Who Was Here Before 1900?

There’s a lot of talk about immigration nowadays.  It was always an accepted part of my life.  The US is very attractive.  People come here.

Growing up I assumed it was the norm.

Seriously, when I went to PS 163Q, EVERYONE I knew was from another country or had parents and/or grandparents who were immigrants.  EVERYONE is capitalized because I don’t think I’m exaggerating.

I remember wondering to myself, “Who was here before 1900?”  They weren’t related to anyone I knew.

Grandpa Sol in his Brooklyn luncheonette.

That’s not to say it was easy back then.  My Grandpa Sol arrived from Poland speaking no English with no money nor any valuable skill.  He didn’t ask if America was good with that before he got on a ship with forged papers.  He was a deserter from the Polish Army.   

Now I live in another immigrant infused area (though more educated and affluent).  So many of the traits I saw in my parents and my friends’ parents I see in the parents of this neighborhood.

I don’t want ‘open borders.’  We do need to limit the flow.  I just don’t want to disfavor people because of where they were born or how they choose to worship.  That seems unAmerican–antithetical to the way I was brought up.

It seems to me people come here because they like what they see and they want it too.  That’s my grandpa’s American success story in a nutshell.

7 thoughts on “Who Was Here Before 1900?”

  1. Jeoff. My grandparents came here from Germany in the 1890’s as legal Immigrants as I am sure most of our 1800 through 1920 forefathers did. My Mother and Father were both born here in 1900 I believe that we should establish a fair immigration system. But we should discourage illegal immigrants.
    I still miss you on the channel 8 news casts.

  2. EXACTLY Geoff! My Father came here from Belgium to escape being put in a Hitler youth group, it was against everything he believed. He came here after working on a ship at 13 years old….he
    worked hard, became a citizen and went in the service for this country he loved. There has to be
    a middle of the road choice – not take everyone or no one. Its very sad right now, very sad.

  3. My grandparents were escaping from the massacre of Armenians in Turkey. Both lost most of their families, but managed to find a way to get here. My grandmother came into “Worchester America”, not Ellis Island. Growing up, I thought that’s where everyone came to. Worchester America where you went into a diner and ordered ‘appla pie and coffee’- the only words my grandfather knew in English.

    My parents spoke Armenian before they spoke English. They grew up in an area where most kids were first generation. I’m second generation. Feels like forever ago.

  4. Thank you Geoff:

    One set of great grandparents came to America around 1900. My great-grandfather, an officer in the British army came in 1899 and his Irish bride came in 1900. They traveled separately and hid the fact that they were married because it was illegal at the time to marry out of your cast. They came here to love each other openly and freely.
    As a child I too spent time at friends and neighbor who’s parents or grandparents spoke another language, Italian, Polish, German. We communicated with a smile or a hug and the food was always phenomenal. It seemed to me at the time, as it does now, that everyone wanted the same thing.
    They wanted to provide for their families, put food on the table and hopefully give their kids and education or teach them a trade. It’s no different today.
    Thanks for writing this. It brings back a lot of wonderful memories.
    I think many of those old timers would be scared and appalled to see what was happening today.
    Their fear would be “who’s next?”

    Thanks again,

  5. I agree with you, Geoff. We do need to limit some people crossing our borders, but just not in a way that’s being represented by the Head of the Country. We all come from different places and have different faces or colors!

  6. It seems it’s a different world today. I understand the past and how everyone wanted to come to america. The problem is if everyone wants to come to America when do we have to close the doors because there are no funds to support these people or jobs for them? When is enough enough? There will come a time when we just don’t have anymore room here. Sad but true.

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