Steve Mallos is not one to brag about his life. Growing up in a rather poor family, he retired as a Vice President of the American Automobile Association (AAA) of Washington despite several injuries and serious illnesses along the way.
Consider the following. As a child, he was hurt while playing football. At a Greek picnic he fell off a truck, hit his head on some glass and bled profusely. As a paratrooper in the Army, he broke an ankle while jumping out of a plane. While driving for the United State Postal Service, he hurt his back when he backed his truck into a loading dock. On yet another occasion, he became ill, was in a coma and finally recovered after three months in the hospital. He had most of his pancreas removed. He has had a heart valve replaced. His wife, Sophia nicknamed him Lazarus, as if he had risen from the dead.
Steve (Stefanos) Michael Mallos (Papamanolopoulos) was born in Seattle, Washington, on December 17, 1928. His father, Michael Chris Mallos, was originally from Kandila in the mountains of the Peloponnese in Greece but mysteriously came to the United States from The Hague, Netherlands. Michael shortened the name Papamanolopoulos to Mallos as he did not want to be called Pappas, the more common adaptation of many similar Greek names. He first arrived in New York City in 1906 and went to be with relatives in Chicago, Illinois. There he saw a photo of and later met Penelope “Fannie” Bobis and decided he wanted to marry her.
The couple worked their way west with Michael working on the railroad and first lived in Spokane, Washington. Their first children, Sophia and Vasiliki (Beth or Bessie) were born there. When the family moved to Tacoma, Washington, two more children were born: Mary and Chris. In Tacoma Michael worked in a fish market and was the founder and first president of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. The last child, Steve, was born at Seattle’s old Northgate Hospital near the family’s home in the Green Lake neighborhood. Michael supported his family by washing dishes and selling ice cream on the docks at the Seattle waterfront and operated the Blue Front Café on First and Washington Street. At the time, Fannie was very sick and, with five children, Steve was sent to live with the James Angel family in Renton, Washington, just south of Seattle.
The Angel family was fairly wealthy and Steve believes he was rather spoiled while living with them. His “adoptive” mother was not Greek and the few Greek words Steve acquired as a child were learned while visiting the Backamas and Kritsonis families nearby. Steve recalls attending Greek picnics at Angle Lake south of Seattle and feeling out of place and shunned by his siblings. In 1936, at the age of eight, Steve moved back to his parents’ home in the Green Lake neighborhood. He remembers his sisters performing vaudeville acts with dancing and singing in the basement. Greek was predominant in the home. Steve and his brother Chris served as altar boys at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church where their older sisters taught Sunday school. The brothers reluctantly attended Greek school at the church, but it did not last as they preferred to be outside playing with other children.
Steve attended John B. Allen Elementary School and Hamilton Junior High. However, when the family had to move to subsidized housing in the Yesler Terrace area, he finished high school at Broadway (now the Broadway Performance Hall, adjacent to Seattle Central Community College). At an early age Steve worked selling papers on the waterfront – the Seattle Star for three cents and the Seattle Times for five cents. As workers returned to Seattle on the old Kalakala ferry boat from the shipyards across Puget Sound in Bremerton, they quickly bought all of his papers. He remembers the dancing girls waiting at the nearby burlesque theater on First Avenue. He also earned silver dollars at a grocery store and stacked the coins up in the kitchen cupboard.
After graduating from high school in 1946, Steve joined the United States Army and served as a paratrooper, training in Japan at the end of World War II. That service ended with a broken ankle and he was transferred to be a cook in a Military Police unit. Back in Seattle 2½ years later, he joined the Marine Corps reserves as a means of making a few extra dollars. Then the Korean War began and Steve was called into active duty with the Marine Corps. He was sent to San Diego, California, for boot camp and then for combat training. Then he was sent to Korea where he completed his duty in August of 1951, once again as a cook.
When he returned to Seattle, Steve began working for the United States Postal Service as a truck driver and was promoted to a desk position in Tacoma. But, after 12 years with the Postal Service, he was injured and out of work. With no future plans, a friend who worked for AAA Washington said, “Why not become a salesman, selling memberships and insurance?” A successful 33-year career with AAA Washington was to become Steve’s future. When his mentor left AAA Washington, Steve was promoted to manager of the Tacoma office. From there he became Director of Sales at the main office in Seattle with responsibility for 85 people. He believes his success with AAA Washington came from hard work and his enjoyment of selling and relating to people. Eventually, Steve held vice president positions with responsibilities for public relations, marketing, road service and almost all departments except foreign travel. He served on the Rotary Club of Tacoma for one year and was president of the Seattle Sales and Marketing Association for two years. He was able to travel extensively within the United States as part of his work, retiring in 1992.
Steve had married in 1950 but was divorced when he attended a Christmas party in 1975 at the home of Reverend Stephanos and Presvytera (priest’s wife) Calliope Phoutrides. Presvytera told Steve she wanted him to go to Portland to meet a woman. After some prodding, Steve agreed and drove to Portland in a 1965 Ford Mustang. “She was gorgeous,” he recalls, seeing Sophia in the parking lot of Presvytera’s apartment building. Plus, she owned a 1965 Mustang fastback. A single mother at the time, Sophia agreed to join Steve for an evening at the local Elks Club. The next morning, when he saw her at church, she ignored him, as if to avoid the gossip from some in the congregation. When he returned to Seattle, Steve sent flowers to Sophia and her son George said to his mother, “You’re going to marry that guy!” And she did on June 7, 1975, in Seattle’s Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption. From his first marriage Steve has two children: Judith, a retired school teacher, and Mike, a carpenter in Tacoma. He has five grandchildren and Sophia has two grandchildren from her son George. On Fridays one can find Steve and Sophia in Granite Falls, Washington, visiting with George’s children.
Even though his family was poor, Steve never felt he was treated differently by other Greeks or by his classmates. He sometimes wishes he knew the Greek language better but resisted when Sophia suggested he begin Greek School again at the kindergarten level. While visiting Greece, he has benefited from her command of the language. In his youth he loved the Greek picnics, serving in the church altar and keeping the Greek traditions and holidays in his home. For over 15 years Steve has been meeting three to four days a week with his Greek-American Golf Club friends: Nick Castas, Gus Cooper, Bill Kaimakis (see AT HOME ON LAND OR SEA under Keeping Community), Pete Farmasonis, (see A GREEK VILLAGE FOR TWO under Making a Living) Tom Barbas and others. After 45 years of playing golf, 9 hole-in-ones and a championship on a course in Arizona, he retains a competitive edge. In mid-August of each year you will find Steve at his daughter Judy and son-in-law Greg’s home in Tahyua on Hood Canal. Greg is a master at finding the salmon that migrate into Hood Canal. He takes Steve salmon fishing where Steve was able to catch several salmon up to 35 pounds.
Remember the Mustangs? Well, during his three-month stay in the hospital, another 1965 convertible became available. He knew that, if he survived, he would purchase it. He made the purchase, recaptured his (and Sophia’s) youth and won a number of awards with the car.
Steve remains very proud of his heritage and is pleased to be known by his ethnicity with those he meets. He wishes to be remembered as a good guy, easygoing, enjoying a good round of golf and maintaining friendships. As he says, “I don’t need any accolades.”By John and Joann Nicon, June 2013
1 Steve with his military medals, 2013
2 Great grandparents, Papamanolopoulos, late 1800s
3 Michael and Fannie wedding, pre 1920s
4 Michael and Fannie with baby Sophia, 1920s
5 Brother Chris and sister Mary, 1920s
6 Steve, 1932
7 St Demetrios Sunday school, Steve second from right, second row, 1938
8 St Demetrios Sunday school reunion, Steve in white sport coat, 1985
9 Steve in U.S. Army uniform, 1946
10 Steve in Marine Corps uniform, 1951
11 25 year AAA Washington employees luncheon, 1973
12 AAA Washington neon sign
13 Steve and Sophia wedding reception, 1975
14 Steve, Sophia and George, 1982
15 Steve the fisherman, circa 2009
16 Steve’s 1965 Mustang
17 Sophia and Steve, 2013
Photos 1 and 16 by John Nicon; 12 from The Junction web site; all others from Mallos family collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon, June 2013