My Grandpa Joe was born in the USA, but just barely. His mother was pregnant (very pregnant) on the boat, and he was born about a day after they got off Ellis Island. My great-granparents hated it here and brought Grandpa Joe back to Italy (Sambucca; where the great liquor comes from) when he was still a baby.
When Grandpa Joe was fourteen, he got on another boat and came back to America by himself (in those days, you were considered an adult at fourteen and nobody thought it was weird that a "teenager" was traveling to another country all by himself). There was no need to become a citizen. Having been born on American soil, Grandpa Joe was a citizen on arrival.
Already a very proficient self-taught musician (he played mandolin, guitar and fiddle) Grandpa Joe worked his way through high school and law school (which came right after high school; no need for a Bachelor's degree first, during those first couple of decades of the twentieth century) as a musician in New York City's Italian communities, playing at weddings, funerals and any other gathering that was big and formal enough to merit the presence of a paid entertainer.
When he was twenty-seven, he married my Grandma Gina, who was eighteen and had just graduated from high school. I don't know how the two of them met, but she'd been born in the United States and her parents had already been here for a long time when she came along (they were anarchists and lived in what was then called "Hell's Kitchen," Manhattan). Grandma Gina was still in high school when she met and got engaged to Grandpa Joe (who had lied about his age; she didn't find out that he was nine years older until after they were married, when she noticed the date on his driver's license!) Grandma Gina was considered very strange and feminist ('though I doubt the word was in use then) for insisting that she finish high school before the wedding. A lot of girls in her generation got engaged while still in high school but most of them dropped out. Anyway...Grandpa Joe was madly in love with her and would never have insisted that she leave school when she was such a good and enthusiastic student. In fact, he even promised her that, after they were married, she would be able to go to college (something she'd dreamed of doing).
So...they got married and Grandpa Joe started a law office with his law school friend, Charlie. Grandma Gina did all the secretarial and accounting work in the office. She was also eager to enroll in college courses but she got pregnant almost immediately with my aunt Joyce (who died just about a year ago, at the age of eighty). The other four children, including my Uncle Joe, My Faddah (Bob) My Uncle Bill and my Aunt Gina followed in rapid succession. Grandma Gina continued to be a working mother (in Grandpa Joe's law office) but was not to get to colleage until she was 70 years old, after my Grandpa Joe died. Before then, she simply didn't have time! She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor's degree in World History, at the age of 74. After that, she continued taking courses for fun but decided not to persue a Master's degree...
My mother (Rosy Cheeks of OS fame) escaped from Nazi Germany in 1939, when she was just two years old. The family of four (including Mama Rosy, my Uncle Herb, my Grandpa Walter and Grandma Erna) had been sponsored by an American business man in Toldeo, Ohio (who happened to share their surname, though he wasn't a relative). My Grandpa Walter had been in Dachau and, somehow, my Grandma Erna had managed to engineer his release (after taking the children to Holland, where they hid with relatives until she could come back for them, with my Grandfather). How did she get him out of Dachau? I don't know and will always wonder. That was a secert she took to her grave.
After a couple of years in Toldeo, they came to New York, where my Grandfather worked for the Post Office and my Grandmother earned money by sewing, doing laundry and caring for other people's children.
I will leave their part of my immigrant story short because you can get a much better sense of it by reading the accounts in Rosy Cheeks' blog (which includes pictures!)
My Faddah calls me and my brother "Jew-Wops." He can get away with that 'cause he's da Wop! (A derogatory term for Italian immigrants which was said to stand for "With Out Papers.")
Signing off with my usual blessings and well-wishes,