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

The influence of my grandparents

I applied for seminary, but after my application was reviewed I was rejected. There were several reasons that I was not accepted.

My mother was a Catholic and my father a Protestant. They were married in the Catholic church with the understanding that all of the kids would follow the Catholic religion. They were married in the big city of Rotterdam but we had moved to a small town. There was no way for me to enter the seminary. We were taught that the Catholic religion was the only religion to believe in. Living in a small town environment, rich people who belonged to the same church as we did were always treated better. They would be helped to go to one of the best schools, and later would get good jobs. In those days there was so much class distinction that boys from poor families had to make their own destiny. We had the same learning qualities as those kids from richer families, but we didn't get the same treatment because our parents at that time were leveled in a different class in society. So we had to make the best out of life on our own.

Wild Mushrooms 

My friend, the farmer's son, never finished seminary to be a priest, but after attending the seminary for several years his educational level equaled the same level as a collage degree. He joined the Dutch Air Force and was sent to an Air Force base in Texas for a special training to fly jet-fighters. When he came back to Holland after his training in Texas he was promoted to Captain in the Air Force..

My Grandmother from my Mother's family had a great influence on my progress in life. My Grandmother was a very aristocratic person. She spoke at least six different languages and had friends from all social levels. Her strongest faith was in God. My Grandfather was an easygoing type of person. His garden in front of his house was his pride. He had the best looking garden in the neighborhood. All kinds of herbs and spice plants were grown in the garden in those days. My Grandmother was a gourmet cook and she needed all of those spices in the garden to prepare her dishes. My Grandfather always took me in the early mornings to the open fields to pick mushrooms. He could tell you which one was poison and which one was the one to pick and eat. Since I was the first grandchild in the family until I was six years old I spent many days at my Grandmother's house. Even as I was grown she always told me that achievements in life never stopped. I always kept those words in my mind.

In 1946 I was thirteen years old and just finished the eighth grade of elementary school. Since I was not able to go to the seminary my parents decided that I should go to a technical school for a few years. They wanted me to take mechanical engineering. The school was about a four mile bicycle ride from our town. My father had put an old bicycle together so I could use it to go to school. It was a little more than a year since the war had ended and things were still not easy to buy. I had to wear the same clothes over and over again. I was very lucky if I would get a new shirt or pants to wear to school. Something like that was just not heard of. It was just not there and my parents couldn't afford it. During the lunch hour I always would go to my Grandmother's house as the school was close by her house. She was always very happy to see me and treated me with her best of home cooking. Most of the fruits and vegetables came out of her own garden which she canned for the winter time. Everything was so ordinary in those days. The bakery would deliver the bread to our house every day with the horse and wagon. So did the vegetable and fish delivery men. Meat we had to buy daily in the butcher store.

The winters are freezing cold in Holland and my Mother always kept a hot pot of coffee on the stove. It would get awful cold on those delivery wagons as the front of the wagons were wide open. Those delivery men were very pleased if my Mother offered them a hot cup of coffee inside. I always felt sorry for the horses as they had to wait until the boss finished his coffee. The horses on those wagons were very smart. They knew their route where they had to go just as good as the delivery man did. The horses who pulled those wagons knew exactly where the customers lived. It happened that the delivery man spent too much time in our house so that the horses got very impatient and pulled the wagon to the next stop. Those horses were doing those routes day after day. In those days most of the heavy transporting was done by horse and wagon. I saw horses which had to pull heavy loads up a hill and were always treated with a piece of bread before they would go up the hill. The horse which had to pull that wagon up the hill daily would automatically stop in front of that hill. His boss better have that piece of bread with him, otherwise the horse wouldn't move a foot up that hill.

CONTINUED: Studying mechanical engineering
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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