2006-03-17 / Columnists

Eye On Physical Therapy

By Dr. Tim Rohrs, DPT

Anna Jordan left County Mayo, Ireland for America in 1929 when she was 24 years old. She was one of five children in the household and worked the family farm from sun up till sundown every day of the week. They raised chickens, sheep and cows, and made money from selling eggs, milk and vegetables. Anna received no salary for her labor but received room and board like her sisters did. She knew that the family farm would eventually go to her younger brother, as the males were always first in line for the family's property in those days. Her brother would go off on his bicycle chasing neighborhood girls while the sisters worked the farm. She was exhausted from the backbreaking labor and tired of no pay. She had heard from those returning from America that there was gold in the streets and you just had to go to there and pick it up. She left on a steam ship for New York.

Her first jobs were working in a cigarette factory and then a licorice factory, both in Brooklyn, for about $5 per week.

Half of that went to her sister for room and board. She quickly learned that the stories of gold lying in the streets were not true. She went on to become a live-in Nanny for a wealthy Jewish family in Flatbush. She met and married Thomas Hannon in 1930 and soon had two daughters. Tom was a first generation American, his parents from Tipperary.

They lived in Bushwick and times were tough, as they were for most Americans during the Great Depression. Although there were a lot of Irish in the neighborhood, few were recent immigrants like Anna. There was little time for socialization as the Depression wore on. Working two to three jobs at a time was status quo. But time was made in the summers for day trips to the beaches of Rockaway and dancing in the Irish bars. Thanksgiving dinners in the Hannon household were often celebrated with little more than fried eggs with stuffing. Anna lived and dedicated her life to her daughters. Jane and Julia attended Our Lady of Good Council in Bushwick. Julia went on to enter the Convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph and Jane married a man of German descent, James. Their four sons grew up on Long Island during the 1970's with very little knowledge of their Irish heritage.

They knew the basics: grandmother was from County Mayo and worked on a farm. They knew no Irish words, prayers or Irish songs.

It has been my honor and privilege to be chosen as a Deputy Grand Marshall for the Queen's County St. Patrick's Day Parade. In addition to participating in the parade, this experience has afforded me the chance to reconnect with my Irish heritage, and to feel connected to Rockaway where my grandmother spent her summers with her daughters. I would like to thank Michael Benn and the rest of the parade committee for nominating me. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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