PM Patras used to be a purely industrial city, right? It had Patraiki, it had Marangopoulos, it had BESO, it had PIRELLI, it had Ladopoulos, it was full of factories, and while the Greeks were trying to abolish this civil war mentality, the good, the bad, the Right, the Left, and so on and so forth, in the ‘80s they introduced this political scheme that was promising “power to the people”. But the Greeks for me have no sense of measure. Although we are the country that first introduced this notion to the western world. Anyway.
BT Well, it was my brother that stayed here for many years. He worked for ten years, I only did two, three years actually. It was ’67… yes, in 1967 when we had the junta in Greece, we were coming downtown. ’66, ’67… In ’68 I left because I didn’t like it. Afterwards I went to Ovrya the time they opened their new premises. I went to help them, but my brother stayed for many years. Yes, they had another printing unit, they left this one and moved to Ovrya.
DT Well, everyone, now that I am thinking about it, because they were losing money, had external partners, some less, some more. That is, my father had about… two in-house knitters that they had to design the collections, they were pretty talented but they couldn’t take the whole production, part of it had to be given to others. Mika and my mother were making the designs and were helping with everything else, two… one cutter, one gauzier sometimes, some others, anyway, and one-two workers to cut the fabrics. So about five to six people worked in the industry. Most owners had people who did this job for them outside the premises. My father had about ten or fifteen contractors; ten, not fifteen, that was commissioning work to them depending on their availability. At some point when the clothes were ready, we packed the whole Volkswagen full of boxes. These women workers were carrying out the whole production!
PM Lets talk a bit about the estate. You know that the estate celebrates 160 years of existence. It’s a wonderful place, we can all attest to that, but the important fact is the people that formed it and are still forming it, these are the ones who give life to it. The founder of the winery is a Bavarian, Gustav Clauss, a very charismatic man, open-minded, citizen of the world, bon vivant, keen on the arts, on literature and culture, not just a businessman. This man arrives in Greece as a representative of the Bavarian brand, Fells & Co., that distributes Greece’s black gold, the Corinthian raisin. He likes the area and buys the first piece of land in 1861. We may be celebrating 200 years since the Greek Revolution, but the state is starting to slip and organise after the 1830s. Therefore, both the estate and the Greek state have almost a parallel course and development. So when the state does not have the ability to organise schools at any point, Clauss at his own expenses organises a primary school in here for the children of the workers, but without excluding the access to education for the children of the area. This school operated until the mid 1950s, here. At the same time, 1861 is the first year of its foundation, it was 1863 or 1864 I do not remember well, from the top of the hill where St. Thomas’ chapel is and through the estate passed the old road that lead to the village of Kalavrita. Outside of St. Thomas, there was a fountain. Clauss builds a bench there and also a marble inscription that says “For All The Thirsty Travellers”. Which shows this man’s interest for the community. 1864 was the year! We still have it downstairs.
PT My sister worked where the soap was made, in the soap shop as we were calling it then, it was situated on the first floor of the factory. I worked in the packaging department, we were collecting the soap after the logo was imprinted and we were stocking it. I worked there for a while and after some time they transferred me to the second unit of BESO, near Patraiki’s factory. It was there that they were using the nuclei of the olive to produce fertilisers and again I was responsible for their packaging. I worked there for some time and afterwards they took me back to the soap shop. It was really hard for us, we didn't have the necessary machinery, there was lack of technology and the whole burden was falling on the workers’ hands. Hard labour, not just weight. It was so difficult…
NP We are talking about the year ’83. And it was hard. But they had no other choice for immediate treatment because a 24-hour strike should have been announced before, and they didn’t, therefore you do understand the complications… I was standing outside the factory, outside the gate, and I will never ever forget the first woman that was coming out from it… and then the whole world followed, I will never forget it. But to the first woman I saw, there I was moved, I cried. It was a very important moment that showed how people began to understand the situation. This is something that still remains in me.
PT But it was an exploitation of the workers, great exploitation, very little money, we couldn’t speak, they were really harsh on us, swearing and cursing us… we were working with our heads down and once we saw our supervisor coming, we weren’t even breathing out of fear. It was that hard those days. Hard times, but even now, they brought us several years back.
DG After a while, I already knew Yanna, after I caught two dimes, I came back, I married her, I went back again, and I even got Yanna there. I made a small business, the Greeks usually dealt with mini markets there… so I finally opened a mini market of my own, my privately owned market. We struggled for some years, Yanna was crying a lot, every time she was receiving a letter from her father she cried, I felt sorry for her and sent her on a trip to Greece. She stayed here in Greece with the child, we had a child, so well, she liked it… after a while I told my brother in law “there take the keys, I am leaving… sell it to whoever wants it”… and I left. And I came here.
YY They were from Asia Minor, with flour mills there, with money, you know now… and maybe they had some connections and they knew what was going to happen… and they sent a man of their own, and he came across by boat, with a lot of pounds, and he built the mill and they, they kept this man afterwards, as a caretaker lets say, they treated him as a king until the man died. He was their saviour! And so they were saved from Asia Minor and brought their property here, and the owner’s name was Triantis. It was one of the very good companies here in Patras, really hard to find a job there. But as the years went by, the children took over, the children had their children, cousins from here, cousins from there, the brothers made children; they were too many shareholders. And at some point they started saying "we want to sell our shares" and in the end, the factory was bought by Loulis.
GK But the train operated with a social sign, right? When it was going for example from Patras to Pyrgos, with the carriages full, and it stopped at each station and picked up passengers and disembarked, and the ticket was 2.5-3 euros, 4 euros, it can not even compete with the bus nor… The bus has less costs and the buses that do the routes, find the road ready, right? They do not have to construct the road. The railway infrastructure is built by TRAINOSE. And from 2010 only the suburban railway serving the route St. Andrew - Rio - Ag. Vasilios with a connection to the University bus, remained active. In all over the Peloponnese only two lines remain today and the one that serves Pyrgos - Katakolo - Ancient Olympia, for the cruise ships.
YP This is the machine with which we assemble the latches, if… it hasn’t rusted… the latches with the springs were assembled on this machine. That is, the worker would take the spring, put it in this hole here, this machine would open the spring… wait, maybe we can do it… there, it would open anyway and take, one, two, leave the pedal, close the spring, the clothespin is ready. One by one.
KK This is how I entered Patras, which made the first years very difficult for me, especially in the working sector, I found many walls. But I fought, I did it, okay, we calmed down; we all calmed down. But I noticed the following, that there is a center, let's say, and it is the center of Patras, and the whole activity of the city is gathered there. As if the rest of the city’s districts do not exist! It is only the center that blossoms.
SD In my opinion, contrary to what some people believe today, the dynamics of the labour movement during the ‘80s and ‘90s should be found elsewhere. They ware based on some other qualities, which were basic principles of the Left. These principles had nothing to do with money, money was that if you are decent, you are honest, you are hardworking, you are number one in what you do, number one at work and not in getting bribed or in the big words, this was what counted. I joined an assembly in the union over there and listened to some former comrades, they had taken the union along with some former followers of the Panhellenic Socialist Party. But I saw that in the assembly, what they were saying had nothing to do with a union, with a claim. And I would say “hey guys, we are supposed to gather here to see in this blackness that we face, how we can put 2-3 things logical, feasible, to make life, everyday life in the factory, better, more tolerant”… “Hey you smart ass, who do you think you are” one of the party members yelled at me… the one who handed over the keys of factory when it seized the production.
AT You did not ask me what was the most difficult moment, one of the most difficult moments. When we had a serious work accident, someone cut his leg in the middle of the night, and it was the result of the misuse of a press. This is a tragic story, but it happened because the press door broke due to misuse, because it did not work that way. The guy went to fix it, in his fury, it was 2 at night, he did not close the metal worm, he slipped, he fell in and the worm took his leg from the knee and below. And they call me to go and see what happens. That was the saddest… a lad… this is a story that needs analysing how it happened and why it happened, and under what psychological conditions it happened. He lost his leg, he put a fake. The company helped him as much as they could, okay, but no matter what, he was a lad; really a lad.
PM Listen to me Yorgos, Andreas tells you his experiences from the previous ones and this and that, at least as long as I am here and as much as I can cause a veto, this place needs a lot of knowledge and even more respect in managing it. Liquidating it in money is the only easy thing, like the stories that Andreas narrates, because they wanted to transform it into a casino, also they wanted to take down everything! They can be banging their asses off, this place can not be changed!
BT I then left, I went to do metal works, I had a friend in the constructions there and I got involved with iron and steel until I retired… What was going on here, it was full of people! I remember about 20 women being here, downstairs, but they were making the boxes upstairs. Of MISKO, everything of MISKO there, and they also made the lobster candies, all of Skiadaresis, of Militsopoulos, they printed the packages of everyone that was in the market. And it was of such a bad quality that wrapping paper, and as soon as we printed it, we had to come every afternoon and dry it. Then the inks did not dry as fast as they do now. And they had some crates there, and we would put them there and we would come in the afternoon… Well I was not coming, haha, I was going to play football, I was saying “nah, let me go", that's why I left after a while.
PT I remember when I worked at Marangopoulos, I was so young, seventeen years old, I remember and I laughed when, our supervisor came, they put me in some barrels and hid me so that he would not see me, because I, a village girl, tiny, and I looked even younger, and because they had reported me older in the papers so I could work, they hid me in some barrels, and as soon as he left they took me out. Sometimes they would even throw a cloth at me!
BT It was Diakidis’ niece, Mrs. Eleni who was in charge upstairs, she was polite, she was nice, but when we were not doing very well, she was fining us. 5 drachmas fine. We were youngsters you know… That blue colour on the packages of MISKO, it was a pain in the ass. I say, the one that folded the spaghetti. They were making boxes of this… ok… it was nice, but that Mrs. Eleni, oooh, it was a little…
IK So we start from the ground floor, it is the knitting floor, in which they worked three shifts, 6-2, 2-10, 10-6, three shifts, continuous operation… Now here, these spaces up, the first was for the cutters, so they separated the batches and brought them to us in the second floor. In the second floor there was a place for the t-shirts, where they sewed t-shirts and the place where the whole shirt was developed. These machines are the ironing boards. After the products were ironed, they had to be packed. After the packing was done, directly with the big elevator, they went to the third floor. The third was where we separated all things, t-shirts, shirts, etc., we had the orders from the customers and from there they left for the shops… and what was left, was going to the fourth floor which was our stocking areas. So when the shops asked for more stuff or the customers ordered more, we sent them the products from the fourth floor.
NP The factory from here stops in 1999. And is transferred to Thiva. The mobilisations started in 1995 when we realised that the work was not progressing, because we wanted… okay, we wanted to ensure what would happen, we saw where it was going. Okay, it ended in ’99 with a strike that unfortunately had no effect, none. Look, when there are 120 people left at the end, from 350 in total and… were leaving with voluntary departures, but when there are 120 people left fighting at the end, even though we won the first appeal to the European Council which said that the factory is obliged to keep you… And in the end there are 12 people left, this is not a victory, this thing is not a victory. Because everyone could have stayed and the factory could have not left. It is important to know that the new factory in Thiva had not been built yet, at that time.
SS The product has a unique taste but is not appreciated well, because it is a very cheap product. That is, if you see here, try one, please. Do you want to try a rose or a honey-walnut?
GM I will try, yes! The honey-walnut.
YM Because you said about the product, the first one when the delight industry started…
SS It was this here, the lobster candy.
YM I remember them from a young age, it took ages to melt in your mouth.
SS The most tedious. Why it is called a lobster candy, it is because it is stuffed with halva. Georgia, did you like it?
GM It's a childhood memory, I will keep it. It is DNA memory, they were everywhere in the city.
KK One of the things I wanted to change was just that, that is, for the audience to have contact with the books and not be distant from the book, I basically wanted them to be able to touch it, see it, open it and relate to it. And also, to help as much as I can in the search and retrieval of information, because it is very difficult, in the sense that when someone comes and looks for a book, if we do not know the library’s collection, we may not give the right information. So, an important part of an employee is the good knowledge of the material and a good analysis of the topic that the reader is asking for. The reader always enters a place, especially a public space such this one, with a sense of fear. A sense of retainment.
SD I managed and issued a law then, and we went down on strikes. Which strikes, from the first moment were over 90% successful. Even the administrative staff came down, they would fall on me like I hit them, they would bring the police out of the factory and ask them to make us go back to work. And Andrikopoulos, he is the police commissioner now then he was an officer in the immediate action department, was telling them: “Is something of a criminal nature happening inside? Are they breaking the machinery?” “No,” they replied, “they do not work, they sit in the dining room and they do not work.” And the officer was telling them “I see there is a banner that says ON STRIKE, we can’t force them to work!”.
DT Have I told you about the situation with one lady who had a kiosk in Othonos- Amalias street? We were going there almost everyday to give her various knitting materials since she was working with fabrics during the afternoons. So I happened to give her some threads. We were one day with Takis, one of the drivers. When my father could not rely on me, he would hire drivers… so Takis stops at Othonos- Amalias street, I give her the threads, she does some signs with her eyes and she tells me “Dimitraki, come a little closer”, she approaches, sits between us and she grabs my dick.
ΙΚ Many women! Too many women. The men were on the parcels, in the cutters were working women and men, there were, yes, in the shirt department, there the cutters were more men.
LA The factory after ’61 got a few women, before not. It did not have a large production. In ’67, they rented the square, the square that is across the football stadium of Panachaiki, and stored empty boxes there. The owners, let's say the truth now, they set fire and burned all the boxes saying that the production was burned. The empty boxes! Can you believe it?
GM Like Ladopoulos, the owner of the largest paper factory in the Balkans who threw the British machinery into the sea. The first massive machine that Ladopoulos brought in Patras, he had sawed the ropes of the crane and the machine fell from the boat into the sea so he could buy it as a defective one. “I am not taking it” said Ladopoulos, “I do not want it, it’s defective!”. And then he took it out and bought it almost for free. Almost for free, can you imagine it?
PM And if you ask Tonia Rapti, Tonia Rapti was the hostess here. She was a little girl when she started here and came out old with a pension. She was happy to meet and welcome so many people in here, a woman who could burn down her house, but she would never burn down the estate, she has so much love for the place. And she does not have a bad word for anyone. Apart from one. Whom? Belekos, the former chief of staff. And the reason why she is still upset with him is not something personal, he hasn’t done something to her. She couldn’t bear the fact that he cleared up Clippfel’s archive and burned everything. And she was saying to him “Why do you burn them? Let me sort out everything.” “He was not listening to me,” she complained, “he burnt everything”.
BT A lot of work, oh my, here it was full of paper, Ladopoulos was unloading paper every day. That cellophane paper they printed the candies, oh my, this was hell, it was drying so slowly!
PT The 80's, 90's were the golden years for us and you are paying for it now. Yes, they gave us lots of money, yes we took it, I got married in ’82 to my husband and he had a salary of 45,000 drachmas from the Public Electrical Company and within five years he got 400,000. This money excess that they distributed to the world, you pay for it now. Yes, I voted for them, I earned more than I expected, I ate, I collected, we bought our house, we made our lives, but for what we got and ate and created, our children pay today, who are unemployed and are in debt and will be indebted for a lifetime.
SD Talking about revolutionary purity, while people are dying from hunger and giving them promises, in the name of “the fight”. The fight was to have food, electricity. When the other person sees you next to them, that yes, you fight for the good cause that is called electricity, water, for each other, and you go their working spaces and inspire them, you also intervene in the banks that have retailed them, with actions not with words, because everyone says words. And we are tired of words. And in Greece, unfortunately, there is a lot of fatigue, because the disappointments, you may know from your parents, have fallen by the wayside. People we supposedly could have in front of us leading the way, trusting them, abandoned us.
YP One of the reasons we reduced production is the very big change in the law and the difficulty of logging. While in the past we had people who planted fast growing trees legally, that is, within 5,6,7 years, the tree matured and could be cut down. Now to cut a tree requires so much bureaucracy, that many left the profession. We ran out of trees and we have to search in Serbia, you know, in countries that don't have such laws, and no one got into that process. The same goes for the wooden toothpicks that we’ve stopped producing.
TR It had the exclusivity of fertilisers. Corn, fodder, beets, they still have the beets. It still has commercial traffic, not in the Peloponnese though. From Ikonio it loads containers for abroad, containers of COSCO, for Macedonia and abroad. These wooden wagons, which had a bearing, we took out the wheels, we made the bearings here, we made the bearings and we did general repairs on them, as you can see, general repairs, demolition of every board there was, we did it all here. In '84 when I came here, over here, on this line here, we dismantled the commercial wagons that we had to overhaul. Here, we had over a hundred of technical staff. We were like Dachau here, they were working under extremely bad conditions… Let me give you another example, in the 80's, we craftsmen, we “ate asbestos with a spoon”, we worked exclusively with asbestos here. We made moulds from asbestos, we moulded, we moulded the asbestos!
DG I got stuck there! I was 62 years old when I retired. I stayed there for 32 years. But I'm satisfied, you know, I've been working in the office, in sales. The bran, at that time, was gold. The farmers used to come to the cash register to buy bran, with a ticket, in the end they issued a ticket, they were that many, let's say. You know, everyone in the office was very happy with me, and the seller of Achaia here, apart from Patras, Patras had only one seller, he retired, he was old and the manager asked me, “do you want to be a salesman”. I said “okay”, I had a car, I had a driver’s licence, I had everything, they even gave me a car! Think about it, the salary in the office was 80,000, as soon as I went out I made 100,000. 20,000 over, it was a lot of money that time!
PM Now that my professional career is setting, I have two goals, finding the person who will succeed me and the digitisation and maintenance of this thing. We have secured, through the Ministry of Culture, that these things will always work in this area. So always look for the person behind everything.
ΙΚ We had, we had, because then we made a lot of sales in shops but also a lot of exports abroad, we had a lot of customers abroad… the acceptance was good because it is a parent company, things were good, nothing bad was happening, now with the ecological paints and such we can have a complaint for example, which is not a big deal… there are t-shirts that you buy and they are immortal!
DT The first wave has started much earlier, during the ‘80s, people had already received the first compensations and it was becoming a crazy situation in Patras where everyone opened shops, sold ribbons, underpants, socks, women's clothes, whatever. All that crap! This thing was highly unacceptable.
YP I'm sad to see all these machines and think that they could be still working, that we could be still listening to that noise of production. Why should a container have to leave China to reach Greece? I respect that we live in a capitalistic system, the cheapest one will sell more, I'm okay, I am not blaming China… I am blaming everything else, its a pity that we stopped the production of the wooden clothespins… fewer customers? Fewer customers, doesn’t matter, keep them. It’s sad that we abandoned the machines… it bothers me that people also went so fanatically to foreign products.
EA I started in 2006, June 5, 2006, I was a saleswoman, then the needs made me work here also in the afternoon, that is, in the morning I was a saleswoman and in the afternoon I was in the retail. The store was not like you see now, generally a lot has changed since then, I was working then with Viviana. I am a family friend beyond work, of course work is different, it has nothing to do with it. And when Viviana left, because she taught me everything, apart from production, only when we did exports that we had to work here for hours I did some production, and then when Viviana left I took on the role of the wholesaler and the running of the whole office. You will hear a name here Eugenia, Eugenia, Eugenia!
ΝΤ It is the only Municipality in Greece that runs a drama school. And the Municipality spends a lot of money for this, because the school does not always equal income-expenses and is of a good level, that is, the teachers who are here are also teaching in top drama academies in Athens. It is not that the staff is of lower quality.
SS First of all, no candy is the same as the other. They are handmade, big-small. It takes a lot of time to make the outer candy, the inner, the filling, to put the colours. Everything at the same time, it must be produced on a bench with a temperature over 50 degrees so that it does not harden. When I was a child this machine caught my fingers. I have these three signs. It caught my fingers like that. If it had caught them like this, it would have cut them like a candy.
DT The whole network is a sketchy network, a completely sketchy network. That includes everything, the mafia, swindlers, prostitutes, Romanies, everything. The Romanies always dealt with the textiles… carpets, fabrics. In fact, they were the best buyers. They would go up to small industries, mainly in Athens, since there the companies started to close first when the fall started, and over there they bought things from stock. So all the small industries that had an issue, sold them by the kilo. So they would come to my father and ask him to sell. He would hardly sell them any because he always programmed his consumption in advance, but sometimes when he had returns, he gave by the kilo. There were guys who filled trucks from industries that went bankrupt. Anyway, the most charming thing in this whole situation is the sketchy element.
ΚΚ The municipal gallery… the Town Hall will go to the former Arsakion building and the gallery will move from where it is now, to the former Town Hall’s building. The space will be reformed. Okay this is a bit bad maybe for the gallery, in the sense that it needs certain space… but now it deprives the public library of vital space… My view was exactly that, that the gallery should be in a building of its own, that it will have storage areas for its collection with the correct specifications, as well as to be able to have a permanent and periodical exhibition spaces.
SD We made financial supports to go and buy the buildings on Bouboulinas Street in Athens, the former torture chambers of the ESA, we bought them. In the ‘90s, with the disintegration of socialism, as the Soviet Union fell, the then central committee of the party went and sold them to Mrs. Bakoyanni, to host the offices of the Ministry of Culture, right? And yet we struggled to have the building under the property of the party, not to let history be forgotten, not to alter the space. In the future they will privatise it too, which means that our history will be gone.
LA Look, I have worked for 40 years, in cement factories, in metallurgy, I used to work in metal industries that made tricks, nails for horses, etc., do you know where, here in Pente Pigadion and Athinon street, round the corner. I went there in ’54 for work, yesterday I turned 85 and today I go for 86.
NP Although, for the spaghetti of MISKO and for its quality it's the water of Patras that played a role. Yes! It was great and that's why the pasta was so good. And we learned it from… we did not even learn it from Greeks, we learned it from the Italians. Do you get it; it was the water of Patras that made… we learned it from Italians. Italians came here to make an investment, not when the factory was owned by BARILLA but during MISKO, so they stayed for a long time. So they tested the water and drank from it and when they left, they took water from Patras, as much as they could get to, in Italy. And we first learned from them that we have the best water, therefore the best spaghetti.
YP Because everyone was blaming everyone, “ah, the machines are making noise”, “ah, smoke is coming out”, “ah, a fuss”, everything that everyone could do to stop the industry. On the one hand it was logical, because the industry was in a residential area, the state haven’t had issued that law yet according to which, industries had to operate outside the city’s web… We always had issues with the neighbours.
NL We are the last of the Mohicans, I believe that after us, the workshop will go to private contractors. If no recruitment is made, if no people are found to specialise in this craft, I think this art will disappear. The old masters have retired, they are gone, we will also retire one day, there are three of us, in five years the one will leave, two of us will remain. Well, a swallow does not make spring. If no measures are taken to hire people here, this thing will be privatised. And the whole atmosphere will be lost. This freedom, this festival, this carnival bond we have, will be lost.
NP And to establish their sovereignty. These people are still in places, after so many years. Whether you want in the General Labor Union or in other state positions, they are in positions. I think this was the issue and it was especially located in Patras very strongly, that is, look, Patras had a very large textile industry, it could not survive, they left, but they did not say the reality “they are leaving guys, they want profit!” You see, they said “it’s the workers’ fault”. Patras had a lot of clothing industries, the same there, the maintenance cost was less in other countries and they left and went there, very simply. But they did not tell this truth. And they blamed the trade unionists with their strikes, with this and that.
NP Of course! But there was no planning, you see it still does not exist, there was no plan for development, how will the country, the cities develop, it did not exist, you see even now, there is nothing! We go ahead with no planning, no planning at all. So the factories left Greece and it’s easier to blame the trade unionists for that. It's over.
SD We are in this phase where, the working class will have to suffer this torment, because, sadly, everything went to hell.
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