Memories of village life in the 80s

John KarkalatosFebruary 4, 2024

The old house in the village

I was lucky enough to spend my childhood summers in my village Kyveri, Argolis with my grandparents. As soon as the schools were closing, I immediately was leaving Athens to spend the holidays carefree as it should be for a small child.

In the mind of a small child the world is simple and the village gives him everything he asks for: neighbourhood, children who gather at night to play, countryside for exploration, the friends live very close to each other and it is very easy to see them, you go to swim on foot without stress, you can also visit the relatives if you have nothing to do.

The house is an old stone house with a large yard with mulberry trees, vines, pots and plants. The grandmother, as a housewife, took care of the food and the housework. Because there were a lot she encouraged me to wake up late, even at lunch time. She had to knead bread in the mornings, wash clothes by hand, prepare food and take care of the grandfather with medicine, clothes, etc. The only work I was doing was going to the bakery and the grocery store. The grandfather did not do housework, perhaps because of his age. We were sometimes going to the field together.

The grandfather was born in 1908. For those who like old stories, it is worth mentioning the history of his parents which is quite interesting. His father, that is my great-grandfather, had married and had a daughter. His wife died very early. He remarried my grandfather's mother and immigrated to the US on his own right after my grandfather was born. It was the time of the settlement of the western United States and there was a huge wave of immigration. Unfortunately he died on the ship and was thrown overboard, from what I've been told he died of vitamin deficiency. From what I have read deaths were common on this long voyage and moreover the conditions of the voyage were much worse than the third class of the Titanic.

The grandfather grew up with his mother and the half sister whose parents had both died. The grandfather married around 1930 but the wife died in childbirth along with the child. He remarried after the war my grandmother in 1951. The grandmother was born in 1928 and she was also motherless. The grandfather had an acquaintance who knew her family and he went with the recommendation from Argolis to Merope in Messinia to take her as a bride. So as soon as they met they got married! Grandpa's style was between the 1930s and 1950s. He used to wear a shirt, cardigan, jacket, double-breasted hat and old-fashioned trousers. This is how I remember him.

So these are the old stories, let's continue with mine! The village was then bustling with life because farming and animal husbandry brought income. People had money to spend but the truth is that life had few necessities. The children were not going to the university or learn foreign languages. They were wearing patched clothes and no one misunderstood. Nor was there uncertainty about whether there would be a job tomorrow or what the children would do for a living. Even if they worked in the public markets there was a daily wage.

An uncle of mine had a flock of sheep that were crossing the street every day leaving a layer of dung. His corral was on the mountain which I was frequently visiting with a cousin of mine. I was watching him milking them, watering them and putting hay for them to eat. Exploring the mountain was our favorite activity, we were also going to the german WW2 pillboxes and to a sinkhole where the villagers were throwing the dead animals and it had several skeletons inside.

The daily schedule included swimming in the morning, then going home to eat grandma's hearty dishes that were full with oil and sleeping at noon. In the afternoon I was wandering on the mountain or playing with the neighbourhood children. In the evenings I was eating french fries. By the end of the decade when I had reached the age of 10 I was spending a lot of time in coffee shops watching other children playing electronic games. I wasn't good and I wasn't playing but I was enjoying watching the experienced playing. Shinobi, Saban and Bubble Bubble were the ones being played back then. At night I was playing hide and seek with the neighborhood kids. But whoever was guarding was a fool because everyone was getting lost in the village and it was impossible to find them.

At that time people were strongly supporting political parties. My grandfather was watching the marathon fights between Mitsotakis and Papandreou in the Parliament. When there were elections he was throwing the cards to see who would win. Of course the village had the green and the blue coffee shop but luckily at a safe distance so that there would be no riots. The attraction of the village was the local organization of political party PASOK which was covered from end to end with posters of Andreas Papandreou.

I was also going there at Christmas. We were all gathering in the kitchen where the stove was burning, it was used for heating, an oven and a dryer. Grandma always had a large teapot with water on top so she always had hot water. The time was passing peacefully and pleasantly with toasted bread and olives. All the houses had stoves then as the radiator was not widespread.

The Easter was the opportunity to meet relatives. The families used to be gathered at an aunt's house to enjoy the traditional lamb on a spit accompanied by many homemade dishes along with dancing and lots of fun.

Closing the article I want to say how lucky I was to spend enough time in a humane and innocent environment like my village.