CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association
One of Camden's greatest features was its ethnic diversity. For most of the years between 1880 and 1980 one would be hard put to find an ethnic group that wasn't represented here top some extent. Contrary to popular belief, Camden never had ethnically exclusive neighborhoods. There simply were too many different groups and too small a geographical footprint for the ethnic exclusivity that was seen in larger cities such as New York or Philadelphia to take hold. An examination of census sheets in the the years up to 1930, the last currently available, would show very, very few if any city blocks that were entirely of one ethnicity.
Camden's Greek community appears to have arrived in the city in number at a somewhat later date than many of the other ethnic groups. About the only thing that Camden never had, now that I think of it, was an Orthodox church of any kind. Laurence Manou, whose family lived in Parkside during the 1930s and 1940s replied when asked he question "Before St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church was built in Cherry Hill, did people go to Philadephia?" He replied:
Quite so. There certainly was enough money to build one. But it seems that the three existing churches in Philadelphia were enough. The Sosangelis family built Annunciation in Elkins Park (a Byzantine travesty). Macedonian Greeks had St. Demetrios in West Philadelphia, and Center City and prominent South Jersey families had St. George's at 8th and Spruce where I was baptized. It is now the Cathedral Church of St George. I've never been to St Thomas, though I understand it's the premier congregation in southern New Jersey today.
While neighborhoods were diverse, people then as now tended to group together, especially those recently arrived in a new country. Cramer Hill was known for its German organizations, South Camden for the Sons of Italy and similar groups, the Polish American Citizens Club was quite visible in the Whitman Park area. Camden's Greek community had The AHEPA, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Camden Chapter 69, the Camden chapter, was founded on June 4, 1925. Lawrence Manou wrote about AHEPA in January of 2013:
As I recall, there were scores of Greek families, Stafre, John, Chigounis, Cocosis, Kalogeris, Kouvatas, Manos, Pavle, Shissias, Dent, Gentchos, etc. most of whom were in the restaurant business.
AHEPA was indeed a community resource. It spawned the Daughters of Penelope for wives, Maids of Athens for daughters and Sons of Pericles for sons. My father was for a time the AHEPA treasurer.
Today AHEPA is by far the largest Greek-American organization. Its scope is international - with chapters in the United States, Canada, and Greece and sister chapters in Australia. AHEPA was founded July 26, 1922, in Atlanta, Georgia, by visionary Americans of Greek descent to protect Hellenes from the evils of bigotry and to help assimilate them into American society in the early 20th Century. Although a majority of the membership is composed of Americans of Hellenic descent, application for membership is open to everyone who believes in the mission of the organization.
While Camden's Greek community is all but completely gone from the city, Camden Chapter 69, which meets in Cherry Hill NJ, remains quite active in 2005.
Camden Courier-Post - February 20, 1936
DANCERS ATTEND ANNUAL AHEPA BALL
more than 500 members and guests present, the eleventh annual
entertainment and ball of Camden Chapter 69, The Ahepa, was held last
night at the Hotel Walt Whitman.
entertainment featured Jean Fardulli, baritone of the Chicago Civic
Opera Company, with accompanying music by Stephen Katsaros.
organization is comprised of Greek business men of the city. Anthony
Kost is president of the Camden chapter. Other officers are Steve Dent,
vice-president; Mike Dendrinos, secretary, and Harry Calogeris,
The committee in charge of the entertainment included K. Chigounis, Thomas Manos, George Pappas, Kost, Dent and Dendrinos..
Camden Courier-Post - February 17, 1938
ANNUAL BALL LISTED BY AHEPA LODGEMEN
Proceeds will be contributed to the association's sanatorium in New Mexico and for the education of Greek boys and young men.
Officers of the Camden chapter are: Thomas Shissias, president; John Manos, vice president; Mike Dendrinos, secretary, and Harry Calogeris, treasurer. Headquarters of the organization are located at 104 South Broadway.
YEARS OF CAMDEN CHAPTER No. 69
Chapter No. 69 was organized on June 4, 1925.Thirty-six members were
installed that evening. There was such great enthusiasm generated about
this new organization, that by the year’s end, this thirty-six had
increased to sixty.
AHEPA- Camden, Chapter 69
American Hellenic Educational
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