Since I had no idea that my great-grandfather had once visited the United States and contemplated moving here until that fateful night that I read Grandma Greek’s book, I have always thought of my Uncle Pete Gasuras as the first one on the Greek side of my family to immigrate. And as with any chain, there has to be a first link, and when it comes to my dad’s immigration to the United States, we are going with Uncle Pete and Aunt Helen, who wrote the book with my Grandma Greek, as the first links in the Gasuras chain of immigration.
Uncle Pete, Aunt Helen, and their daughter, Vicky, were already living in Bucyrus, Ohio, and since it was Aunt Helen and Uncle Pete who got the ball rolling for my dad and grandfather to come to the United States in the first place, we should start with their stories of coming to America.
My earliest memories of my Uncle Pete are of going to his store in downtown Bucyrus, Pete’s Shoe Shine and Hats. Pete was gruff and spoke broken English, but everyone in town adored him, and many worked for him over the years that he operated his business.
I remember the gumball machine, the huge shoeshine with the high-back chairs that towered over me, the smell of tobacco mixed with wax as men’s shoes were shined while they smoked cigars, pipes, and cigarettes. The men looked on in amusement as my dad and Uncle Pete embarked on very animated conversations in Greek. The men had no idea what they were saying, and neither did I. When I was growing up, I wanted nothing to do with learning how to speak Greek. I regret it now, but back then, I just watched and listened to them talk and tried to figure out what they were saying, although I never could decipher much of it. Occasionally, I would hear one of them say my name and wondered what they were saying about me.
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