News and Events

Prelog – The City & The People

America is so diverse that you find an environment that is a perfect fit for you while at the same time it can also be conducive to discrimination against everyone else in the world including fellow Americans.  Groups quickly form in America that have their own ideas of how things should be done. In an Immigrant City those groups come to America with their home grown ideas of how things should be done. This is not to say America is bigoted but merely to recognize the special place that America is, in the eyes of Americans.  Immigrant city is one of those special places that breeds hope, drive, despair, resignation, life, love and endurance while harboring underlying dark histories that we will try to explore from isolationism to terrorism.

The characters with beginnings or ties to this immigrant city are the basis for our stories. We will delve into their lives, loves, idiosyncrasies, prejudices, hates, dreams, psyche, crimes, passions, desires, goals, actions and their influences on the other characters that we examine through out our tales of the city people. I hope you enjoy these tales and vow never to emulate the acts committed by some of these people.

            The graduates of immigrant city develop a feeling of superiority and take it with them when they depart since they always seem to remember that the city was never as bad as it is now.  I imagine that the new crop of immigrants will have some of the same feelings upon their graduation to suburban and bigger city life.  Of course if we never let any more immigrants into the country we may not have any of those new graduates.  The lack of new immigrants is a subject matter for another forum but it is an indication of the relationships that are drawn between people as we progress through life.  In these stories we are on an emotional rollercoaster exploring the trials and tribulations of a group of born in America children of immigrant city. We have the joy, the sorrow, the love, the laughter the emotions of life told through the interrelated activities of a variety of people that touched upon one another as they rolled through their life. Some of them rolled a little longer than others but sometimes that full richness of life was crammed in to just a few short years.

We begin in grammar school. The school was aptly named at the time since this is where the children of the immigrants learned English. The Polish, the Lithuanian, the Irish, the Canadian, the Italian, the English, the German, the Lebanese, the Syrian and many other Middle Eastern and European immigrants along with a few Africans and Asians but the Hispanics would not come in force until a little later in the life of immigrant city. The school was tasked with providing English language training to a group of children that were being reared with the languages brought forth to America from their parents and grand parents native lands. Broken English was often the result with many non-English foreign words slipping into every day American discourse. The Jewish word chutzpah was often incorporated in the language and no one called it Yiddish since only Jews knew what Yiddish meant but we all new when we had chutzpah.

The Lawrence Gang does not mean an official gang just a group of characters that will help us with this journey through time. World War II was coming to an end and we were victorious. The blackouts were over for now and the deputized street marshals would have to look for lights seeping from the windows during blackouts on their own time. The troops were coming home and the military fly bys were a sight to behold. What would happen to the economy was one big question. The war had led to rationing, price controls, shortages, etc. Would all of this end and result in a glut of goods followed by deflation and depression? The kids did not really care about the potential economic impact of a world adjusting from conflict they just continued on with their war games. It was very strange that there were not that many girls in the neighborhood. It was as if the Lord was replenishing the men that were lost in the war.

Religion seemed more important at that time and most of the people in immigrant city were Catholics. The Catholic churches were typically by specific nationality so there was a French Catholic church, an Irish Catholic church, an Italian Catholic church and a little later even a Lebanese Catholic church. The city had specific neighborhoods where the nationality based social clubs and churches were located. As the city received new immigrants some of the social clubs and churches appeared to be in the wrong neighborhoods.  Evidently it was harder to move the social clubs and churches than it was to move the families. The Irish Social Club ended up being in the Syrian district of the city.  The Lebanese Catholics felt a little safer in America than they did in Lebanon because of the large Muslim population so after World War II ended they migrated to immigrant city. The Lebanese Catholic church was one of the last ones built in the city so it was a little modern looking.

The stories that follow from immigrant city are not meant to be a historical account but rather a treatise on what happened to a variety of characters based upon personal recollections and imagination. The character depictions typically cross paths from person to person so any relationship to real people are the result of coincidence only and are not intended to depict any specific person living or dead.

Richard or Dick was a complicated child. Dick's mother was obedient to the sadistic dad and that was sort of the norm of the time. The father beat the older brothers who then grew up to beat Dick and the only one left to beat was the dog when he did not do what Richard thought he should do. Dick's time on this earth was limited but more about that later. Dick had good days playing in the neighborhood and also playing board games quietly on the porch such as Monopoly. The quiet was often necessary to avoid waking the father who worked all night on the third shift and was very mean when his daytime sleep was disturbed.

Johnny was another damaged youngster. It is not clear why but he had a lot of trouble understanding and dealing with girls and women. Maybe the dealing with the opposite sex problem was a trend at the time associated with strict Catholic upbringings that made a lot of the boy/girl sexual feelings into sins that needed confessing. Johnny's younger brother seemed a little more normal but he was never part of the group so it was really hard to tell. Their dad bought a Henry Jay automobile and that was a strange looking vehicle so you can understand that there was just something not right in that particular family.

There was large Irish man that drank too much but always went to work. Drinking too much is somewhat associated with an Irish heritage. He spent afternoons in the local pub after completion of his trash pickup day as a city employee that started early morning and ended early afternoon. This was great because you always knew where to find him the only problem was of course when he had too many boilermakers to be very useful in any particular emergency. Boilermakers were almost considered the must have after work drink. You could mix the shot of whiskey in the beer or just use the beer as the chaser. A “shot of whiskey” came from the days where the cowboy did not have much money but somehow he did have a belt full of bullets. A bullet was worth a shot of whiskey, hence the name. The neighborhood pub was great for those boilermakers because you could not walk very well after a few of them and you certainly could not drive. City jobs never paid much but trash could always provide a few extra dollars when you knew what was salvageable and what was not. The Irish always managed to have children sometime between drinks and the big man sired a couple of brothers to carry on the traditional drinking heritage. The brothers were all outwardly boy. The older brother was a little timid at times and the younger one apparently harbored the family gay gene that could never be exposed at that time and place without an awful lot of risk.

There was an only child that looked to some of the others as if they were his brothers. This child will narrate some of this journey through time.

Italian families were naturally in the mix. An Italian dad was nicknamed Ponzi or maybe that was even his real name but to us the name was just associated with being Italian rather than a person that ran a true Ponzi scheme. Italian families often remain together as group for many years even though their individual stories see them drift apart at various times. Their paths will probably interact with our various stories through marriages, acquaintances, arrests, divorces and other issues associated with our chapter stories typically devoted to individual personalities.

There certainly were girls in the neighborhoods but as indicated the boys from that era outnumbered the girls so they have more stories to tell. Ginger or Ginga as they would say from the Boston area was one of those girls right in the neighborhood. Ginger was a pretty young lady but she did have single mother that ran around with different men and the connotation for that behavior at the time was tramp. Again this was the mindset of the era so you have to roll back from the more liberal sexual freedom you may be used to from the later years.

The medical care was not very advanced and there were several diseases that were fairly common but have since been cured. There was a kid that lived in the neighborhood that was sick with polio and lived for several years in an iron lung. He could not communicate very well but his parents still cared for him until his dying day. It was amazing how blasé we were as children about serious illnesses at the time.

It is also strange how some of the words that we used in our regular discourse were not English words but they were words made popular and acceptable by the immigrants from various parts of the world. Many of those words were derogatory even though they were in common usage at the time.

The North Lawrence neighborhood included a young girl that was the murder victim of a pedophile that evidently operated for years in the city without getting caught until one smart young lady took his vehicle license plate number while running away from his advances.

Immigrant City was not Shangri-La but it certainly was interesting and educational in a real world sort of way..