Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

1-harry-in-his-office-2014Whether exploring the ship from Greece, learning to play sports, taking an occasional joy ride or meeting politicians, Harry Tourikis’ curiosity helped him learn new skills and further his career.  Years later he savors those experiences while easing into retirement from the spirits business.

Haralambos (Harry) Yeorgiou (George) Tourikis was born in Dombraina (or Domvrena), Greece, on April 23, 1945.  The name Tourikis has been traced back 700 years to its origin in Crete but has no particular meaning.  On a visit to the island of Zakinthos, Greece, he found the name very prevalent, 2-grandparents-haralambos-and-maria-tourikis-1950sbelonging to the mayor, several families, and even to a street on the island.

His father, George, was one of five siblings and helped with the family’s olive oil and cheese business.  His job was to sell the product in surrounding villages and he was often away from his family for several days at a time.  Harry remembers his father loving to dance and socializing with people.  George also served in World War II against the Nazis.  Much of the village had been burned or destroyed by the Germans and by 1942 he had built a new home and married Georgia Anastasiou who was from the nearby village of Ellopia.  While keeping house and raising children, she also helped in the fields.  On their wedding day, George and his brother-in-law, Taso Anastasiou, were accused of shooting a German officer who had been shot by a sniper and, facing capture, they hid in the chimney of the house.  They were found and detained for several days and were chopping wood and working the soil, thinking they were digging their own graves.  Several days later the real culprits were found and they were released.

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In Domvrena, Harry remembers enjoying his childhood, attending6-in-greece-eva-bill-georgia-mary-and-harry-early-1950s school even with strict teachers, playing with other children and playing soccer.  On one occasion he scraped the shoes his mother had purchased for him and Georgia took him to the teacher for consequences.  He had to cut the verga (twig or switch) and bring it in to receive his punishment.  When he grabbed the stick to avoid the punishment, he received three whacks with the verga.  Easter was a very special time when his mother dyed the eggs red, baked tsoureki (sweet bread), and the family joined the procession of the epitaphion (the funeral bier of Christ) on Holy Friday.

Harry’s three siblings were also born in Greece.  His older sister Eva (now Apostolou) was born in 1944.  Eva worked in the insurance industry for 25 years and lives in Seattle with her husband Serafim.  Vasili “Bill”, born in 1949, lives in LaConnor, Washington, with his wife Virginia and is in the real estate business.  Bill owned and operated BGT SPORTS, a sportswear and specialty printing business, focusing on University of Washington (UW) clothing and regalia for over 12 years in Seattle and in Edmonds, Washington.  Maria, the youngest, was born in 1954 and worked with both of her brothers in their businesses and at Nordstrom.  She now lives in California with her husband, John Wainwright.

7-george-tourikis-family-circa-1958 8-george-tourikis-family-1960sAnother of Harry’s uncles, Steve Anastasiou, had been in the United States since the early 1900s, and visited his family in Greece from time to time.  With Georgia being his favorite niece, he urged the Tourikis family to emigrate to Seattle, Washington.  Harry had been in the larger town of Thiva and in the city of Athens but had few thoughts about America except the rumor of “money on the streets.”  In 1956, at 11 years of age, he and his family boarded the QUEEN FREDERIKA, the largest ship he had ever seen, for their trip to America.  With stops in Naples and Sicily, Italy, they arrived in New York two weeks later.  Approaching New York Harbor they could see the Statue of Liberty.  Most everyone was on the deck to see the statue.  On board, they befriended the Alex Limantzakis family with their five children and sadly said goodbye when they parted ways in New York.  It was the early days of cross-country flights and Harry was amazed at the length of the airplane flight to Seattle as he thought planes 99simply lifted off and landed very quickly.  In Seattle they stayed with their uncle Steve and aunt Edna for three months in the Sand Point neighborhood.  The Tourikis family even appeared on the evening television news as Greek immigrants arriving in Seattle.  Harry had never seen television before.  George initially worked at Western Steel Casting for P. J. Alexander, as did many Greek immigrants and Georgia worked as a seamstress downtown along with Panagiota Hamilos, Pelegia Malevitsis and several other Greek women.

Three months after arriving in Seattle, at a church picnic, the Tourikis family was emotionally reunited with their shipboard companions, the Limantzakis family, neither having known their ultimate destination was Seattle.  When both families moved to the Rainier Valley neighborhood, they shared a duplex.  Harry began the fifth grade at Columbia Elementary School where his teacher, Mrs. Keeney, assigned two Greek boys, Louie Spyridis and Danny Kritsonis to tutor him in English.  Along with the basic language, Louie and Danny taught Harry a few off-color words which Mrs. Keeney discovered and notified their parents.  That was the end of the tutoring.

9-harry-kicking-circa-1960Harry and his family moved to Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood where he and his sister, Eva, walked to school.  As a seventh grader he was very interested in sports but his experience was limited to soccer in Greece and with a Greek soccer group at the Lower Woodland playfield in Seattle.  Again, his curiosity found him watching football practices and how the odd-shaped ball was being kicked.  He obtained his own football and practiced kicking it with the strong leg he had from playing soccer.  In the ninth grade he turned out for the Queen Anne High School football team and used a soccer-style side swing. However, after hitting his own lineman in the back, he moved the ball back five yards for a better angle.  This worked well for kickoffs and he then began toe-kicking for better accuracy.  At the time, kicking was not as popular as it is today.  During one year at Queen Anne he didn’t miss a point after touchdown and in 1961, made nine straight in a single game against Rainier Beach for a city record. He received some newspaper coverage and a few college recruiters came to watch this “kid from Greece” kick the football.  Harry played in all three major sports, football, basketball and baseball, at Queen Anne.

10a-q-a-football 10b-q-a-basketball-1960s 10c QA baseball, 1960 corrected

At Queen Anne, Harry met Sylvan Stamolis, Manuel and Paulene Rouvelas, Anna, Peggy and Mike Falangas, Cathy Chohlas, Paulette Gumas and Bob and Don Jarvis.

Again, curiosity found Harry and his brother “borrowing” Milton Mitalas’ car while Milton was visiting their parents.  Harry had learned to start the car without a key and the boys were very careful to park the car in the exact same spot when they returned.  On one occasion, when the spot was taken, they were almost caught when they parked the car across the street.  Their fun ended one day when they arrived home in the car just as Milton walked out of the house.  Luckily, Harry was a fast runner and Milton could not catch him.

10-post-intellingencer-article-1960 11-royal-brougham-article-1960A few offers to play football in college came Harry’s way, including The University of Washington, Washington State University and Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, where Demosthenes (Dee) Andropoulos (Andros) was the Greek football coach.  The highlight of this visit was sitting on the bench with college players under the direction of a Greek coach.  Harry could also run fast.  His football career was interrupted when he was injured in a head-to-head contact with another player.  He was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital where his mother came in tears to see him.  After that Father Homer Demopulos, his Greek Orthodox priest at St. Demetrios, accompanied his parents to school to keep Harry from playing football any more.  Although he didn’t play in his senior year due to a neck injury, he did attend Yakima Junior College on a football scholarship and had some success there, although he remembers keeping his foot on a heater between kicks because of the extreme cold weather.  He did manage to kick a 47-yard field goal. Injuries to his neck and knee ended his football career and Harry transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle where he joined the DKE fraternity and graduated in 1969 with studies in business and marketing.

Harry also had some notoriety with basketball in the ninth grade.  While watching some Seattle 12-harry-1963University players practice free throws at the Queen Anne field house, he became their “gopher,” retrieving the balls for the shooters.  He was fascinated with the skill and began practicing on his own.  He entered a contest sponsored by the Seattle Post Intelligencer and won the district, city and county divisions.  He remembers the adulations he received at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church the next day.   Then he was in the state championship during halftime at the UW vs. University of Southern California game.  Harry’s knees began to shake with the huge crowd cheering the home-town boy.  He missed the first few shots but made the next 17 in a row for 19 out of 25.  However, his competitor made 21 out of 25 shots and won the trip to travel with the basketball team. Next Harry competed for the state free-throw championship during the high school state tournament and made 22 13-harry-and-mary-at-a-trade-show-1980sout of 25 shots for the third best in the state. As a freshman, he helped Queen Anne win a close game by one point making the winning free throw while the fans cheered for the “free-throw champ.”

During high school and in college he held a number of jobs: busing dishes at the Olympic Hotel, a morning paper route, parking cars for Theme Kollias and even selling ice cream.  George had introduced Harry to John Tanos, a patrioti (countryman) from Greece, who had a wholesale ice cream business.  With a white hat and pushcart, Harry made a few dollars selling ice cream sandwiches to tourists along the Seattle waterfront, at the fire station there and, with mixed success, at the hydroplane races on Lake Washington.  He always had a job and developed his sales skills along the way.

Harry’s first sales job was for American Systems, a paper and janitorial supply business operated by 15-promotion-poster-circaChris Dariotes where many of the customers were Greek-operated restaurants.  Next he worked for West Coast Paper selling industrial paper for two years.  His entry into the beverage distribution business began in 1973 with the Sid Eland beer and wine Company where he rose to the position of sales manager.  He was then recruited by Highland Distillers whose main product was Scoresby Scotch which he handled from its beginning, for 25 years.  During this time Harry had the opportunity to associate with a number of politicians and members of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  He made many presentations about new products to the Board who had the responsibility of approving products for sale in the State-controlled liquor stores.  Harry even became Governor Dixie Lee Ray’s bartender at political fundraisers around the state, a job that included walking her poodle dogs.  From Harry’s sales, Scoresby became a standard bar scotch at many cocktail lounges in Greek-owned restaurants including the Joker, Publix, Ballard Smoke Shop, Latitude 47, The Canal, Bailey’s, Costas Opa and many more.  Harry remains grateful to those Greek businesses and their operators that contributed to his success in the business.

16-angela-circa-1972 17-angela-and-harry-wedding-1982 18-harry-tourikis-family-circaBy 1975 Harry was on his own with Spirits of Washington and was representing an increasing number of brands in both Washington and Oregon.  He has always worked out of his home with his advertising and display materials there while visiting as many as 15-20 restaurants and liquor stores a day, continuing his presentations to the Liquor Board and showing his products at trade shows.  He would hire helpers as necessary including his sister, Mary, and daughter, Georgia, over the years.  Since the privatization of liquor sales in 2012, Harry’s business has changed.  Instead of dealing with the single “gate keeper,” the Liquor Board, his contacts are now with ten different distributors around the state.   At the same time, Harry can now spend less time on his business and enjoy his family.

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As with many Greek families, Harry felt some pressure from his parents to carry on the Greek traditions of language and church attendance by marrying a Greek woman.  Sports kept him busy in his younger years and dating was at a minimum.  He met Angela Christopoulos who came from Greece in 1974.  They met in 1982 and were married on March 4, 1984.  Their first daughter, Vicky (now Alifarikis), was born in 1984, is a pediatric nurse and has given Harry and Angela two granddaughters, Zoe and Panagiota Angeliki.  The second daughter, Georgia (now Tziotis), works in the corporate offices of Nordstrom.  Both daughters carried on Harry’s athletic interests as avid soccer and basketball players in high school and both graduated from the University of Washington.

Harry and his siblings led two lives during their early years in Seattle.  At home the language and food was all Greek but all American outside of the home.  Harry and Angela have passed on their language and traditions, speaking only Greek at home to their daughters who are both fluent.

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Harry is proud of his 50-year membership in AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) having attended many of its social functions and conventions.  AHEPA also provided a fruitful source for advertising in its convention programs and the MENTOR, the newsletter for Washington and Oregon.

Harry remembers telling his father not to leave Greece, but being told he did not understand as he was 26-harry-working-at-total-wines-and-more-2013only a micro pethi (little boy).  As Harry’s grandfather was fairly comfortable, the family may have fared well had they remained in Greece.  He is grateful for the support he has received from Greek friends and businesses.  He also remembers his father’s words kali mera, oli mera (good day, all day) and has used that positive attitude throughout his life. He credits his parents for giving him the strength and direction to be successful at whatever he chose to do.

Harry wishes to be remembered as an easy-going, positive and giving person and by his children as a good father with good friends and a fine family. If you meet him, he may share his business card in the form of a small packet of your favorite spirit.  And, you can be sure that his curious and engaging personality will be remembered along with the business card.

By John and Joann Nicon, February 2017
1 Harry in his office, 2014
2 Grandparents Haralambos and Maria Tourikis, 1950s
3 George and Georgia Tourikis, circa 1943
4 Georgia and George, 1965
5 George and Georgia, 1984
6 In Greece (l-r) Eva, Bill, Georgia, Mary, Harry, early 1950s
7 George Tourikis family (l-r) Harry, Mary, Jim Nikolao, George, Georgia, Bill, circa 1958
7a Harry receiving GAPA national essay contest award.1959.
8 George Tourikis family (l-r) Harry, George, Mary, Eva, Georgia, Bill, 1960s
9 Harry kicking, circa 1960
10 Post Intelligencer article, 1960
10 a, b, c – football, basketball and baseball at Queen Anne, 1960 and 1961
11 Royal Brougham article, 1960
12 Harry, 1963
13 Harry and Mary at a trade show, 1980s
14 Scoresby Scotch article, late 1980s
15 Promotion poster, mid 1980s
16 Angela, circa 1972
17 Angela and Harry wedding, 1982
18 Harry Tourikis family (l-r) Harry, Georgia, Vicky, Angela, early 19990s
19 Vicky, Harry, Georgia, Angela, 1989
20 Harry, Georgia, Vicky, Angela, 2009
21 Vicky and Georgia as junior cheerleaders, circa 1989
22 Georgia and Vicky, 2003
23 (l-r) Bill Tourikis, Artie Delimitros, Steve Etman, John Costacos, Jerry Costacos, Tak Costacos, Bill Tourikis, 1990
24 Harry and Angela at Bellevue Boys’ Club fund raiser, 2009
25 Harry receiving Liquor Board award, 2012
26 Harry working at Total Wines and More, 2013
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, November 2014