\"Bernadette

Bernadette Toan (left) and her sister Verona, photography taken this July in Verona's North Carolina home Photo by: Bernadette Toan

Celebrating fifty years in the USA and how it changed my life

\"Bernadette

Bernadette Toan (left) and her sister Verona, photography taken this July in Verona's North Carolina home Photo by: Bernadette Toan

It was February, 1978 in Boston, Massachusetts and the surrounding areas, it had   been snowing constantly all morning, but nothing, not even a blizzard would keep my husband and me from our appointment. We caught the last train from Wilmington to Boston.  The storm was not expected to be so big. It covered the whole northeast and lasted thirty three hours. The extremely high winds piled up four feet of snow and thousands of homes lost power. But we were determined and made it to that very important appointment before all traffic would come to a standstill. This was the day we were sworn in as naturalized Americans and our two sons became American citizens that day as well.
 
All applicants who were assigned to be sworn in as American citizens showed up and the judge commended us all for making it under such weather conditions.
My husband Jean was born in Shanghai, China and I was born and raised in a town named Drogheda in the smallest county of Ireland on the east coast. Just prior to leaving Ireland we had moved from Drogheda to Dublin, a stepping stone to something bigger! 
 
 
I look back to that eventful day of July 7, 1962, when my sister Verona and I left Ireland in search of a new life.  We both gained valuable experience working in Dublin for about      four years. Months of preparation proceeded, with visa applications, vaccinations, references etc and apprehensively letting our parents finally know our plans.  Fortunately the quota for Irish citizens was generous back in the early sixties.
 
Saying goodbye to our tearful parents at Dublin airport was hard, and assuring them our plan was to go for only a year was not of much consolation to them.
Arriving at Idlewild Airport as it was called in those days, for us coming from the greens of home stepping off the plane into the chrome and concrete fairyland of vast parking lots and wide open spaces was quite something! At the usual customary immigration, customs etc. we found the people we encountered were helpful and friendly to newcomers.
 
Our older brother Frank had already immigrated to The United States and his Irish friends helped us settle into life in Jackson Heights, Queens.  We found an affordable basement apartment, sharing with an Irish girl friend of my brother’s, and went job hunting.  Verona found a job as secretary in an electrical engineering office, a job that lasted quite a while, and I applied for and was accepted as a reservationist with Pan American Airways, about the time when computers were introduced. This company of course is      now gone with the proverbial wind. Both Verona and I quickly got used to our daily routine of commuting, catching crowded buses to the subway. A whole new experience was subway travel to Manhattan, crowded, hanging on to straps, all jammed together, rarely finding a seat. We had to adjust to all this rush and hurry after our easier, much less pressured life in Dublin!
 
Each year we saved enough to go back to Dublin to spend time with our parents and family, but the time came for us to decide we would make the U.S our future home. I firmly believe and am greatly impressed that Americans have a wonderful capacity to welcome newcomers, showing real interest in new arrivals like us, applying for jobs. We did not have impressive references or experiences, but companies were willing to give us a chance based on how we presented ourselves, openly and honestly .This was encouraging when Pan American Airways hired me in Reservations with no past airline experience. Later they upgraded me to Hotel Reservations, earning my 5 year pin eventually.
 
Around this time I met Jean who became my husband. About a year or so later we married in February 1966. He worked at G.T.E, with the international division of his company, with projects in different countries, the first one being Hong Kong BCC, where our two sons were born, Patrick in 1967, and Michel in 1969.They were  British subjects, by birth, and this was changed of course subsequently at Naturalization.   Other projects overseas opened doors to periods of wonderful experiences and education for me, and for our family.    
 
Jean, as a young teenager back in Shanghai, China had a very definite desire to come to the US, and eventually made it here in 1955, completed his education and embraced this country just as my sister and I did.
 
Now we look back. Fifty years this coming July 7th marks the 50th anniversary of that wonderful eventful day, we proudly see as our ‘Golden Anniversary Day” and we certainly did mark it well with much rejoicing and celebration! We joined forces with my sister Verona and her husband Ken in Waynseville, North Carolina around the 7th.
 
Reflection: Fifty Years in this wonderful U.S.A has given us much, a new life with opportunities to grow and blend into the Melting Pot that this country is. What would our lives have been like had we never left Ireland? Hard to imagine, but God who is in charge of all things, has the answer. And we praise Him for His leading and protection.
 
Visiting Ireland in October 2010 was the highlight of the year for us both, enjoying every minute of it, reconnecting with family and friends. Today Verona and I are proud of our Irish heritage and we like to think our blend of American and Irish life is the perfect one!

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