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

Recovery from my injury and a letter from the U.S.

In the year of 1955 many Dutch people were given the opportunity of emigrating to Australia or Canada. Many of my friends left. Most of them went with special emigrant boats. In those years Holland was still rebuilding from its war damaging years. Most of those Dutch people who emigrated had never forgotten those terrible years of the war, and wanted to make a better life for themselves and a secure future for their children. Most people thought my living far away from Europe they did not have to fear for wars anymore. A good friend of mine, with whom I worked together in the coal mines, went to South Africa. He was hired by a gold mine company and trained to be a manager in the gold mines. I almost went along with him, but my father was against it.

After I recuperated from my accident, I worked for a little while on light duty in one of the mine company's work-shops. After that I did all kinds of work underground, but stayed away from the coal strips. Most of my friends I went out with were drafted in the service. Some were in the marines, and were sent on overseas duty. The Dutch government still had some colonies; part of New Guinea, Suriname and the West-Indies. I was drafted for the navy, but because I worked underground in the coal mines I was exempt from draft status. This was of my own free will. I wanted to go, but then I thought about my family who needed me more than the Dutch navy.

Experienced coal miners were so badly needed that the Dutch government even provided many attractive financial benefits to foreign workers. After the war many of them came from Germany where they lived in camps for displaced persons. Most of those people had fled their country because they didn't want to live under Russian occupation. They hated communism. Many of them were Polish freedom fighters who had fought alongside with American troops in Europe. I worked with many of them in the coal mines. They were very good workers and adapted very fast to the life style of the Dutch people. Many of them had joined the Polish freedom fighters units when they were only 15 years old. So most of them knew what hardship was in life. Holland gave them a nice place to live and that's what they appreciated. I always enjoyed working with them.

In January 1955 I received a letter from the U.S.A. It was from a soldier who during the war was stationed in our town. He always gave us the leftovers from the day's menu of the army kitchen. His letter was as follows:

Manson, Iowa
January 25, 1955
Dear Jeff,

To receive a letter from me probably comes as quite a surprise. I am really very much ashamed for not writing you in these years past and it is truly neglect on my part. You have been so thoughtful to remember me each year at Christmas time and I do appreciate it very much.

In my memory of you, you were a friendly, polite and curious boy. Curious of the funny world around you, this thing called war and these men called GIs. How you had lived before we came and the way you were living then! That was ten years ago or nearly so, and no doubt you are a young man and still in a mixed up world. It's hard for me to believe you as a grown young man when you were when I knew you, about the age of my only son, Steve. Perhaps you remember me telling you of him? He is now ten, in the 5th grade, loves school, plays piano, also in Junior band trumpet.

I believe when I last wrote you, and I can't remember when it was, I was in the chicken processing business. During the time I was in the business I took a test for rural mail carrier in the postal department and I passed, sold out my share of the business to my partner and have been carrying mail for six years, this coming June. I like it very much and am very busy at Christmas time, which is probably another reason for not writing you during that time.

There is a Dutch family who has been living here in Manson for the past five years. In fact they are on my mail route. He has told me where they came from but I can't recall the place at this moment.

It has been my pleasure hearing from you each year, please don't stop. I'll try to do better in answering you.

Write me again, tell me about yourself, your family, how far you are going in school and how old you are now.

Give my regards to your family,
Pete Zehr.

I never replied to his letter as my English in those days was very poor. A letter like that always had to be translated into Dutch, so we clearly understood what they wrote about. To receive letters from old soldier friends always brought back old memories, and an urge to go to the U.S.A. But with my background I couldn't even think about it. Most single people who had left for the U.S.A were thoroughly screened for their professional capabilities by the U.S. government. How could I ever have a chance to leave with my coal-mining background. So I kept on working in the coal mines, and in the meantime I looked in all kinds of newspapers for an opportunity to find another job, or leave Holland. A good friend of mine even suggested to come along to emigrate to the city of Sydney, Australia, but I said no as I still had my mind set for the U.S.A.

CONTINUED: Application for immigration to the United States
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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