In his youth Panos George Takis (Tsiknes) learned to share what he had with others. He was taught the spirit of generosity on the family farm in Machias, Washington, which was a gathering place for many Greeks. Today he continues to help others in need.
Names have been very interesting for Panos. By tradition, a Greek Orthodox child is not named until the sacrament of infant baptism. So, following his birth on April 4, 1928, Panos left Providence Hospital in Everett, Washington, with the name of Dion Bruce as his neighbor, who was a nurse at the hospital, had to meet the legal requirement of naming a child before leaving the hospital. When Panos was born, his father told John Pappas, the nouno (godfather), to name him anything but Panagioti as that had been the name of a deceased uncle. When the priest almost said Panagioti, Panos’ mother nearly fainted. The priest recanted and it has been Panos ever since. Finally, Panos’ father felt the original family name, Tsiknes, was too hard to pronounce so the name was changed and it has been Takis as long as Panos can remember.
Panos’ father George Tsiknes was born in 1888 and entered the United States through Boston, Massachusetts, in 1901 where a cousin provided a job for him. He was from a small village formerly known as Toupolia, northeast of Athens. From Boston George went on to Detroit, Michigan, and worked for the Packard Motor Company. In 1914 he returned to Greece to fight against Turkey. Panos’ mother, Ourania Mazaria, born in 1892, was also from Toupolia where her older sister had been chosen as a bride for George. When the older sister declined, Ourania volunteered and became George’s wife. The couple returned to Detroit where their first child, John, was born in 1918. They left Detroit and moved to Hoquiam, Washington, where their second child, Joan, was born in 1920. The family later moved to Everett where George operated a coffee shop across from the Rainbow Tavern on Hewitt Avenue. In Everett, George met John Pappas who had a chicken farm in Machias. It was during prohibition so grain was only available for farmers. Thus Pappas was able to skirt the law and make his own alcohol from grain intended for feeding chickens. His brother George assisted by delivering “the goods” to Seattle.
When the Takis family moved to their own farm in Machias, they kept close contact with Pappas and with the Rakus family who also had a farm. Panos’ sister Rose (Triandafilia) was born in 1921, his brother Chris in 1924 and Panos in 1928 bringing the number of siblings to five. The farm occupied 20 acres where cows and chickens were raised and vegetables and fruit were grown. The children would pick beans, thin kale and peel bark from Cascara trees. Strawberries and blackberries were sold to nearby canneries. On the farm only Greek was spoken. When Panos went to Machias Elementary School, he repeated the first grade as he spoke no English. He liked school because he could be with other children who lived more than a mile away from each other in rural areas. One humorous event occurred when he was in the fourth grade and Pete Pappas was in the third. They performed on stage and used some “off-color” Greek which no one else understood. Fortunately, Panos’ father was not present. Panos recalls a number of similar situations and still enjoys a good laugh over them.
Tragically, Ourania became ill with cancer (only cobalt was available for treatment at the time) and her life came to an end at the young age of 45 in 1937. After she died, George worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the family sold fruits and vegetables on the road adjacent to the farm. Panos attended Snohomish High School along with Gus Rakus and Pete Pappas. He might have participated in sports in school but couldn’t because he had to go home and milk the cows.
The Takis farm was like a park. Many Greek friends and relatives would come from Bellingham to the north and Seattle to the south with food and wine. For those Greek families that came to Washington in the early 1900s the relationships were very close. At the Takis farm they could be found eating, drinking and dancing on Sundays and holidays, especially in the summer. Frank Drosos had a wind-up record player to accompany the dancers. At one time five lambs were roasted at the same time.
Panos’ father returned to Greece in 1946 and married Catherine who became Panos’ stepmother. Brother Chris remained on the farm while Panos was still in school. Papou (grandfather) Nick Raptis came to help for a while. Gus Rakus’ father also helped in the evenings but much of the responsibility remained with Panos. In 1948 his sister Rose married Pete Kaloris and in the fall of 1949 Panos left the farm to help herd sheep in Colorado with Pete’s partner John Papoulos. Panos spent three summers on the ranch and remembers marching sheep to watering holes, often down the middle of US route 40.
In 1950 Panos was inducted into the United States Army when the Korean conflict began. After basic training in Okido, Japan, he saw active duty 30 miles east of Seoul, South Korea, on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in 1951 and 1952. Those on the front lines earned four points per month for having live bullets flying over their heads. Panos earned 36 points and was taken off the line. He also remembers a 30-mile train ride with aircraft firing over the train and only a pot belly stove on the car for heat during a cold December.
After 21 months, Panos was discharged, returned home and attended Everett Junior College (now Everett Community College) under the GI bill which provided a range of benefits for returning veterans. He married in 1955 and knew that farming was not in his future. At the time, the United States Department of Agriculture was hiring and Panos was scheduled to begin work in Othello, Washington. However, Panos learned from a friend about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, and spent the next two years closer to home working on a watershed in Snohomish, Washington. The work involved improving waterways, drainage and revetments for the farms in the area. Panos then joined the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) where a 30-year career began. During that time he worked on drainage issues for the USDA Stabilization and Conservation Service in Snohomish County helping residents impacted by flooding rivers, improving drainage projects and assisting farmers with various irrigation and drainage issues.
After Panos retired in 1988 another career began. His marriage had ended in 1980 and he became acquainted with Yvonne Comstock whose son-in-law worked in a building adjacent to his. “Vonnie” was from Wenatchee, Washington, and had been previously married with two children. He and Yvonne were married on June 8, 1988. Her business was a medical transcription service, called Dictation-p.r.n. Doctors would record their patients’ confidential information on a digital system located in the office in Mill Creek where it was then transcribed and printed. Panos’ job was to deliver the transcribed reports to the hospitals and doctors’ offices. This involved daily trips between Marysville, Seattle and Bellevue. In 2000 the company was sold and Yvonne and Panos retired.
Panos was “drafted” into AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) with Pete Koutlas when he was not yet 18 years old as Everett did not have a Sons of Pericles (AHEPA’s program for young men) chapter. He served in almost every office until the Everett chapter dissolved. Panos worked on another activity, “Ever on Sunday” (an ethnic celebration) where AHEPANs and other Everett Greeks shared their heritage with the community. Jim Amunsis and Bill Gikas were the organizers. Charlie Andrews, the chief chef at the Monte Christo Hotel in Everett, was the primary cook. Mike Papadimitriou, a long-time shoemaker, was active in the event as well.
The Takis family was not active in the church during Panos’ youth but that changed significantly in his later years. His first time in a Greek Orthodox Church was at his mother’s 40-day memorial service where he remembers all the men sitting on the right side and all the women on the left. He also recalls his aunt from Bellingham bringing the koliva (a blend of boiled wheat, sugar, raisins and other ingredients) prepared for the service. While Panos’ first marriage was outside of the Orthodox Church, he and Yvonne were married in Seattle’s Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption.
Panos has volunteered at the Assumption Church by running errands for the church secretary and maintaining the grounds. He recalls once sitting in the back of the church when the priest asked for volunteers to make sandwiches for a local homeless shelter. The late Bill Pilatos and Fr. Steve Tsichlis then began a weekly program of preparing food in large quantities for the St. Martin de Porres Shelter in downtown Seattle. Now, on the first Thursday of each month a healthy entrée and salad are prepared to serve up to 300 people. Panos, along with Mel and Theodora Geokezas (see BRINGING THE COOKING BACK HOME under Making a Home), Popi Tarlson, Basil Papachronis and Tom Rakus (among others) volunteer their time. When the Assumption Church volunteers provide the food, the St. Martin diners are satisfied with a meal that is well beyond the simple fare of soup and sandwich.
In his youth he experienced no problems related to his Greek background as few the Everett area had ever heard of Greece. However, several mistook him for being Mexican. On occasion he was even called Pancho instead of Panos. Once he was almost denied entry into the United States when returning from Mexico to Nogales, New Mexico, as the border authorities thought he was trying to sneak into the country.
A favorite Greek saying for Panos him is pote aspri to corako, (when the crow turns white) or nothing bad will happen until the crow turns white. Panos has learned there is some good in every person and it is important that people feel needed. He believes the family unit and the relationships with others are very important rather than the “me” generation he sees today. He wants to be remembered as always having something good to say about others and not expecting any thanks for what he does. In Panos’ words, “One should perform good deeds only because they want to and not because they expect something in return.”By John and Joann Nicon, August 2013
2 Machias Elementary School, Panos back row, fourth from left, 1937
3 Tsiknes family (l-r) Chris, Joan, George, John, Ourania, Panos, Rose, circa 1933
4 Panos in a sombrero, circa 1946
5 Panos in another hat, circa 1944
6 Machias farm picnic, 1950s
7 Roasting lambs on the farm, 1950s
8 Panos (center) with Future Farmers of America, 1945
9 Panos school photo, 1946
10 Panos in Army uniform, 1950
11 Panos (right) in Army, 1953
12 Brothers Chris, John and Panos with nephew Jim Kaloris, 1954
13 Farm visitors (l-r) Standing: Spiro Stelios, George Takis, unknown, Bill Pappas, Gust Georges, Dimitri Tsilifonis; Sitting: Rose Kaloris, Catherine (Rina) Georges, unknown, Despina Stelios, unknown, Panos’ stepmother Catherine, 1950s
14 Yvonne and Panos, 1985
15 Everett AHEPA (l-r) Rear: Bill Gikas, Nick Karavity, John Takis, Ken Callahan, Jim Roppas, Fote Koutlas, Bill Pappas, unknown, Panos, Pete Southas Panos Koutlas, C. P. Koutlas; Middle: unknown, Gus Colliers, unknown, Frank Drosos, Jim Manos, John Pappas, Costa Christothoulou; Front: Gust Rakus, Tom Southas, Andy Kaddas, William Alex Karinson, Jim Amunsis, Andrew Raptis, John Karinson,1950s
16 St. John the Almsgiver cooks (l-r) Phane Larson, Howard Conom, Goldie Chatalas, Mel Geokezas, Popi Tarlson, Basil Papachronis, Panos, 2006
17 Panos, early 1980s
18 Drawing of Panos from photo, 1989
Photo 1 by John Nicon; all others from Takis family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, June 2013