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Reflections
 
by Andrew G. Saffas

The sculptor reflects on the origins of his art and on the vitality of dance, and remembers his parents.

As a ten-year old student in Kansas City, Missouri, I was both proud and embarrassed when my fourth grade teacher held up my drawing in front of the entire class and proclaimed it a beautiful work of art. Then Mrs. Dorsey politely asked me to stay after school for a few minutes.

The previous day my class had been on a field trip to the local zoological park to draw animals from life. I made a drawing of a male lion, but didn't complete it before we left the park, so the same night, I finished it at home with water colors, and had submitted it to her that morning.

At the end of the day, when the class was dismissed I remained in my seat, not knowing what to expect. I was terrified when I saw the Principal ~ Mrs.Campbell ~ walk in who, along with my teacher, confronted me with my drawing.

Surprised by the accuracy of the anatomy, they questioned me, "How did you know to draw all these muscles in the right place?" I told them, "I don't know anything about muscles; or what they're called, I only drew what I saw." Then they asked, "Did anyone help you?" When I assured them I had no help, the Principal placed her hand upon mine, and with her piercing blue eyes staring into mine, stated, "Andrew, you have artistic talent." The memory of that moment is so vivid, to this day I can see her piercing blue eyes, set in a long, thin, kindly face with rouged cheeks, that was framed by white hair pulled into a bun.

I was greatly relieved and pleased by her declaration. She instilled in me a new sense of myself as an artist, and inspired me to explore and develop my talent. I was pleased and flattered when Mrs. Dorsey asked me to decorate the class blackboards with drawings for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, thereby giving me the opportunity to draw my first murals. In later years, I would paint murals on the walls of many theaters.

At home, studying our books about Greece, I was awed by pictures of Greek statues and captivated by the beauty of the human form. Those pictures sparked a desire in me to create art from life. I started experimenting on Ivory soap, carving a life-like torso of a man, and a lion, for which my father praised me. I took the lion carving to school and received even greater praise from the teacher and the principal.

When I was a Sophomore in high school, my art teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, recommended me for a special six week Saturday morning sculpting class at the Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art. It was there that I sculpted my first nude statue in clay, which was highly praised and later displayed at the gallery.

Although I had spoken both Greek and English for eleven years, my parents thought it best that I attend Greek School, to become fluent in the language, and probably to ensure I would retain the Greek traditions.

At the age of sixteen, I memorized and delivered on stage more than forty pages of Greek dialogue in the play, "O Yero Dimos", presented by the Greek School teacher. The leading part, for which I received rave reviews from the community, was the longest dialogue spoken in Greek. I am proud that ~ at age eighteen ~ I was the only student to receive an award for the highest marks and good attendance at Greek School for seven years.

As I learned about Greek History and the Greek heroes, Alexander the Great, Leonidas and his Spartans, Kolokotronis and the other Revolutionary heroes, I was impressed by their bravery, and wanted to emulate them.

Circa 1815 ~ having heard that the Greek freedom fighter, Kolokotronis, was marshaling his revolutionary forces in the hills of Corinth ~ a group of Greeks consisting of eighteen families left Asia Minor, traveled by way of Russia and the Balkans to Souli, Ipiros, Greece. From Souli, they traveled by boat to the Island of Zakynthos, which was under British rule at that time. After some of the men signed their names in mastic (mastiha) on the icon of the Panayia, and swore an oath before the icon to fight to liberate Greece, they departed for Corinth to join Kolokotronis and the Revolution. The Tsouloufas, Tsakalis and Pavlou families settled in the oldest village of the area, Old Thalero, Corinth.

My great grandfather, Angelos Tsouloufas, was one of those heroes. Following the tradition of my forebear, I too, volunteered to fight for the liberty of my country when it was attacked on 7 December 1941. Unfortunately, I was rejected because of a perforated eardrum. Fortunately, the UMKC PE Instructor recommended me to the Navy, who employed me as a Civilian Calisthenics Instructor for Navy V-5 and V-12 Cadets, who were attending the University.

In 1940, continuing my interest in my Greek heritage, I created my first oil painting on canvas, Greek Shepherd with his Flock. The next year I won the First Prize Blue Ribbon Award for it at UMKC, University of Missouri at Kansas City. I donated the painting to the Greek Orthodox Church of Kansas City, Missouri.

Soon thereafter, Archbishop Athenagoras visited the Church. After viewing the painting, he gave me his blessing. Raising his staff, he pointed to the shepherd's shoes, and asked, "Where did you find such a wealthy shepherd in Greece? He's wearing Douglas shoes!"

While attending UMKC, I began to read Greek mythology. I also read, and studied ~ in Classical Greek ~ The Iliad and The Odyssey, as well as Xenophon's Anabasis and Katabasis and the New Testament. At that time I was elected President of the Art Club, won a mural painting competition, was selected Staff Artist of the campus newspaper, and 1945 Year Book Photographer. I received a BA Degree in Art. Photography was a hobby, which in later years became a profession.

In 1949, I was elected to the Board of Trustees and appointed to the Sunday School Board of the Oakland Church of the Assumption. I donated a mural of the Panayia, and other icons; and also donated Choir, HYA and New Building Fund logos to the Church. In 1951, I was elected President of Oakland Chapter 171 of the Order of AHEPA. In 1959 ~ along with Cedric Bourboulis ~ I painted the icons of the Apostles in the dome of the new Oakland Church of the Ascension. From 1959 to 1987, I worked for Anglo/Crocker/Wells Fargo Bank achieving the position of AVP in direct lending.

Sculpting became a very serious and enjoyable medium for me at UMKC, where I studied sculpting under the President of the Kansas City Art Institute, Wallace Rosenbaur. He taught me a great deal about anatomy; "Look at the figure as a cylinder, and if ever in doubt about the muscles, sculpt the anatomy in the round."

Mr. Rosenbaur also stated, "Emotion in sculpture can be as powerful as motion, and often more difficult to achieve." I strive to achieve this principle in my sculptures.

Sculpting is the art of modeling clay or wax into whatever forms one may desire. If the form is sculpted in clay it can be fired and glazed, or it can be used as a model for creating a mold to be cast in bronze. Sculptors such as Phidias and Michelangelo worked with marble or stone, chiseling the stone away to reveal the statue, which ~ they rightfully insisted ~ existed within the stone.

The ancient Greek cast-bronze sculptures ~ mostly of the human form ~ have lasted for centuries. True to Greek tradition, I feel compelled to re-create the human form because I am captivated by its strength and beauty. I draw my inspiration from Greek history and mythology and have concentrated on sculpting the female form.

The best compliments I have received about all of my statues (Andromeda, Amphitriti, Terpsihori, Sappho and the Soldier) are, they "seem alive"; they "subtly seem to be in motion".

As I sculpt my statues, I don't strive for a special style or technique. I apply the clay as I was taught to do and the natural stroke of my tools establishes the technique.

My present sculpture of a soldier in full battle dress represents a member of the Greek/US Operational Group who fought to liberate Greece during WW II. He reflects the relaxed, natural pose of a soldier proceeding cautiously, alert and ready for combat.

Without question, my pride in my Greek heritage, love of Greek art, and admiration of the human body is reflected in my work.

* * *

My parents' wedding was a traditional, large Greek wedding with lots of good food and Greek dancing. Through the years, we celebrated holidays, weddings, baptisms and picnics with family and friends, feasting and dancing. My father was a beautiful dancer, and he taught me to dance zeibekiko when I was a young boy.

When I was four years old, I, along with my parents, George and Anastasia, and my little sister, Mary, sailed to Patras, Greece on the oceanliner, The Lord Byron. We departed from New York in the spring of 1926 and returned in December.

I had a habit of wandering off by myself; I had disappeared twice since the start of our trip. Once I got off the train in Chicago to look at the engine, and the conductor had to stop the train to pick me up. Another time, during a fierce storm, I was found hiding under some protective cover on the deck of the ship.

One night, aboard ship, I was missing, and my parents were frantically looking for me. After a lengthy search, with the help of the crew, they located me on the upper deck of the ship, on the dance floor in first class. I wasn't watching the people dance ~ I was the main attraction. The band was playing American music and I was in the middle of the floor dancing a zeibekiko while they played.

A large circle of delighted passengers were applauding and tossing money to me as I executed all the moves and bends I had learned from my father. I snapped my fingers, slapped my leg, and went down on my knees into a backbend, touching the floor with my head, relishing the attention I was getting. My performance came to an abrupt end as I heard my dad exclaim, "There he is," while a crew member led me off the floor to the applause of the passengers.

My sister, Mary, was a beautiful dancer who taught me to jitterbug and increased my repertoire of Greek dances. I enjoyed dancing with her at Greek Balls, weddings and parties. I met my wife, Nikie Andronico, at a Greek Ball in San Francisco. In 1950 we had a large, traditional Greek wedding with feasting and dancing at the Alameda Hotel in Alameda.

Greek dancing has been an important part of our life. We continued to dance Greek at balls, weddings, baptisms, picnics, and at all of our parties. For some years I performed with the Greek Dance group Nikie co-founded, and which I later directed. It was a thrill to dress in the genuine native dress of various regions of Greece, and with Nikie, perform dances and songs from those regions.

Most of our lasting friendships have been based on an appreciation of art and dancing. A special memory is traveling in Greece with my son, George, and dancing Greek together. We still enjoy dancing Greek with our children and grandchildren.

* * *

My mother, Anastasia Glenos Saffas, was a pretty, petite young woman from the village Ay Yorgi, Nemea. When her father, George John Glenos, left for America, he left his wife and family with her parents in Argos. He joined his wife's brother ~ Dimitri/Jim Koziotopoulos/Varelas ~ in Kansas City, Missouri, where he helped Jim selling produce from a horse drawn wagon. He sent for his wife, Marigo, and his children, Nick, Anastasia and John. Nick was unable to travel with the family and came to the USA later.

Although Anastasia was enrolled in elementary school in Kansas City, she was unable to continue because she was needed at home to help her mother care for her sister and three brothers. During those years, Anastasia learned all the domestic arts of childcare, cooking, baking, housekeeping, ironing ruffled dresses, and the art of crocheting, at which she excelled.

My father, George Andrew (Tsouloufas) Saffas, was a tall, distinguished looking man with a white streak in his black hair. He was a serious, honorable man, well respected in the Greek Community, as well as in Kiato, Corinth, the place of his birth. He left for America at the age of eighteen to join his brother, Theofanis.

Dad worked on the railroad, achieving the position of foreman. Later, he also worked in a steel mill before starting his own laundry business ~ in Kansas City, Missouri ~ delivering linens to and from restaurants in a closed wagon pulled by a show horse.

Dad sent for his younger brothers, Tony and Vlassis, to join him. Although he faced stiff competition from his Italian competitors, George did so well that a few years later, he formed a partnership with his brother Tony and the Rally brothers, the Rally Linen Towel Supply Company. In 1929, Dad dissolved the partnership and formed a new one with Uncle Tony and Louis Kartsonis ~ The Superior Laundry.

As with many Greek men, George's intention was to return to Greece after he had made his fortune.

In 1917 he bought a beautiful "3-chord" bouzouki, made by A. Stathopoulos in New York. I recall that Dad had a good singing voice, and he always sat in the living room playing the bouzouki and singing Greek songs such as "Kelaidiste" and "Yelekaki". When he sang a favorite gospel song, or "In the Shade of an Old Apple Tree", or "Springtime in the Rockies", Mary, Sophia and I would join in.

In August of 1920, following the tradition of that era, a friend ~ acting as a matchmaker (proxeNEEtis) ~ spoke with Anastasia's parents, Marigo Koziotopoulos/Varelas Glenos and George John Glenos, on behalf of George.

Her parents approving, George and Anastasia became engaged and he gave her a lovely diamond ring. Later he took her and her entire family shopping for clothes and for Anastasia's trousseau, as well. They were married October 3, 1920, at the Greek Orthodox Church of Kansas City, Missouri. George was thirty-two years of age, and Anastasia was three months shy of eighteen. Her brother, Pete Glenos, stated that there has never been a wedding like it ~ the wine flowed freely, and the guests danced to music by Greek musicians that George brought from Chicago, who gathered more than four thousand dollars in tips from the delighted host and guests.

Not in attendance was my dad's brother Vlassis, who refused to attend the wedding because he heard the bride was from Argos, which was outside their home Province of Corinth, and therefore an "outsider". It was ironic, because Mom was actually from Nemea, which is within the Province of Corinth.

George was a pillar of the Community. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Church, Treasurer of the Building Fund a member of the Order of AHEPA. George worked hard and provided not only for his immediate family and Anastasia's extended family but also for his family in Greece. Over the years, he generously sent a great deal of money to his parents and four brothers and also paid for dowries for his three sisters. He provided funds for the higher education of two of his nephews, who became professors. In fact, he was one of only three Greek men in Kansas City who educated their sons at the University.

My grandparents, aunt and uncles were living with my parents when I made my debut in 1922. Mary showed up in 1923, and Sophia in 1927. We were all born at home.

As a young boy, I had a wonderful relationship with my maternal grandmother, my YiaYIA Marigo, whom I loved very much. She was protective of me and frequently gave me money for ice cream, but most of all, I was enthralled by her interesting stories. I was often quite mischievous, and not very obedient, teasing my younger sisters. My mother, exasperated, would chase after me brandishing her felt slipper (panDOfla), and I would run and hide behind my Yiayia. As Mom tried to grab me to hit me with the "pandofla", I would grasp Yiayia's skirts from behind, and peek at my mother from one side, or the other, dodging the slipper, as Yiayia remonstrated with my mother, telling her, "Min pirAXis to peDI!" ("Don't touch the child!"). As the first born and only son, I was the pride and joy (the KaMAri) of the family.

My Aunt Virginia, who was just eight years my senior, was a good friend and ally, as well as my babysitter. Her radiant smile lit up her face as she often laughed and played with me. She, also, told me interesting stories.

I have fond memories of the Saturdays I spent with my maternal grandfather, my PapPOU Glenos. He would get me out of bed early, and with great anticipation, I would join him as he hitched his horse to an enclosed cart, and passed the reins through the small window behind it. I enjoyed handling the reins and giving commands, "Giddy-up", and "Whoa!". I was about eight years old, but I remember driving the cart around the streets of Kansas City, selling candy, cracker jacks, ice cream, peanuts, popcorn and soda pop from the side opening.

Usually, we spent Sunday attending church (a two to three hour agony!), visiting my bachelor uncle Vlassis, downtown at his confectionery store, hosting or visiting friends (other Greek families) taking rides to the park, or through the countryside, or attending church picnics. Some days we visited my dad's cousin, Chris Pappas and his family in Lawrence, Kansas.

We always celebrated friends' and relatives' Saint's Day (Name Day) with an open house with feasting, a good deal of wine, and Greek dancing. We celebrated Easter with the traditional, spit-roasted lamb, slaughtered by our friend, John George. Yiayia, Mom and my Aunt Virginia would prepare "mayerITsa", dozens of koulourakia and large quantities of red eggs to crack as we proclaimed, "Christos Anesti!". After the feast, we would take the translucent, triangular-shaped shoulder-bone to Yiayia, who would "read" the future. Of course, it was always Yiayia who "read" the adults' coffee cups after they had drunk Greek coffee.

Unfortunately, late in 1925, my father contracted tuberculosis, which necessitated a stay at the Cragmore Sanitarium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The basic treatment was rest, the dry climate, clean air and lots of sunshine, which he absorbed through the glass of the enclosed sleeping porch of his room.

Dr. John Soter, my parents' Best Man, and my Godfather gave Mom some well-intentioned advice ~ to serve Dad egg yolks with sugar and milk, daily, to build up his strength. Unfortunately, this was to prove detrimental to Dad's health later.

By the spring of 1926, when I was four years old, Dad had recovered enough to take our family to Greece, to meet his parents, siblings, and their children. My escapades during that trip can be read elsewhere. We celebrated Easter, and Mary's third birthday aboard ship.

In Kiato, at my Uncle Angelos' house one night, I was missing again and couldn't be found, either outside or inside the house. My cousin, Costas, about thirteen years of age at the time, was searching his dark bedroom and heard a scary sound ~ whoo-oo, whoo-oo ~ and found me hiding under the bed, in the dark. He later told me he was impressed by my fearlessness at such a young age.

My mother's uncle, John Koziotopoulos/Varelas, the tinsmith, came to Kiato and escorted us to his village in the steep, rugged areas near Ay Yore. My father tied me to the donkey's saddle, so I wouldn't be able to get off and possibly fall into the canyon. He carried little Mary in his arms.

We also visited my Mom's brother, Nick Glenos, who had purchased a house in Athens. While there, my parents received a message that my grandfather (PapPOU) Andreas Tsouloufas, had died as a result of a fall on the exterior stairs of the church. We returned to Kiato just in time to attend his funeral, which was in progress by the time we arrived.

We departed for home soon after; Mom was three months pregnant when we arrived in Kansas City, December, 1926. Immediately thereafter, Dad had a relapse and was required to remain in Colorado Springs for further treatment.

Mom, Mary and I rejoined my grandparents, aunt and uncles at our Kansas City home, where Sophia was born 24 June, 1927. The house was sold, and Uncle Tony drove the family to Colorado Springs, where Dad had rented a small, furnished house from a Greek family.

During the time of his treatment Dad, having time to reflect, decided he would remain in America. It seemed that the opportunities for the future of his children were greater in his adopted land.

While living in Colorado, we engaged in social activities with our new kouBAri, the Johnsons, and new friends, the George Theodorou Family, and with Dad's bachelor cousin, John Speropoulos, who joined us for Sunday dinner every week.

Dad bought a Nash automobile and decided to teach my mother to drive. At the wheel of the Nash, driving down a dirt road in the country, Mom was going down a fairly steep grade and Dad told her to apply the brakes. Nervous, Mom stepped on the accelerator, instead, and we went hurtling down the road at break-neck speed. When she lost control of the car, Dad hit the brake with his foot, and grabbed the steering wheel, trying to keep the car on the road. We went off the shoulder, and ended up in a small ditch. Needless to say, Mom never tried to drive again.

Through the Prohibition Era, my father, as did many Italian and Greek people, made wine and beer, which was stored in the cellar. As a teen-ager, I stomped grapes many times; but my mother assures everyone that they washed my feet well beforehand.

We returned to Kansas City about 1932, and my father became a Naturalized Citizen 27 September of that year. Mom also became a Naturalized Citizen 1 June 1942.

During the time that my Uncle Tony lived with us, he often wrestled with my Uncle John. I was ten years old, and he frequently wrestled with me, too. We shared the same bedroom, and on Sunday, his day off, I would jump on his bed and wrestle with him. We formed a close bond.

When I learned that Jim Londos, the world heavyweight wrestling champion was going to defend his title against Everett Marshall in Kansas City, I pleaded with Uncle Tony to take me to see the match. Not only was Londos the pride of every Greek, but we were related ~ his father was my Papou Glenos' first cousin ~ and I desperately wanted to see him. I will always remember the wonderful thing Uncle Tony did for me; I have never been so excited in my life as when I saw my idol successfully defend his world championship by taking two of three falls. After the match, Uncle Tony took me to the dressing room where I met Jim Londos and shook hands with the "Golden Greek".

Dad was adept at mathematics and organization, and was a good leader, all of which he used to advantage in business. I estimate that within twenty years of his arrival in America, Dad was comfortably "well off". In 1937, Dad became the envy of the Greek Community, when he purchased a brand-new black Buick Special.

During a visit to California, January of 1943, Dad decided to move the family to Richmond. He and Uncle Nick became partners in The Manhattan Grill on MacDonald Avenue. Dad bought a house on Ninth Street, and in summer returned to K.C., sold the family home, and drove the family to Richmond.

I worked as host and cashier at the Manhattan Grill for the summer. Early in the fall, three drunken sailors attacked me as I tried to eject them from the premises. I was held by two of the sailors, as the third smashed a glass coffee server ~ full of hot coffee and grounds ~ into my face. One hundred thirty-two stitches were required to close the gaping wound, which extended from my upper lip, across the entire cheek and jaw, down to my neck, where the artery had been cut. I suffered third degree burns on my face and chest. The trauma and loss of blood was so great I went in shock and the doctors questioned whether I would live. My recovery required a stay of one month in the hospital.

Dad suffered from hypertension and arteriosclerosis. He had three episodes of Coronary Thrombosis, and died ~ at the age of fifty-nine ~ on 30 January 1947.

At age forty-four, Mom endured the problems of many widowed Greek women ~ bitterness at the loss of her partner in life, ignorance of her husband's business dealings, and dependence upon her family for transportation.

She was happy when I married Nikie Andronico, and we presented her with a new "Kamari", George Andrew Saffas, who has many of the admirable traits of his grandfather. After the birth of the next "kamari", Cynthia, the "Darling", and Sophia's daughter, Denny, life was more bearable for Anastasia. Later, she doted on her five great-grandchildren.

Nikie took Mom to Greece when she was a spry seventy-six year old and showed her the country of her birth. When my sisters and I gave Mom ~ for her eightieth birthday ~ two certificates for a balloon ride, she chose me to accompany her. It was obvious she enjoyed the ride more than anyone else up there. On 9 December, 1998, Mom died peacefully at the ripe old age of ninety-five.



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