Coming to the U.S.A.

U is for the United States of America!

The following story was transcribed by my sister-in-law Kelly as she listened to my parents tell some of their story on immigrating to the U.S.A. in September of 1947. They were visiting my brother Steve and Kelly on Labor Day September 5, 2011.

“Spent the afternoon with  Mom and Pop and wanted to share some of what they had to say.  This is the unedited copy filled in as Pop was talking…so excuse the grammatical errors, if I wait to edit you may never see it.”

(This photo is taken after my parents and sister Kathy settled in Los Angeles. This was sometime in late 1947 or early 1948. My mom is pregnant with my sister Vera in this photo and Vera was born in late February of 1948.)

“Pop said he’s never shared all these details because…no one asked.  What started the retelling is that tomorrow marks the anniversary of their first arriving in NewYork…Sept. 6, 1947.  They arrived in Los Angeles on the 12th.

When Mom and Pop left Iran they got a flight on a Red Cross cargo plane..the propeller variety, that had dropped off supplies and was heading back to New York.   It was very loud he said…no seats, just benches along the sides.  Due to refueling and frequent stops it took 4 days to fly from Tehran to New York.  At  most of the stops they got out and ate…and in four places spent the night. He said they had 27 people on the plane and it was full.”

(This is probably what the inside of the Red Cross cargo plane looked like. I hope the Navy is ok with me borrowing it…)

“This is the basic itinerary.  (Pop had made a detailed journal of the trip, but lost it in the last few moves.)  From Tehran to Cairo…spent the night.  From Cairo to Rome..spent the night, got to drive by St. Peters.  From Rome to England, where they were not allowed off the plane so they had to head to Ireland to a US military base.  They spent the night there.  From Ireland they went to Iceland, then to Greenland…where they again spent the night.  From Greenland they went to New York.

Upon arrival in New York they were taken directly to the train station.  Unfortunately, the ‘coupons’ that one of pop’s brother’s, my Uncle John, secured for them weren’t signed, so they couldn’t be used. They were suppose to be vouchers for travel purchased in Iran from an agent.  So since the coupons didn’t work they were stuck in the train station with no money, no food, with a one year old. Mom and Pop were 23 and 24 at this time.

Some nice people helped them and Pop had a card with the name of a Russian church on it.  They took them on the subway to the church and arrived in the evening just as the minister was locking up.  There was no time to find a home for them to spend the night so they took them to a hotel.  Mom said, ‘They put us on the 9th floor, I was so scared..”  And the other couple they were with were on the 14th floor.  The next morning was a Sunday so the streets were empty and Mom said she looked out the window and down and there was trash blowing along the street.  Very frightening to look that far down.

The minister showed up with milk and bread, they hadn’t eaten the day before, and they remember that delivery making them feel like orphans.  They had no money, no food, and Pop only spoke a little English.  (Which he had learned working on an American Military Base in Tehran…I’ll get to that.)

The pastor took them to church and that night they stayed with a family.  On Monday they put them on a train to Chicago.

Two vivid memories of their time in NewYork…  It was the first time Mom had seen toast, and she couldn’t figure out how they got it perfect on both sides.  She also got stuck in a revolving door and couldn’t get out.  She said, they weren’t educated enough to be in New York.

In Chicago another group from a church met them, fed them, gave them a place to stay, and then put them on a train to Los Angeles.  It should be noted that Kathy was very good during all of this, only cried a little.  At some point in this US leg of the journey they were able to contact people in LA to wire them money for the train tickets.  Pop figured it took them about 2 years to pay back all of the costs of their trip to the States.”

(This is a photo of my sister Kathy in a park in Los Angeles, California. Love how the older folk sitting on the benches in the background all have hats on.)

My parents were the first of their families to arrive in the U.S.A.

“In the course of telling this story Pop mentioned other jobs he’d had so I made him list them in order…here is roughly the job history.

His first job was driving horses plowing the fields in Russia.  There were four horses hooked to the plow.  He worked plowning.  (Think clowning)  He also worked threshing the wheat.

Then he worked as a shepherd.  A group of families had cows, sheep, and goats and it sounds like the kids from each family took turns watching the animals.

When they moved to Tehran he worked as a babysitter/houseboy doing whatever the woman of the house wanted him to do.

Later, in Iran he had a job feeding cows.  Then after they were milked he would walk around town to the customers they had and sell milk from a bucket by the cup.

After that he went to work on some of the Shah’s land doing farming.  When it wasn’t farming season he would deliver sand and bricks to road crews.

Then he had jobs on Military bases…he worked on the American base in the kitchens washing out the pans. They would feed him while he was there, and give him food to hide on his body to take out to his family.  (Not technically allowed to take the food, but the cook was nice.)  It’s also where he learned to speak some English.

He also worked on the Russian military base as a mechanic.  He said he ‘fix em’ Chevy’s and Studebaker’s, when they had been in accidents, we fix em up.

His last job in Tehran was in a brick factory.  It was far away so he needed to have transportation.  He said, he and Mom lived in an apartment with 4 other families above a sauna house owned by a Turkish man.  He sold Pop a bike that he had stolen…  When I asked, ‘he stole the bike?”  He said,’Yes, but he sold it to me real cheap, and nobody would recognize it because they changed the color.”  He rode the bike to work every day.”

Ellen’s thoughts…

When I think of what my parents went through to get to the United States I’m really grateful. Grateful to God for giving them the courage and faith to face the unknown. Just the language barrier had to be scary. They had a little toddler and my mom was pregnant with my sister Vera during this journey. Sitting on a bench in a loud cargo plane with 24 other people with a little one in diapers, amazing. They had no idea what kind of life they were going to have in the United States. They had only lived in villages where maybe there were a few 2 story stuctures and here they were in New York City with tall buildings. When they arrived in Los Angeles my dad worked odd jobs in carpentry and construction. They helped the rest of their extended family immigrate to the U.S. over a number of years. Each of these family units lived with my parents until they could get into a place of their own. My mother’s father was killed in Iran after my parents came to the U.S. My mother’s mom immigrated to the U.S.A. with my Uncle and Aunt as a widow. So much hardship endured and they persevered over the years and have always expressed their thankfulness to God for bringing them to the U.S.A. They had 9 children total. Their first daughter died in Iran when she was a toddler. Here are the 8 of us in age order…this is an old photo.

Kathy, Vera, Fred, Ellen, Tim, Steve, Lana, Leonard

My mom and pop in 2009. Next week on the 13th of September they celebrate their 68th Wedding Anniversary!

This is a very long wordy post but I want to document all this information for my family to have. If you made it through I applaud you! Thank you for your perseverance!

I’m linking up this story to Alphabe-Thursday since we are on the letter U. Thank you to Jenny for hosting this fun meme.

About Ellen am a wife, mother, baba (grandmother) and a loyal friend. Jesus is my King and my hope is in my future with Him.

39 thoughts on “Coming to the U.S.A.

  1. We stand on the very broad shoulders of our immigrant ancestors. They were so courageous. Without becoming too political, I often wish we’d remember this when we judge our Hispanic neighbors so harshly. It must be incredibly hard to pack up and move to a foreign country, even if it is the land of opportunity. Your post is a lovely tribute to your parents. Their story is a good one.

  2. That was a wonderful history, and how smart you and your sister are to get it down and spread among family members. We owe so much to the ones who came to the New World.

  3. I found your post very interesting as my grandparents emigrated to Canada with very little in the way of possessions or money and were very thankful for the lives they had here. It is amazing how resourceful and hard working people like your family and mine were.
    Enjoyed the tale of the bicycle!

  4. What a wonderful and interesting post. Thank you for sharing.Great U word.And they will be married 68 years. Wow, I have only 50 yet.

  5. What a fascinating story. Your parents were so very brave and accomplished so very much. One of the many things that struck me about this account is how easy it is for us to take for granted the things we are used to (revolving doors, for example). I wonder how well we would fare in a strange environment, especially if it was substantially less technologically advanced than how we live.

  6. This is such a wonderful story, Ellen. It’s important to know family history and appreciate all that our ancestors went through that contributes to our own story. I’m so glad that the church was instrumental in caring for your folks and sister!

  7. I too love that you’ve written this down. To me, it’s a rich legacy of endurance and above all…a heart squeezing love story 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing…

  8. An amazing story. Thankyou for sharing with us. I guess it is very similar to the stories and histories of many families who travelled from other countries in the early days to start a new life in a new country. My own family came on sailing ships to Australia! I know my grandmother endured many hardships and hard times to bring up 8 children, initially living in a simple wooden hut in the bush.
    I am so glad you have your father has told some of his story, and that it has been written down for future generations. It is an important part of family history.
    Thank you for sharing it with us.

  9. Wow ! what a long and hard way to arrive there where they are now ! I love to read these imigration stories. My uncle’s father was 6 years old when he moved with his parents in 1862 from Hamburg/Germany to NY ! It took 6 months by ship ! They couldn’t wash because the water was for drinking and they had to take food with them for the 6 months. He married my mother’s sister who moved to the States after their marriage and he told me how his grandpa arrived in NY !

  10. That is an amazing story of their life in getting to the USA. So hard to imagine the hardships they endured. I am glad they have had a good life here. Happy Anniversary to your parents!


  11. What a wonderful story of God’s provision and guidance, Ellen B. That must have been frightening for your mother coming to a new country where she knew so little of the customs and being pregnant. God has truly blessed your family with a beautiful heritage.

    xoxo cori g.

  12. Your parents story is one of courage and perseverance and Trust. Our grandparents also emigrated to Canada with next to nothing and worked so hard to pay off the Reise Schuld (travel debt). Their faith and hard work resulted in their children living safe and productive lives in a free country. Your parents are to be congratulated and it’s so nice to see how you all appreciate and support them now.

  13. What an amazing life your dad and mom shared! I’m impressed with your dad’s resume 🙂 It’s such a gift for you and your sibs, plus grandchildren and great-grands, to still have them as part of your life! God bless and keep them!

  14. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….

    Makes me think America needs to rethink some of it’s current attitudes.

    I just loved this story! Thanks so much for posting it…

  15. I have to agree with the others .. how wonderfu lthat you have this story written down as told by your father. Its a story of perseverance, faith and commitment. You family is blessed today by the hardships that they endured, remaining faithful to each other. They are such a cute couple! Wishing them continued blessings!

  16. Ellen, that is indeed a treasure — to have the story. A year or so ago, roomie had a film project and took the opportunity to interview my parents on their journey to the U.S. One interesting thing my mom said after the filming, there was so much they’d forgotten (order of events, names of people and places) because they plunged into assimilation mode.

  17. I hope some day your Dad’s journal that was lost is somehow returned. Each “coming to America” story is so facinating..and so delightful when the journey is vouchsafed by the hand of God and His people.

    My great Grandmother came to America pregnant and with two children…one in diapers. We have always wondered how diaper laundry was managed on the eight day long train trip from NY to SLC. Would you ask your mom how she managed to have fresh diapers as they flew and traveled by train? That bit of information could be hand to know in an emergency.

  18. Such a wonderful story…of God’s faithfulness in your family! I’m so glad you have taken the time to write it down to ‘preserve’. What a lovely tribute to your parents. Blessings to them on their upcoming anniversary!

  19. Ellen, i really enjoyed reading your post today. Your kids will be so grateful to have this documented. God has hand His hand upon your family. I just love the smiles on your parents faces.

  20. What an unbelievable story. I loved this.

    Several years ago I ‘interviewed’ my father and made a book at ‘blurb’ about his life up until the time he married my Mom.

    I’m working now on a little book about the first years of their marriage.

    This is really worth preserving Ellen. Have you considered doing anything like that?

    Your family is really interesting. What a treasure you’ve created.

    Thanks for sharing it.


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