Steve Frangos in Fieldwork Settings

* Narratives by Tina Bukuvalas

Steve Frangos interviewing African American sponge fisherman Sylvester Jackson in Tarpon Springs in 1987. I believe that Jackson was one of the black sponge divers and gave Steve information on the others. Before that time, the fact that there were black divers in addition to Greek divers was unknown outside a few in the sponge community. Everyone assumed that they were just cooks, deckhands, or hooked sponges. But many of them worked on Greek boats and learned to dive and of course to speak Greek. During this period of the 1980s Steve was living for a while in Tarpon Springs, where his grandmother lived, and I believe that’s when he did interviews with singer Yiorgos Katsaros.

Merrillville, Indiana, Greek Community Project: These photographs are from the survey that Steve Frangos and I conducted as Indiana University graduate students in the Merrillville, Indiana Greek community in November 1984; I was the designated photographer. That community had actually moved from Gary, as the town became a predominantly African American city. The two interview photos speak for themselves. The basket maker’s name was John Psomadelis (I still own the basket shown in the photograph).

The most interesting image is Steve emerging from the basement of the photographic Sun Studio in Gary. Before the community moved from Gary and dating from the 1920s, the owner of the studio, photographer Basil Hatziminas, had run this studio and taken photos of everyone and lots of events. So many people showed us his photos that we decided to go to Gary to see if we could find the building that was his studio. We discovered copies of the photos in the building’s basement, though many were water-damaged or nibbled by rats. We took them back to Merrillville, and people identified the images (I think the photo of Steve with the older lady is when she was identifying photos); then Steve cleaned them up and donated the collection to the IU Calumet campus library/archives.

Ethnic Folk Life Survey, in Chicago: Steve Frangos is featured with Fotis Litsas (sitting, right). Peter Bartis (sitting, left), from the American Folklife Center, was conducting the Ethnic Folklife Survey in Chicago; Steve and Fotis were helping him find Greek tradition bearers.