PARISH PROFILE: St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Bakersfield, California
Published in the Orthdox Observer, September-October 2018 - page 25
St. George Greek Orthodox Church
Not all immigrants from Greece in the late 19th and early 20th centuries chose to settle in the major metropolitan areas of the East and Midwest.
A small number traveled to more remote areas; among these was the high desert region of California’s interior where Bakersfield (pop. about 380,000) is centrally located, 112 miles north of glamorous, star-studded L.A.
According to a parish history, the “pioneer” Greek Orthodox came to build the railroads – the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific – as did many Chinese and Irish men before them. Others soon established businesses that supported the railroads.
Still others engaged in farming (Bakersfield is at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, part of California’s Central Valley that produces nearly 13 percent of the country’s agricultural output).
A unique feature of the parish’s website is a list of the 40 settlers who arrived between 1911 and 1924 and established the parish, along with a complete list of priests who served the community.
They soon branched out into tra- ditional occupations Greeks engaged in at the time: fruit stands, restaurants, confectionary stands, shoe shine stands, barber shops, popcorn and peanut vendors.
The first silent movie theater in Ba- kersfield also was Greek-owned.
Attempts to organize a parish began in 1916 with the creation of “Uplift Society Socrates.” A kind of forerunner to the AHEPA organization that was to have its start in Atlanta in 1922, the society helped immigrants assimilate to America, including helping them learn English, fostering “Americanism” in the youth and helping them become citizens.
Receiving its charter in 1922, the community, which took the name “The Hellenic American Community of Bakersfield,’ purchased a small hall in 1924 for religious and social gatherings. By the 1930s, the parish had more than 200 families. . . .
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