It is hard to believe that anyone could have a more agreeable personality than Ms. Bridie Joyce who we have gotten to know over the years due to mutual participation in activities at the West Side Irish American Club (WSIA) in Olmsted Falls; in fact, in February 2014 she was named its Mother of the Year!
Accordingly, we asked her for an interview for “I, Foreign-Born” which she was not only quick to grant, but she invited us to her home for tea and raisin scones (i.e. a staple in Ireland) which she made herself. Thus we attempted to take notes between sips of tea and nibbles of scones that we were reluctant to put down because the taste was so good. We soon learned that Bridie was born in a rural section of Galway County, Ireland where her parents owned a farm and raised eight children, including Bridie, who very much enjoyed growing up there.
Let it be noted, however, that years earlier, Bridie’s dad had journeyed to the New England area of the United States where he ultimately enlisted in the U.S Armed Forces and fought for the United States and our allies during World War I. Afterwards, he lived in the U.S. for years before returning to Ireland and settling down with Bridie’s mom. Nevertheless, her dad had developed a genuine love for the United States and encouraged his children to immigrate here.
At first, however, Bridie wanted to explore other venues so in 1954, when she was seventeen, she traveled to London (where one of her brothers lived) and worked as a nanny for a year before taking a break and returning to Galway where she at last decided that it was time to take her dad’s advice and venture to the United States to join her brother John in Cleveland, Ohio. Thus, in early 1956, at age nineteen, Bridie begin her adventure by traveling to New York City aboard the “Britannia” and arriving here on April 11th, 1956, a date she will always remember.
When we mentioned the film, “Brooklyn” about a young Irish woman (i.e. played by Ms. Sairose Ronan) who comes to the United States via ship in that exact same time period, Bridie nodded her head and smiled as she said that she could really relate to what the heroine was going through in terms of both seasickness and homesickness.
Anyway, after seven days and seven nights at sea, Bridie arrived in New York where she stayed with yet another relative for a brief period while she recovered from her journey. Then Bridie was lovingly escorted to the train station and given a bag of apples and oranges that she could munch on during the final lap of her journey to Cleveland along with $20 that her relative slipped in her pocket. To be sure, it was a long overnight trip but upon arrival, she was warmly greeted by her brother, John, and her Uncle Pete. What’s more, Bridie remembers that since it was Sunday morning they all went to mass at St. Michael’s Church on Scranton Road before returning to John’s home in Parma where a “Welcome to America” party awaited her. A short time later, though, the husband of one of her aunts passed away so Bridie moved in with her aunt near the corner of West 97th Street and Denison Avenue and remained there until she was married in 1964.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let us note that a priority for Bridie was gainful employment so she took a job at Stouffer’s where she worked as a waitress and a hostess. Her employers so much liked her work that she was selected to help open their locales at Pier W in Lakewood and even in New York City. When she wasn’t hard at work at Stouffer’s, Bridie did what many young Irish immigrants were doing at the time which was to socialize at the WSIA Club located, at that time, on Madison Avenue in Cleveland.
It was at the WSIA that she met her husband, Terry, who was a business agent for Local 310, and after a five-year courtship they were married in 1964 and settled into a home on Warren Road where they lived for thirty-four years and raised a family consisting of themselves, their daughters Maureen and Eileen born in 1966 and 1967 respectively and their son, Terry, Jr. born in 1969. Subsequently, when the children started to arrive, Bridie terminated her position at Stouffer’s and focused on being a full-time homemaker and mother. And it proved to be a wise choice because all three of her children are doing quite well today; Eileen is a home health care nurse, Maureen works with attorneys at the Justice Center, and Terry, Jr. followed in his dad’s footsteps and is, himself, a business agent at Local 310. Plus, Bridie is delighted to be a grandmother to four children at this time. Sadly, Bridie’s husband Terry, Sr. passed away in October, 2009 but he left Bridie with many wonderful memories and she is quite comfortable living in the home that they shared for twenty-six years in Rocky River. Plus she loves to visit family members still living in Ireland including another brother and some twenty nieces and nephews as she has done every two years since 1970.
When we asked Bridie about when she became a citizen, she told us about a policy that we were previously unaware of which was, that, for many years, children of veterans (i.e. Bridie’s dad) were granted automatic U.S. citizenship; a pathway that was taken advantage of by her brother, John. By the time that Bridie investigated it, though, the policy had been terminated. Yet she studied and took the various tests and proudly became a United States citizen in 1962.
When we asked her about what she loves about the United States, she told us that, without exception, she loves her adopted country; in fact, she couldn’t think of anything about it she doesn’t like. Of course, she naturally loves Ireland too and looks forward to each visit.
In terms of cultural adjustment, Bridie is very grateful for having a very supportive family ready to greet her when she first arrived in the United States so the transition was a relatively smooth one. Oh sure, she went through a phase at Stouffer’s when people couldn’t understand some of the things that she was saying due to her brogue but, and Bridie chuckled as she said this if that was the only problem that she had then she was quite fortunate.
Before we left, we stayed on for a few minutes because Bridie warmed-up our tea (we were busy taking notes so we did not finish the initial cup) and offered us another scone. We then truly enjoyed visiting with each other as friends which indicates how warm and accepting Bridie is and we wouldn’t want her any other way.