On a cool day in the early spring of 1969, a caravan of sorts left Iraklion Air Station bound for the little mountain village of Anogia. Included in this caravan was an Air Force truck loaded with surplus metal bunk beds, mattresses, and other assorted furniture. We were headed for the orphanage located in Anogia to provide some of the children with beds and other room furnishings. The orphanage had a shortage of beds and some of the children were sleeping on the floor on straw mats. Leading the “charge” was Tsgt. Walter J. Williams, III – a.k.a. “Bud” - a.k.a. “The Big Kahuna”. As I recall, the so-called road (or at least parts of it), was little more than a boulder-strewn wide path. The cars in our caravan had to straddle large rocks in order to successfully and safely navigate the “road”. Bud Williams’ car bottomed out on a large, pointed rock, knocking a hole in his oil pan. Naturally, we had to stop while the ever-resourceful “Big Kahuna” took a screw and simply screwed it tightly into the hole, plugging the leak. Once oil was added to his engine, we were off again. After arriving at the orphanage I recall helping unload the truck and assembling the metal bunk beds. The children watched wide-eyed as we went about putting the beds together. There was constant chatter and giggles as the children curiously watched these strangers from the Air Base attempt to make their lives a little better and a lot more comfortable. I remember taking a photograph of two little girls standing side by side outside, and another photo of a young boy standing with Danny Webb. All of the children that I recall seeing were wearing clothes that were tattered and worn. But, they were also wearing something more important – smiles - big smiles! It made me feel really good to have done something that made a difference in a child’s life! Now, just think for a moment – this was forty years ago – any of those kids who were just 8 or 9 years old at the time, are now nearing 50! Furthermore, it is a very distinct possibility that not only do they have children, but grandchildren as well!!!
When we left the orphanage, we explored the village and partook of some of their wine, ouzo and raki. And then, I really started to have a nice, warm fuzzy feeling. I also recall that one of the guys with us had a Zippo cigarette lighter that had run out of lighter fluid. Someone suggested that he fill it with raki, which he did. Then he spun the flint wheel with his thumb and a spark flew toward the wick, igniting it in a flame that was almost invisible! I had never seen anything like that before...or since!!!
Now, if we can fast-forward about forty years, today, October 6, 2009, I made a return trip to Anogia. I purchased a round trip bus ticket from Heraklion to Anogia for 7.20 Euros (about $10.80 based on today’s exchange rate). It took a little over an hour to arrive at Anogia. I got off the bus at the very first stop near the edge of the village and walked into town. I looked for anything that I might remember, but I saw nothing that I recalled. Anogia seemed much, much larger than I remembered it. Walking down one street I heard the laughter and squeals of children in the distance. Thinking it might be the orphanage, I headed in that direction, but it was only children running and playing in a school yard. I walked through narrow, winding streets, past brightly painted houses, and peered into shops where old ladies with white hair and dressed completely in black, were spinning yarn, knitting, or selling wares and souvenirs to the few remaining tourists. I was able to take several photos of some of the villagers, and none acted like I had intruded their privacy with my camera. A short time after noon, I made my way to a small taverna where I ordered a serving of lamb and sliced potatoes, and nothing to drink. The roasted lamb was a little greasy, but it had a nice flavor. The helping of lamb was rather small, as was the portion of the sliced potatoes. But, the bill wasn’t small, at least not by my standards! It came to 9.00 Euros – that is about $13.50 based on today’s exchange rate. I guess I got spoiled forty years ago when I was able to buy a souvlaki gyro for about 5 drachmae – 15 cents!!! Oh, well, nothing stays the same, if it did, I would still be that handsome young man...O.K., O.K., that short midget who was able to stay up for an entire four day break and then crash and sleep for 12 to 14 hours straight!!!
Below are some of the photos that I took in Anogia. I hope that you enjoy them. If you recognize anything, let me know!
As always, take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.
Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,
UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Mountains toward the northeast as seen from Anogia.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Statue in the town square memorializing the resistance fighters.
UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Statue on the main road into Anogia in honor of those who fought and died defending Anogia in several different conflicts.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: A copy of the order which directed the complete destruction of Anogia and the execution of all males (including children) in Anogia during WWII.
UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Flowers adorning the front of a house in Anogia.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Flowers on the second story of a house in Anogia.
UPPER LEFT PHOTO: This little baby lamb was tied up outside the taverna where I had lunch.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: This is the taverna where I ate roast lamb and potatoes. When I came back outside, the little baby lamb was gone! Yum! Yum! Just kidding!!!!
UPPER LEFT PHOTO: An old man outside a taverna in the town square of Anogia. I wondered if he was one of the resistance fighters who survived WWII.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: An old man outside a taverna in the town square of Anogia.
AND NOW, WHAT YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR:
THE BABES OF ANOGIA!!!
UPPER LEFT PHOTO: One of the elderly ladies of Anogia weaving yarn.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: And old woman prepares vegetables for lunch.
UPPER LEFT PHOTO: An old woman sits in front of small shop in Anogia.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: An old woman naps in front of her shop in Anogia.
UPPER LEFT PHOTO: An old woman spins wool into yarn in Anogia.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: An old woman spins wool into yarn in Anogia.