NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, March 1972
TWO HUNGARIAN-AMERICAN STEREOTYPES
MR. JOE SZABO and his wife live in a grapevine enmeshed
two-bedroom home in East Chicago’s green area,
only ten miles away from the steel capitol of the United
States. Mr. Szabo is a retired steelworker and still an active man.
He does all kinds of odd jobs and is the warden of the Hungarian
Presbyterian Church. He buys grapes by cart loads and makes his
own wine. Mrs. Szabo’s vegetable patch caters to the strictly Hungarian
diet and the flower seeds sent in air mail letters from the
old country provide a stunning flower carpet for the passers-by to
admire. Yet, this isolate Hungarian microcosm is about to collapse.
There is a poster on the front lawn of the house: “Home
Joseph Szabo was born on a manorial estate of Szabolcs
County. Like other itinerant tobacco growers, he served on different
estates and like 75 per cent of migrant agricultural laborers
in the County, he also tried to find his luck in America. A
chain-migration and remigration trend became established in the
1880s and continued to flow back and forth for several decades.
It was not as big an adventure to cross the ocean as one would
imagine. Migration for seeking job opportunities to merely provide
subsistence was common among these people. Once the kin
had taken care of the financing of travel expenses, the American
venture was not too risky in comparison with the expected outcome. The job seekers knew where to go from the moment they left home. They were welcomed and aided by old friends and
relatives in the large American industrial centers where unskilled
jobs were available and the immigrants were protected from the
outside world. The migrant who joined his peers in America
wanted to work as much as he could and to stay as long as it was
necessary to achieve his ultimate goal: to make enough money to
purchase a farm in his home town and become a good farmer.
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