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by Cookie Curci
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Part 2 of 3: Stories of Streets Paved in Gold
by Cookie Curci
Back in the old country, the young and naive immigrants had been told wondrous stories of how the streets of America were paved in gold. But when they got here, they discovered three important things: First, the streets weren't paved in gold; second, they weren't paved at all; and third, they were expected to pave them!
The children and grandchildren of these immigrants share a feeling of pride at their accomplishments. A thread that runs through each of our lives, connecting one to the other through the generations.
History tells us that millions of immigrants have come to America and how they learned new trades and skills and evolved new lives and careers for themselves. As youngsters we all learned about the melting pot theory of American immigration and population growth. From an official population of some 5 million as of 1790, the first time a census survey was undertaken in our nation, we have grown to an estimated 248 million as of 1990, the last time a decennial census was taken.
The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island foundation, in New York City, estimates that more than 12 million visitors have toured the Ellis Island immigration museum since its opening on Sept. 10, 1990. Authorities at the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island foundation estimate that four in every 10 United States residents have at least one forbear who immigrated through Ellis Island. The Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington, D.C., reports that in 1996 (the last available figures) 915,900 people immigrated legally to the United States. My grandmother had an old saying. Translated in English it goes something like this: "It doesn't matter where you start out in life; it's where you finish that counts." My grandparents lived their lives by that belief. My grandfather worked his way up from delivery boy in a local meat market to become the store proprietor. After learning all about the meat market business he saved enough money to purchase his own shop. With hard work and determination he went on to become a successful businessman.
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