by Mari McKee
How an immigrant acheived the American Dream
|"Honorable Mention in the No Dialogue Contest-July, 2016"
He disembarked at Ellis Island in the 1930’s. He stepped forth upon American soil with little money and no knowledge of the English language. First, he rented a one-room tenement apartment. He dressed in his best suit and went job-hunting. He had been a skilled artist, but he needed a job that did not require using English. He found a job in a restaurant where he washed dishes for fifty cents an hour and diligently saved his money. He always said that an honest job was a good job, no matter how lowly.
Within the first week, he began a class teaching the English language. When he wasn’t washing dishes, he was studying English. It was not long before he could speak some words and phrases. The waitresses at the restaurant were glad to help him with English. When he finished the class, he immediately enrolled in a U.S. Citizen’s class, which he passed with flying colors. He then took and passed the Citizenship Exam and became, officially, a United States citizen. He was very proud, and so was Uncle Sam.
Within weeks, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to a camp in the South. He ultimately became a mess sergeant because of his restaurant experience, even if he had only been the dish washer. However, when washing dishes he had watched the cooks and learned much about cooking large quantities of food. Now he was responsible for feeding soldiers, which he took very seriously. He was allowed to deviate somewhat from the menus and cooked massive quantities of food that were appealing and delicious. There were many recruits who loved his style of cooking. During his stint he was able to save more money.
After he was honorably discharged, he headed to the city nearest the army camp. He had a plan and a goal. He rented a building on Main Street and used his savings to purchase restaurant equipment. The first weekend he opened, there was a line of people down Main Street patiently waiting to get into his restaurant. All of his army buddies took a bus into town just to go eat at his restaurant.
Within a few weeks of his opening, he lost his restaurant license for serving African-American and Puerto Rican army buddies. This was segregation rearing its ugly head. He couldn’t understand why his friends could serve the country in the Armed Forces but could not sit in a white eating establishment. He hired his first attorney who advised him to agree not to serve people of other colors or his restaurant would be permanently closed. He reluctantly agreed and was able to reopen, but he took the risk to make sure his friends, no matter what color, could be served a good meal. In the back of the building he rented, there was a door that led to an alley that opened on the street behind Main Street. He made the second part of his restaurant there, and his friends could enter from the alleyway. It stayed more crowded than the main restaurant. He put a freezer in front of the doorway to the back room and trained his waitresses how to spot an inspector. He was never caught again.
The years rolled by and he married a beautiful lady, bought their first home, had two children, then built their final beautiful home. He worked hard, and always thanked God for His blessings. They all had automobiles and he sent his children to universities, paying for tuitions, dorms, books and spending money. He had achieved the American Dream through his hard work. All of this made him proud, but he was most proud of being a citizen of the United States of America.
This immigrant was my Dad.