To Be An American

A cafe in a small Texas town


Trench Warfare

Immigrants. If you don’t have a feather in your hair, you’re not from here!

What does it mean to be an American? The fervor to stem the tide of illegal entries into our republic has sparked debate ranging from the patriotic to the asinine. We are a nation of immigrants. If you don’t have a feather in your hair, you’re not from here! When the Pilgrims set their feet on Plymouth Rock they were guests of the original inhabitants of the land. The rules of immigration were simply to live through the winter, and the Indians were there to help with that.


Migrant workers were not considered to be a big problem

Through the years, as times changed, those rules changed too. The Tex-Mex border didn’t even exist because it was first Spain, and later, Mexico. Eventually it became the Republic of Texas, and the border was patrolled, but migrant workers were not considered to be a big problem.

The dream of those people was to be an American. They had no intention of bringing the “old country” with them to the New World

Not all immigrants to America came across the Rio Grande. A lot of them landed at the Port of New York, doing time at Ellis Island. The dream of those people was to be an American. They had no intention of bringing the “old country” with them to the New World. That’s why they came in the first place, to leave the old behind, and embrace the new.

Joe Safady, from Syria, was such a man. Coming here around 1916, he too, wanted to be an American. I don’t know what brought him here, but whatever it was drove him to join the Army, and fight in the trenches of World War I.


Beginnings in a small Texas town


When “Mr. Joe” returned, he found his way across the country to Texas. By that time World War II was starting, and Camp Hood was being formed near a town called Killeen. Killeen was situated near the junction of The Chisolm and Goodnight Loving Trails. Killeen had been the rail head, where cattle were loaded, and shipped north. Those days were over, but with war, and a military post, the rejuvenation of the area seemed possible. Mr. Joe saw an opportunity to start a small business. A café. He had American money taped to cardboard by the cash register with the denominations written in Syrian so he could make change.

In time there were three cafés, and apartments. Anything the soldier needed, Mr. Joe provided. In the back of his Blue Bonnet Café there was a table on the patio facing the railroad. It was for the down and out, the hobos, the homeless, and now immigrants from Korea, and Vietnam.There was always a bowl of soup for them. This tells me a little about what may have driven Joe out of Syria.


New hospital for children

Another incident in his life was indicative. He returned for a visit to Syria in the ‘60’s. While there, he observed children dying of disease that he’d forgotten about since landing in New York. Two million dollars later the children lived! The children had a new hospital.


”Who buy twenty-five cent cup of coffee?”

Mr. Joe returned to continue to invest, bring relatives over, and help. During one meeting of his board of directors, one member of his family suggested raising the price of a cup of coffee from ten to twenty-five cents. Mr. Joe looked at him in amazement, and then asked, in his broken English, “Who buy twenty-five cent cup of coffee?” He inspired many. He inspired one kid he hired to be a busboy in a café. Five dollars a day, from his hand to mine. The value of hard work and capitalism. THAT’S what it means to be an American!

The Butcher Shop
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