Journey to the Bridge
I am the son of an immigrant. My father’s name was John De Dominicis. At Ellis Island, the clerks shortened the name to “Dominic.” He came to America with his Dad, my grandfather, Vincenzo de Dominicis. They were born in southern Italy in a little town with the poetic name “Castellano di Caroville.”
It was farming country. When the rains failed and the pastures turned into clods of broken and dry dirt their means of livelihood, meager as they were, had turned into dust.
And then, a letter came. It was from a relative who had made it to America. It told of a new land of opportunity for those willing to work. And so, my father and my grandfather left the little town of di Caroville and by foot and by cart traveled to the port of Naples.
I have often thought of the courage it took to make that decision. My Dad and my grandfather had never wandered more than a mile or two from the village in which they were born when they decided…to cross an Ocean!
The ship that took them across that Ocean was called the “Princess Irene.” It arrived in New York on February 27th, 1904. After inspection at Ellis Island these two Italians, now with the new name of “Dominic” caught a train bound for Akron, Ohio. Both of them found jobs at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. My grandfather worked in the factory. My Dad, who knew some English, was given a job where he helped other immigrants to find homes, places to shop, and churches in which to worship. He helped them to adjust to life in a new country.
Then, came the Depression. My father and grand father were laid off. They lived off savings until a telegram arrived from a man who had also lived in Caroville. Somehow, he had made his way to Oklahoma and he reported there were jobs there in the coal mines. Dad and his Dad moved there and all during the Depression they toiled in caverns deep under the Earth digging out the coal.
Years went by. The Depression ended. Dad got a telegram from Goodyear. They wanted him to return to work in Akron. By then, Dad had met and married my Mother. She wanted no part of Ohio. It was just to cold there. And that is how I got born in Oklahoma.
Dad got a job with the Railway Express Company. He worked the trains, loading and unloading packages and freight and then delivered the cargo all over our hometown of McAlester.
He was a good man, my Father. He always reminded his children of how lucky we were to be born in the United States. He taught me and my two brothers many lessons. Among them… work hard, always give your employer more than he expects, go to Church, thank God for his blessings, save money, get an education, go to college.
His constant plea, said lovingly, to his sons was “Do better than me. By coming to America I have given you that opportunity. Do better than me.”
And, each son did. There was no way we were going to disappoint our Father.
We did better in terms of jobs and money and houses and cars. Being in the television business I have spent most of my working days in suits and ties. But, in terms of sacrificing for his family, the most expensive suit in the world cannot compare to the poorest of my Dad’s coveralls.
My immigrant story is not too different than the story of millions of other immigrants. Throughout history and continuing to this day the story of the immigrants can be likened to a Bridge.
All of them traveled from afar and kept going until they came to The Bridge. A Bridge to a better life. A Bridge to America.
In our times, there is much political debate and controversy over immigration.
But, the Bridge is still there.
Dear Reader, let us all hope that it will be a Bridge of faith and love; a Bridge of tolerance and respect; a Bridge of cooperation and understanding. May it be a Bridge so wide and so strong and so beautiful that it will stand forever!
Without that Bridge, I would not be here!