It's a phrase once spoken by hundreds of immigrants a day, seeking a new life in Endicott: Which way EJ?

In the early 20th century, the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Factory, provided more than 20,000 people with jobs — many of them immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.

"They created an atmosphere of confidence. They created an atmosphere of safety," said Endicott Mayor John Bertoni.

"Many immigrants came here, found a home and found work immediately. It promoted opportunity," said Jacqueline Tedesco, Endicott Visitor Center director.

As a kid, I spent many summers at Sertoma Field in the Northside Park — one of the many parks donated by then co-owner of the EJ Factory, George F. Johnson.

Johnson implemented the first 40-hour work week in the nation, even providing housing for his employees.

"There's no doubt he recognized the need for family togetherness. There [were] parks, everything was free," Bertoni said.

"The homes were built for the down payment of a dollar that are still existing, that are still sought after, the medical, medical far before the country got into the big medical deal, they had it here. They had it here and it was free," Tedesco said.

But Endicott-Johnson wasn’t the only corporation dominating the village. In 1911, International Business Machines was founded.

Fast forward to the mid-80’s, and IBM was employing more than 16,000 people.

"You could see the intelligence of the people and the confidence they had, and they were on the bubble of creating today's technology. You could see the smile on their face because you could see something was happening," Bertoni said.

And it’s hard to talk about the history of Endicott, without talking about food.

On any given day, you can find lines of people at restaurants like Nick's Pizza, enjoying Italian food that has become a staple in the village.

"It was about 40 years ago when I decided to come to America and come and see what really is the American dream. What a joy to be here in Endicott," said Nick Cataldo, Nick's Pizza owner.

To immigrants like Cataldo, continuing tradition is his number one goal.

"You carry something you bring from Italy, you give it to your kids, and their kids are going to give it to their kids, the community," Cataldo said.

"It becomes a part of you and something you never forget. I drive down Oak Hill Avenue 50 years later and I still remember what was here, what was there," Bertoni said.

While the village has seen some changes through the years, there is no doubt these traditions and memories live on.