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

The assassination of Martin Luther King and the riots

In the previous apartment where we lived, we made friends with Jim Ellis who at that time was an assistant manager at the congressional Country Club. During one of his dinner visits at our house he met Madelyne. Jim had been in the Navy for more than 10 years and was in all of the Pacific warfare. He had sailed all over Asia and was very fond of Oriental food. Of course he loved Lu Lu's cooking. During our dinner conversation Madelyne told Jim that she had worked for many years at the Pentagon as a telephone switch operator. Then Jim said to Madelyne that needed a telephone switch board operator at the Congressional Country Club, and if she was interested he could get her a job. So Madelyne said that she would be delighted if she could get that job, because she was getting awfully bored staying in the house by herself. Madelyne got the job at the Congressional Country Club and stopped drinking. She liked the atmosphere at the club and the people we worked with. After a little while Scotty and Madelyne settled their differences and became good friends again. Madelyne became very close to us and told us that we had done more for her that her family would ever do.


Washington Riots in 1968 

Our apartment stay at Wisconsin Avenue didn't last long. After two years we were told that we had to move out because the building would be renovated. Jim Ellis, our friend who lived in an apartment complex in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told us to move there. Lu Lu was still working for doctor Camalier, and the apartment complex was so close in the neighborhood of doctor Camalier's house, that Mrs. Camalier went and saw the manager of the apartment complex and arranged so that we would get a two bedroom apartment. It was a little farther from my work. In the meantime I had bought another car, and with the early hours I had to be at work, it only took me twenty minutes to get there.

It was April 1968 and I was home when the TV announced that Dr. Martin Luther King was shot on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee by a white assassin. Our production plant was in the heart of the Negro section of Washington D.C. on First and Florida Street. I knew all along that here would be a lot of trouble in the air. That night when the news spread around that Dr. King was killed, angry Negro people started to roam the streets. Agitators like Stokely Carmichael who was a black power monger, shouted at the blacks to go home and get their guns. It almost looked like a revolution had started. The white people, called 'honkeys' by the Negroes, were going to kill each other. The Washington police force did their best to keep bloodshed at a minimum. During the night riots started all over the city, and it was quite apparent that the rioters' main target was to loot, and not shoot 'honkeys'. The plunderers led by most of the black teenagers smashed and burned almost indiscriminately. At that time the Washington D.C. area was almost 70% Negro. At night I could see the smoke of burned buildings, and I was wondering if I should go to work. Most of the driving I had to do was through the Negro streets, two of the ghetto's main thoroughfares. When I got to the Dairy Plant there were many police around. 50% of our work force at the Dairy were Negro people. The word was spread around that our Dairy Plant would be looted and burned down. It was located in the heart of the ghetto, and an easy target. I didn't go home that day and stayed at the Dairy all night. All of the management spent the night at the Dairy. It was a very uncomfortable night as the situation was completely out of control. The police were under orders not to interfere with looting. The police let the looters run wild. It was like a carnival atmosphere. Jolly blacks dashed in and out of shattered shop windows, carrying their booty away in plain sight of the police. Cars were loaded with loot, and would speed off to unload and come back to loot somewhere else. When looters and pillagers continued to roam the streets, the President ordered Federal troops to control the streets.

When the Federal troops were ordered to control the streets, a truck loaded with soldiers came directly to our dairy plant. The dairy plant was surrounded by soldiers in combat gear. All of this reminded me of the war when I was a youngster. I had seen these things before and I lived with it, so it didn't really upset me that much.

Only two blocks from the White House the looting and burning of the buildings were going on, and smoke from the burned buildings was hanging all over the area. Army and National Guards were stationed all around the White House ground. President Johnson was caught in a condition of violence and disorder, and it was right on the Presidential doorstep.


CONTINUED: The oppressing poverty of Washington
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora



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

- Book Index