By Lotti Eichhorn
I was born and raised in Switzerland. By 1960 I was in my mid-twenties and ready for a change. I was not escaping but I needed something new. So, I applied for a visa to the United States. In October 1961, I traveled by train to Germany and in Bremerhaven I boarded the SS Bremen for my transatlantic crossing.
Early on the morning of November 2, 1961, I watched from the deck as we passed the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island before entering New York harbor. I was greeted by my mother’s cousin and then spent a week at her home in Flushing, which was my base for sightseeing in New York and visiting with my grandmother’s sister in upper Manhattan. I spoke English fluently, so I did not need a guide to get around. On the weekend, my relatives treated me to a performance in Radio City Music Hall.
At the end of the week, I boarded a Greyhound bus to Boston. A cousin of my father lived there with her husband and her mother and they had provided the affidavit for my visa. I settled into their guest room and soon met the rest of their family. I was also introduced to the classified section of The Boston Globe, as I intended to find a job as soon as possible.
A tiny ad caught my eye: A travel agency was looking for an employee in the overseas department. It was the same kind of job I’d done back home. On Monday morning I gathered up my recommendations and took the streetcar to the agency.
A nice gentleman named Wilson interviewed me and gave me a test: calculate the fare for a multiple-stop international plane trip, using the provided fare book. I failed, because in Zurich we simply called the airline to do that for us. Mr. Wilson patiently explained the method that was used in Boston and gave me a similar problem. I solved it. He told me that one of the owners would need to approve my hiring and asked me to return at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning. I returned as asked and introduced myself to the boss, who said: “Why aren’t you working yet?” Thus, after five days in Boston, including a weekend, I was gainfully employed. I promptly looked for my own housing, as I had no intention of being a longtime houseguest. I did not know yet whether my stay would be temporary or permanent, but I felt that the United States had welcomed me with open arms. I never regretted coming here.
Postscript: Lotti met and married her husband of 53 years after moving to Washington, D.C. in 1963. She became a U.S. citizen in 1967, while pregnant with their second child. She was motivated to become a voter partly because women in Switzerland did not obtain that right until four years later.