Tuesday, May 17, 2016

JM - 30

Welcome to America

I don't know for a fact that my parents and sister went through Ellis Island, but they were DPs (Displaced Persons), war refugees.  They told me about seeing the Statue of Liberty from their ship.  So, unless there was another intake point for war refugees in New York City Harbor, they went through Ellis Island,  From there, my memory of my parents' stories is a little cloudy.  However, at some point my mother and sister left my father in charge of the luggage while they peed, or something.  The place must have been rife with con men and hustlers of all types.  This would have been about 1948.

So my dad is standing there and he doesn't understand one word of English.  Somehow this hustler gets across the idea to my father that he is in great admiration of my father's wedding ring (a simple gold band).  He also gets across the idea that he would love to hold the ring in his hands.  My dad is so impressed by the guy's interest, that he hands over the ring.  Suddenly, there's a tap on my father's back.  When he turned around, no one was there.  When he turned back to the guy with his wedding ring, no one was there, either.

It must have been a field day, every day, of poor suckers for the hustlers to fleece.

Of course, my father (and my mother) never forgot about it.

Back then, you had to have a sponsor to get into the USA.  A sponsor was someone who promised you a job and housing for a year.  I'm not sure of how the practice of choosing people for what jobs went.  I know my parents and sister almost ended up (down?) in Australia.

I'm also unsure of how and who got paid, and who didn't.  It was similar to indentured servitude.  My parents and my sister ended up on a farm in Ohio.  I don't remember the city's name.  I'm sure my sister would have.  My father was a skilled machinist.  He hated farm work.  Loathed it.  So he got stuck on a farm for a year.  There was a small "home" behind the main house that my parents and sister lived in.

One of my favorite stories from that time involved my father's introduction to corn.  They had never seen corn before.  There was no corn in Riga.  So the first time my father saw it, corn and its cobs were being fed to the pigs.  It became my father's job to feed the pigs.  Forever thereafter, he wouldn't eat corn because it was "pig food."  I never saw him eat corn.  My mom and sister and me all liked it in various ways, but dad wouldn't eat "pig food," period.

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