11- "Imagine That Life - An Early Immigrant Family"
Go back in time.
Imagine That Life
I have tried to imagine what it must be like to live in an area where you have almost no contact with the living world. With TV and the Internet as popular as it is today, it is really hard to imagine that there are places like that. But, in reality, there are places like that even today. If you go back 100+ years there was a time when the only thing you knew about other places, countries or territories was what you heard through word of mouth. Most people, when traveling, could only expect what they had heard. The following is a little of what I imagined it would be like.
I know my dad was raised in the country and hated having to deal with the cities. When I got married in 1964 he actually flew from Colorado to California for the wedding. I have always cherished the fact that he did that for me. I realize that it was a very hard thing for him to do. Ever since that time I have wondered what it must have been like for my ancestors when they came over to this country, not having any idea what they were actually coming to and what life would be like when they arrived. Then when I read Slusterbubble’s hub and watched the video, I had to write about how I imagined how it could have been. I am writing about a medium scenario. I know there were some that had it a lot harder and some that even had it easier. I am assuming that this is about how it may have gone for my ancestors.
But, what I am going to talk about is back around 1900 and before. I was reading a hub about Ellis Island by Slusterbubble. He told about the history of Oyster Island, which later became Ellis Island. Then the video showed and explained even more. You need to check out the hub.
What this made me do is imagine what it must have been like back then.
Can you imagine living in the desolate country in France or Italy or any European country back in those times, around the 1900’s? This is a time when there was famine, factories closing and so many people out of work that even if you were a farmer, no one could even afford to buy the food you grew. You have no idea of what it’s like to be grouped together with probably more than 10 people at one time. Chances are that you have never seen a building more than two stories tall, except maybe a church or cathedral. You probably have never seen an ocean or a boat bigger than your row boat that you use to go fishing in a nearby lake.
Now you and your family decide that things are just getting to hard to exist, let alone survive, where you live. You pack up a few precious belongings that you need and something to always remind you of the home you are leaving behind and head off to a world that you have only heard stories about. You are going there to start a new life and hopefully more than just an existence. You have been told that where you are going is the land where dreams come true, The Land of Promise, The Land of Milk and Honey. These all sound so good and give you a reason to dream again. The place you are leaving has been so bad that you have even forgotten what dreams are. But now, with this new land in your head, there is a faint dream again.
You take the few things and your family and start heading for the port where you are going to book passage for the new land, America. As you walk along the dirt road you turn around and take one last look at the only place you have ever known as home. The place where some of your family members still live, that deep down, you know you will never see again. This all lies very heavy on your heart, but nothing is more important than getting you and your family to this new land, and taking your son away from a place where he could be taken away and forced as young as 14 years of age to go away in the military probably never to be seen again.
Just booking the passage for your family is going to take almost half of your life savings and the rest you have to protect with your life.
Then, when you get to the port, you see buildings that you could have never even imagined. Your eyes almost pop out of your head when you see all of those big, no they're huge, ships sitting there in the harbor. And you think that you must be in someone else’s nightmare when you see all of the strange looking machines and things in the streets. There weren’t very many at that time, but they were there, things you have never seen before.
You ask directions to wherever it is that you have to go in order to purchase your passage. You find what you need and you are directed to the ship that is going to be the home of your family for the next few days. The trip could last for anywhere from a week to a month.
Once on the ship you are directed to a small room several levels below deck where you find out that the four of you in your family are sharing this small room with a family of five. It’s going to be very crowded for the next few days but it will be worth it in order to get to this new land, The Land of Promise, Milk and Honey and all of those amazing things that you can only hope are really there. Actually, almost anything would be better than what you were leaving behind. But, at least it isn’t as bad as some of the stories you have heard about where some people were practically sleeping on top of each other because the shipping company would sell as many passages for the money as possible not caring about the passengers' welfare or safety.
Now, you’re on this ship that is definitely not a luxury liner, for several days. You and your family have met a lot of people and made some friends. You have exchanged stories about the new land and there are a lot of them, good and bad.
One day, early in the morning, you wake up and there is an announcement that the ship is just a few hours from the port of New York. The excitement starts to build and during those few hours you start pacing the three feet of space you have for your own. Maybe a little more than that, but after all this time, it seems like that was all the room you had the entire trip. It seemed to get smaller as time went by. More and more people start showing up on the deck as the ship gets closer to port.
It happens to be foggy this morning. Off to the sides of the ship there are signs of land but it can’t be seen very well due to the fog. Finally someone sees that first sight of the new land that is so welcoming and heartwarming that they have all heard so much about. A voice rings out that everyone can hear even over the excited chatter of the people and noise of the ship as that person yells, “There she is, The Statue of Liberty. What a beautiful lady”. As you look around, there isn’t a dry eye around, including yours. You can see so many dreams coming true along with yours. Then as she becomes clearer and clearer, then just beyond the beautiful lady was their final destination, Ellis Island.
As the ship continues on past The Statue of Liberty toward Ellis Island you see across the channel buildings that actually look like mountains with windows to you. As the ship pulled into port even FortGibson on Ellis Island was an awesome sight. To you, this looks like a city in itself because you have never seen one building so massive.
The ship gradually unloads and your family and you along with the friends that you have made on the trip gradually move along the deck like snails. You have to constantly check and make sure the family is still together. If anyone gets separated at this point, who knows how hard it will be to find them again, if at all. You all make it to the gang plank as a group. It’s amazing how anxious you all were to get here and now you are realizing brand new fears. There are fears and insecurities that you have never felt in your entire life.
There are people speaking languages you have never heard. And, it seems that the little bit of English that you spent so much time learning isn’t doing you a lot of good right now.
When you get down the gang plank you are directed to go to your right and to take your family with you. At this time you have no idea what is going to happen or what is going to be asked of you. You are directed to enter the big gathering hall with hundreds, possibly thousands, of others. This process could take a day, maybe two.
You try to be brave even though you are scared like you have never been before. You can see the fear in the faces of others and deep down hope no one can see your fear. Most of the new people have a fear of the officials and anyone in uniform because of the things they had to deal with and endure in their homelands.
There are some people that are being turned away for diseases and other reasons. You really don’t understand what these other reasons are and pray that none of them will cause your family to be separated. You had to convince the officials that you are there for your family and to make a home in the new land. You also have to show that you have at least $25.00 dollars for each member of the family. Luckily you have been able to hold on to the balance of your life savings and there was enough left to cover the requirements.
Now, you and your family are free to go. You catch a ferry that takes you across the channel to the city of NY. As you walk to the end of the docks and enter the streets of The Land of Hope. This has to be one of those moments that is not only breath taking, but one of the more important ones that "takes your breath away".
Now, here you stand with your family, having no idea where you are headed and there are a lot of signs with names of cities that you don’t even know how to say. But you are here and were able to make it with your family to this land that is going to be your home, somewhere, for the rest of your life.
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