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

My first visit to New York City

One of the workers in the foundry asked me if I wanted to meet a nice girl. I had not dated an American girl yet, so I told him I was eager to meet a nice girl. So he told me he would arrange a date for me on Saturday night. I thought he was joking, but to my surprise she came that Saturday night in front of our apartment. She was driving a brand new 1957 Chevy convertible. She was a very nice looking girl, and I was surprised that she took me out for a date, as I was sure that many American young men would have loved to take her for a date.

57 Chevy convertible

We went to a drive-in movie. It was the first one I had ever seen. As I looked around there were many cars around us, but a lot of romancing was going on. I really didn't feel very comfortable as I just met the girl and didn't know what to do. Besides that I still was used to European ethics. After the movie we drove around the city and did some sightseeing. From the city there was a large boulevard that ran alongside a large lake. About half way we stopped along the lake. There were many cars parked alongside each other. The scenery of the lake was beautiful, especially at night. It was the most perfect spot for lovers. Later on I found out that this spot was called Lovers Lane. As I dated this girl for many more weeks, I found out that many ways of life in America were so different than what I was used to. So to get along in the American way of life I had to change a lot of my Dutch ways.

I had so many friends now, and Berny was one of them who wanted me to come along for a weekend to New York City. He was very familiar with the city as he had lived there before. As we were driving on the New York State Thruway I was so impressed by the constructions of those highways, and just the unbelievable miles you could drive on it. I was thinking about the little narrow roads we had back at home, and highways of this kind I had never seen. As we drove along I noticed so much open space and the natural beauty of this land. As we came closer to New York City we had to cross the George Washington bridge. I couldn't believe my eyes, there were at least eight driving lanes at each side of the bridge, and the cars were constantly coming from each direction. After we parked our car in the city of Manhattan we went sight seeing around those unbelievable structures of sky-scrapers. In Holland I had seen all of this in movies, and now here I was walking around to see it with my own eyes. It was hard to believe that this could ever happen to me

We walked around Time Square with all the interesting advertisement lights. We walked around 5th avenue and 42nd street and visited the largest bus terminal in the world. It accommodated 120,000 bus commuters and 12,000 long distance bus travelers daily. We went to the top of the empire state building. I didn't feel very comfortable when I was at the top. Looking down to the streets I felt very light headed. The cars below on the street were no bigger than the tip of my fingers. There was a restaurant on the top floor. I asked one of the waitresses how she felt doing her job every day on top of this building. She said she was used to it and the height didn't bother her a bit. Visiting New York City for the first time with all its interesting scenes, I wanted to visit this city more often. Meeting Berny I saw a lot of New York State. On some weekends we traveled to all kinds of places. Berny had a Chevy convertible and he had to do all the driving. I couldn't afford a car yet and I didn't know how to drive. So, wherever Berny drove me, I took care of the gas tank.

Because Berny did all the driving, I was able to visit some of my friends I met on the boat. One family lived in Rochester, New York. The Catholic emigration service did the same for them as what they had done for me. A sponsor had received them in Rochester. With his three children he was given an older house to live in, and my friend was given a job as I painter. Another friend of mine I met on the boat lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut. When Berny and I went there they were so happy to see us. They also lived in an older home, and my friend worked as a clean-up man in a factory. We talked about our boat trip and what the future for us would be in this enormous country. I noticed that my friends went through a hard time adjusting to their new environment. Most of the older people built their hopes of a good future on their children. My friend's children went to school with American children and they adjusted very quickly to their new environment. For many older people it was not that easy and many of them became very homesick. From the ten Dutch boys the Polish church in Syracuse sponsored, five of them went back to Holland within a half-year. Most of them didn't like their jobs in the factory and started to complain about all kinds of things. They came from well to do families and had never worked very hard in their life. Most of them had high dreams about America where they could make a lot of money really fast and easy. One of the Dutch boys even went to Hollywood and told us he was going to be a movie star. He came back a few months later very disappointed. I wished I could have taken some of those boys to the background I came from, just one day's work in those coal mines would have changed their minds of going back to Holland.

CONTINUED: The Selective Service sends me a notice
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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

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