At last Mary sees the Statue of Liberty but she still had the ordeal of Ellis Island.
ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK
ELLIS ISLAND – 1925
After nine days, we arrived in New York City. I could see the Statue of Liberty. We had traveled in “steerage” and, being below deck with no windows in our room, coupled with the vivid recollection of being pushed under a beer barrel as a child during World War I, I would suffer from claustrophobia for the rest of my life.
I really thought that now that we had arrived it would be routine getting off the boat and being with my Mother but another nightmare was just beginning. We were taken to Ellis Island where my brothers and father were taken to one building and I to another. I was terrified because I was told to strip. They tagged and tied our clothing and it was put on a conveyor to be sterilized.
I remember crying and a lady, who I think was Polish, took me into her arms and hugged me. She was a large woman and spoke no English but her kindness reassured me and made me feel less frightened. I stayed with her during my whole stay on Ellis Island. We were on the Island for seven hours because, as I later found out, my father had spent the $100 “landing money” while we were on the ship.
My Mother was in New York City waiting for us and when she found out what was causing the delay, she was able to borrow the money from her friend Bert Harbor, who was also a friend of the Greenhill family. He had accompanied her to New York to get us.
When we were finally allowed to leave Ellis Island, a ferry took us to New York City. I saw my Mother from the boat as we were landing and she really had changed during her years in America. The reunion was very strange for all of us. She seemed to be so stylish and different and I felt like a waif.
We drove to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where my mother had rented a flat on Hallet Street. Mother had put a couch for me on the sun porch and my brothers had their own room. I thought it was a lovely apartment but I heard my parents quarreling in their room and I truly felt miserable and uneasy.
My Mother insisted I have my hair “bobbed” because that was the style in America but I hated it and let my hair grow long again.
During the coming week, I’ll be posting letters from the fall of 1940 when Dan and Ced are working in Alaska and Lad is still in Venezuela. We’ll find out what is happening in Trumbull as well as what the older boys are up to.
Next Saturday, it will be another Tribute to Arla and on Sunday, Mary E. Wilson’s first few years in America.
If you know of someone who might be interested in American Life during the late 1930’s and early 40’s, especially during World War II, why not pass along this link so they can enjoy the stories also?