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Immigration in America:


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.

We will delve into resident lives, loves, idiosyncrasies, prejudices, hates, dreams, psyche, crimes, passions, desires, goals, actions and their influences. I hope you enjoy these tales of a previous era.

            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 hopefully an abomination instituted by hopefully a short term national leader that promoted his own election on the prejudicial feelings of graduate immigrants that new immigrants are not as deserving as their own ancestors.

Elementary school was referred to as Grammar school in immigrant city which was aptly named 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 were part of my group. 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.

Lawrence contained 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 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 topics that follow from immigrant city are not meant to be a historical account just a recollection of various issues, thoughts, practices, etc.

 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 collectors as an example could always provide a few extra dollars by knowing what was salvageable and what was not. Police could often find private details to supplement the limited official income.

The Irish always managed to have children along with carrying on the traditional drinking heritage. Italian families were naturally in the mix. Nicknames were often used and an Italian dad for instance was tagged with the name Ponzi. The name was just associated with being Italian rather than a person that ran a true Ponzi scheme. Italian families often remained together as group for many years even though their individuals often drifted apart at various times. Their paths interacted with other various immigrants through marriages, acquaintances, arrests, divorces and other issues associated with individual personalities.

There certainly were some 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 a 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 today.

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. Stories are that today's children are still a little blasé about the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.

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 words often have to be suppressed because they are no longer politically correct.

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. Unfortunately, some things about human beings never seem to change.

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