Chris Pallas busy at age 83By David Zugnoni
Chris Pallas remains a busy man after departing the San Bruno City Council.
Former San Bruno councilman Chris Pallas said he likes to keep busy.
It's fitting then that he started working at the age of 6 selling newspapers and today, at 83, after old age and a stroke has limited his physical abilities, still manages to busy himself with city activities, various organizations and personal hobbies.
He plans on picking up painting, an old hobby he used to adorn the walls of his San Bruno home with images of Greece, Switzerland, California and the New England area.
He enjoys collecting and arranging rocks, an art he found almost 50 years ago as an alternative to killing animals while on hunting trips.
His friend Arland Sponsler, past president of the San Bruno Senior Club, said Pallas does not miss monthly American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars meetings.
Pallas is also writing his life history, which can't be easy given his long list of accomplishments in public service, as well as countless stories from his childhood, his athletics in high school and college and military service.
He was born and raised in San Francisco and was the oldest of five boys.
He was forced to take the role of the man of the house at age 11 after his father died, turning a weekend newspaper-selling gig into a family business, placing himself and his brothers on street corners, on street cars and in front of various theaters around San Francisco.
The family endured three months without water or electricity before the business began raising enough money to make ends meet.
In high school, he said he played football and was a member of the first championship track and field team at Balboa High School.
After graduation, he worked in San Francisco shipyards and attended San Francisco Junior College (now City College), but it was a short stay. In November 1942, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Florida for basic training.
Of 2,000 general officers, Pallas was one of three that transferred to the Air Force, which was then controlled by the Army, based on training and IQ scores.
After spending 26 weeks in Madison, Wis. learning to operate radar, Pallas quickly moved to the top of his class of radar technicians, and opened a radar school in Great Bend, Kan. in January 1944.
Approximately a year and a half later, when the United States prepared to drop the first of two atomic bombs on Japan, Pallas, who was stationed in Guam navigating planes, said he would have been sent on the mission to drop the bomb on Hiroshima if the radar operator had gotten sick.
Following his military service, he attended University of California at Berkeley and earned a bachelor's of science degree in electrical engineering in 1951.
Pallas had run a business out of his basement fixing radios since 1946, televisions since 1948, before he bought an empty lot on Mission Street in San Francisco and built a store in 1955, literally from the ground up.
There he hired his eventual wife Ruth, who was working answering phones. They married the same year they met - 1958.
The store, named Pallas Brothers TV, remained open until 1986.
Pallas' venture into politics began in 1971, when he was elected to the city's school board. He retained a spot there until 1980, when he was elected to the City Council.
He said his proudest accomplishment was being an instrumental part of the building of San Bruno's first senior center in 1986. He made a motion to set aside $1 million of the city's budget and gather another $1 million in donations and grants to fund the project.
Wendy Mimes, recreation services manager for the San Bruno Senior Center, said the project never would have happened without Pallas' contributions.
"He is a wonderful advocate for all of San Bruno, but especially seniors," she said.
San Bruno Mayor Larry Franzella, who served on the City Council with Pallas for many years, said Pallas advocated for seniors even early in his tenure.
"He represented the senior population really well," Franzella said. "It is really important for the seniors to have an advocate on the City Council."
Pallas is also responsible for the city digging five underground wells in 2001. At the time, there was only one.
Former San Bruno Mayor Ed Simon wanted to name one of the wells after Pallas, but a rule that states that the city cannot name anything after a member of the City Council wouldn't allow it.
While on the school board, Pallas started a program to give students expelled from Millbrae and Burlingame elementary schools a second chance at North Bay Elementary School.
"I said, 'Hey, these kids were never given a chance,'" he said.
Pallas said he was made an honorary PTA member after many of the students did well in their new schools.
Today, Pallas continues to live in San Bruno, and in addition to attending to his hobbies and organizations, relishes his role as a grandfather and great grandfather.
He said he loves giving advice and wisdom to his eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
"I give them advice, but they don't have to take it," he said. "I tell them, until I die, they'll know how I feel about things."
Copyright ©2007 San Mateo Daily Journal. Published 08/20/2007.