There is an apocryphal story about my grandfather. He was a man of few words and died when I was young, so most of the stories have an urban legend ring to them. I don’t know which ones, if any, are true.
My father told me that Grandpa Chmaj was a young man, new to America, just off the boat so to speak. He was looking for work and saw the big sign POLISH FACTORY so he went in and asked for a job. Because he was Polish. And they made…shoe polish.
The year that my grandparents emigrated is a little fuzzy in my mind. When I worked on the requisite eighth grade Family Tree project forty-some years ago, I seem to recall learning that both grandparents came between 1900 and 1910. There was a wave of Polish immigrants between 1905 and 1910 after the Revolution. Several more waves came at the beginning of the 20th century, as Prussia, Germany, and Russia argued about which of them owned Poland. If the date of my grandparents’ emigration is prior to 1911, they escaped far more strife in their country of origin than whatever hardships occurred here.