Family in the Greek culture is very important. Frequently, families will “adopt” people to join them by calling them thea (aunt) or theo (uncle) either for respect, to acknowledge closeness, or to expand a small family. Friends who are godparents to children or sponsors for a married couple are called koumbari and may also be considered family. Whether at home in Seattle, Washington, or while visiting his ancestral homes in Greece, Jim Kost regularly hears “I’m your cousin, I’m your cousin,” from the immediate or “adopted” family members he encounters.
Jim’s great grandfather Petros Konstantinou was born in 1852 and arrived in the United States in 1912. The family was from Xylokastro, a seaside village just east of Corinth in the Greek Peloponnese. Petros’ wife, Engolpia, was born in 1865 and came in 1920 with most of her children on the ship SS THEMISTOCLES. They had eight children, five boys and three girls. One of their sons, Sam, was born in 1893 and preceded the family in 1906. Six of their eight children accompanied Engolpia in 1920: Jim’s grandfather, also Jim, born in 1903; George in 1890; Sam in 1893; Eleni (Avgeres) in 1896; Gus in 1900; Katina (Stavros)in 1898; Mary (Stamolis) in 1911. The final child to come to the United States was Photios, (born in 1899) who arrived in 1933 after serving in the Greek Army.
Initially the family lived on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. Most of the family members shortened the name to Kost while two brothers used the name Kosta.
For a period of time the family lived in Coalfield, Washington, and worked providing coal to heat Seattle homes. During Prohibition papou Jim and his brother-in-law, Alex Stavros, stood on top of the truck with a shotgun, opposing those who would force them to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union.
While in Coalfield, Jim was introduced to Mary Krauppa through a friend by the last name of Papageorge from Tacoma, Washington. Mary’s family was Austrian and operated a large dairy farm in nearby Enumclaw, Washington. After they married, Mary rapidly adopted her husband’s Greek culture and language. She also spoke English to her grandchildren and, given her Austrian heritage, taught them a few words of German. Her grandson Jim remembers her self-sufficiency, making jellies, beer, root beer and soap while maintaining a huge garden.
Papou Jim later operated the Kost Brothers Tavern (now the Dock Café) on North 35th Street and Stone Way in Seattle. Later, he was working at Western Steel Casting where P.J Alexander, another Greek, helped a number of Greek immigrants find employment. One of his co-workers, George Tourikis, told him “You have a son (George Kost) and I have a niece in Greece (Maria Tourikis). They should get together.”
George Kost was born in 1929 in Issaquah, Washington, and lived in Coalfield, Washington, until his family moved to the North Beach neighborhood of Seattle in 1945 where Jim, his parents and several relatives still reside. George graduated from Ballard High School. He then served in the Korean War where he was in charge of the motor pool and was honorably discharged after being injured by receiving shrapnel in his shoulder. His interest in vehicles had begun while drag racing as a youngster and continued after his military service when he went to work at Davies Chevrolet. In the 1950s he had his own auto repair shop in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. George later operated Big Dyno Automotive below 40th on Stone Way, another repair shop which he sold in 1967 and ended his career driving trucks for Ryerson Steel until he retired. George had two sisters, Jean Mennel (deceased) and Anne Jackson who lives in Seattle. George passed away on January 13, 2017.
Maria Tourikis was born in 1935 and remembers when her village was burned to the ground in World War II. When her father had lit a candle he was labeled an informant and both of his legs were broken by the Germans. With three daughters and two sons almost starving, Mary’s mother buried food to preserve it while the family found safety by living in a little church in the mountains. When George visited Maria Tourikis in the town of Domvrena, near Thisvi in Central Greece he said “If I don’t like her, I’ll come back.” He apparently did like her and returned to Greece in 1957 where they participated in a double marriage with Pete and Maria Stavros.
Maria brought three of her siblings to Seattle from Greece: her brother, Mike Tourikis; her sisters Dina (Bakamus); Effie (Lazarou). Maria’s father, Panagioti, vowed to never leave Greece “unless I can bring my donkey” and it wasn’t until 1977 that Jim was able to spend time with his maternal papou in Domvrena. When Maria began driving in the late 1960s, her time and volunteer work at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church increased significantly. Now, at age 82 she still helps out whenever possible.
James (Demetrios) George (Georgios) Kost (Konstantinou) was born at Group Health Hospital in Seattle on February 28, 1959. Two of his father’s cousins changed their names from Kost to Kosta and Jim is occasionally temped to change his name back to the original Konstantinou.
Maria spoke only Greek to Jim and his sister while George’s first choice was English. While the children were bilingual, they were rather reserved about it until they became comfortable in their later school years. When Jim began kindergarten at North Beach Elementary, his teacher called the Kost home concerned that Jim didn’t understand what was taking place around him. When his father asked Jim why, Jim replied “She didn’t ask me anything.” The situation was similar with his sister, Sylvia (Soteria) who was born in 1960 and named after her maternal grandmother. Jim continued at Whitman Middle School and graduated from Ballard High School in 1977. He played football and basketball on community and church teams.
Jim lived with his papou (grandfather) Jim and yiayia (grandmother) Mary when he was young. Jim died in 1964 and Mary in 1995. There was a huge emphasis on Pascha (Easter) when the family would roast lambs and entertain all the relatives. Papou Jim and his son George were very “Americanized” and did not attend St. Demetrios regularly. However, he is grateful for his mother’s love of the Church and that she immersed him in the Greek and Orthodox traditions. Maria did not drive but always made sure she and her children were in regular attendance. If they could not share a ride with Greek neighbors, they would ride three buses from their home in North Beach to the Church. Beginning around age seven or eight Jim had both Mr. Milonopoulos and Mrs. Hazimahalis as Greek school teachers and believes he is about 60% fluent. While he may not understand all that is said in Greek, “I can get by.”
Jim and his sister learned to swim in Puget Sound, a short distance from their home and often spent summers in Soap Lake, Washington, known for its curing mineral water and affectionately referred to as the Greek Riviera. The family stayed in a trailer and their father would commute to Seattle for work during the week. Jim fondly recalls the time there: swimming, fishing and riding motorcycles.
When he finished high school, Jim had saved some money and travelled to Greece with his mother, sister and a cousin. He remained there for six months to get to know his papou Panagioti. Back in Seattle he attended North Seattle Community College (now North Seattle College) and finished at Edmonds Community College. He then joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and began working at Ryerson Steel, where he worked for the next 11 years.
By 1984 Jim was becoming very active at St. Demetrios with the Young Adult League (YAL) where they raised money to fund its activities by selling souvlaki (shish kabobs) at the annual Northwest FolkLife and Bumbershoot festivals. It was there he became acquainted with Patti (Petroula) Lambert who he knew previously as “a speck in his eye” at Ballard High. Patty was born in Great Lakes, Illinois, of a Greek mother, Loula, (nee Paloukas) and German father, George Lambert, who relocated to Seattle through his United States Navy assignment. Patty has taught Sunday school and visited with elderly parishioners in addition to working as registrar at their alma mater, Ballard High School. Jim and Patty have been married since June 2, 1984, and have three children. The eldest, George “Jimmy” was born in 1986, Ellia in 1991 and Athan in 1992. Both sons are in Seattle and Ellia lives in Chicago, Illinois. Jim and Patty have four grandchildren and one on the way as of this writing. The Kost interest in motor vehicles has been revived in Athan, a diesel mechanic who loves restoring old cars.
Jim was about 28 years old when he obtained a part-time job driving a bus for METRO (King County Metro Transit). With little chance for advancement at the steel mill, when a full-time bus driving position became available, Jim gave his two-week notice and made the switch to METRO. By 2000 he had driven almost every route in King County and was a first-line supervisor of bus drivers. He then became construction coordinator of impacts, adjusting bus routes to deal with the impact of construction and weather conditions. He believes his management style, based on the Golden Rule of treating others as he wished to be treated, has been the reason for any success on the job. In 2005 he became field operations chief at METRO. Jim tells a humorous story about two Greek women who were gossiping on his bus and, in Greek, he surprised them by thanking them for riding with METRO. He also recalls driving a Greek business owner home and having to wake the man up at his bus stop. His biggest concern today is the safety issue with automobile drivers and pedestrians focusing on their smart phones and not paying attention to the bus near them.
Jim remains very close with his family, physically and emotionally. His parents have been a few blocks away in the old family home and his sister is a few miles away in Monroe, Washington. He is also close to the Treperinas family who lived next door to his family in Hostia, Greece. Another theo (uncle), Bill Lazarou, came from the same area and married Jim’s thea (aunt) Morfo. Whether in Seattle or while visiting his relatives in Greece, the words “I’m your cousin” are regularly heard. The annual family Easter lamb-roasting celebration continues, now at Jim’s home.
Jim is grateful for his connection with the Church and views himself first as an Orthodox Christian and secondly of Greek heritage. He is grateful his mother and his wife’s mother have provided strong examples for their children. Several years ago when the director of St. Demetrios’ Greek festival lost his wife, Jim had been in charge of facilities and agreed to take charge of the entire event for one year. Now, as festival director, he knows the one reason for any success is his ability to work with people by listening and empowering them to take ownership of a task. While this may not be a typical Greek characteristic (maybe from his Austrian ancestry), it has held him in good stead, both in his work and in his Church activities.By John and Joann Nicon, August 2017
1 Jim Kost, 2016
2 Sam and Fotini Kost wedding (l-r) Rear: Jim Kost, Mary Kost, Alexs Stavros, Pete Stavros, Katina Kost Stavros, Photios Kost, Gus Kost, Helen Kost, Themios Avgeres holding Noa Avgeres Deligani; Front: Mary Kost Stamolis, Petros Kost holding John Stavros and Nick Avgeres, Sam Kost, Photini Kost, Engolpia Kost, 1920
3 Demetrios Kost, 1920s
4 Easter at the Bakamas home, mid 1930s
5 Easter at the Bakamas home, mid 1930s
6 Mary Kost, 1950
7 Demetrios Kost, 1950s
8 Demetrios Kost family (l-r) Jean, Demetrios, Ann, George, Mary, circa 1943
9 George Kost, late 1950s
10 George Kost at Easter, 1964
11 Soteria and Panagioti Tourikis, 1920s
12 Soteria and Panagioti Tourikis, 1980s
13 Mary Kost at Easter, 1967
14 Jim on a tractor, 1967
15 Jim, the hunter, 1967
16 Jim on a motorcycle, 1975
17 Jim in high school, 1977
18 Jim and Patty wedding, 1984
19 Patty and her mother, Loula Lambert, early 2000s
20 Jimmy, Ellia and Athan Kost, 2007
21 George, Sylvia and Mary Kost, 2009
22 John and Sylvia 2011
23 Loula Lambert and Helen Malevitsis, 2010
Photo 1 by John Nicon; 20 by Yuen Lui; all others from Kost family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, August 2016