The Memoirs of Ted Kiapos

A friend whom I've known since 1941, asked me to write about my life. So, let me begin at the beginning. My earliest recollections begin at the age of four-and-one-half to five. I was the oldest followed by my brother Bill and my sister Katherine. My mother emigrated from Greece through Ellis Island in 1923. She was Magdeline Bovetas and was sponsored by my uncle Gus Bovetas and her cousin George Bovetas. My uncle brought her to San Francisco, California, where he had a job. He took care of her while she was there.
In those days he did the best that he could and was very concerned for my mother's well-being.
My father, John Kiapos, came to the United States in 1900 at the age of twelve. He had passage to Boston, Massachusetts, where he was met by uncles who lived in that area. They brought him to Chicago, Illinois, where they found work for him in a restaurant. He also worked in a Greek deli which provided foods, pastries and beverages to the local Greek community. My Dad told me that he lived in a cellar with thirteen other boys from Greece. Their principal diet consisted of bananas and bread. My Dad was very self-sufficient. He would frequent libraries where he could learn to read and write in English. After a year of this, he wanted to move on. He took off to Ohio, where he obtained a job with Western Electric. He apparently proved his proficiency learning mass production working in the telephone assembly line.
In the next four years, he became semi-fluent in English, speaking, reading and writing English. Being eager to move on, again, he asked his employer if there were work opportunities in California. He was informed of rail yard work for Western Electric in Dunsmore, California. My Dad asked to be transferred there. They complied with his request.
He arrived in Dunsmore in 1906. This was north of San Francisco. After working there for several months, Dad felt the need to move on, again. He went to San Francisco, where his brother Henry worked in a small eatery. Uncle Henry had invested what money he accrued into the restaurant. Dad asked him how he was faring and the answer was "not very well." Dad helped get the business going and his brother was able to gain back his investment.
When Dad realized the restaurant business was not for him, he decided in 1908 to move the Venice, California. There he opened a shoeshine stand.
With an ambitious and creative nature, Dad tried to analyze the materials used to polish leather. There was a solution that was slippery which cleaned and prepared the shoes for shining. He asked the salesman of the product what was involved in making this solution. The salesman said it was made from banana peels which were boiled. Dad believed him and tried the process to no avail and was ridiculed for his attempts. Dad didn't appreciate the humor at his expense. He went to the library and checked out books on the care of leather and chemical formularies. As a student of leather care, he discovered that the use of mild gums were applied to clean and prepare the leather. So he developed his own solution for so doing.
In the bathroom of his boarding house Dad experimented and produced his original products, and Dad began selling to other shoeshine stands his leather cleaner in gallons. In those days shoeshine stands were prevalent everywhere. Dad would load a pouch on his shoulder with two gallons in the front and two gallons on his back and go forth on a bicycle to sell his wares. It would cost ten cents to make, including the price of the gallon. He sold each gallon for one dollar.
With success in his shoe cleaner, Dad persevered in the pursuit of other aspects of shoe care. Referring to published chemical formularies, he compounded several variations of wax.
He bought a secondhand scale, logging and testing his experiments, to see which would work best.
A small stove was purchased to melt the waxes. A portion of solvents were used to liquefy the waxes. These consisted of turpentine and other aliphatic solvents.
Then with the formula intact, Dad decided to prepare four different colors of shoe wax: black, brown, tan and neutral. He devised a system of using oil based dyestuffs melted in stearic acid. That was the basis of colors to be added to melted waxes. These waxes were poured into cans over a tub of ice. Dad chose a name for the products, Omega Shoe Polish, in the year 1911.
Along with the shoe wax, leather dye and shoe cleaner, which I alluded to earlier, Dad developed an additional item called Omega Neutral Cream, the finest leather dressing ever developed for all types of leather, including saddlery, belts, jackets, handbags, boots and shoes. This item eventually sold to the household consumer, tanneries, saddleries, boot and shoemakers and most leather goods manufacturers.
In 1923 Dad began selling to the shoe accessory trade. These sales required travel up and down the West Coast. On one of these trips, Dad met my mother in San Francisco. My uncle George, who was Mom's first cousin, was the go between. Upon noticing the various pens Dad had in his vest pocket, Mom was impressed. They soon became friends and shortly thereafter, arranged to be married. Following the wedding, they set up housekeeping in Los Angeles.
They were part of the Greek American community and lived at 21st Street near San Pedro Street near the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
On April 17th, 1925 they had their firstborn, a son, who was yours truly.
Dad continued developing his business and in the interim, my brother, Bill, was born July 27th, 1926. Dad and Mom moved out of the apartment and we moved into our first home at 1501 West 64th Street, on the corner of Halldale Avenue.
As Dad's business prospered, my sister, Katherine arrived on June 21st, 1929. This was in the heart of the Great Depression. Dad's business flourished as the need for shoe maintenance was vital for the struggling population.
As I grew up, I skipped kindergarten and started in the first grade. At that time, I only spoke Greek, as my parents conversed only in Greek to us.
My first recollection of public school was not a particularly happy one. Since I couldn't speak English, I had several encounters with other boys who teased and taunted at my expense. The first month and one half of first grade, I had to contend with several such situations. I had to fight my way through in order to be accepted and respected as one of them, which I was.
In 1934 my family decided to move to the house Dad had built at 76th Street and Cimarron Avenue in South West Los Angeles. This necessitated a change in schools; enrolling at 74th Street Elementary.
The first day at school, in the 4th grade, during recess, I went downstairs to the recreation field. As I proceeded, while on the stairs, I was deliberately pushed down the stairs. This bully was one of my fellow students. He confronted me with the challenge to meet after school, which I did.
We met beyond the school grounds. Face to face, he ridiculed me and asked me to knock the chip off his shoulder. I readily complied and quickly followed with a devastating right hand to his jaw. He was knocked down and I asked him what he had in mind at that point. The playground supervisor, a teacher, saw what had transpired. She realized I was a new student and proceeded to escort the bully to the principal's office. No further "bully" problems ensued by anyone toward me.
I was studious in my endeavors and proceeded to junior high school. At Horace Mann I was elected to the safety committee and eventually became president of it. As such, I attended meetings with the L.A. City Council. I enthusiastically participated in various sports; baseball, track and football.
At Washington High School I was only one-hundred-fifty pounds and joined the B football team. Quickly thereafter, I was promoted to 1st string and played guard on the line.
In my junior year, weighing one-hundred-sixty-five pounds, I went out for varsity football. I was chosen to be 1st string guard. During my senior year, playing football on varsity, I was again 1st string guard. An aside to this, my parents objected to my playing, so I forged the paper requiring their consent. I was on the All Southern California League Football Team while in high school.
I maintained honor roll in my full schedule of college entrance requirements. During my senior year I fulfilled my units for graduation early and enlisted in the Navy, since it was March, 1943, and the U.S. was in WWII. I was seventeen at the time, and this time I got Dad's written consent to enlist.
During my high school football experiences, I met and still have a very close friend, Keith Kenworthy. He was drafted in the army and played football during his stay in the army, whereas, being in the navy boot camp, the only athletic activity available was with my company boxing team. As I participated as a light heavyweight at 175 pounds, I proceeded to box contenders of other companies and proved to be very successful. I could knock out my opponents with either hand. The boxing instructor of the young recruits approached me to become a professional boxer. His name was Lee Ramage. He had a successful boxing career as a heavyweight. Lee's only distinction was that he stayed in the ring with Joe Louis for 10 rounds. Joe Louis was the heavyweight champion of the world. Lee liked me as a protégé, but I declined his offer to become professional. Lee asked me what my reason was for declining. I told him I didn't mind hitting my opponent, but I didn't like getting hit.
After my completion of basic training at the U.S. Navy training station at San Diego, I was given 3 choices; gunner's mate, motor machinist, or a hospital corpsman. The 3rd choice was acceptable and I proceeded to Hospital Corps School in San Diego. A 3 month course was followed by working at the Naval Corps Hospital in San Diego.
Thereafter, I was transferred to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Corona, California. As a member at Corona, I as placed on duty in two different wards at three week intervals. My 1st ward duty was in dermatology. The 2nd duty was in the psych ward.
At this point I was given outside detail, moving rocks from on pile to another. The reason for this was we were at a glorified marine corps training center. We were trained in the field to treat the "wounded" according to what their tags indicated.
The chief in charge noticed that I didn't shirk my duties in any way and as a result, he asked me if I knew how to drive. Having been placed under his command, I drove trucks, ambulances, and chauffeured patients to the Hollywood Canteen.
In the meantime, I had taken tests to elevate my standing from hospital corpsman 1st class to pharmacist mate 3rd class. As such, I was no longer under the chief's jurisdiction, which disappointed him. I was now under the jurisdiction of the Naval Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Chief Petty Officer Hirsch was irked. He wanted me under his authority so he could keep me stateside for the duration of the war.
After being promoted to pharmacist mate 2nd class, I received orders to report to Norfolk, Virginia. There I was to study methods of treating patients while on independent duty. This involved learning emergency surgery comprising of appendectomies, amputations and the treatment of very severe injuries. I would be on duty either on a submarine, amphibious forces, or field operations with the Marine Corps, without the presence of a medical doctor.
They sent me to amphibious forces, and as such, was appointed to LCT group staff 110. LCT involves landing troops, tanks, etc. I was then sent to New River, North Carolina Marine Corps to do field medicine. While there, I was placed on ward duty at the naval hospital, in the social diseases division, better known as the "clap shack."
I left New River for the naval hospital at Algiers, Louisiana. This is across the river from New Orleans. I was selected to go with another pharmacist mate, Charlie Wagner, in charge of 10 boats. There were 4 other pharmacist mates selected in the same group staff. Two pharmacist mates were assigned to 10 LCTs. We had a total of 30 LCTs in our group. Our commander, Mr. Leif, was Lt. Commander and in charge of LCT group staff 110.
Each group staff consisted of a commander, a subordinate officer, and a medical doctor. The doctor, St. Shorter, had 6 pharmacist mates on his staff. Two pharmacist mates were committed to 10 boats.
From New Orleans, our group staff and 30 boats were sent to Honolulu, where 3 LCTs were boarded upon an LST. There were 10 LSTs for our 30 LCTs.
Our group of LCTs proceeded to Johnson Islands where LCTs slid off the LSTs, landing in the ocean. After retrieving our crafts and manning them, we proceeded to our ultimate destination, the Philippines. There were over 120 LCTs there. This was the largest contingent of LCTs in American naval history. Small boats, 100 feet long and 30 feet wide were each manned by 10 enlisted men and one officer.
On our way to the Philippines, we had a stop-over at Ulithi for fuel, supplies and a brief layover. The crews were allowed to go ashore for R & R.
In the Ulithis, there was a small recreation island called Magmag. There, we enjoyed a brief stay of 2 days. However, after eating the coconuts that fell from the many palm trees, some of us experienced the worst case of diarrhea. The men who were stationed on Magmag had a good laugh at our expense.
We proceeded to the Marshall Islands, after 10 days at sea. We laid offshore of Eniwitok. This had been a battleground 2 months earlier. It was 1/2 mile wide and a mile long. The reason for taking it from the Japanese was to establish a strategic airstrip.
After a week's stay, taking on supplies, we proceeded to the Philippines.
The Philippines had been taken from the Japanese in a hard-fought battle by General MacArthur's men. We stayed there until we received further orders to go to Leyte for approximately 2 to 3 months. We would pick up supplies and deliver them to cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers that were in the harbor of Leyte Gulf.
Our Group staff of LCTs was ordered to proceed to Guam, in preparation for the invasion of Japan. Our LCTs were put on LSDs, which were huge landing craft and could carry several LCTs.
I had stayed on Leyte with other personnel of the group staff, to make preparations for the invasion for which we were issued cold weather gear.
In the meantime, while still on Leyte, we were informed that Japan had been bombed with atomic power on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. One of my high school classmates, Rick Nelson, was the bombardier on the Enola Gay.
The realization that war with Japan would soon end brought much excitement and tremendous joy to the men. I was elated that this had occurred, since an invasion may have cost us at least 1/2 million American lives. Knowing what was at hand, I needed to return to my group staff in Guam. I was put on an LCI, Landing Craft Infantry, and proceeded there. When I arrived, my group had been disbursed. I needed to find the proper procedure to be with a mop-up group.
I was sent from Guam, back to Eniwitok and awaited my orders. My rating was frozen and I could not be discharged due to my pharmacist mate 1st class rating. This was due to the possibility of my having to treat wounded personnel. This freeze lasted from September of 1945 to March of 1946!
I returned to the United States and was discharged from the naval reserve on March 12th, 1946 at the San Pedro, California naval station.
I looked forward to attending college. Keith Kenworthy and I applied at USC, to play football. We were turned down for being considered too small. At the time I was 5' 10" and weighed 200 pounds. Keith was 6' tall and weighed 195 pounds. We then decided to find a college where we could play ball.
Pepperdine College, at 79th Street and Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles, was forming a football team. We applied there with approximately 150 other aspirants for the team. After a couple of weeks of workouts, a team was formed. Most of us were recent GIs. The coach, Warren Gaer, put us through a rigorous program to determine our abilities. Keith and I made the team. We were placed on the 1st team line. I, as a guard, Keith, as a tackle.
Our 1st game was against Whittier College. The score was 13 - 0 in our favor. Our next challenge was against the University of Arizona at Tempe. We lost that game 7 - 6 because we had no kicker to convert the extra point need to tie the score. We then went against 8 other schools and never lost a game. That was in 1946.
The following year, with basically the same team, we won every game and were the national small college champions. We maintained the highest scoring in the nation and the lowest score on in the nation. Our fullback, Darwin Horn, made the individual highest score in the nation and was named a Little All American. We also had the nation's leading ground gainer, Terry Bell, who received a total of 2,000 yards in a season. We called this "The Terry Bell Special." We also won the game from the team at Tempe that had beaten us the previous year.
Four of us from Pepperdine, Bo Williams, Darwin Horn, Terry Bell, and I were selected to play in the very first Hula Bowl in Hawaii. There were players from many other Pacific Coast colleges; 3 from UCLA, and others from Stanford, University of Oregon, Washington State, University of Washington, Cal Berkeley, and UC Santa Barbara.
We were given a royal welcome in Hawaii and were graciously entertained for 2 weeks.
The Pacific Coast All Stars played against Pacific Islanders, which consisted of Hawaii, Samoa, et al. We won 1 game and lost 1 to our hosts. Hawaii was extremely lush and beautiful and not commercialized as it is today.
In 1948, we had played 2 games where 5 of us, Bob Quine, Elmer Noonan, Oscar Jones, and another player, whose name slips my mind, and I, were waiting to go to football practice. We were to be given transportation to Wrigley Field which was our first time at that location. We were training to face San Jose State the following evening. It was a hot September afternoon. I suggested going to our regular bar on Manchester Avenue and Normandie Avenue to cool off with a couple of beers. Then we proceeded to Wrigley Field. During practice session while in a huddle, with members who hadn't been with us for beer, someone noticed the presence of beer on our breath. He was a good ball player and a member of the Salvation Army. Thus he resented our use of alcohol. He informed the coach about it.
The following day the 5 of us were asked by the coach if we had been drinking. I admitted having had 2 beers and the other four followed in suit. The coach then expelled us from the team.
After our expulsion from the team, Pepperdine's administrators were informed and they intended to expel us. They questioned us individually on the matter. I recall telling them why we had done so. They asked me how long I had been drinking. I responded that it had been since I was a youngster. At this point, they appeared shocked at my admission. They immediately placed the responsibility upon my parents and I said, "Hold it!" I explained that being of Greek descent, traditionally a pitcher of wine was placed on the dinner table to be shared by the family with our food. The consternation on the faces of my inquisitors was obvious to observe. I continued to say that this tradition existed for the last 2-1/2 thousand years. I took offence at their castigation of my heritage. It had given to the western world democracy, philosophy, the sciences, history, literature, drama and the arts, while Western Europe painted their bodies blue and resided in trees and caves. I went on to say that most of the group attended Pepperdine to receive an education through the VA. We were veterans with overseas war duty behind us and we were all over 21. If this were presented to the Veterans Administration, it would be a very sour note for Pepperdine.
My explanation resulted in our not being expelled. We continued with our education, which was our ultimate goal.
While at Pepperdine, I worked for my father at Omega Shoe Polish Company at 16th Street and Los Angeles Street in Los Angeles. My hours were from 7AM to 11:30AM. Classes followed, which were reached by street car or bus from downtown.
My major was philosophy and psychology with a minor in business. My grades were above average and I graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
I was then approached by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who wanted to draft me to play for them as a lineman. They offered $2500 for my services. I thanked them for their offer and replied that I could make more money shining shoes.
After graduation I went into Dad's business full time.
By 1952, at a convention in Bakersfield, I was invited to a party in Delano, California. The host, Jack Becronis, was a mutual friend of mine and Aspasia Mayakis. Jack also invited Aspasia to his party. She was attending the convention, as well. We met at his party and were immediately attracted to one another. She was from Burbank and a 3rd grade teacher in the Burbank Unified School District.
We started dating in February and by September 4th, I asked Aspasia to be my wife. I proposed with "What are you doing this afternoon? What are you doing for the rest of your life?" we were married that evening in Las Vegas.
At Omega, my brother, Bill, also can into the business. He had a similar routine as I had, working from 7AM to 11:30 AM and then proceeded with his college work. Bill quit at the beginning of his 3rd year at Pepperdine.
We learned the ins and outs of the business, from production to manufacturing. Bill and I would start the boiler for the waxes. Then the other employees would fill the cans with the wax. Consequently, we added an automated system for filling the cans. Bill eventually took over productions, overseeing the crew, taking inventory and shipping. I, in turn, was in charge of sales, advertising and management.
In the meantime, Aspasia and I were living in a one bedroom apartment. Our first child, John was born there, on July 1st, 1953.
We then moved to our first home, a two bedroom Spanish style on Denker Avenue in South West Los Angeles.
During the evenings, I took up leathercraft for my personal pleasure and to explore the possibilities for expanding our Omega business. Having become proficient in this endeavor, I realized there was a definite potential for pursuing it in conjunction with our leather dyes and finishes.
I then compiled a booklet instructing those interested in leathercraft, on how to stain, antique, and finish handcrafted leather items. I went on to create a line of products for this purpose to sell to the home and small business leathercrafter.
After having this booklet printed, I went to my distributors and offered them a line of products for leisure leathercrafting for them to promote.
While selling to distributors our line, I had to travel up and down the west coast, Arizona, Utah, and Texas. While in Texas, I called in Hinkley-Tandy Leather Company. I met Charles Tandy, the son of Dave Tandy, the president of Hinkley-Tandy Leather Company. They, too, were distributors of our products.
Charles Tandy had begun developing a leathercraft trade. He began a corporation known as Tandy Leathercraft. Charles and I were both like-minded and confident that creating products to fill the public's leisure time interests would be widely received and appreciated.
Charles and I became very good friends. He told me that he had leathercraft stores nationally. Charles was interested in developing a separate corporation involving Omega and Tandy. We discussed forming a company to distribute leather dyes, finishes, and other related chemicals to the leathercraft trade in the United States and Canada.
Before long, we developed the Omega Chemical Company of Fort Worth, Texas, where my brother Bill and I, and Tandy Leathercraft jointly owned 50% each of this new enterprise.
We forwarded equipment to Fort Worth from Los Angeles to facilitate production and the new Omega Chemical Company of Fort Worth, Texas, was born.
Tandy developed a label for these products, which was Omega Leathercraft.
Bill and I provided the knowhow for these products, Tandy Leather became the exclusive national distributor for the line. It was a very successful endeavor which lasted for over 20 years, from 1957 through 1977, at which time Tandy Leather bought out our share of the business a few years after the death of Charles Tandy.
In the meantime, around 1960, I had developed another line for Omega Shoe Polish Company, which was called Color Cosmetic. This was for lady's shoes, handbags, and leather accessories. It enabled the user to change colors to match their ensembles very easily and quickly without the necessity of purchasing more shoes and coordinating accessories. The results always appeared as if the items were manufactured in that color.
This took off quickly on a national level. Within 2 years, Omega was selling over one million dollars' worth of Color Cosmetic at the very nominal price of $1.00 for the consumer.
In order to facilitate matters for the consumer, we offered a bottle of cleaner with each purchase at no additional cost, and the items were packaged in a plastic blister package. However, the cleaner was manufactured with a faulty cap and the liquid evaporated. The merchandise was returned to us by the distributors. This was very costly for our company, as we reimbursed the cost of every package. This loss was in excess of two-and-one-half million dollars. Our caps had worked fine but we were urged to change our cap by Owens Illinois, our cap company, who recommended this particular cap and liner as a superior improvement for our product. We sought legal compensation and were awarded all of our losses by a jury, but the judge later reversed the decision.
We removed the Color Cosmetic from the blister tandem package and sold them individually to the markets avenues, but, by this time, competition had developed similar products and took away the advantage that we initially possessed.
As an aside, Dad had taught my brother and me how to match and create colors. To accentuate the point, Dad had developed a line of dyes that included 120 shades of color for satins, moirés, and for leather. I have passed this knowledge of colors to my sons. They, in turn, have used it successfully in their various endeavors. My son, John, who operates several enterprises and has developed several patented technologies, has successfully created a niche business, the Button Art Studios, providing machine-washable and dry-cleanable artistically designed color-matched hand-painted, airbrushed, and digitally printed buttons for the apparel industry which has been widely received as a value added compliment to their graphic colors and designs of their fabrics.
In the interim of color cosmetic, I had developed a compact shoeshine kit. It was basically comprised of urethane foam. We would die-cut the foam into circular applicators that were attached to plastic caps with adhesive. They were dipped into hot shoe polish and allowed to cool. The container was an injected molded unit that had a layer of urethane foam on its base. This was used as a brush and the container was attached to the applicator.
I showed my compact creation to national marketing firm. They promoted the idea as the "Royal Master Shoeshine Kit" which we manufactured and it was eventually sold to R.J. Reynolds.
At this time, I received a package of tanned eel skin from South Korea. Inquiry was made by the overseas company as to the viability of selling the skins to the various trades that might utilize such a commodity. A customer to whom I provided leather dyes and shoe polishes was in Texas. This was Tony Lama Boot Company. They manufactured high quality cowboy boots and were very well known and respected in the industry. I approached Tony Lama Jr. concerning the eel skin. He was interested and gave me an order for two-and-one-half million dollars' worth of eel skins. This was to come in and be delivered increments of 10% of the product at a time.
A letter of credit for $10,000 was secured from my bank. It was used for an initial purchase of that amount of eel skin. After receiving the eel skin from Korea at $1.50 per square foot, I shipped it to Tony Lama. After they received the goods, Tony Lama rejected it because of its imperfections. The skins had small holes due to female eels laying their eggs through these port holes. Not being able to return the goods to Korea, I developed a method of dying the eel skin on large plates of glass so that the holes would easily be seen. Then I dabbed the holes with an original color-matched flexible resin compound of my own which filled the holes and made the skins appear unblemished. This proved to be successful.
Local handbag and wallet manufacturers were approached by me and I sold all of the rejuvenated skins at a nominal profit.
I satisfied our letter of credit and placed another eel skin order with our South Korean suppliers, and sent my son, John, there to inspect the goods. At this point, the price had risen to $2.50 per square foot. John then secured a new blanket order from Tony Lama at the higher price and we successfully delivered to them. We proceeded to market the eel skins to other boot companies, but the market demand for eel skin rose as did the price, which ultimately made it prohibitive to proceed any further with this venture.
I'm going to digress and go back to my childhood, to the age of 10. In order to have money for the Saturday matinee movies and treats for my younger brother, sister, and myself, I would mow lawns for fifty cents in our hillside neighborhood. Enduring such arduous work, I decided there was an easier way to accomplish my goal. My brother and I built a shoeshine box that contained cleaners, shoe polish and a brush. We proceeded to local real estate offices and auto dealerships and shined shoes for ten cents a shine. We'd usually receive a generous tip which would bring to total to a quarter. This enabled us to celebrate in style. This was the start of my entrepreneurship.
Moving forward, while in the navy, I saved what was allotted to me and had enough money to purchase our first home in South West Los Angeles shortly after my marriage.
Our second child, Theodora, was born there in 1954, and, later, as we were expecting our third, we bought a larger home in Hawthorne, California, in 1957.
Eventually, when our children reached the ages of 9, 11, and 13, we settled, in 1966, on La Tuna Canyon, horse country in the Verdugo foothills of Los Angeles. The property consisted of nearly 10 acres, with the main house and three guest cottages, a barn, an exercise arena for training horses, and a citrus orchard.
Since our youngest child, George, was now in the 4th grade, Aspasia decided to go back to teaching. As a Burbank junior high school teacher, at John Muir Junior High School, she acquired permits for our children to attend school in Burbank.
I had started playing handball at the Los Angeles Athletic Club in 1964 and maintained my athletic abilities.
Aspasia would join me at the LAAC after school, when our children were well into their teens.
We had progressed in developing our property on La Tuna Canyon. John lived in the upper guest cottage, and George restored the lower guest cottage and then rebuilt John's guest cottage into a larger home, after John moved out due to an allergy towards a particular insect.
In 1968, I designed and built an automatic outside spit which accommodated 6 whole lambs on rotisserie. Over the years, we've hosted many parties, family gatherings, and weddings on our patio and have put the spit to good use.
Soon after, I took an interest in the cultivation orchids. A fellow teacher of Aspasia's had a glass-house greenhouse which he was selling. We purchased it and erected in on an upper level of our property, populating it with different varieties of orchids. We expanded the following year and built an adjacent lathe-house and brought in vandas, which were orchids better suited to an open air environment. I thought that it would be novel if we got some goats to help with the weeding on the property. It turns out that goats are very adept at mowing the greenery. One day our two goats got out of their pen and attacked the orchids. They were thorough in devouring every orchid down to the nub. The goats were immediately donated to a nearby boy's camp.
In 1986, John had successfully completed desensitization for his allergy and we asked him to please move back to La Tuna, offering him the rental home. John moved back and began his business, Button Art Studios, which he has successfully operated for the last 30 years. In 1989 John married Carmen Moghaddam and in 1990 our first grandchild, Sophia, was born. Then, in 1992, John and Carmen brought our second grandchild, Athena, into this world. John then went on to convert his home into a 5 bedroom, 5 bathroom, two story home to accommodate his family's needs.
We have enjoyed hosting many events at our home over the years, including our friends in the Los Angeles Greek community, year-end Burbank teachers' parties, LAAC handball parties, Pepperdine reunions, and fundraisers for many philanthropic causes.
I bought an Executive RV in 1976, which we would vacation with and take to all of the L.A. Rams, and later, the L.A. Raiders home football games. While parked on Exposition Blvd., near the Coliseum, we would be joined by friends and would make a day of it! With brunch before the game, and cocktails and dinner following it, our RV was always the place to be, and since I loved to cook, this was very relaxing and pleasurable for me.
One good friend, Tom McKnight, and I went on a fishing trip to Baja, California, for one month, bringing home huge catches and many seashells. With the McKnights, we also travelled caravan-style throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona.
Many of these ventures were with Rotarians. Since Tom was a Rotarian and I was such a good cook, the group welcomed us as honorary Rotarians.
We were blessed with many great friends. One group consisted of Murray Franklin, Ira Roisman, Sid Solomon, and myself. We were very close and would travel together on many fishing trips, and with our wives, we would all go to Palm Springs. For years, our group would meet once a week for lunch at only the best restaurants in L.A. Our wives were very compatible, as well, making our times together very special and a memorable relationship.





© Copyright 1991 - 2024 John Kiapos. All rights reserved worldwide and throught the universe.


To whom it may concern,

I am questioning why I wasn't informed about my being terminated as a viable participant for continuing with the V.A. medical program.

You have my service record, as I was inducted in the U.S.N.R., volunteering for service on March 12, 1943. I was trained as a pharmacist mate, serving at the U.S. Naval Hospitals, at San Diego, Corona (Norco), receiving additional training for independent duty at Norfolk, VA for four months, and was then stationed at U.S. Naval Base at New River, North Carolina. Then I was transferred to Algiers, Louisiana, (New Orleans). There, I was formed with Naval Group Staff 110, which was an Amphibious Group consisting of L.C.T.s (Landing Craft Tanks). From there, I was sent to San Francisco, California to complete and compliment the Group State 110. Then, I was shipped to Waipio, Hawaii and moved into the forward areas of the Pacific arena, going to the Johnson Islands, then to to the Marshalls, Ulithi, then Eniwetok. From there continued with our group of L.C.T.s to Leyte, Philippines. I remained there until forwarded to Guam, after our craft were upgraded with foul weather equipment as were the crews. The crews went on to Guam, I was to follow when we dropped the A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that ended the war in the Pacific. I was in the Philippines at the time and orders came to me to meet my Group Staff in Guam, where I was sent there on an L.C.I. (Landing Craft Infantry). Arriving in Guam, I was informed that the Group Staff was terminated, and I was to be sent to Eniwetok. I boarded a P.A. (Personnel Attack) to Kwajalein then Teniwetok where I remained until March, 1946. I had sufficient points to be discharged in September of 1945, but because of my rate as Pharmacist Mate 1st Class, I was frozen in the event of casualties.

Eventually, I was discharged, honorably, on March 12, 1946.

Please forgive my writing, as I can't write in cursive as my Parkinson's Disease prevents me. I print as I have learned to control print, as I do crossword puzzles daily. This has been so for many years

Now, after my life's history of service, I want to explain why I didn't apply for V.A. benefits until recently.

In 2003, I was confined in bed, as I couldn't walk, as I had two previous surgeries (spine, 1st: L1 & L2 in 1994, 2nd: L3 in 1997). These were laminectomies and discectomies. These were both successful, however in 2000, arthritis had developed in L4 & L5, and when the neurosurgeons reviewed the MRIs, they were concerned I may lose the use of my right leg and refused to do the surgeries. These surgeries were done at the Kaiser Permanente facilities.

After a year and eight months in bed, a fellow veteran suggested I take advantage of the V.A. facilities, which I did, and began treatment soon after.

Early last year, your people recommended I see your Physical Therapy Department. They gave me some exercises to do, and in July of 2006 I regularly did these exercises in my swimming pool. I was able to do them all summer long, every day for 45 minutes. I was able to shuffle my feet and do much more than before. Then, abruptly, I was informed that I was no longer eligible for V.A. treatment.

I have a question to ask. You stipulate that in order to qualify for V.A. assistance a veteran cannot make an income exceeding $44,350 a year. Please give me a reasonable answer as to who made this unreasonable, if not insanely arbitrary amount of income that any veteran can make. Unless you, or they, have made this a qualification, I would appreciate you giving me an explanation how anyone can perform this feat. What "genius" came upon this figure?

Our mortgage payment for each month is $2321.80, an annually is near $28,000.

Include the following, 1) Home and auto insurance, 2) Medical and Dental, 3) Water, Power, Gas, 4) House Keeping, 5) Gardening, 6) Life Insurance, 7) Long Term Care Insurance, 8) Auto License, 9) Plumbing & Electrical Repairs, 10) Pest Control, 11) Other Home Repairs & Auto, 12) Real Estate Taxes, 13) Telephone, 14) Gasoline, 15) Tree Trimming, 16) Brush Clearance, 17) Safety Railing (for myself to ambulate in & out of my house, 18) Contributions: Church & Civic Good, 19) Notary & Attorney & Accountant Fees, 20) Not Including Incidentals. These cumulative figures approximate about $55,000 annually, in order to meet our basic needs, living in Los Angeles, California, where I was born and raised.

I await your explanation.

Theodore J. Kiapos