It is now September 2018. Montana has had a long winter, a short Spring, a short but lovely Summer and this morning we had a taste of fall. . . 49 degrees. The day was also the beginning of a smoke-drenched sky from many of the western states fires. I typed this story yesterday, but lost it, so I am retyping it now. Enjoy. Here we go!~
In the heady days of the discovery of America, adventurous and hopeful human beings left their homelands and swarmed over the pristine and wild acres of their new land, settling down with one another in perfect harmony of being alive and productive in a land of opportunity. They were banded together as a great melting pot of humanity. Too soon the togetherness began to change – to evolve into cultures standing alone.
When my mother came to the United States in 1912 on the U.S.S. Cleveland, the ship’s manifest listed the destination point (and sponsorship) of each of the passengers. Most passengers knew only their native tongue and were sponsored by individuals who spoke that language primarily. A jumble of cultures grew. My mother was one of the few who had studied and was proficient in English before she stepped on the ship to America. As a pre-hired governess for five children in the San Francisco, California area, she earned her way into the melting pot section of America. She married in 1913 and began teaching her first-born High German. “Don’t do that,” warned her neighbors. “Germany is an enemy of the United States.” So as a good American she followed their advice.
When I lived in New York City in the early 1940s, I initially rented in the Scandinavian section in the East seventies. Most of the residents there lived in railroad type flats, called cold-weather flats. There was a communal bathroom on each floor and a bathtub in each kitchen. One put pots of cold water on the stove and heated the water to take a bath. These east-side streets were alive with the manners and clothes and songs and behaviors echoing Scandinavian old-time cultures. I went to many a dance and wedding when I lived in that section of New York City. My boyfriend at the time was part of that culture. I was almost claimed as one of their own. Oh, how I enjoyed the friendship and customs of these wonderful people.
I learned while I lived in the city (Manhattan), that many of the streets were open to only one culture – streets in which only Irish or Jewish or African-Americans lived with customs that spoke primarily of the ‘old’ or ‘native’ country. As I travelled around the middle and northern United States as an actress in the late 1940s and lived in the northern states in the 1960s and ’70s, I certainly saw the differences in speech and culture. North Dakota and Minnesota were developed by Danish and Swedish people.
Washington and California became home to those moving away from a single culture, moving to express themselves in a melting pot state. Since those years, sections of California have become one culture proud, particularly in the semi-arid deserts of southern California. When I lived in that area, Mexican nationals streamed there and filled the newly-built houses. Many restaurants and shops evolved into a Mexican culture.
One of my brothers, who lived in southern California, was for many years a radio spokesman for the celebrated Rose Parade. He also announced the horse races for this particular large-network station. But the station was sold. It became a Spanish speaking station to serve the distinct culture in that area. Of course, that was the end of that particular career for my brother.
As a resident of Washington state during the 1990s, I watched the exodus from California to Washington. Thousands of people left the many separate cultures of California for the melting pot area that was Washington State.
Other places with a diversity of cultural traditions are retirement homes. As a resident of a retirement Manor, I am back in a melting pot culture. The over one-hundred residents who live here came from every walk in life, each full of memories of the life they came from – educators, salespeople, scientists, housewives, electricians, plumbers. People from all over our country, full of the traditions they grew up with. Retirement homes generally belong to the melting pot culture.
I have to conclude that America is both a jumble of world country traditions that is of fascinating interest. Americans celebrate a melting pot culture. Certainly holiday celebrations prove the fact that in this great country of ours we are both.