Note: The Paloumpis family owned and operated the Princess Sweet Shop in Minonk from 1915 until 1964. This article was written by Mary Hallick who is the daughter of Tom and Sophie Paloumpis and is 96 years old and resides in Milwaukee, WI.
Both the Christophilis and Paloumpis families had a unique reason for coming to the United States. It was different from the usual group of immigrants seeking their dreams.
The information I have came mostly from my mother Sophie and from my travels to the mainland of Greece and to the island of Calymnos in the Agean Sea.
Sophie was born Juy 17, 1898 or 1899. She always claimed 1899 as her year of birth, but her sister, Calliope, said it was 1898. There are no baptismal or birth records because when Italy lost the "Protection Rights" after World War II, the Italians threw all the papers and records in the sea.
Sophie was the youngest child of Victoria and Jeremiah. They had Calliope, James and Sophie. When James was 14 he fell and scraped his knee which became infected and he died. Sophie was about 9 years old and adored her brother James. When he died she was devastated and mourned his death. The family would find her at the cemetery sobbing tears over his passing.
Jeremiah, who was in Paris at the time of the boys passing, returned home and promised that he was giving up being a sponge merchant. He bought sponges from the boats at a "silent auction", processed them and sent them to the company in Paris. He planned to return to Calymnos and take care of the vast wealth that his wife Victoria inherited.
Jeremiah realized that Sophie was suffering the loss of her brother and suggested taking Sophie with him on his trip to Nassau, Bahamas. Jeremiah had to break his contract with his brother Constantine. In addition, it was necessary for Jeremiah to travel to Paris. He wanted a contract to supply sponge occasionly to the company. He felt the change of environment would help Sophie ease the pain of her loss. Victoria reluctantly agreed and Sophie went to Nassau with her father Jeremiah. They were to be gone for 2 to 3 years at the most.
When they arrived in Nassau in 1910, Jeremiah enrolled Sophie in school with the Catholic nuns where she learned to read, write and speak English with a British accent. Jeremiah had a small house and Sophie and Jeremiah lived there until he left for Paris.
Constantine and his wife Adrianne took Sophie to live with them and their children. Adrianne was from Paris and only allowed French or Greek to be spoken in the house. So in one year Sophie learned to speak French and English. After she was conversant in French, Adrianne taught her to read and write in French. Sophie had beautiful hand writing, so she became Adrianne's secretary.
Jeremiah went to France at the wrong time as World War I began and the transportation was dangerous. The German submarines (U-boats) ruled the seas, so Jeremiah was in France for the duration of the war.
After Jeremiah retured to Nassau in late 1918, he and Sophie packed their belongings and travelled to New York to return to Calymnos. They knew they would have to wait for a boat so Jeremiah decided that he and Sophie should go to Gary, IND, to see his nephew Michael Christofilis.
They hadn't seen Michael for many years. He had left Calymnos and went to school in Constantinople. There he studied to be a lawyer. It was known that he spent time in China but it was not known when he came to the U. S. He could not practice law here so he opened a haberdashery store on Adams Street in Gary, IN. His sister Catherine followed him, married John Koletis of Rock Island, IL. John had a movie theater. They had a daughter Victoria who was born in 1917.
When Michael met Sophie, he was surprised that she was well educated and tri-lingual. Michael approached his uncle Jeremiah and told him it would be criminal to take Sophie back to Calymnus. Whom would she marry? Was there someone who was that well educated? She has seen the world. Would she be content to live in the island?
Jeremiah agreed. They approached Sophie and she understood what they were saying but she did want to see her mother Victoria. They convinced her that a good husband would take her back to visit. So they set out to find a husband for Sophie.
Michael approached a candy salesman to help find a groom. The salesman knew Tom Paloumpis and approached Tom. The salesman went back to Michael and Tom was invited to Gary. Tom made several trips to Gary. Sophie and Jeremiah made several trips to Minonk and after 6 months Tom gave Sophie a diamond ring.
Athanasios (Tom) Paloumpis was born January 30, 1892 at Gardena, Kalavryta, Greece. He was the fourth child of Mary Maharis and Andrew Paloumpis. The family wanted the baby to be named Hercules in honor of Mary's brother Hercules. Hercules had gone to Italy to study grapes and wine making and was successful. He helped the family often. But when the baby was being baptized the priest asked the godfather for the name and he gave the name Athanasious. Yes, the parents were upset. The grandmother always called him Hercules.
Athanasios had two older brothers, George and Constantine, a sister Evanthea and a younger brother Niketas (Nick). There was a monastery nearby and Andrew Paloumpis had two brothers who became monk priests and were graduates of the University of Athens.
The monk priest Partheneos was the abbot of the monastery and monk priest Seraphios was head of the monastery school. So Athanasios' older brothers George and Constantine received an excellent education there. However, they were mischievous and caused trouble. It was told that their favorite trick was to tie half walnut shells on the paws of the monastery cats and send them howling down the wooden steps at night when the monks were asleep.
When it was time for Athanasios and Niketas to attend the school, Parthemos would not accept them as the monks had voted NO. So Athanasios only had a third grade education.
Andrew the father took Athanasios at 12 years old to work as a delivery boy for a grocer at the town of Aigeon near the Corinth canal. The grocer then moved his store to Athens and he took Athanasios with him.
By the time Athanasios was 17 he had saved enough money to come to America and enough to return home if it did not turn out well. He wrote his mother's brother John Maharis that he had the money to come but needed a job. Uncle John was more than happy to give him a job in the confectionary in Milwaukee.
When Athanasios came through Ellis Island in 1910 the inspectors wanted him to change his name - it was too Greek. Athanasios insisted that it stay and he spelled it for them. His sojourn in Athens apparently helped him with English. When it came to his first name, it is thought that he was tired of the two names and allowed them to change his name to Thomas.
So Tom got to Milwaukee, made friends with Uncle John's brother-in-law Joe Paperdis. They pooled their money and began buying property. Uncle John found out about it. He scolded them and said if you have enough money to buy property, "I'm paying you too much. I'm cutting your salary." Tom, whose temper was short, had a few choice words for his Uncle and quit. He went to Chicago, looked up a Mr. Spgropoulos, who was a surrogate father to the young boys from Kalavryta. Tom worked for him about 3 months learning more about candy making and found him a job in Streator, IL with Baseleon & Giovanes. Tom brought Nick to Streator, they pooled their money, found the store in Minonk that Armeneius had for sale. Mr. Danforth at the Minonk State Bank loaned them what they needed and Tom and Nick opened up The Princess Sweet Shop for business in 1915.
By 1917 Tom had his first citizen papers and volunteered for the U.S. Army. He spent 10 months in France and went over the top twice in battle. Tom received his citizenship after he returned home from the Army. It was told that he had to go to Eureka, IL to get his papers. It seems the clerk was not very cooperative, so Tom reached over the counter, grabbed him by the collar and neck tie, raised him out of his chair and asked for his citizenship papers. The astonished clerk said, "Right now, Sir".
The wedding between Tom and Sophie took place on October 30, 1921 in the St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Gary, IN. It was noted that there were very few women at the wedding. The men were mostly bachelors or married men working to make enough money to bring their wives or sweet-hearts to America.
There was a wedding photo taken in front of the church after the ceremony as shown below. On the same step as the bride and groom to the far left is Michael Christofilis, first cousin of Sophie. The lady on the same step as the bride is Catherine Christofilis Koletis of Rock Island, IL who was Sophie's first cousin, her godmother and sister of Michael Christofilis.
On the step down from Catherine is her daughter Victoria Koletis who was born in 1917. On the steps higher than the bridal couple and to the far left of Tom is the gentleman in a vested suit and a high collar - Dr. Anthoulis, M.D. who was the best man. Next to him on the right is Sophie's father Jeremiah Christofilis (63 years old) and next to him is Niketas (Nick) Paloumpis - Tom's brother. The lady next to Nick is Dr. Julia Anthoulis, DDS (dentist) and wife of Dr. Anthoulis.
A sad note to the wedding photo. Sophie never wanted to talk about the wedding photo because it brought back terrible memories. Niketas had to leave the festivities to go back to the "Princess Sweet Shop" in Minonk. Jeremiah went with him to get Niketas on the correct trolley to the train station. Niketas boarded the trolley and Jerimiah left to return to the festivities. He did not know another trolley was next to the one Niketas was on. Jeremiah was fatally injured by the other trolley.
Tom and Sophie Paloumpis at a wedding dinner.
In 1931 Tom kept his promise for Sophie to return to Calymnos to see her mother Victoria. After 21 years Tom and Sophie returned to Greece with their children. Tom's parents were now gone. Only his two brothers and sister were left. We all went to Calymnos and met our only grandparent who smothered her American grandchildren with hugs and kisses and spoiled us