From 1954 Emigrant, 1958 Immigrant to 1979 US Citizen

United_Kingdom  Canada  United_States  

In August 1954, my wife Doris and I, together with our 12 week old son, Nigel emigrated from England and I went to my first job in Montreal, Canada with L’Air Liquide Corporation.  I had, earlier that day, just handed my Ph.D. thesis to my Chemical Engineering professor at Imperial College, London and three months later, I was told it had been approved and I now had my Chemical Engineering degree.  My thesis was entitled, “The Separation of the Ternary Air System,” which translated, meant I had worked for four years adding a column to an existing liquefaction plant to distill liquid air in order to separate it into its three major components, oxygen, nitrogen and argon.

I worked in searchMontreal for four years designing heat exchangers and distillation columns, the major components of an air separation plant.  I also wrote start-up and operating instructions and on some occasions, went to actual units to train a customer’s personnel in the start-up and operation.

Chrysler_Building_by_David_Shankbone_RetouchedThe manager of our company’s US sales affiliate, American Air Liquide, wanted me to be transferred to his New York office in the Chrysler Building as his Technical Sales Manager and had started investigating what we would have to do to get me, a foreigner, approved to live and work permanently in the United States. He had already got application forms and instructions for applying for legal immigrant “green cards” for me and my family that included at that time in 1958, my wife Doris, her mother who had also emigrated from London and lived with us, our son, Nigel aged 3 ½  and our second son, Nicholas, aged 1 ½.

When I received these, I spent quite a bit of time completing them all because there were so many questions on four pages for each of us, asking about our previous addresses and history.  We were all British subjects and the quota for British applicants in 1958 was quite high and would pose no problem, but for me to be approved to be employed in the States was more complicated. I could only enter in a “Special Skills” category and that required the hiring employer to advertise the position for three consecutive months to see if an American could be found who could adequately fill the position. The advertisement was carefully and deliberately written in detail, saying that an applicant would need to have a Ph.D. with experience in the design and operation of cryogenic gas separation plants.

At that time, the US space program was in its infancy, staffed almost completely by German engineers and scientists who had been brought into the States under the astute President Truman’s “Operation Paper Clip”, in order to prevent their skills being available to the Russians. The Germans, headed by Wernher von Braun knew a lot about rocketry, but there was a shortage of technical support personnel and services such as the adequate supply of liquid oxygen and later, liquid hydrogen.  (See my article, “Working with the Germans” in the “Other” category of my blog.)

Although several engineers applied for the position no-one could meet the standard called for in the advertisement and, with all of this documented and given to the authorities, my family and I were approved as “Landed immigrants to the United States” in December 1957 and received our green cards. I drove our Canadian Ford Meteor down to Rowayton, CT with Doris’ brother, Arthur, in a giant snow storm and with a defective heater and moved into the house I had found and bought on earlier trips.  Arthur, who was a professional painter and decorator, came down to help us with the move-in and to wall-paper the kitchen, one bedroom and do some painting for us.  The rest of the family flew down without incident and by mid-January, we were all in and settled and I began commuting to New York.  (Memories  18 and 19 on my blog describe this part of our lives in more detail).

Nineteen years later, in 1976, by which time we were living in Jacksonville, FL, Doris and I were contemplating a trip back to England for our 25th wedding anniversary in July and at the same time, were considering becoming US citizens.  We did some research and got the necessary forms and instructions to apply for citizenship and we resolved to make a two week trip to England on or near our anniversary date, July 28th and to use that to help us decide whether to remain British citizens or become naturalized US citizens.

We had a nice holiday in England but other than with relatives, we were treated as American tourists and it did not feel like coming home and we decided that we were ready to become naturalized Americans. Back home, in 1978 we finally filled out the application forms including one we had to take to a police station to get fingerprinted, and we submitted them to the authorities.  We then heard nothing for several months other than inquiries from relatives and associates in England and Canada asking why the CID, England’s CIA, had been asking questions about us. This clearly proved how thoroughly we were being investigated in 1978.  When I read immigrant stories today, I wonder how thoroughly the checking is now.

Eventually we were contacted to name the two adult sponsors who would vouch for us.  Our daughter, Melanie who was born in Connecticut in 1958 and at age 20, was eligible to be a sponsor and our next door neighbor in Jacksonville was our second sponsor.  Both of them received forms to complete and submit.

Then early in 1979, we received a notice for us and our sponsors to go to City Hall to be questioned by a judge.  After interviewing our two sponsors, Doris was called in and was questioned by the judge for about 15 minutes and came out red-faced and embarrassed and I was called in.  We had both been warned that we could be asked questions about American history and we had brushed up on some general things such as the number of senators and other Government questions. I was asked where the last battle of the Revolutionary War was fought and luckily I knew that General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, PA.  I was then asked if I had ever committed adultery which was a bit of a shock. Also, had I ever been frequently intoxicated and several fairly personal questions.

After about 15 minutes, I was told that we had both appeared to be suitable applicants and that we would be advised when the next naturalization ceremony was going to be held and that we would probably get invitations.  When I got back to Doris, I found what had upset her.  She had been asked if she had ever committed adultery and if she had ever been a prostitute. I don’t know if questions like this are still being asked and I have not been able to find out.My theory is that there was another quota system and the US had enough prostitutes and people committing adultery.

searchWe received our invitation to the naturalization ceremony that was conducted by the Florida Governor, Bob Graham. The ceremony was quite dramatic starting with trooping of the colors, our first reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and ending with an excellent speech from the Governor that was quite emotional. We noticed no other English speaking new citizens but were told the group of about 50 people included applicants from 17 countries.

Afterwards, Doris and I were honored at a “Yankee Doodle MV5BNjEyOTQwNTM3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQyMzAwMQ@@._V1_UX100_CR0,0,100,100_AL_Party” given by the members of the Jacksonville British-American Club of which I was a past president.  We went home with a lot of gag-gifts, five American flags and seven books on the history of the flag and instructions on how to fly it.  One of our presents was a baseball, an apple pie and a picture of my mother that I thought was very clever.  (Note. Our oldest son, Nigel became a citizen in 1977 and our second son, Nicholas was naturalized in 1986.)

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