Dreaming My Grandparents' Dream

Early 1900's dreams don't always come true today.

I hold dear in my heart the "American Dream" that my father’s parents had when they came to America in 1915.

My grandmother, Angelica (Nellie) was a Polish immigrant who came to the United States with her brother, Jozef Nortovsky, after the deaths of their parents, a brother and a sister. Nellie was only 15. She met my grandfather, John Makauskas, who was from Lithuania, on board the ship that brought them to Ellis Island. He was 18.

After the immigration process was complete, and their last names were changed due to not being able to speak English, Jozef and Nellie Norton settled with other friends and relatives in a little town called Thorndike, right outside of Worcester, MA, so did John Makosky; and they began to court.

My grandparents married in 1916. She took a job as a seamstress, and he worked in a brass foundry. They began a family with two daughters and, in 1923, my dad Joseph was born.

As soon as the children were school-aged, they began teaching my grandparents to read and write in English, just as they had learned.

In 1933, my family packed up all their belongings, gathered their savings and bought a huge house on Capitol Avenue in Bridgeport. The kids grew up playing at the Barnum & Bailey circus grounds near Seaside Park.

My dad and his sisters finished school, the girls got married and dad went off to college and soon served in the army during World War II.  He met my mom in 1956, and they married and bought a small home in Trumbull. My mother stayed home to raise the children and dad worked.

Things were simpler then. Houses were easier to buy and educations were easier to pay for.

Although my "American Dream" is to send my kids to college, today’s factors don’t make it so easy. Education expenses are outrageous, and the cost of living is so high. Hopefully they each will excel in school enough to be afforded grants and scholarships in addition to the loans my husband and I will need to secure for their futures.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back in time?

linda August 18, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Such a great article. My Italian grandparents came here and settled in Fair Haven. They opened a grocery store and all 5 of their children worked there after school. It was a very different time back then (1920's) If we could only go back to visit that time, I think maybe we would not miss all of our technology and our go, go, go, lifestyle.
MJ August 18, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Enjoyed your article. It reminded me of my grandparents who also came from Poland to live the American dream. They worked hard, bought a house and then had to live through the Great Depression which was a trying time for all. Then they had to send their sons off to war. Let's hope we all have the same stamina and persistence to endure the difficult economic times of today.
Jackie Sargent August 18, 2011 at 02:00 PM
I love this article. I try very hard to have the "simple" life too. Although technology cannot be avoided, as I am an IT technician. It is my livelyhood, but when I get home, I still try not to have the "go-go" lifestyle. I want my kids to learn to enjoy life instead of rushing through it. (trying to slow down my husband too). Don't get me wrong, I love technology, but sometimes it's too much. I don't want to see kids at the playground with iPhones, texting each other. I want to see them playing. I want to go in the garden and show them about the veggies we're growing and how to enjoy the outdoors. Go to the beach and teach them about the ocean, etc. Enjoy being with and visiting family, instead of not having time because we're too busy. I really think that families were closer then because these are the things they cherished. Not the fancy lifestyles.
Michelle Petroccio August 18, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Thank you Linda, MJ and Jackie. Jackie, I so agree with you about families being closer back then and spending more quality time without the modern conveniences of technology. Kids these days are rushed to grow up much too fast, and families don't always make the time to sit back and enjoy life's simple pleasures.


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