To illustrate my point I think I shall tell you a little story (a true story incidentally):
On June 13, 1902 the S. S. Commonwealth of the Dominion Lines docked at Boston, and a young man from faraway Sweden went ashore, first seeing in reality the American shores which previously he had visited only in his dreams. After passing through certain formalities at the Port of Boston, he (together with other immigrants) was loaded into a horse-drawn sort of "Black Maria" and taken to the railroad terminal and put on a train for an inland city, which was his destination according to his ticket and passport. At 11:00 PM, he was "shooed" off the train into a gloomy old railroad station together with a companion who had come with him on the long journey. There was no reception committee, and the two friends had no place to go. Suddenly they heard a voice speaking in their Swedish language, "Who are you looking for, fellows?" The answer was that they were not looking for anyone in particular; they did not know where to go; could he advise them where they could get some place to sleep? The man who had spoken to them was dressed in a sort of uniform (cap and denim overalls), and it appeared that he was employed by the railroad. He told them that they had better come home with him and sleep overnight. They were taken care of in splendid fashion by this stranger-friend and his family and stayed there for three or four days. Through the efforts of this newly-made acquaintance they made contact with other people who had come over on the same boat and who were living with friends, so that arrangements were made for a more permanent location, and later for obtaining work of some sort.
The young man had left his childhood home in Sweden a few weeks previous to his arrival at Boston and had told his mother that within five years he would be back to visit with her again, not expecting at that time that he would never again see his mother and father, and it would be many long years before he would again see the old two room cabin where he had spent his early boyhood years.
But in 1929 the boy came back to the little red cabin to
see the old familiar places, to visit the graves of his good parents and to
dream and live again in memory his boyhood. He could see in memory the time
when he began traveling to school--walking the distance of more than four
miles each day. He could remember
the time when, as a 12 year old, he was sent out to help support the family by
watching the cattle in the fields from morning till night all summer. He
recalled the time when he was fourteen when he left home to do a man's work
and never again came back to the old family home except for short visits. He also remembered how he worked as a riveter's helper at the
age of fifteen or sixteen, working long, long hours, and how at eighteen he
worked in a brick factory carrying fifty raw bricks on a wheel barrow to the
ovens. He thought of the time when he was working in the road building
gang--hard, laborious work--running the wheelbarrow "with the best of
them". He was thinking of
the time he served for a season in the Swedish Army under the compulsory
training system--and finally how he left home to travel to the land of his
dreams, and waving goodbye to his mother, never to see her again.
The arrival in this country posed problems--coming in as
he did with a capital of $30 which had been borrowed from a friend and which
had to be repaid. A few days after arrival he set out to seek work, wandering
around the city with a boy he had met who could speak a little English. They
stumbled into a blacksmith's shop and looked at the men working there on heavy
ironwork. A big gruff fellow who seemed to be in charge met up with them and
said, "What are you looking for?" As no answer was forthcoming, the
man spoke in the Swedish language, again asking what they were looking for. It
finally ended up with the young man's accepting a job as a blacksmith's
helper. He remained with the blacksmith for a period of three weeks.
In the fall of that same year he entered evening school
for the purpose of learning the English language. Meanwhile a job had been
obtained for him by a man who had dedicated his life to assisting immigrants.
This work was in a factory producing coffee machinery for South
American countries. He worked
here for almost two years, at the end of which period he had charge of a
department building these machines. This advancement had been gained because
of his ability to read blue prints; he had learned this in the old country as
In the fall and winter of that second year the business
depression set in and many people were walking the streets in search of work.
During the entire winter the young man was out of work and finally landed in a
factory making valentines (of all things) and drew the fabulous salary of 8.00
per week. This temporary job lasted six months, and again he had time on his
hands to watch the street parade going by. This free time was, however, not
spent in idleness but in reading a great deal, for by this time he had
acquired a pretty fair control in speaking, reading and writing the English
He had been taking his meals at a boarding house in the downtown
district, and one day he found himself entirely out of funds and unable to pay
the weekly amount for his board. He
then decided to quit the boarding house and leave the city to go west, so he
arranged to borrow enough money for the fare, The owner of the boarding house
tried to talk him into staying and said he could stay as long as he cared to,
and when he got back to work to could repay whatever and whenever he could.
The husband of the boarding house lady who worked in a shoe factory came in
and heard the discussion and said to the young man, "Go over with me to
the factory and see what is going on there."
After showing him around the factory, the older man said, "Do you
think you could do this work?" It looked fairly simple, and the young
fellow tried it. When he was
working at the machine, the owner of the factory came into the room and
bellowed: "Who let you in here? What are you doing here?"
The man who had invited him into the factory told the manufacturer a
little of the story, and the boss offered the young man a job lasting shoes.
This was a new experience, and naturally it took some time to get used to it;
but after about a year's work in the shoe factory, he found them turning over
to him the best shoes made in the factory, as he had by that time apparently
become the best laster in the room. Then
another shoe factory in the same town sent an emissary looking for his
services and, over the protests of the first factory owners, he left to go to
a better position in a new factory. This was in 1905.
In 1904 he had taken a position as a salesman in one of
the city's largest shoe stores as an extra for Saturdays--this Saturday job he
kept up for several years. In
those days the stores were open late Saturday nights--it was a long workday.
Early in 1906 he became a family man, marrying a girl who
had also come from Sweden some years previous, and the ambition to go West had
finally lost its appeal.
During the following year the shoemaker stuck to his
last, and at the end of the year in summing up his riches, he found that he
had earned the magnificent sum of $12.07 per week.
This did not seem to be so promising, and finally our man decided to
embark on some business of his own.
Again on borrowed money he set out to buy a horse and a wagon and began
to pick up customers in a teas coffees butter and egg business.
In 1907 a visitor came to the family, a cute little baby girl.
The tea and coffee business seemed to progress fairly. During three uneventful years the business was carried on,
and at the end of that period it was fair to say that he had the best looking
outfit of that sort of business in his city. But in 1909 bad luck struck the
enterprise. An epidemic of
typhoid struck the city and some neighboring towns, and our tea and coffee
merchant was one of the victims. For almost six months he was incapacitated by
this sickness. His good wife in
the meantime had to try to care for the horse and business the best she could.
Naturally after such a period the little business had suffered, and in the
fall of 1909 it was decided to sell the equipment and close up shop.
Another little girl visitor had arrived by that time; the family now
consisted of four members. During
the time the business had been carried on, he had made the acquaintance of a
man who was a police officer in the city, and who had repeatedly urged him to
take the examination for the Police Department. Finally, and before he had
become Ill with typhoid, he had entered and taken such an examination.
In the fall of 1909 he was informed that he had successfully passed the
examination and was eligible for appointment to the Police Department.
It should have been mentioned before this that in 1907 he had become a
citizen of the United States by naturalization.
Late in the autumn of 1909 he had taken a position as salesman in a
large centrally located store handling silverware and fine china, but this job
was terminated by his appointment to the Police Department of his city on
January 10, 1910. The machinist, shoemaker, salesman and teaist had become a
After his appointment--in 1913--another little visitor came to the
family, another girl; the family now consisted of five members.
The police work, stretching over a period of seven years, had many
interesting experiences that could be recounted, but probably nothing more
unusual than what has happened to most police officers with the exception of
an incident, which happened in April 1917.
The policeman was standing on a crossing doing traffic duty when an
excited little man came up saying, "Someone down to our house trying to
shoot my daughter."
The policeman immediately left his post to go with the old man. Coming
to a five-story brick block, the old man said, "He is on the back
The policeman ran up the to the fourth floor landing.
A shot barked out, and he felt a sting in his right arm.
The arm seemed to be useless, but he still went on up the next flight
of stairs. As he neared the top,
another shot rang out and hit the right arm again.
Still a few more steps. He
got at the sharpshooter, and then fainted.
When he regained consciousness, he saw two soldiers taking charge of
the man he had been after, and one soldier bending over him trying to stop the
flow of blood. (The soldiers
happened to be passing and were alerted when they heard the shots ring out).
The officer's right arm had been shattered near the shoulder by the first
bullet, and the artery cut in two places.
He was taken to the hospital and was critically ill for several weeks.
Before this accident happened the policeman, at the age of 33, had
begun the study of law at a law school in Boston. As he had not had a high
school education, he was required to take necessary courses in toe preparatory
school before completing his law school course. Through the generosity of the
Chief of the Police Department and the Captain in charge of his station he had
been allowed to arrange his work so as to be on duty from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
daily; he then took a train to Boston at 5:00 PM, attended classes and came
back home about mid-night each day. At the time of the shooting referred to he
had three years of study completed--one year of the four-year course
remaining. The accident seemed to be the end of the road so far as the law
study was concerned. One day when he was in the hospital a huge basket full of
large American Beauty Roses was carried into his room with a note from his
classmates in law school; this appeared to our man as a funeral bouquet to his
ambitions. But he had some good
friends who said, "Never give up."
One of his classmates in law school had taken notes in shorthand of
every lecture that was given, transcribed them
and forwarded them daily to the hospital.
Although a thorough study could not be made of cases, it was possible
to keep up in a fair way with the work of the class to the end of the season.
At the time the class was taking the third year examinations our
policeman was on his back in the hospital and of course unable to participate
in the examination.
After he got out of the hospital in the fall of 1917, he
learned that the broken bones in the arm had failed to knit. The arm was enclosed in a brace of leather and steel, and the
only remedy would be to undergo an operation, which no one in his city was
willing to undertake. A year later an operation on the arm was made by a
skillful surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, with a good
that time, carrying the arm in a sling, our policeman made a visit to the law
school and interviewed the Dean of the school.
He asked the Dean to give a special examination in subjects that he had
not participated in with the rest of the class in the spring.
A deep frown on the face of the Dean was practically the answer at
Then the Dean said, "If you care to take a make-up
examination with some of the boys that failed in the regular examination, I
will permit you to enter.”
This proposal did not seem to set well with our
policeman, and he informed the Dean that he had never failed in an examination
and would not step into a make-up examination with those who had failed. He
requested a special examination. After some conferences the Dean agreed by
informing him that he would have to pay the price of setting up an examination
and of a proctor to supervise.
A day was finally set for the three examinations that
would take place in the school. It was a painful and hard task to write three
examinations with the arm in a sling, but they were finally completed at five
o'clock in the afternoon--after a long, grueling day.
Two weeks thereafter our man received a letter from the Dean of the
school together with the marks of the examinations. There were three nice looking "A’s" and a letter
stating that in view of the fact that such marks had been made In the exams
the dean desired to congratulate him and
inform him that the Faculty had voted to make no charge for the
examination. So in the fall of
1917 he was still a member of the class and attended the lectures for the last
year of the course, still with h1s arm in the brace and sling.
Albert T. Wall Maria S. Wall
In the meantime, in 1917 our police officer had developed
ambitions to become a representative to the Massachusetts General Court from his
district and had started a campaign for his election.
He was still a member of the police department, although unable to be on
active duty due to his injury in the service.
One day he picked up a newspaper and noticed that there was a possibility
of his being discharged from the Police Department or suspended by reason of
having entered into politics. He paid a visit to the Chief of the department and
was told that the City Law Officer had recently made a ruling that he would
either have to quit the race for representative or give up his membership in the
department. After some conferences
with the Chief, he handed in his resignation as a member of the department and
set out in real earnest to campaign for the representative nomination, now
having no salary and a wife and
three young children to support.
As usual in
such cases, he saw some of the so-called "leaders"
of the party and was promptly told that there was no
place for him in that category and
that a man had already been selected to make a
run for the position, and that this
man would have their support. He
was very gently
and definitely told to step out of the
race or take defeat. Instead of
quitting the race, the campaign was
intensified; a campaign club was formed
of young men in the district who
were real friends
of the police officer. They
held meetings weekly (sometimes twice a week);
ginger ale and homemade doughnuts were served
by the policeman's wife, and the club became known as the "Ginger
Club". This little club had plenty of ginger--and to
make a long story short, at the end of the campaign when the
votes had been counted, our ex-police officer
had rolled up a 2 to 1 vote against
the man picked by the political bosses.
It might be noted, too, that wifely
ambition went alongside the husband's every
effort; and in this particular campaign
she went from house to house throughout the district
ringing doorbells, talked with the housewives and left literature with them asking for their support in her husband's campaign.
to Right -- Doris, Albert, Vera,
In 1918, after taking his
seat as a representative in the General Court, he graduated from
law school Cum Laude and in the same year passed the Massachusetts
Bar examinations and entered into practicing of law in his city.
He served five years in the Legislature in the House of Representatives,
the last two years of his term being Chairman of the Committee on Legal Affairs.
The following year he sought election to the Senate, but was defeated.
Then he settled down to the practice of law in the city, tried many cases
in court, and in general carried on the practice as ordinarily carried on by
Three “red letter” years should be noted, 1929 the
first daughter was graduated with honor from college; in 1931 the second
daughter graduated from college: and
in 1935 the youngest her college degree.
1929, as previously stated, he visited his old childhood home. It was in the fall of that year that the Judge of the
district Court in that city died, and the first special, or assistant, to the
Judge moved up to take his place. Almost
every practicing attorney at some time or another has visions of becoming a
judge, and such a vision flashed into view of our ex-politician.
He became a candidate for the vacancy in the court, and on the 20th day
of November he was appointed Justice of the District Court by the Governor of
his state. He served for
18 years in that capacity, resigning in 1947 to again take up the practice of
law independently at which he is at the present time (1954) engaged, dividing
his time to some extent between the work of the office and long weekends at his
place "Beachover" on Cape Cod.
To sum up (after this little story I have presented to
you) I would say that there is not needed so much any special ability, but
rather a readiness to accept opportunities as they are offered—being prepared
to open the door when opportunity knocks, for it may not knock a second time.
I would say that anyone with the will to work and with reasonable good
fortune can gain an education in this land of ours, and by education I mean
advancement in whatever field chosen.
There are, of course, hundreds of such stories more thrilling and more successful that could be told, but I have chosen this little story to illustrate that our land is the land of opportunity, because:
subject of my story happens to be MY DAD.
by Linnea Wall Parker for presentation to a ladies literary group, in about
The pictures were discovered and added in 2005
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