Roy Daley was 23 years old and living in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, when a friend offered him a job in the U.S. He immigrated with just two shirts and a change of pants to start his new life.
That was 50 years ago.
Those early days were challenging, Daley, now 74, tells his wife, Ana Smith-Daley, and his daughter, Lucy Figueroa, at StoryCorps — like when his flight from Honduras landed in the U.S., and he saw what he calls "a monster" at the airport.
"There was a moving step," Daley says. "How do you get onto a moving escalator when you've never done this? So eventually I negotiated how to get on it and as it was going up, it was a long escalator, [I thought] 'how do I get off of this escalator?' "
He remembers that the next day, he second-guessed his decision to move to Ronks, Pa.
"I got up real early in the morning; finally, I'm in America! I wanted to see what it looked like," Daley says. "I came downstairs and when I opened up the door, I was in the middle of nowhere. And, guess what? There was no leaf on the tree!"
His wife chuckles.
"Everything was dead — like if I had landed on the moon," Daley says. "I start to wonder, 'Did I make the right move?' "
He had his first Thanksgiving in America about two weeks after he arrived. He was invited to attend a potluck at a local church and was asked to bring a covered dish with him.
"I went to the store, and I purchased the biggest dish with a cover, put it in a bag," Daley says. "When we got to the church, everybody brought out the food, I took out mine and handed it to the lady, and everybody started to laugh."
Daley says at the time he had no idea why everyone was laughing.
"So my friend translated, 'Yes, plato cubierto — covered dish — means bring a dish with a cover,' " Daley says. "They did not say to bring food. In Honduras, if you want to bring food you say, 'Hey, bring a plate with food!' "
He remembers that at that first Thanksgiving, he learned it was an opportunity to be thankful for all the blessings received during the year. "And ever since then," he says, "the biggest joy of my life is coming here by myself, and today I have three children, five grandchildren and a beautiful wife. So I'm truly blessed."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar and Kerrie Hillman.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's Friday, which means it's time for StoryCorps. Fifty years ago, Roy Daley was living in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. He was 23 when a friend offered him a job in the United States. He hopped a plane to Pennsylvania with little more than two shirts and a change of pants. And he came to StoryCorps with his wife, Ana, and his daughter Lucy to talk about his early days in America.
ROY DALEY: When we arrived, I step out of the plane. I look around, and I encounter a monster. There was this moving step. How do you get on to a moving escalator when you've never done this? So eventually, I negotiated - I'll just get on it. And as it was going up - it was a long escalator - how do I get off of this escalator?
DALEY: That was my first challenge in the United States. We got to Pennsylvania about 10 o'clock, something like that. And so we went up to sleep. And I got up real early in the morning. Finally, I'm in America. I want to see what it looks like. I came downstairs, and I opened up the door. I was in the middle of nowhere. Guess what? There was no leaf on the tree. Nothing. Everything was dead, like if I landed on the moon. I start to wonder, did I make the right move? I came November 7, just before Thanksgiving. I have never seen a Thanksgiving. I've heard about it.
I was invited to dinner. And I was asked to bring a covered dish. So I went to the store, and I purchased the biggest dish with a cover, put it in a bag. When we got to the church, everybody brought all the food. I took out mine, and I hand it to the lady. And everybody started to laugh. And I had no idea what they were laughing about. So my friend translated, yes, plato cubierto - covered dish - means bring a dish with a cover. They did not say to bring food. In Honduras, if you wanted to bring food, you say, hey, bring a plate of food, you know?
ANA SMITH-DALEY: Here you are 50 years later. Last year was your 50th year of being in this country.
DALEY: Yes, celebrated 50 years. For the first year I celebrate Thanksgiving, I discover it was an opportunity to be thankful for all the blessings you receive during the year. And ever since then, the biggest joy of my life is coming here by myself. And today, I have three children, five grandchildren and a beautiful wife. So I'm truly blessed.
INSKEEP: Roy Daley and Ana Smith-Daley at StoryCorps in Austin, Texas. Their conversation will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.