13 January 2017


Not long after landing in JFK, my family moved into our own apartment, way up in the Bronx, nearest subway station being the Fordham Road station on the #4 line. My father got a dishwashing job, I think at Club 21, while my eldest sister went to work and also attended school. All my working life I learned a few things on my own but they were just an extra hour here and there after work or on the weekend, never anything formal. It was really difficult to go to work full-time then go to school afterward. Good job there, sis!
Us kids had it somewhat easier just to concentrate on school. Some days after moving to the Bronx, one day my mother, my other sister, and I set out to find the school where we were supposed to register for. It was John Peter Tetard JHS, although I only know that years later when I return to the area after moving to Queens. In the movies, most of the time when someone asks for direction, it works like a charm. Not for the three of us on that day. Perhaps it was because of our broken English, we got pointed that direction then some other way. We went downhill at some point then made a right only to climb up a series of steps, like that shown below. The view in the photo is from just outside the school looking down. For the next few days or weeks that was how we got to school. Go downhill, make a right, then climb up the steps. We were just so unsure of what was where we stuck to that one routine.
At some point we learned we could ride a city bus to school. The school gave us some discount pass but we thought it was completely free. We would just show the pass and went to find a seat. I think because there were not that many immigrants back then, people’s tolerance of our ignorance was higher. We got free rides for a few weeks before one bus driver somehow explained that we had to pay a nickel for the ride. Or maybe it was a quarter. Eventually, we discovered that school was not really that far away. We ended up walking to and from school using the shortest route, which did not involve any hill repeats.

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