Sunday, June 21, 2009



....TO MY DAD!

by Kanellio (aka Bingo)

The photos you see above are old family photos. My dad, who passed away in 1983, is the dashingly handsome man on the right. It is the only time I ever saw him with hair as he was bald by 19. The photo on the left is my grandfather, Papou, with me as in infant in 1947. Papou died soon after this but he lived with my parents after my grandmother, Yiayia, died. That is very common in many families, but especially in Greek families to care for their parents with respect and dignity in their later years. The photo in the center is my mom and my aunt and two uncles in a traditional portrait that I am sure they dreaded getting dressed up for to have taken. As Pete Peterson said, he wanted to be 100% American but the Greek heritage always came first, as I know it did in my family especially when they were young in these pictures.

My father came to America from Greece as a child through Ellis Island and was raised with his family of 10 in New York City. My dad quit school in 7th grade to help make money to support the family. He worked hard all his life as was the way with so many immigrant families, in order to make a better place for his family in the future. The stories my dad would tell are classics in our family and some of the "jobs" he had were quite interesting and exciting for us to hear as we were growing up. I wish even now that I had recorded my father telling these stories as nobody could tell a story, or make us laugh, like my dad did. My dad, like Pete Peterson's Dad, was a self-made man who worked his way up through restaurant business mainly and became a well respected member of our community in Florida where we moved to when I was about 8 years old. So when you read my review of Pete Peterson's THE EDUCATION OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER, you will see why it was especially meaningful to me.

Today, I present my review of Peter Peterson's book and a tribute to all the Fathers, Grandfathers, Husbands, Uncles, Godfathers, Brothers, Nephews, and Brother-in-laws.... ALL the dads in my family, here today, and some sorely missed and sadly not with us anymore, but especially to MY DAD on Father's Day...were it not for him, and my mom, there would be no BOOKIN' WITH BINGO and I hope they both are proud of the passionate work I do today with my writing, reading and my books. I hope you enjoy this, the review, and your family's Father's Day! Thank you for letting me share!



By Peter G. Peterson

A Review by “Bingo”

George Petropoulos came from Vahlia, Greece, to America as many immigrants did, to make a better life for himself and his family. Speaking no English and with a third grade education, he carved out a place in this country with sheer hard work and determination. George’s older brother had come to America first, then George, and later others in the family came. Most made the trip through Ellis Island, as did my own father, to the land where the streets were paved with gold, or so they thought. Along the way, George changed his last name to Peterson and often told his son Peter how he regretted changing his name as he didn’t want people to think he wasn’t proud of his heritage. And a proud Greek family they were!

The tough times that Peter’s family lived through, as he grew up, is one that so many children of Greek immigrants, like me, can relate to. George had worked several jobs before finally settling in Kearney, Nebraska. There he opened a 24 hour café and made it a thriving business out of sheer will and very hard labor. He married Peter’s mother, Venetia Papapavlou, who had come from a somewhat prosperous family near Sparta in Greece. My own mother’s family came from the same area so again, the story rang true to me of Peter’s heritage. By the time she and George were married, his Central Café was prospering and the wedding in 1924 had the promise of a fine future. George was a typical 24/7 working man and Venetia, the typical obedient Greek wife. Peter SO wanted to be 100% American but as in most Greek families, his heritage and religion played a huge part in his youth and upbringing.

The beginning of THE EDUCATION OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER was especially interesting to me as I could relate so much with my family background. Peter Peterson went on to build a “better life” attending MIT and later Northwestern’s business school. As a young man, he held a place in advertising with a large Chicago based firm. His inherited work ethic brought him quickly into a position of management at Bell and Howell where he is credited with creating the “boom box”. As a Republican, he entered the political, global arena as Richard Nixon’s advisor on international trade and later the Secretary of Commerce in the early 70’s. Playing an important role in corporate America, holding seats on boards, working with think tanks and study groups, it wasn’t long before Peterson was into the Wall Street game. He soon became the head of Lehman Brothers and it was from there that Peterson helped found the private equity firm known as the Blackstone Group and when he left it, his part of the sale was for $1.85 billion.

Living the American dream didn’t come without struggles and personal problems. He had to deal with brain surgery as well as went through two divorces. He had his share of enemies and supporters along the way, but is now married to Joan Ganz Cooney, who helped create Sesame Street, and is living his life for public service now in his eighties. He made many wise choices in life and now wants to pass on to others, especially the young, how to handle the financial burdens the youth of America are inheriting. He did in fact contribute much of the net proceeds he made from Blackstone to set up the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to help the youth of tomorrow. Peter Peterson’s story is an easy read which read much like a novel thanks to his humor and easy going style. This is well worth reading whether you just want a good story of how a man can rise to prominence in spite of where they came from, or for the financial and political background that is clearly spelled out as well in the book. This is aptly titled AN EDUCATION OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER because it exemplifies all that title denotes.


bermudaonion said...

Thanks for sharing the story of your family. It sounds like that book was a perfect fit for you.

Debbie said...

I enjoyed reading about your family. Your dad sounds remarkable.


Nice story about your family, what part of Greece are you from? My dad is from Crete and my mom is from Cyprus..