Photo 1 by John Nicon, 13 from Evergreen Fountains web site, all others from Arger family collection SOURCES Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, June 2012; “From the Beginning…”, An Informal History of our Parish, Spokane, Washington. June 1, 1997