Memories of an Old Man

I was reading an article which referred me to a post on Youtube. On the right side of the screen were the usual suggestions for other videos to watch. Immediately, my eye was drawn to a clip from “Picnic”, a movie released in 1955, starring William Holden and Kim Novak. I was 18 years old when I first saw it, in a movie house in San Diego.

I was in the US Navy, recently having completed training as an electronics technician at the (now defunct) Naval Training Base on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. I had been assigned to a ship, USS Bon Homme Richard, CVA-31 (‘Attack Aircraft Carrier’, now scrapped) which was then being upgraded at the (now defunct) Naval Shipyard at Hunter’s Point, San Francisco.

To prepare us landlubbers for real sea duty, we had to undergo reasonably rigorous ‘sea training’ in San Diego.

When given liberty to leave the base and explore San Diego, several of us bought some whisky and went to movie to sip on the bottle while watching it.

I remember the foregoing well. What happened as I entered an alcoholic haze is less well-remembered, but I do remember falling in love with Kim Novak.

As I see her in profile from the above screen-capture I am struck by how much she resembles the woman I was to marry four years later.

Patricia and I parted from each other after twelve years of marriage and after having produced two children, both of whom are now over 50 years old. Patricia’s gone now, having died an early death in Tennessee.

Hers was a troubled and often sad life. I prefer to remember her as above.

It may be instructive to read of her life and last days, here.

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Nestor Harpending Palladius (1924-2008), RIP

OBITUARIES (Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard), January 17, 2008

Nestor Palladius of Eugene died Jan. 3 of lung cancer. He was 83. A service will be later. He was born Aug. 31, 1924, in San Francisco to George and Genevieve Harpending Palladius. He and his wife of 35 years, Carol Wilshire Palladius, were married in Seattle. She died July 28, 2007. Palladius was a manufacturer’s representative for children’s clothing. He is survived by a son, Charlie Wilshire of Eugene. Arrangements by Musgrove Family Mortuary in Eugene.

Nestor Palladius was the closest I had to a big, or any, brother. He was kind to me as a child and throughout my life until our family became estranged from him when I was around 35 and Nestor was around 47—approximately 1982.

Nestor was the only child of George D. Papageorge and Mary Genevieve Harpending. Nestor’s father died in 1934 when Nestor was ten years old. He and his mother then came under the care of Conrad Pavellas, aged 21. Conrad was the son of Alexander Pavellas and Clara Lucille Harpending. The Harpending women were sisters, daughters of Asbury Harpending, Jr. Conrad’s parents also died in 1934. Alexander and George were friends and business partners—and brothers-in-law.

Conrad married Artemis Pagonis in December 1935, sometime after which Nestor and his mother moved on their own to a boarding house.

Nestor had poor hearing from an early age, and I knew him always to wear a hearing aid. He was almost deaf by the time he reached his middle years. He also had bad teeth, as my dad did, and there were constant problems with dentists and dental prostheses for both of them.

Nestor’s formal education was spotty and incomplete, but his older relatives were intelligent, literate and voluble—all enjoying the conversational argument. His father, George, was the leader of the family, a dominant and, apparently, classically educated immigrant from Samos, Greece. He was a talented promoter of ideas and enterprises. He was, at one time, the business manager for Raymond Duncan who was the brother of, and sometimes business partner with, Isadora Duncan, the internationally famous dancer and revivalist of ancient Greek dance forms. Isadora and Raymond were highly influential in the cultural life of the sisters.

Nestor’s mother and aunt were the daughters of a once-wealthy, Kentucky-born adventurer, Asbury Harpending, Jr., who came to San Francisco at age 16 during its development as the center of commerce in the Gold Rush era. The entire family lived in Oakland, but Asbury also had a house in Mill Valley. He died in 1923 while on a business trip to New York. Nestor was born a year later. Asbury came upon hard times toward the end of his life and did not leave much to his family, which remained in Mill Valley.

The family continued to live together, their income being from a Greek-American newspaper, The Prometheus, published in San Francisco, owned and operated by the brothers-in-law (probably with some debt against it), and by various promotional deals some of which later seemed shady to historians. This continued into The Great Depression when businesses and deals were failing. This uncertain situation contributed to the mental collapse of Clara Lucille, Nestor’s aunt, who died in the state mental hospital in Napa, California, in 1934, the same year her husband and brother-in-law died as noted above. Nestor was 10. Conrad, his cousin and guardian was 21 and had to drop out of U.C. Berkeley in his senior year.

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Late Spring, 1956
USS Bon Homme Richard, CVA-31

Steaming into port after weeks at sea is like re-awakening in a completely new life. And crossing the threshold of a new country is like entering another world.

At 0530 hours the sun was rising out of the placid water behind us, casting a golden sheen on its mirror-like surface. We looked off the bow to the west for our first glimpse of Japan. There was a certain odor in the air which quickened our senses and dispelled the early morning sleepiness. Staring into the distance, our coffee cups perched precariously on the railing, we strained to see the islands and hills our radars had already registered on their pale green faces.

With the lifting of the distant haze, which we had not realized was there before, there appeared some shapes in the water. As we drew closer we saw a fleet of fishing boats—small wooden craft which, though the water was calm, rocked and swayed seemingly to a strange oriental rhythm. Our huge ship steered through the middle of the fleet and as we passed the boats we gazed down at their occupant’s smiling, weather-toughened faces, and they up at our pale below-decks countenances.

Our gaze shifted from the boats and once again toward the west and off the port bow, miles away, the sun’s rays reflected of a huge, white cone-shaped form which seemed to be suspended in the air. It was as though the top of some lunar mountain had been severed and was being slowly lowered onto that spot on earth. The sun rose higher and we could discern the slopes of Mount Fujiyama extending downward from its snow-capped peak into what were now visible as small green hills.

Everything seemed to burst into view at once. All around us now were strangely shaped green hills bordering on a dark green bay through which we were now more slowly forging. Over the 1MC came the bos’n mate’s whistle and call—“Now all hands to quarters for entering port. Flight deck parade.”

As we stood in formation on the flight deck at parade rest, the whole panorama of Tokyo Bay spread out around us. The water was a dark, olive green which we had never seen in other ports. The whole area looked and smelled alive with vegetation. Not an inch of space was there where something did not grow on those dome-shaped, green, terraced hills. On all sides of us were boats, most of them fishing craft of the type we had seen before. Their occupants were busy at work, but not too busy to  give us an occasional friendly wave.

Our anticipation grew as the tiny, powerful tugs pulled along side to guide us toward  the port of Yokosuka. We became surrounded by a close ring of hills and turned sharply into out berth. As the first line went over the side and we were dismissed from quarters, we gazed once again at compelling Fuji, wondering what wonderful new customs were awaiting our experience.

(Age 19).

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The World Changed

I recently read an article by a person whose “world changed” at a young age by the event of “9/11” in New York City. My reading of her well-written memoir initiated a memory search for that moment in my life when the perception of the world may have changed — that is, to have shaken me loose from the unexamined feelings of comfort and safety that childhood, for some, allows.

After pondering, I found that my awakening was gradual, with punctuated moments of fear, despair, horror and, in the case of “9/11,” anger.

I was one month away from becoming age five when the Japanese Air Force bombed Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. I don’t have a memory of the actual day of the invasion. What I have is the memory, subsequently developed, of all the pictures and commentary since that time. It didn’t affect me at age five — this was just the way the world was.

My first memories are of living with my parents and my mother’s family in the top flat of a Victorian house on Arguello Boulevard in San Francisco, around three miles from the Pacific Ocean. None of the men in the house were called to military service, but Dad and Uncle Harry were ‘war workers’ in the shipyards of San Francisco, and in Richmond across the Bay. Grandpa was too old for service.

Uncle Harry was also a block warden for the times when ‘blackouts’ were called by the civil defense organization. He was to assure that we and the neighbors had pulled down their blackout curtains and shades so that no light could be seen by possible invaders from off the coast of San Francisco. These were the times the whole family, seven of us, would gather by candlelight in the living room to listen to news on the radio, or to music on the big Victrola. I imagined Japanese planes and submarines searching, searching, but finding nothing because we were so good at hiding. It wasn’t scary.

Later in my youth, I would play with other kids, boys, in building a small fire and throwing into it stick figures of Japan’s General Tojo, Italy’s Dictator Mussolini, and Germany’s Fuehrer Adolf Hitler. Then the war was over, and I was eight years old.

My dad got a job in Manhattan with his cousin, a printer, and found a railroad flat in Brooklyn for us, a few blocks from the docks. Mom, sister Diane, and I followed later to arrive by train on New year’s Day, 1946. I learned to live with fear and uncertainty in this neighborhood, more and more as I grew toward adolescence.

When I got to junior high school, we learned how to act when the sirens went off, signaling a nuclear bomb attack from the Soviet Union. These felt weird, and I always felt that such preparations were useless because everything would be wiped out anyway.

Toward the end of the 1940s, many people from Puerto Rico started arriving in New York’s boroughs, including Brooklyn. One summer day a car full of Puerto Rican immigrants was circling around 48th Street, looking for a destination, the occupants unfamiliar with the neighborhood. They had interrupted the stickball game of the older guys too many times, so they stopped the car, bounced on it, rolled it, and beat up the guys in the car, using pipes and other things as clubs. I ran away to our tenement up the street, feeling as if I had been beaten up.

Not long after this we moved back to San Francisco and, later, to Berkeley. We felt safe again.

Until, ten years later, October, 1962. This is when the world changed for me: the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was living in Berkeley, attending the University. I often awoke, sweating, having dreamed a nuke had exploded over the whole Bay Area.

Then, then in 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and began a horrible period of uncertainty and anger and disbelief in the authorities which the ‘Warren Commission’ could not quite damp down.

The civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, then Senator Robert Kennedy gunned down within months of each other in 1968. I didn’t care that much for the Kennedy brothers or family, but upon “Bobby’s” death I felt America was coming apart.

Then the horrors of the Vietnam War, in which I was too old to directly participate, but I saw and felt the havoc it wrought on the young people and their elders.

I was present, in 1964–1965, at the ‘Free Speech Movement’ on the Berkeley campus, which began as a righteous protest and devolved into a battle between well-organized radicals and the State. It was warfare on campus and, in my mind, began the destruction of universities everywhere in the USA.

Time passes, wounds are layered over while one continues to do what humans tend to do, make families, go to work to support them, try to enjoy life occasionally. The horrors are buried, then… 9/11.

I could not believe, at first, I was not seeing a video-fiction, a story. My guts roiled, at age 64, wanting to go to battle with the hidden perpetrators.

I felt I finally understood the anger of the nation upon the bombing attack on Pearl Harbor.

The general anger and concomitant madness have not dissipated. I cannot now imagine what life will be like for my five children and, especially, my four grandchildren.

In grade school we used to sing “God Bless America.” Is there any singing in grade school these days?

Posted in Artemis (Pagonis) Pavellas, Conrad H. Pavellas, Diane H. Pavellas, Essays, George Pagonis, Harry Pagonis, Memoirs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ancient Family History

I subscribe to a Facebook group named “Haplogroup J2b and Subclades.” It’s for people interested in genetic genealogy, especially for those with the genetic designation ‘Haplogroup J2,’ its ‘subclade ‘J2b,’ and other subdivisions of each. My paternal genetic haplotype is J2b2. (Father’s father’s father, etc, ad infinitum).

One of the members posted an article with maps which took me on a journey, imagining the movements and locations of my paternal ancestors from 9000 tears ago until today. Allow me to take you along with me. (I cropped the original maps to show only areas where haplogroup J2 occurred, historically.)

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 7000BC

Around 9,000 years ago

The Ice Age had ended and European hunter-gatherers had migrated from their warmer refuges to recolonize the continent. Note that the Black Sea did not then connect to the Mediterranean Sea, so there was an unbroken connection between what is now Asia Minor (Anatolia) and Europe. Peoples with Haplogroup J2 occupied, roughly, what is now the Southern Caucasus, Persia (Iran), Turkey, Greece, Crete, Cyprus, and a narrow band of land bordering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, including what is now the Sinai Peninsula.

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 2000BC

Around 4,000 years ago

In the intervening millennia, agriculture had developed in the Levant and then spread through southern, central and eastern Europe by Neolithic farmers belonging mainly to Y-haplogroups such as J2.  In the Middle East and Anatolia advanced civilizations began to emerge.

The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in central Anatolia. The group was documented at least as early as the empire of Sargon of Akkad (c. 2300 BC), until it was gradually absorbed c. 2000–1700 BC by the Indo-European Hittites, who became identified with the “land of Hatti”. The oldest name for central Anatolia, “Land of the Hatti”, was found on Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets from the period of Sargon the Great of Akkad c. 2350–2150 BC. The Hattians were organised in city-states and small kingdoms or principalities. These cities were well organized and ruled as theocratic principalities. Hattian religion traces back to the Stone Age. It involved worship of the earth, which is personified as a mother goddess; the Hattians honored the mother goddess to ensure their crops and their own well-being. (Source).


Mother Goddess, figurine, ca. 5750 BC; Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The Minoan civilization arose on the island of Crete and other Aegean islands and flourished from approximately 3650 to 1400 BCE. It belongs to a period of Greek history preceding both the Mycenaean civilization and Ancient Greece.

The term “Minoan” refers to the mythic King Minos who was associated in Greek myth with the labyrinth and the Minotaur, identified with Knossos, the ancient Cretan capital city. The poet Homer recorded a tradition that Crete once had 90 cities. As traders and artists, the Minoan cultural influence reached far beyond the island of Crete—throughout the Cyclades, to Egypt’s Old Kingdom, to copper-bearing Cyprus, Canaan and the Levantine coasts beyond, and to Anatolia. (Source).


J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 117AD

Around 2,000 years ago

The above represents the Roman Empire as it reached its greatest territorial extent around the Mediterranean Sea, approximately 2000 years ago.  People with Haplogroup J2 populated parts of many Mediterranean lands and into the Middle East beyond Anatolia: Spain, Italy, (what is now) Tunisia, Sicily, Southern France, Greece, Thrace (Bulgaria), Romania, Crete, Cyprus, Assyria (geographically present-day Syria, but a separate ethnic group from Syrians), Persia.

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 1227AD

Around 800 years ago

Medieval Europe was dominated by the Holy Roman Empire – a loose union of small kingdoms with Germany at its heart (and an attempt to resurrect the former glory of the Roman Empire in the west) – and the Byzantine Empire, the continuation of the Roman Empire in the east.

By this time people with Haplogroup J2 populated parts of (what are now) Corsica, Albania, Greece, Thrace, Crete, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Anatolia, Georgia—and eastward into the Southern Caucasus and beyond into Asia proper. Genetic studies have further refined the J2 haplogroup into sub-types, including J2b, which is that of my paternal great-grandfather, Konstantin Pavellas. J2b is found in Albania, the Peloponnesus of Greece, Thrace (Bulgaria) and Romania (along the Black Sea coast). There is reason to believe that Konstantin had Greek ancestors who migrated to Romania, adopted the Slavic name ‘Pavel’ and changed it to ‘Pavellas’ after at least one branch of the family returned to Greece, probably in the early 1800s, around the time that the Greeks threw off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire.

K Pavellas, Wife, Alex

Konstantinos Pavellas, a Greek Orthodox Priest, Theofonia Pavellas, née Smirtis, Alexander K. Pavellas, my grandfather—taken around 1880

Thanks for accompanying me on this journey.

Ronald Alexander Pavellas, Paternal Haplogroup J2b2.

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