Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wish I knew more about the Crockett Connection...

My Papou George Sarris was born in Kyparissi, Laconias on July 17, 1892, and arrived in New York on November 17, 1910.  In those days, Greek immigrants primarily celebrated namedays, not birthdays. Legend has it that Papou first listed April 23, St. George's Day, as his birthday because he could not remember the actual date...
George Sarris was living in Crockett (CA)* when he joined the U.S. Army on September 5, 1918, on his pathway to citizenship. Not surprisingly, he served in a bakery unit. A small photo with "18" on the back has him standing on train steps with a bag in his hand. Is he heading for Ft. Kearny with the unique icon that he took along with him? Did he bring that icon -- with the dried leaves I just noticed -- from his village? Papou's naturalization papers were subsequently issued in Martinez (Contra Costa County) on July 16, 1920. We have a picture of his Crockett fountain-candy store circa 1920-21...But there are more questions. Why was he in Crockett (which is near San Francisco)? Who else from his family or village might have also lived there?  The Crockett history trail runs rather dry because we didn't record the facts when our grandparents and parents were alive.

Recently I watched "The Greeks of Southern California Through the Century: The Pioneers 1900-1942," a  documentary hosted by a very proud Olympia Dukakis and produced by the The Greek Heritage Society of Southern California in 2002.**   Recorded interviews with first generation Greek-Americans keep their sometimes brutal experiences and amazing achievements alive for generations to come. Keywords were tenacity, loyalty, and faith. Bravo!

But what about the Greeks of San Joaquin County? Most of our old photos are packed away in boxes stored high in closets or even in the garage. Meanwhile, memories are fading and our ancestors are passing away. We need to dig those pictures out, talk about them, and identify them -- otherwise they will become simple curiosities...Documents, too. Every family kept the records of when and how they came to the States, marriage certificates, church baptismal records, army papers, etc. My father Steve carried a wallet-sized copy of his discharge papers in his pocket until the day he died. My Papou's collected papers provide the facts reported above. Meanwhile, however, I am left wishing that I knew more about the Crockett Connection...

Papou George Sarris' Crockett establishment
Crockett, CA, is currently a small unincorporated "census-designated place" (pop. 3,094) in Contra Costa county beneath the Cartinez bridge and home of the Sugartown Festival and Street Fair (on July 20th this year).
** I purchased this video at the amazing, must-visit National Hellenic Museum in Chicago last summer -- find out more about the museum and how to join HERE.

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