When I was about twenty years old I started to get interested in dating. The local girls all came from strict, religious families. If you dated a local girl she had to be home at a certain time, and you had better be sure you walked her all the way back to the door. The whole family kept an eye on you. I dated several nice girls from my town, but I never became very serious because in my heart I knew that one day I would leave my hometown. So I kept living in this crazy life style, lots of drinking and just having a good time. I went to the big cities in Germany and Belgium where the night life was a twenty-four hour business. The entertaining girls there were easy to find, and with a little cash on hand you could spend the night with them. The dance floors were always filled with all kinds of good looking girls, and good looking clothes on a man in those days didn't make you stay by yourself too long.
I was always far away from home and my parents never found out what we were doing. As we didn't have a car, with a few friends together we rented a taxi and shared on all the expenses of the night. In Holland the winters are very wet and cold. During that time we spent more time in the house together with the family. We didn't have TV in those days. The biggest entertainment in the house was the radio. We would all sit around the table, drink a cup of coffee with some cookies, and listen to one of our favorite shows. We also played a lot of card games in the winter time. Whenever I was playing cards with my friends, we always had the station on the radio with our favorite American music bands. It was easy for us to get from the Armed Forces Broadcast from Germany, where the American occupational troops had their own station. We were crazy about American music. All the movies we saw were American. I saw filmed documentaries about the big cities like New York, with all the freeways and their huge cars. Everything about America was bigger than our life style. I always wanted to go there. I loved the ideas of America. But in those days it was just a dream, if you planned to emigrate to the U.S.A. First of all, I didn't have the money, and secondly it was very complicated to get a U.S. visa. So I kept on dreaming, that one day it might happen that I would be able to go to America. Sometimes dreams will come true.
In 1955 I had I very bad accident underground in the coal mine. The coal strip I was working on, the ceiling was very soft and wet. We had to wear rubber clothes as a steady stream of water was coming through the ceiling. It was not a very comfortable coal strip to work on and kind of dangerous. Every little bit of coal I took out I had to support the ceiling right away. Next to the coal strip where I was working was a chain-conveyer where I shoveled all my loose coal in, which I had broken-up from the coal strip with an air-compressed pick hammer. The chain-conveyer always made a lot of noise when it was running. At this time it was at a standstill due to some problems on the end of the coal strip. As I was breaking up some of the coal layers, suddenly a big roar of breaking supports and ceiling and I, with my pick hammer in my hand was knocked down into the chain-conveyer. The whole ceiling of the coal strip where I was working had caved in. I was lying in the chain-conveyer, and was pinned under the rocks. A very large piece of rock had fallen on the edge of the chain-conveyer and had broken its fall. If that had not happened, the whole weight of the rock would have fallen on me, and it certainly would have crushed me to death. As I realized I was stuck in the chain-conveyer, I screamed for help. My co-workers got me out from underneath the rocks, I was put on a stretcher and taken to the company's clinic. I was diagnosed with having a broken foot and a very badly damaged thumb and pulse. I was home for several months to recuperate. During the time I was recuperating I realized how close I was to being killed. With all those years of no fear, this accident gave me a scared feeling of going back into the coal mine. So I decided the time had come to make a change. I never wanted to be a coal miner, but the circumstances after the war put me in there. I did my best when I worked, and for that the coal mining company even offered, with free of charge, and all expenses paid, to go for five years to college, to be a mining executive. But I had made-up my mind I was going to leave. My parents didn't want me to leave, as I was a great financial support to the family, but they understood that it was time to lookout for my own future.