Chuck Bino: Inspiration from children of immigrants

Mar. 16, 2013 @ 07:23 PM

A summertime visit to an old neighborhood back in the early 1950s comes to mind.  It was the “Chrome” section of town, which hundreds of laborers at the “Copper Works” factory in Carteret, N.J., called their home.  Chrome and copper seemed like appropriate names. 
As was the custom for social visits to their homes with friends and co-workers, particularly on Sunday afternoons, my Dad took me along this time. I was 10 years old, and the Toth brothers in our host’s family were easily six years my seniors.  Their basement really impressed me. One of them controlled the front part with shelves of chemical samples, beakers, test tubes, and strange odors which were pungent and unwelcome. The other boy’s half had a selection of electronic parts, cables, meters, radio equipment and soldering irons.  The vapor from the hot resin when soldering components together was rather pleasant, almost like pine oil. After he showed me how to build a crystal set (primitive radio), I was hooked on a new, nearly lifelong hobby.
Many years later, they both graduated from Rutgers University, one as a chemical engineer and the other an electrical engineer. Though radio electronics became a hobby, color chemistry (less smelly) became my vocation and lifelong meal ticket.
As a young married couple about 15 years later, Sue and I lived our first years together in that same town.  Anthony, the 9-year-old boy next door, watched quietly at times as I installed antennas and equipment to make radio contacts around the world with other amateur operators. I made him a simple crystal diode radio, about the size of one’s little finger, with three soldered components and an earbud.
My final years in the work force were at Target in Minneapolis, where I had the distinct pleasure to help hire and train a young Indian named Simon, whose parents still lived in southern India.  He was an immigrant who enjoyed dual citizenship. Simon became one of the most energetic and effective colorists I ever knew.
Before I retired to N.C., I got a letter from Anthony, who had tracked me down after 43 years. He explained that his fascination for electronics began with that crystal radio, led to a degree in electronics, a career as a microwave engineer with Bell Laboratories, and a happy retirement soon to begin in Florida. Though it is humbling now, he considered me an inspiration.
It doesn’t take much introspection and analysis to conclude that we can succeed with the help and inspiration of others, perhaps in spite of our ancestries and familial shortcomings.  Our parents’ sacrifices to immigrate and work here, followed by eventual citizenship made all the difference, and they knew that.
In reality, almost all of our notable statesmen, businessmen, inventors, teachers and farmers were either immigrants or their kin. Laborers, as my father, left homes behind to find work and a future for themselves and their heirs.
Why, then, is it surprising that some hopeful people are willing to risk death doing that?
The Toth boys, Anthony, my brother and I, were born in the U.S. of immigrant parents. Thankfully, while we were growing up, this was of zero concern or personal cost to us. Why should it be of concern or anxiety to any child born here today regardless of parent’s citizenship status?  If your answer is “It shouldn’t,” then how is it different for any child living here not yet a citizen?
If your antagonism is with open borders and lax enforcement, petition to change that.

Chuck Bino lives in High Point with his wife, Sue, after technical and management careers in manufacturing and retail. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.