We all witness interesting events and experience coincidences from time to time. Some of those testimonies that we live are unforgettable and take an important place in our memories. Here in this article we would like to share with you the strange testimonies and coincidences that our family lived through in time: The Funeral of Ralph Gary Bouldin (Camgöz Gary), A Whale in Küçükçiftlik, Meeting Burt Lancaster and Baptise of Stavros Trpkovic. Unfortunately we don't have any photos in our family archives (except the baptise of Stavros Trpkovic ) related with the stories that we are going to tell but in any case these memories must be recorded.

The Funeral of Ralph Gary Bouldin (Camgöz Gary), 1960s :

              It was 3rd of January 1969. Stavros Vafiadis has just returned from his choir rehearsal in TRT Radio Studio to his school, Feriköy Rum Elemantary School, and he was waiting for the break to enter his class. For Stavros, it was an ordinary day until he looked out the window. The school window faced the Feriköy Protestant Cemetary, and Stavros saw some journalists, polices and some people who were watching a funeral. He was surprised, cause it was the first time he witnessed such an event. Why were there police and journalists? It must have been someone important for such a funeral.

Feriköy Protestant Cemetary
Feriköy Protestant Cemetary on Pervititch Maps

              Stavros watched the funeral with curiosity until the end. Finally, he found someone in school to ask about this event. The answer he received was surprised him. It was the funeral of Ralph Gary Bouldin who was also known as Camgöz Gary in Turkey, and Stavros heard about him before from newspapers and radio. But who was Gary, why Stavros heard about him before and why he was buried to Feriköy Protestant Cemetary?   

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Ralph Gary Bouldin (Camgöz Gary) and his girlfriend on Turkish Media - Milliyet 1969-1984

              Ralph Gary Bouldin was born in Los Angeles, in 1935. He was allegedly a gangster and smuggler, wanted by Interpol in 1960s. On December 28, 1968, Gary and his girlfriend Patricia were caught in Beyazıt, Istanbul, after a report of a contraband car. Gary and his girlfriend were brought to the Financial Branch of Police Department in Karaköy Port Lounge for questioning.  But everything happened after that moment. Just before his interrogation, Gary had pulled his gun from his waistband and opened fire. In that incident, he killed a police chief, a police officer, a restaurant worker and a bank consultant, and injured 3 others. Finally, Gary has been killed by police chief Saip Gözet. After this incident,officials from American Consul and American detectives were called. The body of Gary was unclaimed and it was buried in Feriköy Protestant Cemetary, even though Gary was a Catholic. And all the funeral ceremony has been watched by a 12 years old boy, Stavros Vafiadis, from a window of a school.

              During our research on the trail of Ralph Gary Bouldin, we visited Feriköy Protestant Cemetary. We searched a lot in the cemetary but couldn't find where his tomb is. The school of Stavros Vafiadis, which he watched the funeral of Gary has been rebuilt and now function as an Italian School under the name 'ITA Okulları'. We mostly checked the area in graveyard where can be seen easily from the school. But unfortunately his tomb wasn't there. In web searches, we found an information in findagrave.com and on this page the memorial stone of Ralph Gary is in Montecito Memorial Park. Not sure if this is an only memorial stone or if his family brought his grave to USA.

Ralph Gary Bouldin Memorial - Camgöz Gary
Memorial stone of Ralph Gary is in Montecito Memorial Park

A Whale in Küçükçiftlik, 1960s :

              We continue with another testimony of Stavros Vafiadis from his childhood. I learnt this story from him while during our talk about the sea animals that i saw during my scuba-diving days. While we were talking, he asked me if I had seen any whales. I said no, and replied that it's one of my dreams. But he said that he saw. I was surprised, and asked how could it be possible in Istanbul?

This lithograph dated between 1856 and 1907 depicts a right whale being hunted.jpg
 A lithograph dated between 1856 and 1907 depicts a right whale being hunted

              When Stavros was in elemantary school, he heard that there is an exhibition in Küçükçiftlik, Beşiktaş. It was an exhibition of a big dead whale which has been hunted in ocean and travel all around the world. Being a curious child, he was very excited to see the whale closely, which he had only read in books and heard on the radio. One day after the school he went to Küçükçiftlik. As he told that the big dead whale was under a big tent, the responsibles were trying to keep it wet, and the whale had a large hole in its body cut by the harpoon.

​1960s Küçükçiftlik Lunapark in Besiktas, Istanbul
1960s Küçükçiftlik Lunapark in Besiktas, Istanbul

              We tried to find an ephemera and searched for news in the archives about this. But unfortunately we didn't find anything about this exhibition. Maybe there are some of our readers who have seen this exhibition. Please share with us your memories if you have been there.

Meeting Burt Lancaster, The Birdman of Alcatraz, 1960s :

              Canlı Balık Restaurant in Sarıyer was one of the favorite fish restaurants of the 1960s and many famous local and foreign names used to come here such as Marlon Brando, James Baldwin... During one of his busy days in here, Dimitrios Koulurgioti who was working here saw a famous face who he knew from the movies. This famous man was the birdman of Alcatraz, he was Burt Lancaster.

​1960s Canlı Balık Restaurant Dimitrios, Marlon Brando, James Baldwin - Burt Lancaster
1960s Canlı Balık Restaurant Dimitrios, Marlon Brando, James Baldwin - Burt Lancaster

              According to memories of Dimitrios, he served Burt Lancaster that night, he talked with him and they took a photo together. This photo has been seen by his wife and daughters as well. But unfortunately today it's lost. Maybe one day we will find it somewhere else in the house of one of our relatives.

Stavros Ruli Trpkovic, The Soccer Player of Sarıyer & Feriköy, 1960s :

              This part of our article has been told by Stavros Vafiadis, while we were checking the old baptise photos together with him. Stavros' father, Aleko Vafiadis had two godsons. One of them was his nephew Aleksan and the other one was a Yugoslavian boy named Stavros 'Ruli' Trpkovic. In 1940s, when Aleko Vafiadis baptised this Yugoslavian boy with the name 'Stavros', of course he didn't know what would happen when he grew up.

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1940s Aleko Vafiadis baptising Stavros Ruli Trpkovic in Istanbul

              Years passed, and young Stavros 'Ruli' Trpkovic became a soccer player. In 1960s he was playing in Boğaziçi Club and after he transfered to Sarıyer. Here in Sarıyer, Ruli became very popular. In 1967 he transfered to Feriköy. In Feriköy, Ruli was quite famous and you could see him in newspapers such as Milliyet. In 1970s he migrated to Greece and transfered to Panionios, after Trikala.

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19.07.1967 Ruli in Feriköy Sports Club - Taken from Milliyet Newspaper Archives

              As we told in the begining of this section, Aleko Vafiadis didn't know what would happen when Ruli grew up. It's a very nice coincidence that our family has a relation with this famous soccer player of 1960s in Istanbul.

​1960s-1970s Stavros Ruli Trpkovic News on Newspapers - Taken from Milliyet Newspaper Archives
1960s-1970s Stavros Ruli Trpkovic News on Newspapers - Taken from Milliyet Newspaper Archives

              Here in this article, we shared with you the strange testimonies and coincidences that our family had in their memories. We hope that we could find more visuals in the future about the stories we told. But even if we can't, as told in the begining, all of those memories must be recorded for the future generations as those teach us many interesting details from history.

P.S.

               During our research we visited Protestant Cemetary and Latin Catholic Cemetary in Feriköy and we found the tombs of many famous and important people. In Protestant Cemetary, we found the tomb of Henri Maurice Rampacher who died in Istanbul 17 June 1866, with an information on its stone: Knighthood of the Order of Leopold and  the Order of the Medjidie. Here in Protestant Cemetary again we found the tomb of Franz Carl Bomonti, founder of Bomonti Brewery. Also in Latin Catholic Cemetary we found the tomb of Botter Family ( Jean Botter: The tailor of Abdulhamid II ) and Pervititch Family (Jacques Pervititch: The topographer who prepared Insurance Maps of Istanbul ).

Written by : 2mi3, July 2021

Sources :

1- http://gazetearsivi.milliyet.com.tr/

2- http://www.ferikoycemetery.org/visitor-guide/

3- https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/37381639/ralph-gary-bouldin

4- https://www.sariyertimes.com/ibrahim-balci/hayal-degil-vii/

5- https://www.2mi3.com/ferikoy