Immigration built our country and continues to enrich it as waves of newcomers arrive to seize America's opportunities.The lifelong dream of coming to the United States became a reality for Johann Morgenegg in 1950. Morgenegg was reared by his grandmother in Bern, Switzerland, a woman whose own children had all come to America. As resources evaporated, however, Johann's dream of passage was shelved - but not forgotten.
After marriage and four children, his dream was realized: The Morgeneggs set sail on the Queen Elizabeth for New York Harbor.
The eldest son, Georg, took a crash course in English to help the family communicate in the new land. But the Morgenegg girls quickly discovered their brother's limitations with the language. When he ordered from the ship's menu, the family was served ice cream three meals in a row. Obviously, there was much more to learn.
The family arrived in Salt Lake City, and the three oldest children soon started school. They wanted to be instant Americans, and the first step was changing their names. Learning the language was difficult for Heidi and George, the two older children, both junior high students.
Heidi recalled, "My teacher, Mrs. Johnston, had me come early and stay late to practice reading. When I had trouble, she would send a note home with me. All of us worked on translating the teacher's note. I guess she didn't really understand that we couldn't understand."
Junior high was tough. Heidi remembers the first days of school as "horrendous." "We looked so different. We wanted to blend in as quickly as we could. We found out, however, that it doesn't take long to be Americanized in junior high."
Adjustment was easier for Liz, who began first grade shortly after arriving. She remembered, "I started reading with everyone else. We used the old `Dick and Jane' books. I brought the books home and we learned from them. We took a newspaper, too, from the first day. Holding onto the European custom of reading the paper daily, we practiced until we could understand it."
One tradition Liz couldn't understand was Halloween, a holiday not celebrated in Switzerland. When her classmates came to school in costumes, Liz was frightened. Her teacher made a brown paper bag costume, placed it on the child, and she was dressed for the holiday. She has disliked Halloween since!
Along with the language, the Morgeneggs struggled with new foods. Friends treated the surprised immigrants to a welcoming picnic with peanut butter sandwiches, potato chips, root beer popsicles and watermelon. Mary, the children's mother, recalled that the chips were the favorite. "The potato chips won the prize!" she said "We'd never seen them before, but the children loved the crunchy taste. We hadn't seen a watermelon either, but that was just OK."
Heidi chimed in, "But the peanut butter was gross. You have to be raised on peanut butter to like it." Liz evaluated the popsicles succinctly: "Root beer tasted just like medicine. We wondered if we would have to eat these strange things often."
Years have passed and tastes have broadened for the Morgeneggs. American ways are commonplace now, and English is comfy.
American as the Morgenegg family has become, their taste for Swiss food hasn't diminished. Old European recipes surface for special family gatherings, holidays and anniversaries.
The family favorites include Gug-elhopf, a Swiss pound cake; fresh apricot pie, a custardy single-crust pie; crunchy, cream-filled meringues; and Brezels, light sugar cookies baked on a special waffle-type iron.
The dinner is typical Bern cuisine - a homemade sausage with sauerkraut, new potatoes and fresh beans for the main course. Homemade pretzels are a common menu item.
Native Swiss menus also show up in Midway, Wasatch County, when Swiss immigrants bring friends and family to celebrate their heritage.
Swiss Days in the mountain village is planned Sept. 2-3. The celebration, which begins at 8 a.m. each day, includes more than food. Yodelers, bell ringers, accordionists and a Swiss children's choir will provide entertainment.
A 10K run, two parades and community dances will also be a part of the ethnic celebration.
The mountain town will recognize Francis and Alice Probst as the Midway Honored Citizens for 1988.
The celebration is presided over by Swiss Miss Melissa Lloyd. Lloyd is attended by Shalise Morgan, Sarah Springer, Elizabeth Johnson and Kendra Evans.
Midway's Swiss Days is one of many such traditional events around the country.