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Michael (Golly) Donlon
Early in 1950, Aunt Mary, my mother’s sister in Saint Louis, had written to Mammy and asked if I wanted to go to America. Without giving it any great thought I said that I wanted to go.
The paperwork arrived from St. Louis and I started the ball rolling by taking everything to the only Dunmore travel agent, Katie McWalter, [Tony Reynolds owned the building later on and Unique Fashions own it now.] Katie was supposed to be an expert on filling out the Affidavit and supposedly nobody was ever turned down at the American Consulate if you followed her advice. 
Finally I was given a date to appear at the Consulate and one morning set off for Dublin in Collins’s egg lorry, driven by Paddy Rattigan. He had a flask of tea and some bread and butter with him and outside Athlone we had our first stop. I considered this a real feast but more and better things were in store for me. When we arrived in Dublin, Paddy stoped at a hotel [I think it was the Ormond] and in we go to the fanciest place I had ever seen in my life. I was amazed when everyone there knew Paddy; this was my first experience in a restaurant and I was overwhelmed; the bright white tablecloths, fancy china and dazzling silverware were a sight to behold. Without even asking, a whole variety of buns appeared on the table. Then Paddy ordered some sandwiches and out came a plateful of mixed sandwiches, different shapes, with the crust removed from the bread, and different meats in them. I was dying to dig into the buns but knew enough to wait until we finished the sandwiches. Then he left a sixpenny bit tip and I told him that he forgot some of his money on the table!.
It was arranged that Nellie Quinn, [Knockatee] would meet us and she would take over from there. Nellie was a Sister [Nurse] in Sir Patrick Dunn’s Hospital and lived in the hospital grounds, so she booked a room for me in a bed and breakfast nearby.   While walking on a Dublin street with Nellie, one of the street photographers took a photo of the two of us. I was wearing a suit that Uncle Pat had sent from St. Louis and I thought I was a real swell. Only when I saw the photo did it dawn on me that the suit was about five sizes too big for me. I must have looked like some kind of a geek. Nellie showed me around the city, took me into the hospital where she worked, to the pictures, Phoenix Park etc.
I passed everything at the Consulate and four days after I arrived, Nellie took me back to meet Paddy Rattigan for the return trip to Dunmore.
The GeorgicThe GeorgicAfter coming back from Dublin, the enormity of what I was about to do really hit home, but of course in the true tradition of Irish people I kept it to myself. Katie McWalter booked passage for me on the Cunard Liner, The Georgic, sailing out of Cobh on August 26th, 1950. 
During World War 11 there was no emigration to America and in the years after the war ended, very few visas were granted. That started to change ever so slowly in 1950, but it was still very rare around our place for anyone to go to America, so I was somewhat in the limelight during the summer of 1950. Still I was afraid of what the future held. I thought about Daddy’s brothers and sisters who had left and never came back, about Uncle Pat [St. Louis] who booked passage to come home, went as far as New York, and turned back and did not make the trip. I was convinced that once I left, I would never see my family again, so when I said my good byes on the morning of August 25th, the good byes were permanent.
Johnny Connolly had a hackney car and he drove us to Cobh. In Cobh, Daddy said to me that it was ok if I did not want to go; I could change my mind and go back home but how could I admit failure at fifteen years and eleven months old?. Conor Fahy and his wife Mary Jo were on their honeymoon in Cork at the time and came to the dock to say good bye to me. When I was in Ireland 17 years ago Monica Fahy took me to Cobh. There is a museum there now and while walking around I had to get away from her for a while, as the memories came flooding back of my previous visit and the tear ducts opened up.
I stayed in a hotel in Cobh on the night of the 25th August and imagine my surprise when someone came to the desk looking for me the following morning. He introduced himself as Mike Connolly and was a friend of Jimmy O’Connell, who was married to my father’s sister, Mary, in New York. He and his wife were returning to New York after spending their vacation in Ireland. Jimmy had contacted him and asked him to look out for me and to look after me. The water in Cobh harbour was not very deep and ocean going liners were not able to dock, so a small boat call a tender took you out to the liner. I think I was sick walking the gangplank of the tender and spent most of the first few days on the Georgic hanging over the side. Connolly did everything he could to cheer me up, but between sea sickness and home sickness I was in a sorry state.
I was in a cabin with nine men, all were American and all seemed to have different accents. 
The ship’s dining room was something else. This place was even fancier than the Ormond hotel in Dublin. Lucky for me that the Connolly’s were there. Mrs Connolly arranged that I would be at their table for the whole trip and she sat next to me and explained to me what to do; just as well she did as I would not know what to do with three forks, two knives, three spoons, two or three plates and your own teapot of tea and lump sugar. Can you imagine? They served potatoes for breakfast and two dinners a day! They must have been dinners since they served soup, meat and potatoes. I wondered what kind of world I was getting into where they served potatoes three times a day!.
Statue of LibertyStatue of LibertyEntering New York Harbor on an ocean liner is quite an experience. A pilot comes out to meet the ship and guide it into the dock. The sight of land after six days at sea, the Statue of Liberty and the tall buildings are something to behold. All first time immigrants are easily recognizable. If their clothes did not give them away, the brown envelope did. Every immigrant had to carry a copy of their x-rays with them. The x-raying was done at the overseas Consulates and was then checked again at dockside. Even after landing you were subject to be sent back if the x-rays did not pass the muster.
Jimmy O’Connell was at the pier to meet me, I did not know him, but I had Connolly by my side to point him out to me. The O’Connell’s lived in an apartment house on Adrian Ave. They had two kids at that time; Mary Margaret was four and half years old and Jimmy was about a year old. I was treated royally by Aunt Mary and Jimmy and bombarded with questions about home. One of their first acts was to get rid of Uncle Pat’s hand-me-down suit that I was still wearing and to get me some new clothes. I had never been in a building as big as their apartment house and Mary Margaret used to take me up on the roof of the building and I was amazed at the view from there.
Two of my father’s brothers, Uncle Tom and Uncle Eddie, came to visit me at O’Connell’s and of course they invited me to Elizabeth, New Jersey where they lived. Tom & Eddie lived two blocks apart and worked in the same factory. Aunt Stella lived in Atlantic City and she came up to Eddie’s to see me. All the Donlons were friendly to each other and stayed in touch. We played cards-twenty-five, solo and one hundred and ten and laughed and told jokes. I never experienced such laughter that went on in Eddie’s house. He and Tom both worked two jobs and Aunt Margaret, Eddie’s wife, worked also and they lived from paycheque to paycheque. But the attitude was, “We survived the depression, we will take any kind of a job, we have our family and our health and what is the use in complaining”. I was amazed at Eddie’s memory and now wish that I had taken more notice of what he said about the past.
Gaelic Park 2012Gaelic Park 2012Back in New York Jimmy took me to Gaelic Park and on the way walked me past Sugar Ray Robinson’s house with all the big cars parked outside. Connolly [from the boat] and Pa Warde from Knockatee, were at the Park; also Jimmy’s cousin Bill Bowler. All gave me a few dollars and I thought I was rich. In those years leaving Ireland, you had to declare how many dollars you were taking out of the country. Still written in my Irish passport is the amount that I had to declare when I was leaving, nineteen dollars. They all wanted me to stay in New York and would get me a job but after four weeks I left for St. Louis. 
                                        But that is a story for another day.
(Contributed by Pat Slattery)