In 1966, my dad started out his pursuit in finding the American Dream by flying from Taipei to San Francisco and taking the Greyhound bus to Mississippi (took 5 days) to get his Graduate degree in Agricultural Engineering for 2 years. Then he went to West Virginia for 4 months and started looking for jobs because he was low on money. For 45 days he went from city to city on bus looking for a job. Pittsburgh, PA to Youngstown, OH to Cleveland, OH and ran out of money. He then asked a friend in Chicago to send him $50 to pay rent at a YMCA and took a Greyhound to Chicago and stayed with that friend while continuing to look for jobs. On the second day he was there, he got a job at White Motor Company to work on military trucks.
During the 4 years that my Dad was in the U.S., him and my mom wrote love letters back and forth to each other. He talked to Dean when he was at West Virginia to see if my Mom could get a scholarship for school there and he was successful. My mom came to the US for Masters in Statistic and Computer Science for 2 years, although my Dad at that time had started working at Ford Motor Company in Michigan and they still weren’t “together” yet. Then they went back to Taiwan to get married in 1972.
After that, my mom went back to West Virginia to finish her dissertation and then graduated. Throughout that time at school, she got a $200 stipend and mailed back $100 to her parents each month (for 3 years). Then my mom’s friend convinced her that she wasn’t really a student until she worked (although most students get Summer jobs before they graduate, they decided to do it after), so she went to a friend to Upstate NY to work as a chambermaid for 1 month. But on July 4, my Dad drove there from Michigan and told her that with a graduate degree, she could get a better job that fit her degree. My Dad also got his Master in Mechanical Engineering again from The University of Michigan (which would eventually be me and my brother’s alma maters too). Then my Mom got a job at Becktol while my dad was still at Ford Motor Company, where she made $800 a month, $9600 a year salary. My Dad at that time was making roughly $12,000 a year salary. They moved around a couple more times and finally knew they wanted to settle on living in Ann Arbor, MI (where I grew up) and when they went to look for a house their realtor thought she was an 18 year old secretary (that didn’t make a lot of money), but he was definitely mistaken. The house that they purchased was $32,000. And then they had my brother and 8 years later had me.
Back at that time, there were not a lot of wives that were working, but my mom always had a steady job. My mom always helped out the community, was a great person for her friends to go to when they had troubled times and her friends really respected her. In our house, while growing up, we also hosted numerous cousins from Asia and even my mom’s brother. My mom worked hard for the American Dream so that she could provide for my dad and her, but also her family. All throughout my childhood and on into my college years, both of my parents worked and were able to provide shelter, food, education and luxuries for my brother and I that I could never fully repay.
My parents made so many sacrifices so that their future generations could have a better opportunity, higher quality of life, more freedom and a better living situation. It’s going to be so hard to follow in their footsteps but the best I can do is try.
And it’s with that history and background, that I am able to build my own American Dream. My husband and I both work as Consultants for a Healthcare IT company, something so ahead of its time with a goal of saving lives. We both work hard so that we can provide the best life for our children, the way our parents did for us. Times have really changed since my dad took his first flight out here in 1966. My parents had to go through the struggle of money so that I didn’t. And there’s struggles and sacrifices I am making so my children can have an even better life than me.
Photography by LC Photography
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