On June 27, 1968, our family had walked off the SS France, endured a long, hot humid dock strike, trying to get our steam trunks, and were now finally home. Our new home in Bayridge, Brooklyn, Salem Gospel Tabernacle parsonage for the new pastor, my Dad. A family of 5 who were no longer traveling, this was permanent, I didn’t know what life would be like living in one home, in a new country without traveling all the time, in time I would learn.
We had been escorted by the elders and wonderful new friends from our church. They took us from the dock strike on Pier 57, helped find our luggage, and then took us to 91st Street and Shore Rd in Brooklyn, it was a wonderful beginning to a disaster of a morning and afternoon.
The moment we arrived in our new home, the family from Loughborough, England and many other parts of England, Ireland and homes of many Americans along the way, were completely and utterly exhausted. I remember finding my way upstairs in a trance. I was hot, sweaty, and not a word came out of my innocent mouth. My sisters had cried for so long due to being tired and out of their element, that they just hit a bed and passed out. I remember watching my Mum who looked at this house that had been the house from the former minister and his wife, with her mouth hanging open. The picture will never go away. I can only imagine what she was thinking. The former pastors wife’s idea of decorating was the 1950’s I think my mum couldn’t get over that nothing had changed since the Eisenhower years. Everything was either light green or dark green. The carpet wasn’t anything but flattened and dark green. Mind you Mum never ever complained but the look was evident, “I’ve got to change this house” was all I received that moment. As I passed my mother looking I too kept taking in every single thing I could, it wasn’t the decorating that blew me away, it was the heat from the state of New York and our new home in Brooklyn I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t breath and all I could remember was lying next to a fan, not an air conditioner, but a one room fan for 3 kids in a sweltering 95 degree bedroom that I hated. Air conditioning was really for the rich and I wasn’t expecting that, but I was expecting more than one fan per floor. I couldn’t complain, I knew my Dad was beside himself with the dock strike when we got off the ship and then having to find all of our trunks and then some for another 3 hours. This man brought us from another country to live here as he said “forever”. How long was forever? I was only a child who didn’t know what that term meant, and I only knew temporary, because that’s what I knew, this was all foreign to me. All I remember was thinking a million thoughts before I passed out from the heat, the day, the fan that wasn’t blowing anything but hot air and thinking far too much for such a little girl.
Hours later I remember waking up to a hot and humid night in our new home. The night fall hadn’t reduced the sweltering thick air that filled our home. I walked down the stairs and found my parents having a cup of tea. I think it was the first time I saw my mum not doing something. She was always doing something for someone else, whether it was getting them a bit of food or a cup of tea, my mum never did anything for herself that I would visualize, but I never saw her alone either. They were smiling and talking about what we were going to do the next day and the day after that. What my Daddy was going to do in the new church and when he was going to be picked up by the church elders and new friends. It was the summer so I had a few months before I started a new life in a brand new school in America, I had plenty of time to think about that, but 1968 was not a year without distress. America was in a war with Vietnam, there were black and white tensions throughout the nation and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had just been killed by lone shooters. At the time I didn’t realize the surroundings that lingered in Brooklyn. We had arrived in a wonderful area that were protected basically by the mob. The area was either 2 blocks completely Italian or Norwegian/Swedish. We weren’t afraid of race riots or any kind of violence because there honestly wasn’t any. I was in a shelter from that arriving from England. Looking back I can honestly say the constant faces that were in the paper was Vietnam. It was sad because too many widowed men and women lost too many sons to a senseless war, a war that you couldn’t get passed, especially in the mind of a child.
We only had a black and white television that had only 6 channels and channel 13 that didn’t have “Sesame Street” at the time. It was either game shows, Soap Operas which I was banned from since they were considered evil in the church I still don’t know why, the 4:30 movie on channel 7, the million dollar movie on channel 9 or news. We used to sneak “Dark Shadows” at four o’clock but when the nightmares came my mum banned me from that too, I still watched it. In England we had a black and white TV too but no more than 3 channels, so this was a new experience, I was glued, too this day my life began on WPIX NY Channel 11. The movies were my escape. I clung to every single actor and actress. I lived for Clark Gable, adored Marilyn Monroe, and fantasized about receiving the best actress award for a child whenever I drifted into another world. I transformed myself through old movies and to this day I still do.
My first remembrance of the news in the summer of 1968 was Richard Nixon excepting the republican nomination for the presidency of the US, the news of a disastrous Democratic convention which I smiled at all the crazy demonstrators, I loved demonstrators and I remember seeing Nixon’s daughter getting married. I find it amazing how much one person whether 8 or 80 can remember bits and pieces of news, watching movies or playing and all of it happened almost fifty years ago.
Looking back my life had only just begun on that first hot humid June day. I would forever remember arriving in New York and beginning life in Brooklyn, it was the gateway to many adventures just around the many blocks I would walk. I loved it and I’ll never forget…onward to the great expectations that soon will await.
Follow Donna’s board Future Writing Stars on Pinterest.