liveLUSO is thrilled to share with you our first post in the "My Immigration Story" series! This series highlights stories of immigration from Portugal and the Azores to the United States and Canada. Upon finding a photo of a man in a compact mirror on Instagram, we were introduced to Merry Carter and our debut post. Merry tells the following tale of her great grandfather's immigration from the Azores to San Leandro, California -- and the unknown man in the compact.
My paternal grandmother, Gladys “Billie” Chrysostomos Calhoun, was born in 1907 in San Leandro, California. Her father was an immigrant from the Azores Islands, which are part of the Republic of Portugal. When immigrating to the United States, her family changed their surname from 'da Silveira' to 'Chrysostomos' because they were told by others that immigrated before them they would have a much more successful life in the US without a Portuguese surname. I’m really not sure why they selected Chrysostomos because it surely was not a mainstream American name.
"They were told by others that immigrated before them they would have a much more successful life in the US without a Portuguese surname."
Her family did end up having a good life in the United States. Especially successful was her aunt, Helen Chrysostomos Lawrence, who was elected the mayor of San Leandro in the 1940s, giving her the distinction of being the first Portuguese mayor in the US. Sadly, my grandmother Billie died at the age of 45, never getting the chance to meet her grandchildren.
My sister was recently doing some cleaning at our father’s house and found the compact, shown in the photo below -- in a box. The photograph inside the compact is a newspaper clipping of José Pereira de Faria, also known as Harold Peary and “The Great Gildersleeve.” He was of Portuguese descent and born in San Leandro, who had a long career in radio, films, and television.
"In my imagination, they were high school sweethearts but José ran off to Hollywood to pursue his dream of fame and fortune."
The only thing our father could tell us about the compact and the photo was that José and my grandmother, Billie, were friends. In my imagination, they were high school sweethearts but José ran off to Hollywood to pursue his dream of fame and fortune. In actuality, at the age of seventeen, Billie married by grandfather - also of Portuguese descent - and stayed in San Leandro to raise her family.
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