Efstathios Tsimpidis (Steve Pedas) and his wife Angeliki Havas
An odyssey from Doriza, a Greek village in Peloponesus Greece to Farrell, Pennsylvania
Efstathios (Stathis) Tsimpidis was six years old in 1906 when his mother died in the Greek village of Doriza. Throughout his life Efstathios believed his mother, who was ill and pregnant with her sixth child, would have lived had he not disobeyed her pleas to gather the chickens from the yard and herd them into the coop, a task which she herself undertook.
The Tsimpidis family founded Doriza in the 1750's when they fled Ikaria and resettled to the Peloponesus in the prefecture of Arkadia, a mountainous district with towering peaks, precipices and deep gorges, which the poet Virgil named the "Happy land of shepherds". A popular song, still sung today, tells the story of the marriage of Tsimpidis who had "500 goats and 1000 sheep".
Doriza was a village of peasants so forsaken that the Ottomon Turks who ruled Greece (1453-1821) did not trouble themselves to dominate the area - obviously a mistake as this is where the revolutionary rulers who subsequently led the uprising which led to the War of Independence (1821-1829) had fled.
At the turn of the century Greece was in economic turmoil and many families sent their sons to America where they were expected to work hard and return to the homeland with money to sustain the family. A duty-bound brother knew he could not marry until after he had secured dowries to procure husbands for his sisters.
By 1910 more than three quarters of the male population from the Peloponnesus between the ages of 18 and 35 had left for America. The emigrating Greek did not forget his family. Millions of dollars were received by families in the Peloponnesus whose relatives were in the United States, making this area the first to prosper economically.
At age 12, Efstathios,the youngest child of Theodoros Tsimpidis and his wife Thresevgeni Karahalios, departed his beloved Doriza traveling on foot for several months, working odd jobs en route to Athens where he arrived on August 15, a religious holy day which commemorates the Ascension of the Panaghia (the Virgin Mary). Endowed with miraculous powers the Panaghia, for Greeks, is revered as the source of protection and comfort. Upon arriving in Athens the young shepherd miraculously survived when, unfamiliar with the electric Trolley, he stepped on the "hot' third rail track which hurled him skyward and landed him on the opposite side of the street. Efstathios was convinced the Panaghia had spared his life.
Efstathios worked as a shoe shine boy. He was polishing a pair of brown and white shoes when his older brother Evangelos visited him from their village with news from home. The family was in need of the meager savings Efstathios had accumulated. With his brother's help he secured a better job washing dishes in a tavern and once again began to earn the $200.00 needed to purchase a steamship ticket to the United States.
Steamship company agents canvassed Piraeus in search of prospective passengers over the age of 18 who could travel unaccompanied by adults. An active black market existed for passage tickets and forged documents. The underage and naive Efstathios entrusted his hard earned funds to a fellow who promised him passage but instead absconded with the money.
Lacking a proper birth certificate he was unable to secure proper documentation to depart Greece to the United States. Somehow he managed to board a ship to Spain and depart from Spain to the land where the "streets were paved with gold". At age 18, with undying optimism, the energetic Efstathios Tsimpidis boarded a Spanish ship and faced a month long angry sea in steerage en route to New York's Ellis Island.
In 1920 the Statue of Liberty welcomed a seasick Efstathios Tsimpidis who emerged from the bowels of a ship to begin fulfilling his duty and family obligation - work hard, raise dowries to procure husbands for his sisters, and return home to Greece.
Years later the children of Efstathios Tsimpidis added their Dad's name (Steve Tsempedas/Steve Pedas) to Ellis Island's " American Immigrant Wall of Honor" on panel 424 overlooking the harbor and Lady Liberty - the first image he had of America. Upon disembarking the ship the young shepherd knelt down on his knees and kissed the ground at Ellis Island.
Efstathios rejected settling in the heavily Greek populated Chicago area electing to live in Farrell, Pennsylvania because he explained, "It was closer to Greece".
He joined his step-brothers, William and George Tsimpidis in the booming steel town of Farrell, Pennsylvania where he secured a job in the Carnegie-Illinois steel mill working a 14 hour day for less than $1.00 a day. He, like other immigrant mill workers, rented a room on Darr Avenue in one of the boarding houses owned and leased to them by the Carnegie-Illinois steel company. He remembered his first day at the mill as he did not have funds to purchase workmen's gloves which left him with sore and blistered hands.
He often told how community leaders had approached the mill owner, Andrew Carnegie, to donate funds for a sewer project. Carnegie reprimanded the leader of the group for striking a match to light a cigar rather than use a candle. He donated three dollars to the project and told them to raise ten cents from everyone else and thus they would have their required funds.
In 1933 the homesick former shepherd from the Peloponnesus had saved enough money to fund the dowries of his 3 sisters, Katerina, Stavroula, and Rebecca. He purchased his steamship ticket to return to his beloved Doriza.
Steeped in superstition, the weekend prior to his departure, he consulted Zaga, a Serbian fortune teller who, working in a Darr Avenue basement room, had acquired an enviable knack within Farrell's ethnic community (which comprised of Greeks, Italians, Serbians, Albanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Russians and others) for accurately predicting the future by reading palms. In a room, dimly lit by incense burners, she studied Efstathios's palm and announced that, alas, on the inner surface of his hand there was no evidence of a trip in his future. This perplexed Efstathios as he was scheduled to depart Farrell for Greece the following day upon withdrawing his savings from the bank.
On Monday, March 6, 1933, Steve Pedas (Efstathios Tsimpidis) approached the Colonial Trust Company to withdraw his money only to discover the insolvent bank was closed. He, along with other depositors, had lost their savings. To stop the run on bank funds, President Roosevelt had closed all banks in an effort to resolve the nation's economic crisis which had destroyed the banking system during the Depression.
Roosevelt's "Emergency Banking Act" validated the palm reader's prophecy. Unable to return to Doriza without the funds for his sisters' dowries the former shepherd/mill worker turned entrepreneur. He secured a loan from the Gully Bank, opened the Broadway Cash Market, a grocery store at the corner of Broadway and Federal Street opposite the mill where he had been employed. He established himself in the steel town as a grocer of specialties imported from Greece and abroad.
His grocery store profits helped secure dowries for his 3 sisters thus freeing him to think about getting married which led him back to the community's respected fortune teller, Zaga, for a reading of his marital prospects. Should he return to his Greek village to secure a wife? The Serbian prophetess studied his palm and predicted that a bride would come to him in the United States. Meanwhile, on the island of Limnos a young woman, Angeliki Havas, was taken by her stepmother to visit a fortune teller. The palm reading psychic predicted that Angeliki's future included "a journey to a distant land".
In 1938 Steve Pedas (Efstathios Tsimpedas) married Angeline (Angeliki) Havas in the one room Greek church located above the storefront on Haywood Street (Roemer Boulevard). Their reception was held at Farrell's Italian Home.
Fate has smiled on Steve and Angeline Pedas who had both been orphaned of their mothers in childhood. In the postwar prosperity they set down roots in their adopted country where their odyssey continues today through their children Ted, George, Marcy and Tom and granddaughters Christina and Stephanie.
In 1944 Steve Pedas secured a $1,000 loan during World War II to arrange through the International Red Cross to ship the 'miracle drug' penicillin to Doriza to his ailing father. He did not realize that all medications during the war were reserved for military use. The funds and medicine disappeared as did many of the packages of supplies, food and clothes, he sent to Doriza all of which were confiscated by others before reaching their destination.
In 1971 Steve Pedas returned to Doriza for an emotional reunion with the siblings he had last seen when, at age 12, he had departed Doriza for America. He remembered the winding dirt roads of his village, the schoolhouse, the church where he worshipped as a child and the backyard of his childhood home where, as a 6 year old, he disobeyed his mother's plea to round up the roaming chickens and herd them into the coop.
Rear: Left to right:
The groom Efstathios Tsimpidis, unknown (Karahalios?), Mr. Mouganis, Spiros Martini, Georgios Talaganis, Nick Mavrapidos
Flower girls - Miss Talaganis, unknown