On the 180th birthday anniversary for the City of Chicago founded on March 4, 1837, I remember why Chicago was the choice I made for a destination. When my parents decided to live in the United States of America, I was living in the Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba and attending elementary school in Spanish. One day, my Mother told me that both my parents decided to leave Santiago de Cuba and settle in another city of the United States of America. She asked me in which city we should live? There were many choices of cities based on the family relatives who were already in the USA. Since Catholic Charities sponsored the Freedom Flights, "Vuelos de Libertad", the Catholic Church offered help in Connecticut and Chicago to relocate Cuban families there. My Mother and Father thought that Connecticut was very, very cold and farther north in the East Coast. While Chicago was in the Midwest, a city by Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes–Erie, Huron, Ontario, and Superior. My parents had Cuban friends in Connecticut and Chicago, as well as in other American cities. However, the City of Chicago was unanimously our choice for a destination in the United States of America. My Grandmother had Cuban friends in Chicago and business connections to the mail-order stores like Montgomery Ward, Sears, etc. My parents had Cuban-Chinese friends in Rogers Park, on Howard Street, near Evanston, Illinois. Even now, the far north communities of Edgewater by Lake Michigan, Rogers Park, Andersonville, and Evanston still appeal to my family in general. Military friends from the Great Lakes and visitors from the USA encouraged my Mother and Father to leave Santiago de Cuba.
Chicago Catholic Charities welcomed my family with open arms, kindness, generosity, and goodwill when we arrived in July 1971. My Father, Mr. Roberto Hung Juris Doctor and my Mother, Mrs. Gardenia Fong Ramos, myself, and my youngest brother, Roberto Santiago Hung were referred for relocation to the Montfield Hotel at the corner of Sheffield and Belmont Avenue in the Lake View neighborhood, near the Illinois Masonic Medical Center on Wellington Street. Later, my Father was referred to a Baptist Church Pastor, Fabio Abreu of Dominican descent and his Canadian-American wife for relocation to the first floor of a Chicago home owned by Mrs. Marie Palmer, a Protestant Lutheran American widow, his neighbor across the alley who needed a responsible and reliable tenant with a family to help her maintain here Chicago real estate property at 2930 North Albany between Wellington and George, near Kedzie Avenue where Avondale Elementary School was located, across from the Grace Lutheran Church.
The Baptist Pastor Fabio Abreu from the Dominican Republic and his Lutheran American-German neighbor Mrs. Marie Palmer were heaven sent during our relocation from the Montfield Hotel in Lakeview to the Avondale community near Logan Square, not far from our Cuban-Chinese friends, Fernando Wong and Yolanda Fen with two children, a retarded daughter with spinal bifida, Zuling, and a male Fernandito Wong Fen who wanted to be an architect engineer later in life. Afterwards, Fernando and Yoli Wong had a daughter named Meiling who lived in the Rogers Park community, near Evanston and Skokie in Illinois.
While I was attending Avondale Grammar School, on Kedzie Avenue, aka Logandale Elementary School, I used to participate in an abridged 6th grade program, instead of the corresponding 8th grade program into which I would later transfer. Since my Mother had my Cuban grammar school transcripts, she told the Principal in Santiago de Cuba that I had already passed 6th, 7th, and 8th grade programs in Santiago de Cuba in Spanish.
The obvious problem for all of us was how to speak English, write in English, and attend school of course, obviously, my family and I had to make a transition from spoken Spanish to American English, fluently. There were Free English courses and classes at the Casa Central in Logan Square, Chicago, Illinois 60618, USA. My parents and I, used to practice speaking English in Santiago de Cuba, later on, we, as a family began to speak English at home in Chicago with the television programs of Sesame Street and the Electric Company featuring Rita Moreno, among other television personalities and talent,as well as other TV programs like Perry Mason, classic western movies with John Wayne, and the musical songs of Doris Day, Glen Miller’s American Jazz band, Lawrence Welk, which we used to watch before.
Soon, we made friends with the neighbors like Ludivina "Ludi" Villareal, whose family was Hispanic from Méjico and invited us to her birthday party for "tostadas", tacos, etc. There were also Cuban-Americans like Armando and his youngest brother who went to Avondale Elementary School also with myself and my youngest brother Robert S. Hung. My 6th grade teacher was Miss Honeywood and my English As A Second Language Teacher was Miss Pantos who later married and changed her name to Mrs. Kardos. Later, I was double transferred to 8th grade with Mr. Herbert Hebel where I graduated with High Honors from Avondale Elementary School.
In Chicago, my Father, Roberto Hung was able to find employment at the warehouse in Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Company. Later he worked for Marshall Field’s and the Theatrical Dance Supply Company. Fernando and Yoli Wong Fen recommended my Father to work for Felt-Products, on McCormick Boulevard in Skokie, also known today as Federal Mogul, a corporation in the automotive industry manufacturing "oil gaskets" with a patented adhesive created and designed by Albert Mecklenburger, a German-American from Berlin, Germany.
My Mother also had to get a job with Goldblatt’s on Milwaukee Avenue, right in the midst of the Polish American neighborhood. Then, she found another part-time job at Tic-Toc with Mrs. Sherman. Later, my Father recommended her to work for Felt-Products with him in Skokie, also.
I started working at the Offices of Edelstein & Edelstein on Irving Park Road who needed to make collection calls on the telephone and paid a minimum wage of $4 per hour. Afterwards, I found a job at McDonald’s at the corner of Irving Park Road and Elston Avenue, not far from the Irving Park Shopping Center, the Y.M.C.A. and Madonna High School.
In order to "Make Ends Meet", both my Father and Mother went to work, and during my 3rd year as a junior at Madonna High School, age 16-years-old, Sister Rosemarie from Counseling referred me to get a job and follow the American Dream working hard to make a living. Mrs. Palmer used to say before she left for work as an Administrator and Office Manager at the Civic Opera, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go."
Chicago is also known as the Windy City because of the cross-winds across Lake Michigan cause whirlwinds and all-changing weather due to the Lake Effect and the Great Lakes. It is still a beautiful city by the Lake Michigan, "the city with the broad shoulders" as a client and friend from Helsinki, Finland, calls the City of Chicago. Mrs. Marie Palmer used to tell me, "if you don’t like the weather in Chicago, wait a minute, it will change."
I have grown up in Chicago for the last 46 years on the Northwest side of the Windy City and attended and graduated from Northeastern Illinois University after graduating from Madonna High School on May 27, 1977 with High Honors, as a member of the National Honor Society and the French Honor Society. Later, I pursued Graduate Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago with the Abraham Lincoln Fellowship for Rhetorical Criticism, Speech Writing, Communications, and Theatre granted by the UIC Department of Communications and Theatre managed by Dr. Anthony Graham-White. I have written my Master’s Thesis as an ethnography about "The Chinese in Cuba: Assimilation and Acculturation" presented by Dr. Thomas Kochman, Ph.D.
The City of Chicago celebrates today 180 years since its founding fathers established the settlement by the Chicago River and used the name familiarly with the "wild onions" growing by the river banks. "Happy 180th Birthday Anniversary, Chicago!"
I have rented and lived in a studio apartment on the Northwest side of Chicago near my Father, Mr. Roberto Hung Juris Doctor, on Sacramento and Belle Plaine, near Irving Park Road, in a building owned by Mrs. A.C. Nylen, a German-American realtor in Chicago and the Midwest.
My Mother, Mrs. Gardenia Fong Ramos began to work at Felt-Products Inc. and attended Loyola University Lewis Towers Campus pursuing a Master’s in Spanish Literature with Dr. Martinez, Dr. Carol Holdsworth, and Dr. Luján.
Chicago has always represented the spirit of its community people to prevail and overcome adversity in the challenges that life brings over time, place, and physical presence. The people of Chicago have a fighting spirit to survive and fight for justice, equity, and fairness. Chicago is today a cosmopolitan metropolis and a credit to its sprawling communities by Lake Michigan in the state of Illinois, USA. Happy 180th Anniversary, Chicago!
The Chicago River
Gardenia C. Hung, M.A., B.A.
Consulting Social Media Arts Communications