From Poland to the Land of Opportunity

Parents immigrated to America for religious freedom and a better life.

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My grandfather decided to immigrate to America from Poland by way of Austria and Hungary. How bravely they made that journey with a set of twins, born in Vienna. Trudging those long miles with small children had to be trying. My daddy and his twin brother were only 3 years old when they arrived in America at Ellis Island.

The family settled in the industrialized steel mill country of western Pennsylvania. At Washington my granddad worked scooping large shovelfuls of coal into the roaring fires of an open hearth. I remember seeing a single line of men clad in heavy aprons and hoods to protect their shoulders and faces as they fed the furnaces. Sweating from the extreme heat, each man carried a shovel of coal to add to the blaze.

Later Granddad worked in the blacksmith shop. His cheeks were often red from the heat. Thankful for the religious freedom in America, my grandparents seldom complained of their lot or their lack. They built a large two-story house on Goat Hill and raised four boys and four girls to be loyal Americans.

From boyhood, I recall the unpaved streets, family holiday festivities, and the sweet, sugary seckel pears of Washington. Living there was a happy time for me.

My father met my mother in Detroit, where he was lured by the promise of $5 a day working for Henry Ford. However, when work failed to remain steady, he returned to Washington, Pennsylvania, with Mom and me. My parents opened a grocery store and lunchroom, serving sandwiches, soup and cakes-for which my mom became well known-to the men working in nearby steel mills, coal mines and cattle-slaughtering plants.

Dad helped immigrant friends "get the papers" -meaning their naturalization papers-so eagerly sought. Dad also began making smoked sausage. My brother, a year younger than me, and I helped by cutting and seasoning about 400 pounds of meat a week. I was about 10 then.

Taken in an oil-drilling deal, Dad lost his money. He could not expand his grocery business and lost everything in the Great Depression of the '30s.

My parents taught us to be honest, work hard, have pride and love God. I am so happy to have been born and raised in America so thankful my grandparents came, impelled by their desire for religious freedom and opportunity in America.

Lee Paul Stanley
By Sybil Austin Skakle
Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.