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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Studying mechanical engineering

After the war, my Father had to go underground in the coal mines again. This was the only industry in Holland which needed people. During the war my father had developed an arthritis spine condition. This kept him more at home than at work. There were days that my father couldn't walk straight from pains in his back. The work he was doing in the underground coal mine didn't help much to improve his condition. Financially this was a big strain on our family. In the meantime my youngest sister was born. We needed so many things in the house as we had lost everything in the war. My mother had to make ends meet from whatever she was getting financially. With my father being so sick, my mother was always short of money to pay off the bills. Most of the bills were just for food. We had no refrigeration in those days in the house. So you had to go to the store every day. The store owner had a book with all the customers. Whatever food item you took from the store it was added to your name. Every other week it was pay day at the coal mines and my mother tried to pay off all of her debts to all of her food merchants. But she could never catch up with all of her debts. I even tried to supplement our income by setting up duck pins in a bowling alley at night. This was a back-breaking job.

Jeff Noordermeer at age 17
Jeff at age 17

Since I was the only and oldest son in the family I always had many responsibilities to take care of. There were so many things around the house my Father was not able to do. My Father was very strict and when he spoke we had to listen and do what he told us to do. We didn't have much furniture in our house as we lost everything in the war. But the few things we had needed to be in order and be clean. We didn't have many clothes or shoes to wear, but what we had we had to look after. My shoes always had to be clean and shiny. Everything had to be in its place and in order in the house. When my Father told me that I had to be home by nine o'clock at night, I'd better be home otherwise I was punished for a few days to stay housebound. Having respect for older people was just pounded into us. Our house was very small, but if I was sitting in the living room and some of our parents' friends came to visit us, I would leave the living room until I was called back into the room by my parents. If grown-ups were talking we kids were not allowed to be around. We were taught strict manners, and my parents would see to it that we followed them. Whenever we took the bus to the city and all the seats were taken and an older person would enter the bus I would get up from my seat and politely would offer my place. Every job my Father gave me, if it was cleaning around the house or working in the garden, whatever I did, it had to be neat and clean. In the summer time my Father always rented a piece of land behind our house. Whenever I came back from school I had to do some work on this piece of land. I had to do some work first and could play later. For all of this I would receive a small allowance. Even from that I was told to save some. Somehow all of this made a perfectionist out of me and I stayed that way all my life. Regardless of whatever I do and how much time I have to put into it I always will finish it.

After 1 1/2 years in technical school where I was taking mechanical engineering I decided to look for a job. I was fourteen years old and I know that my family badly needed financial support. I had three sisters and two of them were already going to elementary school. We needed so many things and our financial income was so little. Even with my background of technical schooling I couldn't find a decent paying job. Holland at that time was still rebuilding from all the war damages. The only good paying jobs in the area where I lived at that time were the coal mines. In those days the coal mines all around our area were heavily advertising for young people to join their work force. They offered good pay and a training school for several years to become an underground manager. Holland needed the coal mining industry so bad, as that was one of the Dutch financial support for rebuilding the country. My parents hated to see me going into the coal mines, but without them knowing it I applied for a job. If it hadn't been for the war I would never have seen a coal mine in my life. But under the circumstances and the financial support my parents needed I thought this would be the best thing for me to do. What does one know when he is fourteen years old about what is going on in this world? Most of my younger years, I had seen war and misery. I wanted to get out of this kind of life, to make life better for my family, like a nice home with some new furniture in the house. I liked to have some new clothes and I could see that without me going to work they couldn't afford it. The war had done so many things to us. You are young and see other kids have nice clothes and so many other things. So you say to yourself, I am going to get those things one day.

Since I was only fourteen years old and too young to work underground in the coal mines, the mining company had their own training school. It was just like a regular high-school. We had classes and sports in the morning hours, and in the afternoon we would work in one of the workshops. We would be trained to be productive coal miners. The mine company even made a man-made coal mine above the surface, where we were trained to become experienced coal miners. For three years I needed to go to this training school. There was a law in Holland requiring that you had to be eighteen years of age, before you could go underground in the coal mines to work full time.

CONTINUED: Indonesia gains independence and Dutch colonists come home
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index