Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Slavic Workers of a Packing Town

A Typical Immigrant Community

The following account of the conditions in a city in the Central West of 82,000 was not written for publication. It is a report of one of the missionaries of the Home Board's Department of Immigration, a graduate of Western Seminary, a devoted worker and a careful observer. It may in particular be of interest to those broad-minded folk who ask what business the Protestant Church has in seeking to set up work among these people from Roman Catholic countries. This added sentence from the report of the missionary carries with it a world of sigpificance, as bearing upon many similar enterprises. "Our mission is not a center of American Christian life in the sense of your inquiry, nor could it be without great self-denial and sacrifice on the part of the American Christians."

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

this city; no other priest will render any religious service to the Croatians, nor will the Croatian priest interfere with the Krainian, Polish or Slovak priests in their plan to collect money from their own people. So that those that feel the oppression of the priest have no chance to get away. I know many people who consider the school tax for their children too heavy and yet they dare not send the children to the public school. There are other children who started and continued for some years in the public school and now go to the Croatian school. I asked some of the parents and also some of the children why they do so. The answer is, “They don't teach anything in the public school. They do not teach us how to pray. The public school is no good.” Those a little more intelligent upon whose religious feelings the priest cannot play, are compelled to submission by the public announcement of their names in the church. I know of three cases of this kind.

The Krainians are next in number. (Ed.-Reference probably to the Slovenians from Carniola or Krain.) They also have a church and a school of their own. Their priest used to come almost every day and look through the window into the kindergarten to

see if there were any of the children of his people attending. Sometimes they sent spies in the Sunday school. If he saw me going into any home, he too would walk in without knocking, or if I would stop on the street and begin to talk with some of his people, if he was anywhere around, he would pass by several times, or would stop and begin talking with the man, ignoring my presence entirely. The sisters, (nuns) also used to cross and recross the street around the mission to see what was going on. Now, we have a new Krainian priest.

The Servians, next in number, belong to the Greek Church and have a small chapel. They have a Montenegrin for a priest. The Russians also attend that church. This priest, though very fanatical, is a man with a very friendly disposition. We visited him and he and his wife visited the mission to see us. The Servians, Croatians and Krainians are about

[graphic]

A Young Slavic Bride.

the same kind of people, with the same traits -easy-going, careless, hard drinking and very superstitious.

The Poles come next. Stronger Catholics, it seems to me, than the Croatians. They have their own church and school. Also a society in the form of the fraternal orders, but with a very strong Catholic tendency. Though the Slovaks live scattered, yet they have a church of their own but no school. They are too few to have a school. The Russians live scattered among the Poles and often occupy the very same house with the Polish. The last almost without an exception speak Russian and the Russians speak and read Polish.

There are a few Lithuanian families whose language I do not understand at all. The Bulgarians live on James street. There is only one other Bulgarian woman in this city be-' sides my wife and she came only about a month ago. The rest of the Bulgarians are men who have come to this country to make poor who tell me that they got along better, had a job all the time and lots of money when they did not know English. The boss, preferred them because then they just worked like beasts and did not know when the boss was swearing at them.

Though our city is "dry,” yet the men get all the beer they want. Even the poorest of them get a case of beer every Saturday night. Sunday is a day of drinking and merrymaking with many of them. The beer is distributed to the homes by the brewers' agents on big wagons. The morality of the people is at a very low ebb.

a little money and then go home. They are transient. They have no church. They spend their winters in the city, and in the summer work out at railroad construction, pipe plants, quarries, and so forth. In the winter, quite a number of them attended our services occasjonally. Bulgarians, Polish and Russians are great card and pool players and gamble a good deal.

It has been asked to what extent these Slavic people are interested in America and American life. The majority of the Croatians on our field have come to stay. Many of them own their homes and others are ambitious to get one. However, in many of these homes there are a great number of boarders who have their families in Europe, and all they are after is to make some money and go back home. However, with the life they live they are saving money very slowly, if any at all. Those Croatians who have been here for quite a number of years could not help but learn some English. There are a few quite prosperous business men among them who badly need a better knowledge of English. But as a rule, most of these people work in the packing houses with their own countrymen and do not seem to need any English. While many have told me that they would like to learn the language, they have yet found all kinds of excuses not to come to our classes. Here and there I find a group of men whose knowledge of English is very

The parochial school is a great curse to these people. It would be a decided gain to this country and to the foreign people themselves if they could be made to send their children to the public schools, and if care were taken that the teachers in those schools should be men and women of sterling Christian character,

Until then, it will be an entirely uphill work to civilize and Americanize the foreigner. Everything seems to surround him with an impregnable wall. They go to church with their own people, they take their schooling together, they work in the packing houses together, they drink by themselves, they trade at the stores of their own countrymen. The school will be the only place where they will come in touch with Americans and American civilization.

English Classes for Immigrants

BY THE REV. PAUL FOX, BALTIMORE.

T

HE first need of the immigrant is a

knowledge of the English language.

On his arrival in this country he finds himself not only in a new and strange land, but also face to face with a new and strange language. His mother tongue has, on his landing, become a useless medium of communication. It no longer conveys his wishes and wants to the people about him; nor does it enable him to understand theirs. In order to understand the people with whom he comes into touch in this new and strange land and to make himself understood, he must have a new medium of communication-a knowledge of the English

language. He needs it everywhere and at all times, from the time he sets his foot on American soil to the time he takes it off. He needs it at the port of entry, at the railroad station, on the train, in the shop, on the street, in the store, at the bank and at the post office. A knowledge of English is indispensable to him here in all his relations of life, and without it he is handicapped on every hand, economically, politically and socially. He can neither make the most of himself, nor can he contribute his best to this country's institutions and life. Then, too, on account of his inability to understand the language of the land and to

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic]

Rev. Paul Fox, pastor,

English Class: St. Paul's Presbyterian Congregation (Polish), Baltimore.

stands at the rear center.

they be instructed in the elements of the English language. The duty to furnish such instruction rests, in the first instance, with our public educational system. It is the duty of public education to fit prospective citizens, whether born here or elsewhere, whether children or adults, for a place of greatest possible social usefulness. Upon the faithful discharge of this duty by the public schools depends the general welfare and progress of the country. If our public schools fail to do everything in their power to furnish our citizens of foreign birth with a knowledge of English, it is not these citizens alone that are going to suffer. Our country will suffer along

Opportunity of the Church. Along with the public schools the Church, too, can render a most excellent service to the immigrants by organizing and conducting English classes among them. Her duty to do that may be only secondary. But her opportunity for service along this line is unquestioned. There are situations where the public schools either have failed to recognize their duty toward the foreign population, or for some reason have been unable to discharge it, and where, if anything is to be done for the immigrants, the Church must do it, or else it will be left undone. Again, there are situations where the service of the public schools is insufficient, and needs to be supplemented by private enterprise, and where the Church is the most logical institution to render the needed supplementary educational service. Moreover, the Church can conduct English classes for immigrants in a way that no other institution can surpass her in the doing of it even though it may rival her; namely, in a spirit of genuinely sympathetic brotherliness,-a spirit, an attitude that is more helpful to a stranger in a strange land than the very best equipment without it. If, then, the Church wishes to be true to her mission of brotherly helpfulness, here is her opportunity to render both to the strangers within our gates and to our country a much needed and an exceedingly valuable service. And by the cheerful performance of it she will not only prove her faithfulness to her mission, but also will make it possible for herself to be of still greater service to these people from across the seas in the sphere of the larger and higher life.

A Workable Method. As to the instruction of immigrants in English, this must be simple, practical and interesting. It must be simple so that the pupils can grasp the elements of English easily regardless of their previous training and their aptitude for learning a language. It must be practical so that the members of the class can use at once what they have learned, and can see the practical value and usefulness of their class work. If they can apply to the needs of their daily life and work what they learn in class, they will not only appreciate the value of their study, but also make better progress in the mastery of the language. It must be interesting so that the students do not grow tired of it, and their interest in the work, even of the slowest, can be sustained to the end. There are comparatively few of us that are able to attend to an uninteresting study for any length of time, no matter how valuable it may be and however much we may need a knowledge

of it. And greater effort and application must not be expected of the average immigrant than can be expected of the average man.

The class work must consist of constant practice in the pronunciation of English words, of reading simple sentences and stories, of writing from dictation, and of grammar lessons introduced and illustrated concretely and practically. By no means can grammar be taught abstractly. If it is, it will be the death of the class.

That the pupils may make reasonable progress in the mastery of English, from two to three nights a week must be given to the work. Care must be taken that extremes are avoided. If too little time is given to the study, progress is slow, and discouragement is likely to result. If too much time is taken up, the pupils, who are usually men and women already overworked, find the work too burdensome, and are liable to give it up.

The best time for this work is the winter season, when the nights are long, the weather comfortably cool and bracing, and outdoor attractions few. The summer ordinarily is too trying on account of its hot weather and too demoralizing to do any serious work on account of its many outdoor attractions.

Ordinarily it is well to charge a nominal tuition fee. It covers the cost of materials used, makes the pupils appreciate the instruction more because they pay for it and insures more faithful attendance because they want to get their money's worth.

Some of the best “English Lessons” prepared for immigrants, known to the writer, are Dr. Peter Roberts' English for Coming Americans, and A Reader for Coming Americans; Miss Edith Waller's English for Italians and Mrs. Mary Clark Barnes' Early Stories and Songs. They are all well arranged and exceedingly practical. They can be used to advantage both with beginning and advanced classes.

"What is the immigrant doing for us right now? Building our railroads, laying the gaspipes in our streets, burrowing out our cellars, driving spikes and digging ditches, doing our dirty work. He is doing all that, slaving that our homes and marts may wear their sheen." -World Missions from the Home Base," by

“We have got sooner or later to learn how to live in cities and make them decent enough to live in. The modern immigrant has come over to tell us we would better get at the business sooner, when there is still good chance of our succeeding at it."-"World Missions from the Home Base," by: Jos. Ernest McAfee.

« PreviousContinue »