Land of Opportunity: Grandfather’s Outburst Often Quoted

Fellow workers surprised by quiet man’s outburst; they often quoted him in good fun.

| Good Old Days

My grandfather, George Ubbinga, was born in Germany and came to America, the land of opportunity, with his parents in 1884. They first lived in McComb, Illinois. As soon as they arrived, 17-year-old George secured work in a brick factory in a small town near McComb. This was a Yankee settlement, and no one spoke or understood German. Grandpa felt insecure and spoke nothing more than an occasional word while he was at work, but he picked up words and phrases here and there. One night he left his jacket at work, and when he went to pick it up the next morning, rats had gotten into it and ruined it. Very angry, he exploded, "Damn the American rats!" The sudden outburst from this quiet boy so surprised and amused his fellow workers that it was never forgotten. His first sentence in English became a much quoted, good-humored byword among those he worked with as long as he was there.

Myrtle May Duin
George, Iowa

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. 

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