The Greek family, which in Greece was a tightly knit unit that included uncles, aunts, cousins, and godparents has changed in the United States over the years. It has gone from initially being non-existent to following basic patterns found in all groups in the United States. It has, however, remained a very important part of the Greek American structure.
The vast majority of 450,000 Greeks to migrate to the United States between 1890 - 1920 were males. They came to the United States primarily to make money and return to Greece to comfortably settle down. Bringing a wife or family along would have been an unnecessary burden in pursuit of this goal.162
Without female companionship, the life of the early Greek immigrants was not the same. Their namedays passed with makeshift celebrations. There were no women to prepare the foods for church events, Christmas or Easter. When one of them died there were no women to sit by the casket and 163 mourn. When not at work, they spent a considerable amount of time in the all male coffee houses where young and old men would clasp hands and dance in circles, "leaping and twirling with a glass of ouzo on their foreheads."164
It was the arrival of Greek women in sufficient numbers that anchored the Greek community in the United States. Before the turn of the century, only a few women entered the United States. Between 1900 and 1910, women made up less than one in twenty of the Greek immigrants and only one in five between 1910-1920. 165 There were fewer than ten Greek 166 women in Utah in 1910. The preferred way for a Greek woman to come to the United States was accompanied by either a husband, brother, or other male relative. Many, however, had to travel alone to America, primarily as picture brides of arranged marriages.167
Once the male Greek immigrants felt reasonably secure in their jobs or businesses, their desire for family security led to marriage. This became the turning point for many Greek immigrants. It brought back many of the important traditions of Greek life and added a feeling of permanence to their new home.168
Respect for marriage within the group was strong in the early days. The early male Greek immigrants would travel around the United States or back to Greece in search of a bride. Brides were also sent over to the United States after being recommended by friends and relatives. The majority did not want "American women who were determined to rule and ruin their husbands."169
With women in short supply, even up to World War II, intermarriage was by no means uncommon among the first generations. A study by Julius Drachsler found that twenty- two percent of Greek marriages in New York City from 1908 to 170 1912 were with non-Greek wives. The Greek family structure has followed the traditional path. The majority of women during early migration were home oriented. Their lives centered around the family, the home and the church, Very few worked outside the home unless in a family business. This was in part because the husband felt it a disgrace for his wife to work.
Few of these Greek women learned the English language or communicated with non-Greek neighbors. There was much loneliness in their new life without familiar surroundings, 171 family and friends. For many young mothers, life was 172 continual childbearing and unending work. The husband and father was generally the master of the family: "He is the family head who must be respected and obeyed. Children must submit to his will; women folk must uphold his decisions. He . governs his affairs according to the precedent laid down by his elders and in strict conformity with established customs. The members of the second generation of Greeks in America did not find themselves in an easy position within the family structure. They were born into a family of strong paternal and traditional ties, but wanted to be accepted into a new and different society. Parents were of two kinds. Some realized they were living in the United States and their children would have to grow up American with whatever Hellenism they retained. Others insisted their American born children be raised as they were in the Old Country. The latter found it an extremely difficult, if impossible task., 74
Problems arose within the Greek family which ranged from the new teenage dating system to a scorn by the second generation for the arranged marriage system. The mixed marriage became a major conflict within the Greek household. The father would continually warn of the dangers of mixed marriages; loss of Hellenic identity, domineering women, 175 squandering of money and eventually divorce court. This lecturing, however, did not halt the increased frequency of mixed marriages in the post World War II era. One study found that with each succeeding generation, there was an 176 increased tendency toward marrying outside the group. There is widespread agreement today that Greek American families exhibit the trend found in the United States society as a whole. These patterns include and are noticeable in areas such as the lessening of both male dominance among spouses and parental discipline over 177 children. The Greek father no longer has the patriarchal power he once displayed. The Greek language is used less and less within the family. The birthday has replaced the name day, or the day of the saint after which a person is named, as a day of celebration, except among the new 178 immigrants.
The Greek family, however, continues to remain a tight knit structure along the lines of the nuclear family. One study found that ninety percent of the New York area Greek households consisted of either a husband and wife living alone or with unmarried children, suggesting that "second generation Greeks do in fact exhibit conformity to the conjugal family ideal.,, 79
Many of these general characteristics can be found within the Greek family structure of Las Vegas. Prior to 1930, the Greeks in Las Vegas consisted of single Greek men who had come to work on the railroad. They did not bring wives or families. They were immigrants still discovering the United States and trying to find a place to establish roots. Las Vegas itself did not afford the opportunity to form a family. The population was small and the town young. There were no Greek women for these men to form a bond with.
With the construction of Hoover Dam in the early 1930s and the population explosion of Las Vegas, single Greek men arrived in larger numbers. They also came without wives and families. As these early Greek men in Las Vegas began to feel a sense of permanence, they left Las Vegas for brief periods in search of wives. This is how Greek women eventually came to Las Vegas. They did not come alone or as a previously established family, but as new brides for the Greek men establishing a bond with Las Vegas.
In 1931, George Sackas, one of the first Greek immigrants to come to Las Vegas, went to Los Angeles on a vacation. Through relatives, he met his future wife. They married in Los Angeles, since Las Vegas could not accommodate an Orthodox wedding ceremony and George and Lea Sackas moved back to Las Vegas.
When Lea Sackas arrived, she was the only Greek female in Las Vegas for several years. They had a child in 1933, the first Greek child born in Las Vegas, and the first permanent Greek family was formed.180
In 1932, during the construction of Hoover Dam, Sam Poulos came to Las Vegas from Ohio to escape the depression. After becoming established in the restaurant business, he went to Salt Lake City and met his future bride, Venea. They married in Salt Lake City and moved back to Las Vegas where Venea Poulos became the second Greek female. Shortly thereafter, they had a child and the Poulos' became the second permanent Greek family in Las Vegas. 181
These two families, along with the Adres family were the basic components of the Greek community in Las Vegas 182 during the 1930s. Several more single Greek men began arriving in Las Vegas in the 1940s. They too had to leave Las Vegas in search of a spouse. Tom Panos arrived in Las Vegas in 1939 and after becoming financially secure in the restaurant business went to McGill, Nevada where he met his future wife, Wilma. They returned to Las Vegas in 1944 and had the first Greek Orthodox wedding in Las Vegas.183
During this period several established Greek families began coming to Las Vegas to settle. The Michelas family 184 caine in 1940 as the basic nuclear family. John Moran and 185 his wife Goldie came to Las Vegas on advice of relatives. The single Greek men, however, continued to travel to other parts of the United States, as well as Greece, in search of a bride. This practice continued until Las Vegas grew large enough to attract single Greek women.
The early Greek families in Las Vegas were very home oriented, primarily because there was no other Greek institutions. There was no Greek church or other Greek institutions to assist in traditions and customs that were important to the family. They had to rely on each other and what they had been taught. At times it became difficult to keep these family traditions intact but through perseverance they succeeded.
These early Greek families in Las Vegas followed the general pattern within the United States. A strong husband and father who was the bread winner and the wife and mother who kept the household intact and raised the children. She did not work outside the home, except to occasionally help in a family owned restaurant. This family structure continued for some time within the Greek community. Mixed marriages were a rare occurrence. Even up to the early 1960s, mixed marriages were a small percentage of the Greek community. With the 1960's, the Greek family in Las Vegas began to see a change. Greeks, born and raised in the United States, were coming to Las Vegas. Greeks from Greece were migrating to Las Vegas under the new immigration laws of 1964. A second generation was growing to adulthood in Las Vegas. These Greeks considered Hellenism a big part of their family, but not the only part.
The nuclear family continues to be a primary focus of the Greek family structure. The traditional rules, however, have changed through the years. The male is not the dominant force he once was. The wife is taking a larger role in decisions affecting the family. With the emergence of the Greek church in Las Vegas, the Greek wife and mother is becoming more involved in community affairs. Generally, however, she continues to stay out of the work force. It is not that wives are not allowed to work, but choose not to work. Their husbands have done well enough to allow them to be more involved in community spirit. If they do work, they do it out of pleasure.186
These Greek families continue to instill the Greek spirit and heritage within their children. They are sent to Greek language classes, Sunday school, and various Greek functions. The families spoken to all stated that Las Vegas was no different from other cities in keeping Hellenism alive in their children. It was, however, up to the family to do so, and most made some attempt at it.
Hellenism is no longer the only focus of these families. They realize they are living in America and their children would not only be Greek, but American. They do not try to hide or mask this. Several Greeks commented that in Las Vegas they could escape the strong Greek communities they had grown up in and take a more "Americanized" path.
Mixed marriages have also increased in the Las Vegas Greek community. These marriages are seldom different from the Greek families composed of two Greek parents. They instill as much Greek heritage in their family and community. On several occasions, these families have become leaders within the Greek community. The non-Greek spouse has grasped the Greek heritage stronger than many Greek born individuals. Two of these families which have instilled both Greek and American qualities are the Flangas and Pandelis families.
Las Vegas also appears to have a high percentage of single Greek males. This is probably due to the casino industry and its attraction to single males who have arrived within the last fifteen years from Greece.
Today, the Greek family in Las Vegas continues to thrive and prosper. Male dominance and authoritarian discipline over children has lessened. The divorce rate, compared to other ethnic groups in Las Vegas, is relatively low. A third generation of Greeks is soon to emerge into adulthood to form their own families. There will, of course, emerge changes within this group, however the Greek heritage will most certainly persist.ENDNOTES