If one was looking for a concentration of Greeks in Seattle, the Wallingford area was one of the best examples. While most descendants have since moved elsewhere, the period from 1940 to 1970 was the closest to a horio, a Greek village, that one could experience. Helen Christine Georges remembers well the names of families in the area and their uniquely Greek behavior.
Eleni Chrisoula Georgiou was conceived in central Greece and born in Chicago, Illinois, in October of 1938, just three months after her parents came to the United States. Her father had been in Chicago for 22 years before returning to Greece and marrying her mother. In August 1945, the family moved to Seattle because their uncles were here, for a better life and to leave what they saw as a declining neighborhood.
The family’s first home in Seattle was in Leschi and Helen recalls her mother crying because she missed her homes in Chicago and Greece. Her mother retained a strong Greek identity (sometimes to the embarrassment of her children) by continuing to use Greek at home, cooking Greek and running a Greek house.
The move to Wallingford might have been because other Greeks lived there, there was a cluster of schools and good public transportation. There were no Greek-owned businesses in the area, rather it was primarily a convenient and relatively new neighborhood for upwardly mobile families. Helen is seen in this photo at a birthday party in the 1940s with several other Greek children. While most Greek children attended Greek School at their Orthodox Church, there was enough demand in the area so that Greek School was held two days a week in Wallingford. The Church cantor, Constantine Milonopoulos, brought his authoritative style to bear at nearby Hamilton Junior High School. Here is Helen’s 1947 Greek School promotion certificate.
The Greek community in 1940-1960s Wallingford has enabled Helen to keep a lifelong interest in things Greek. She has made trips to Greece over a half dozen times, has kept close contact with family and friends there, and her language skills work.
Growing up in Wallingford allowed Helen and her Greek-American neighbors to assimilate into the American culture while cherishing their background.By John Nicon, April 2011
1 Helen Georges with her high school yearbook containing photos of several Greek Classmates
2 Birthday party on the porch
3 Greek School promotion certificate
4 Helen with namesake and grandniece Eleni
Photos 1 and 4 by John Nicon; Photos 2 and 3 from the Georges Family Collection SOURCES
Video interview by John Nicon, April 2011