Je Suis Mira Mesa

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The Grandfather

Don’t ya’s think that we’ve gotten a little over sensitive with the politically correct thing?  I do!   Of course, I had the benefit of growing up in a city of immigrants and immigrant neighborhoods in the 1950’s… Chicago!

We had entire neighborhoods full of folks from Germany, Poland, Italy, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Sweden and that was just on the North side… the South side was where the White Sox fans lived along with our beloved Richard J. Daley, Hizzoner, Da Mayor!

Those wonderful ethnic neighborhoods brought us Delis and restaurants with delightful taste treats and totally awesome aromas. 

Schnitzel with Spatzels, Pierogi, Irish Stew, Spaghetti Puttanesca, awesome Swedish Limpa bread, Danish coffee cake and OMG, Chicken Kreplach soup!  I’m starting to salivate profusely.

Along with all those wonderful treats came nick names for the various ethnic groups that I, unfortunately, hesitate to use today. Back then there was no offense intended and no offense was taken… why is it so today?  My neighborhood was primarily German and Danish so…  me and the German kids I grew up with were Krauts, no big deal then and it wouldn’t bother me today, although I really am at least 50% Danish. 

My grandparents arrived in United States in the early 1900’s from their native Denmark and went through immigration at Ellis Island. Fortunately they had their “papers” otherwise they would have been labeled “WOP” by the U.S. Immigration Dept.  Yup, that’s right, WOP IS NOT a racial or ethnic slur… it simply meant “With Out Papers”. And anyone arriving without documentation from their old country had their new U.S. papers stamped WOP without any regard to their country of origin.

Unfortunately I also remember the Sunday morning when the news came over our state-of-the-art AM radio that anyone who worked along the Armitage Ave. corridor should not go to work Monday morning as there was a Race Riot going on… thats where my Dad worked!  

Armitage Ave. was a de facto dividing line between Italian and Polish Neighborhoods and they started using baseball bats on each other and their property. Many business’, on both sides of the street, had their windows broken and merchandise looted. Some probably by their own people… there’s thieves amongst all of us, isn’t there!  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it all started in a bar that Saturday night when some guy started hitting on a girl from the other side of the street!  A tragedy for sure but a race riot… really?

Several years ago I confirmed my memory by checking the Chicago Tribune’s old microfiche records and sure enough RACE RIOT was a headline in the 1940’s. And there was also a Tribune headline that said DEWEY WINS… ya gotta be a certain age to understand what a faux pas that was.

It’s both amazing and disappointing to me to see how sensitive our society has become today… it’s time to lighten up and enjoy life and all that it has to offer including different flavors, tastes, colors, smells, languages and pretty girls!

Oooops, I guess today I’m supposed say beautiful people or maybe simply people, how sad is that?  Well, not me, I’m gonna stick with pretty girls…

And, of course, I’ll always remember that we ALL bleed red!

Je Suis Mira Mesa

June  2018

P.S.

When my grandparents finally reached New York City from Ellis Island the first thing they wanted was a good cup of coffee. They found it, served black of course. On their table was a small pitcher of fresh cream and a bowl of paper wrapped cubes of sugar. Never having seen paper wrapped sugar before my Grandma, when leaving, emptied the bowl of cubes into her purse thinking that was the accepted thing to do. 

Welcome to the new world Grandma Marie!