Land of Opportunity: Red Light Means More Than Welcome

Woman immigrated to Minnesota and soon learns that the red light in windows does not mean what she thinks it does.

| Good Old Days

Helga had just been through customs on Ellis Island. She picked up her shabby suitcase and took a few steps into the land of opportunity. Pausing briefly, she took a long look at her new country. Tomorrow Helga would board a train to join her Swedish friends in Minnesota. They too had immigrated in hopes of finding a rich life in the United States. On reaching St. Paul, Minnesota, she soon found work in a large bakery with a nicely furnished flat nearby. Her first day at work was lonely and tiring. Darkness fell early. She noticed most of the houses had red lights in the windows. The lights looked so pretty and cheerful.

"Maybe that is the custom here. If I live here I must follow their ways," she thought. A few days later she found and bought a kerosene lamp with a red glass chimney. "Now I will be a real American girl," she thought.

When the sun set, she lit her lovely new lamp and set it near the window. A short time later she heard a knock on her door. "My first visitor; it may be Elsa from next door," she thought. Instead a strange man stood on her threshold.

"How much you charge, Mrs.?" he asked.

"I sell nothing, so I charge nothing." She closed the door with a bang. A short time later there came another rap on her door. Opening it cautiously, she saw her second male caller.

"What you want? Why you knock on my door?"

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