My name is Peter. My story is a long story. My story of coming to America is a love story. And a
story of the American Dream. I was born in the NW area of India known as the Punjab region. My family
lived in a village as landowners. Although it might have technically been Pakistan at the time, we always
considered ourselves from India. As I grew up, I was not very serious. I didn’t do well in college and had
no long term plans. So, when Christine came and stayed with us for 5 days in India, we fell in love, and I
had a choice to make. She left March 13th 1960, and I immigrated to the US on April 4th 1960 – 6 days
before my 23rd birthday.
I had no trouble immigrating to the states. Immigration laws were not as strict back then, and,
although my Finnish mother had lived with us in India all my life, she was American by birth so I had
special ease in being admitted. I was given a USA passport for 20 days and had to make my citizenship
choice within that time. Six days later, I had made my choice and I had to sign up for the draft on April
10, 1960 – my 23rd birthday. They stamped my passport, told me with 3,200 men ahead of me it might be
a year or more before I was called to duty (I never was). My first really American Experience.
On April 8th, Christine’s 18th birthday, she returned to Detroit, Michigan from her round-the-
world trip. I went to her father, Norman, to ask for her hand in marriage, he refused unless I had a steady
job and he was not going to help me find one so it was very discouraging. Still, I tried. After working in
yard work and selling on commission, I finally got a job in June of 1960 at a mental hospital as an
orderly. The pay was $1.25 an hour and it was enough to appease Norman. He agreed to a small wedding
on July, 5. My younger sister Jane and her husband Joe lived in Detroit, and I lived with them for a few
weeks before getting married.
I remember my favorite thing about America is how casual it was. I could wear whatever I
wanted. T-shirt, sneakers… No one cared! However, coming from a well-to-do family in India, where we
had four servants: a chef, a chauffeur, a sweeper to clean the house, and a gardener to maintain the lawn,
the responsibility of cooking, cleaning, taking out the garbage, repairing the car, and mowing the lawn
was quite a change! But I didn’t care. And, although I was told to expect prejudice here because of my
tanned skin and Indian heritage, I never had a problem.
At my job, my superiors, the doctors, head nurse, and the hospital administrator liked my work
ethics. I worked many double shifts. Take home pay was $160 per month. Rent was $45 per month.
After one year, I was given a raise of two cents per hour. It was that day that I decided to go back to
college and get a U.S. degree. That and our first daughter Kathy had been born on born January 29th,
In the fall of 1961, I enrolled at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. I
graduated with a BSC and secondary teaching certificate in the fall of 1963, and was hired to teach high
school: U.S. History, Government and a class in Sex and Social Problems. We moved to Ashland,
Wisconsin that fall, where half my students were Chippewa and Odana Indians, living on reservations
near the town. (I was hired because the Superintendent of Schools thought that I was an American Indian.
He never read my resume or application. I was allowed to hunt and fish on the reservations, even though
the first thing the students said to me was "you ain't one of us, Mr. Diol".) My take home pay at Ashland
High School was $300 a month.
Every month, we ran out of money on the 20th. A small neighborhood store let us run a bill until
the next payday on the first. I did a lot of hunting, fishing and occasionally picking up of road kill to feed
the family. During the summers we supported ourselves by doing construction jobs. We had no money,
because in June, we had to pay the winter coal heating bills with the one summer pay check. (Northern
Wisconsin winters had frigid 25 degrees below zero weather). Our second child, Susan had been born
May 25, 1962, and our son Michael was born in Ashland on April 24th, 1964. So, I became the high
school ski coach, which earned me $200. more per year. Another big benefit was that Christine and I
learned to ski and could ski for free when we traveled with the ski team. (At home, our three little ones
had a babysitter costing 35 cents an hour, and these infrequent days together were a big treat during the
long cold winters).
To keep a connection with India, Christine and I learned to cook. Neither one of us had cooked
before. I learned how to grill and to cook Indian foods to keep in touch with those spicy foods that I
loved. They didn’t make them here so I had to learn on my own. We ate a lot of “Bambi” and fish.
After two years, we decided to look for better paying opportunities. We ran an ad in the New
York Times and received fifty-four favorable responses. I was hired by Scott Paper Company in Detroit
in 1965, with a fifty per cent increase in salary. Starting as paper salesman in the retail market, I was
promoted to management as a supervisor in 1968. We were transferred to Chicago where we lived in
Palatine, Illinois for the next four years. Initially, I worked in the Chicago retail market, reporting to the
Chicago office. Then I travelled for several years. It was hard work, but worth it. Our home was my
office, and I traveled to meet customers from the north central states, as far away as Colorado. Christine
would do the required home office requirements, in my absence. She and the children took me to my
plane at 7 a.m. Monday, picking me up at 5 p.m. Friday. Everyone waited for the weekends to relax
together, and we would go to "The Pit and the Pub" for pizza on Friday nights to bond as a
family! Jennifer, my fourth child, had been born March 6th, 1967 and she grew quickly, thanks to the
loving big sisters and brother Michael.
Finally, promoted to Regional Sales Manager, we were transferred yet again to Columbus, Ohio
in March 1972, forty years ago.
Seeking better opportunities, a year later we started our own office coffee business from scratch
in October, 1973. The good times began! The American Dream. Things kept improving from then on. I
was only 35 and Christine was 30, and with our four children, we grew our business rapidly. In 1975, we
bought our first large boat, and began travelling and enjoying life. In 1978, we bought three weeks of
timeshares in a beachfront condo on Fort Myers Beach. In 1988, we bought our waterfront home. These
decisions have impacted the lives of our family these many years. By 1980, our annual coffee sales
surpassed one million dollars. In 1978, we bought a gas station with annual sales of one and a half
million dollars. By 1988, gas sales were over four million.
All this time, I did not miss India much. America was so clean and lively. The opportunities
never stopped. No problems, greater opportunities! Our only let down was when we tried to adopt a black
child in 1978, but were refused, for we did not belong to an organized church. So, in 1979, we welcomed
our first AFS daughter, Lise Skov from Vester Aaby, Denmark, followed by Bjarni Hinriksson from
Reykjavik, Iceland in 1980, Reiner Gonzalez from San Jose, Costa Rica in 1982, Tuula Immonen from
Turku, Finland in 1985, and Anna Kerttula in 1995. In between, we had many short term foreign guests,
and Christine was volunteering with the International Visitor's Center. At one point we jointly were the
President of the AFS Worthington Chapter, and remained actively with AFS until 1996. We became
citizens of the world through this great country!
Fifty-two years later, now that I am in middle age, at the age of 75, I note that we are much
younger than our parents were at the same age. We travel the world to keep connections with India and
our many connections. The village there seems so much the same. But everyone is getting older. My
students whom I taught in 1963, are now sixty-five years old and retired. Teaching was fun. I was only
26 then. And so much stemmed from it! Oh those were the days my love, and they still haven't ended. So
much fun-children-grand children- and more to come. I love America! It's there to fulfill any dream you
have. It's yours for the taking-the good life, the loving. Experiment and keep moving on. Don't look
back, only remember fond memories. Yes, you have to carry the burden, the burden of your parents' short
comings, your fears, but don't fear tomorrow.