Efstathios Tsimpidis was six years old in 1906 when his mother died at Doriza, a Greek village in the Peloponessus founded by the Tsimpidis family in the 1750's where they resettled from Ikaria. Throughout his life Efstathios believed his mother, who was pregnant and ill, would have lived had he not disobeyed her pleas to "gather the chickens" from the yard and herd them into the coop. |
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 Greece with money for their sisters' dowries and funds to sustain the family. A duty-bound brother knew he could not marry until after his sisters had obtained husbands.
At age 12, Efstathios,the youngest child of Theodoros Tsimpidis and his second 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). For Greeks, the Panaghia, endowed with miraculous powers, is revered as the source of protection and comfort. Efstathios was convinced the Panaghia had spared his life. 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.
While shining shoes in Athens Efstathios received a welcomed visit from his older brother Evangelos who managed to get him a better job working as a dishwasher in a tavern. He gave his brother his savings to give to their Father and began anew to earn the $200.00 needed to purchase a steamship ticket to the United States. Steamship company agents canvased 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 underaged Efstathios entrusted his funds to a fellow who promised him passage but instead absconded with the money.
At age 18, with undying optimism, 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, make money and return home to Doriza.
Years later the children of Efstathios Tsimpidis (also known as Steve Tsempedas and Steve Pedas) added their Dad's name to Ellis Island's "Immigrant Wall of Honor" on panel 424 overlooking the harbor and Lady Liberty - the first image he had of America.
Efstathios rejected settling in the heavily Greek populated Chicago area electing to live in western Pennsylvania because it was, as he explained, "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 rented a room on Darr Avenue in a boarding house owned by the mill for their immigrant workers.
He often told how community leaders had approached the mill owner, Andrew Carnegie, to donate funds for a sewer project. Carnegie reprimended 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 1932 the homesick former shepherd from the Peloponnesus had saved Two Thousand Dollars - enough to fund the dowries of his 3 sisters, Katerina, Stavroula, and Rebecca,. He purchased his steamship ticket to return to his beloved Doriza. Upon consulting the palm reader he was perplexed that she found no evidence of a trip in his future as he was scheduled to depart the following day upon withdrawing his savings from the bank.
On March 6, 1933 Steve Pedas approached the Colonial Trust Company to withdraw his savings only to discover the insolvent bank was closed. He, along with other depositors, had lost all their savings. To stop the run on bank funds,
President Roosevelt had closed the 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" seemed to validate the palm reader's prophecy. Unable to rreturn without the dowry funds the former shepherdfrom Doriza 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 and opposite the mill where he had worked.
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.
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 the medicine disappeared.
In 1971 Steve Pedas returned to Doriza for an emotional reunion with his siblings and relatives. He remembered the dirt roads of his village, the schoolhouse, the church where he worshipped as a child and the backyard of his childhood home where his mother pleaded for him to "bring in the chickens".