Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

By the Hand of Mary
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By the Hand of Mary

Mary Manolides Formuzis

Mary Manolides displaying her cross stitchThe framed pieces on the wall appear to be photos.  However, when one looks closely, the cross stitch and needle point pieces show how meticulously the work has been done.  Now 98, Mary Manolides Formuzis has filled wall spaces with her incredibly detailed handiwork.

A Tacoma, Washington, resident since 1938, she was born in Greece on January 4, 1913.  Her father Demetrios Manolides was from Pashalimini, Turkey, in the Sea of Marmara.  Initially he went to Constantinople to apprentice as a cabinet maker.  There he fell in love with Polixeni Foskolou and mDemetrios and Polixeni Then and Nowarried her in 1906.  He came alone to the United States in 1912 but returned to Greece in 1919 and brought his family to Seattle.  Mary recalls traveling “high class” on the ship Megali Ellas and sitting at the captain’s table.  Her first view of the country was the Statue of Liberty while sitting on her father’s shoulders.  In Seattle, Demetrios operated a fruit stand in a prime location with his brother Andrew and the families lived fairly well.  The business evolved into Manolides Brothers Produce.

Demetrios, Evan, Othon, Polexeni and Mary 1924Mary’s first memories are of living in an old wooden apartment building near Seattle’s Denny Hill.  Speaking only Greek, she recalls the kindergarten teacher having the children gather their chairs in a circle around her for story time.   Mary understood the Greek word “storia” to mean awning or window shade and could not understand why so much fuss was being made over this simple item.  After a few similar experiences, her English developed quickly and she cannot recall ever having a problem with the language.  As a matter of fact, she recalls being embarrassed while her mother and father were speaking Greek because she wanted to be accepted as an American. When the family moved to Seattle’s Capitol Hill, she attended Lowell Elementary School and Broadway High School.  As a young woman, Mary recalls the Greek picnics at Angle Lake where lamb heads, ouzo, renting row boats and dancing all combined for festive Greek outings.  Meeting young men was a challenge which she vividly describes in the video Meeting Young Men.  Mary was active in the Seattle Greek community, often appearing in promotional pieces for early festivals.

Mary with Aspasia Phoutrides                      MARY'S LAMB

After high school Mary worked briefly in a law office in Seattle’s Mary and Peter FormuzisSmith Tower and might have attended college to become a teacher if times had been different.  At that time she said, “I was even afraid to ask.”  As it was, her future was as a homemaker and she became known for her needle arts and sewing, learning much from her mother who was a seamstress.  She made almost all of her own and her family’s clothing and took lessons at Bates Vocational School in Tacoma to advance her skills.   In 1938 she married Peter Formuzis and moved to Tacoma where he worked initially in the family fish market, then with the Department of the Interior on a promotional program to urge the increased consumption of fish products.  He also opened a restaurant in Woodburn, Oregon, to which he commuted weekly from Tacoma.

Mary was visited by her friend Clara Chakos Nicon during this video interview.  They shared their childhood and young adult memories, among which were Greek school, picnics, church and social events, but especially their common interest in sewing.

Mary with childhood friend, Clara Chakos - circa 1920        Mary with Clara Chakos Nicon - 2011

Mary simply wants to be remembered as a good mother.   She is proud of her needle arts and having sewn her and her children’s clothing.  She remains closely involved with her children and extended family.

By John and Joann Nicon, July 2011

1 Mary displaying her needle work
2 Demetrios and Polixeni Manolides, then and now
3 Demetrios, Evan, Othon, Polixeni and Mary Manolides, 1924
4 Mary with Aspasia Phoutrides
5 Mary’s lamb
6 Mary and Peter Formuzis
7 Mary with Clara Chakos, 1920
8 Clara Chakos Nicon with Mary, 2011
Photos 1 and 8 by John Nicon; 2, 4 and 5 from Seattle newspapers; 3, 6 and 7 from Formuzis family collection

Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, July 2011