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Lynn native celebrates 100th birthday

Fannie Pomakis, who will turn 100 on April 5, talks about her full life while sitting at the her kitchen table. (Owen O'Rourke)

SALEM — A 100th birthday may be considered a milestone, but to Fannie Pomakis, it’s just another day.

Born on April 5, 1919, the Lynn native is rich with history. As the only daughter of six kids and a former General Electric employee of 41 years, she’s the kind of woman who never took no for an answer.

“I did about every job at GE, from the assembly line to becoming an inspector,” said the current Salem resident. “I couldn’t get along with any of the men. They didn’t want me inspecting their work.”

Pomakis, the third oldest of her siblings, was born in her family home at 9 Richmond Court in Lynn. She attended Washington School until sixth grade but, in order to help her mother at home, she did not continue her education. Pomakis was the only sibling who didn’t attend high school.

After learning the tricks of the trade from her mother, Pauline, Pomakis worked as a seamstress during her teens. A few years later, she heard about a job opening at GE’s Lynn facility. Pomakis lied and told her boss she had a doctor’s appointment.

She left for the day and applied to the highly desirable company. After passing the exam with flying colors, Pomakis was one of seven women at the time to be offered a position on the assembly line.

“All my brothers wanted to work there,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to go home and tell them that I got the job. They didn’t believe me.”

Making $65 a week in the early 1940s, which, according to the U.S. inflation calculator, would be more than $1,100 a week in 2019, Pomakis bought her mother a washing machine. She recalled memories of lugging water from their well to get the machine rolling.

Soon after starting the job, Pomakis and her family moved to a “shack” on Springside Avenue in Salem, where she currently lives by herself. Her father, Arthur, who worked at the leather factory in Lynn, built the little house from the ground up and made it into a home.

After years of giving up the bedrooms to her brothers and sleeping on the couch, Pomakis finally got her own pink room, which she still sleeps in today. Her family’s was one of the only houses on the block at that time.

Pomakis remembers when each of the homes next to her were built, and when trolley cars rumbled down the street.

When she was 20 years old, her younger brother Marco, then 18 and skillful with a violin, died. He was at King’s Beach in Lynn when he heard someone in the water screaming for help. Marco went to save him, but they both ended up drowning.

The Pomakis family had Italian neighbors who heard about the devastating news. She said they gave her family some chickens and taught her how to raise them. A few chickens turned into a farm with the addition of goats, turkeys, and a full garden where they made their own wine.

Fannie Pomakis spent her whole life with tap shoes on and a passion for the drill team. She continued dancing until she suffered a knee injury last year.

She never married or had children. Instead, she traveled the world, exploring countries including Japan, China, Greece, Italy, and Poland, and collected porcelain dolls, which are displayed throughout her home. As the last Pomakis left in her immediate family, excluding dozens of nieces and nephews, she vows to live in her family-built home for the rest of her life.

“That was my life,” Pomakis said. “Everyone always asks me what my secret is to making it to 100. I don’t know, but here I am.”

 

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