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Throwback Thursday: To Be or not to Be an American

August 20, 2015

When, in the course of human events, did one nation infiltrate another and then seek to subvert the very culture of that country they were desperate to be a part of?

The answer?

 

Never, at least that I know of, until now.

 

America has long been called (unless it is no longer politically correct to do so) as the “great American melting pot.” Anyone else remember the History Rock video of the same name (before videos were cool). A melting pot, of course, is a mish mash of different cultures coming together to form one. You could say it made us stronger and part of a whole, rather than weaker and separate.

 

 

My great-grandparents, Dominick and Elizabeth (Dietz) Hechler, came to America from Russia (although they were 100% German – another story for another day) in 1890. I was told several times in asking stories of my family how they were PROUD to be here. They first landed at Castle Garden in New York (the forerunner of Ellis Island), but eventually ended up in Plantersville, Texas, with other families who had come with them. (I have written about them in my book I Will Go With You: The Hechlers, From Germany to Russia to America.) 

 

 

The story was often told, but was told to me by Tilly Gaetz Hechler, wife of August Hechler who came with his parents from Russia, of how the school teacher came to my great-grandparents and told them they needed to start speaking English at home for the sake of the children. They were now Americans and lived in America and people here spoke English.  My great-grandfather, who around this time was also naturalized and became a US citizen,  did so. He was proud to be an American. He was grateful to be here, and he had no qualms speaking like an American and becoming part of the “melting pot” of this country. He even did so as he pressed for his oldest grandchild to be named Wilhelm, a very German name.

 

It is worthy of note, that my grandmother refused to do so. Was it calculated on their part for one to learn to speak English and the other to not so the children would learn both languages? Or did my great-gra