Arriving at Ellis Island

A New Life in America

"These humongous skyscrapers -- it was just like something out of a movie."

On the sixteenth of November of 1950, we boarded the U.S.S. General Belleau which was a converted type Army transport ship.

My father was able to get a job in the commissary on the ship, so we had pretty good food. They had places for kids to play. My mother and my sisters were in another part of the ship.

Two nights before Thanksgiving we got into the port of New York, and I remember my father waking me up real early in the morning. He came and got me. [He] said, “There’s something,” just telling me in Yiddish, there was something he wanted me to see. I was not quite nine years old, and I went up on, on deck with my father and it was really very, very cold, I remember. That was my first sight -- the Statue of Liberty. My father and I just stood there as the ship was docking into New York, into Ellis Island.

Did I know what I was looking at? I don’t know. But it was just an awesome feeling. You could [see] these humongous skyscrapers - it was just like something out of a movie. I saw--not only my dad-- but others that were at the rail crying, and just sobbing at what they were looking at.

When we got off the ship at Ellis Island, [it was] just a big open area. We had to wait, and we were processed through and given coffee or milk. There were red-cross people hovering around trying to make people comfortable.

I remember the first time I’d ever had a donut. I remember the donuts. We were given a kind of a little rectangular box with a big red-cross insignia on it, and inside was some stuff that the school kids in the United States prepared for--immigrants coming in. Mine had a white wash cloth, a small tube of Colgate toothpaste, a toothbrush. [It was] the first time I’d ever seen a toothbrush, and a roll of five flavored life savers. That was inside my red-cross box.