In the Shadow of Liberty: The Chronicle of Ellis Island

By Edward Corsi | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VI
PATHWAYS OF A YOUTHFUL IMMIGRANT

ELLIS ISLAND in 1907 represented a cross section of all the races in the world. Five thousand persons disembarked on that October day when my mother, my stepfather, and we four children landed there from the General Putnam.

We took our places in the long line and went submissively through the routine of answering interpreters' questions and receiving medical examinations. We were in line early and were told that our case would be considered in a few hours, so we avoided the necessity of staying overnight, an ordeal which my mother had long been dreading. Soon we were permitted to pass through America's Gateway.

My stepfather's brother was waiting for us. It was from him that the alluring accounts of opportunities in the United States had come to our family in Italy, and we looked to him for guidance.

Crossing the harbor on the ferry, I was first struck by the fact that American men did not wear beards. In contrast with my own fellowcountrymen I thought they looked almost like women. I felt that we were superior to them. Also on this boat I saw my first negro. But these wonders melted into insignificance when we arrived at the Battery and our first elevated trains appeared on the scene. There could be nothing in America superior to these!

Carrying our baggage, we walked across lower Manhattan and then climbed the steps leading to one of these marvellous trains. We

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