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

Trying to find work in America

My sponsor was an immigrant himself who had left Poland forty years ago. His wife came from up-state New York from the city of Buffalo. She was also Polish, but born in America. They were both retired and had owned two small stores before. There was a large Polish Catholic church in Syracuse and they were members of it. This church had sponsored ten Catholic Dutch boys. Since my sponsor was retired and didn't have any children the Polish church asked him to take care of us when we arrived. He had to find a job and shelter for us.

Here I was in Syracuse, a city I never heard about, and when I left Holland I never would have thought that a new part of my life would start here.

Help Wanted

I shared the apartment where Frank lived with two other Dutch boys. My sponsor had found work and shelter for them as he was going to do for me. There were about ten Dutch boys sponsored by the Polish church and they all lived in different areas in Syracuse. During my stay in Frank's apartment I met most of the Dutch boys who were sponsored by the Polish church. Most of them came from the Northern part of Holland from the big cities. I was the only one who came from the South and from a small village atmosphere. I don't think that any of them had worked as hard in Holland as I had done. Most of those boys were born in Indonesia and lived there during the Dutch colonial time. Their families had lived very rich and comfortable under the Dutch rule in Indonesia and they were able to go to the best schools. Therefore their English was much better when they arrived in America. When Indonesia was given independence from the Dutch rulers, all of those colonial Dutch families came back to Holland because all of them were Dutch citizens. Some had never seen the motherland Holland. Many of those boys came from mixed marriages, the father was Dutch and the mother Indonesian. We called them in Holland "half bloedjes". Not a pure blood in race. From their looks we could tell they had mixed blood. A lot of those families, when they went back to Holland, were very disappointed with the work opportunities and especially the Dutch climate. Holland was already overpopulated and trying to recuperate from the war. Bringing all those people into Holland didn't do the country any good. But those colonial people were all Dutch citizens and the Dutch government had no choice but take them all back to Holland. Many of them when they came back to Holland were given first classifications to emigrate. Many of them took the opportunity to come to America. Most of those families settled in California where the climate was more to their liking.

In Syracuse there were many factories. My sponsor found a job for the boys I lived with in a factory where they assembled laundry machines. The boys worked on the assembly lines and were paid $1.40 an hour.

For ten days I stayed in the apartment by myself when all the boys had gone to work. I couldn't go anywhere as I was waiting for my sponsor, Mr. Kowalski, to find me a job. The house we stayed in was made into apartments. We stayed on the top floor. The owner, an Italian emigrant would drop by once in a while and look things over in the apartment. Frank did get along very well with the owner of the apartment.

It was March but it was still very cold outside. The steam radiator in my little room was very noisy. I noticed big water bugs were coming from the pipeline. All those crawling bugs I was not used to. I had never seen a bug in my parents' home.

If somebody knocked on the door, or the telephone rang I was not able to answer as my English was that poor. March the fourth was my twenty-fourth birthday, as I was sitting in that little room by myself wished I had never left Holland, but I was too proud to tell or write my family about it. I had no money left and I was waiting for my sponsor to come to find me a job. Sitting in this little room all by myself and the only thing I could do was look through the window until the boys came back from their work. At night Frank would take me out for a ride in his Buick and showed me around in the neighborhood. Frank was so kind to loan me ten dollars until I would find a job.

CONTINUED: My first paycheck from the foundry
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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