Regarding "Next Stop Was America," by Jane Lavere, Jan. 12: The Red Star Museum asked for stories. Here's one I sent. We'll visit the museum later this year.
My maternal grandparents, Itzig (Jacob) and Blima Dora Rebecca Haimotiz Pinkowitz, traveled from their village in Romania to Philadelphia via the Red Star Line at the turn of the 20th century.
Their leaving was probably due to fear of anti-Semitism and a search for a better life.
My grandfather and his eldest daughter crossed the Atlantic on the Red Star Line ship Switzerland, leaving Antwerp, Belgium, on Aug. 1, 1900, and arriving in Philadelphia. My grandmother and the other five children, including my mother, crossed the Atlantic on the Pennland, leaving Antwerp on July 6, 1901, and arriving in New York on July 18, 1901.
When my grandmother and children arrived at Ellis Island, my grandfather was late in greeting them. The group was detained at Ellis Island until he arrived. Then he had to pay for the food they ate before his arrival. Then they all went to Philadelphia by train.
My grandfather became a U.S. citizen on Jan. 30, 1906. Two additional children were born in the United States for a total of eight living, including my mother. In time, there were 14 grandchildren, including me.
At age 82, I treasure these memories and enjoy passing them on to my three children and two grandchildren so all can enjoy knowing more about their roots.
I am a frequent traveler on Virgin Atlantic. I love the airline, but one suggestion would do wonders. The floors of the bathrooms are usually very wet from liquid other than water; it is very disturbing to stand in. It might help for the airline to insert a slatted wood mat, thus allowing people to stand on dry wood rather than whatever the wet is. One sees them in places such as Bed Bath & Beyond, drugstores, Target, etc. Besides being more pleasant, it would also be better for one's health.
I fly frequently to the East Coast to visit my five grandchildren under age 4.
My peeve is that airplanes are designed very poorly with respect to space. When I am returning from the toilet to my seat in the front of the aircraft, there frequently is unintentional body contact with fellow passengers who are lined up to use the facilities. It is a shame that the airlines have been so insensitive to their passengers' needs when designing airplanes.
When I brought this to Boeing's attention, the airplane manufacturer said it had to do what the airlines told it. It is not in Boeing's hands.
I wish a consumer watchdog group could bring this to the attention of the airlines. Planes need to be designed so there is more aisle space to address this problem.
Tips for Japan travel
Having just returned from a trip to Japan, I'd like to share some things that made it special.
First, the Japan Rail Pass. I cannot overstate how much this saves if foreign travelers plan to use the train system to visit multiple cities during their stay. Even in Tokyo, Japan Rail has lines that cover much of the city. However, the pass does not cover the Metro or private rail lines, of which there are many. Passes are available for seven-, 14- and 21-day visits.
Second, if you need to stay in communication with home, rent a mobile hot spot that uses Japanese wireless carriers and acts like a private Wi-Fi router for your computers, phones and tablets. If you use Skype or have a phone with T-Mobile that supports Wi-Fi calling, you can call home for free or very close to free. The unit we rented provided a 75mb/s connection, which was fast enough for us to watch video from our home's cable box.
These two conveniences saved hundreds of dollars and made visiting Japan even more amazing.
Robert L. Stein
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