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

The Selective Service sends me a notice

A half a year had passed since I left Holland. My English was improving, I was still working at the foundry but as a machine operator, and my pay had increased quite a bit. I was able to save some of my pay every month, and I sent my mother a check monthly, as I knew she was missing my financial support since I left home.

I was very thankful for Mister Kowalski that he got me a job at Crouse-Hinds in the foundry department. It wasn't the job I really wanted, but it gave me a very nice financial start. Sometimes Frank and I would visit our sponsor. Mister and Mrs. Kowalski were very nice old people. Sometimes they needed things to be cleaned around the house, and Frank and I would help them. I never forgot, we always had to drive them once a month to a dairy farm where they would buy thirty quarts of milk in glass bottles. This would supply them for a whole month. They would keep it in the refrigerator and it would not sour. Most of the milk products at that time were bottled in glass and only pasteurized. There was always a creamily on top of the milk bottle and that was scooped off for the coffee.

Frank was a member of a Dutch club in Syracuse which he and some other Dutch people had organized. He asked me to join the club which I did, and I became well known for the beer parties we had at our monthly meetings. The owner of the restaurant and dance floor always enjoyed seeing me as I was always very generous in treating my friends with all kinds of drinks. Most of my friends had their own cars and I was always dependent on them for driving me around. I knew one day I would have my own car. I always had enough pocket money. The only thing I needed was some nice clothes, and the rent and food were very cheap. The money I had left, I spent on having a good time, as I discovered so many new things in my life.

It was the first week in August in 1957 that I received a letter from the selective service board of Syracuse to report to their office on September the first. I was drafted in the American army and had to report at Fort Knox, Kentucky where I would receive my basic training. All along I had expected it any day in my mail. I was glad to get away from the foundry job. The army from now on was going to be my new home. Most of my friends were delighted to hear the news. Some of my friends said the army might send me overseas again, and all sorts of good looking pep talk.

As I gave the manager of the foundry my notice, and I told all of my friends the day before I would leave that I would have a swinging farewell party. My sponsor was glad to hear that I was drafted in the army. He said, "Joe, you will have a much better chance of improving yourself for a better job. As my time had come to say goodbye to all my friends in Syracuse I had really prepared for this party. We lived on the top floor, and the people below us were very nice. I told them that we were going to have this farewell party and they said go right ahead, as they didn't mind it at all.

I had bought all kinds of drinks, and the refrigerator was filled with beer. Frank and his friends I shared the apartment with couldn't believe their eyes when they saw all those drinks in the apartment. I invited all my friends from the Dutch club and many of the people of the foundry I worked with. About sixty of them came to the party. As the night went on and everybody was having a good time, the party became very loud. So bad it was that our neighbors thought we were fighting upstairs and called the police. Without knowing, suddenly two policemen came through the front, and two came in from the back door. Once they noticed there was no fight going on but just a loud party, they wanted to know who the organizer was of the party. As I explained to the police that I was the one who gave the party and that the next day I was leaving for the army, they were very sympathetic and even drank a few beers with us. The party kept going on until early in the morning, and I drank too much. I am sure the neighbors were kind of happy when they saw me leave that morning. All of my friends talked about this party for a long time.

Something new was going to happen in my life again as I was leaving for the army. I had to report very early at the selective service draft board in downtown Syracuse where I would get my plane ticket and instructions of traveling. I felt kind of sick from a hangover from the party the night before, but I acted like I was feeling fine. I was glad to see that I wasn't traveling by myself. Five other boys from the Syracuse area were drafted. We were driven to the Syracuse airport for our first flight to Washington D.C. I was thinking about my airplane flight, as this was the first time that I ever flew in a plane. I must admit I didn't feel very comfortable at all. The plane that was going to fly us to Washington D.C. was an Eastern-Airline plane with four propeller engines. I can't remember how many hours it took us to fly to Washington D.C., but we were not able to get our next flight to Kentucky and stayed overnight in one of the hotels in Washington D.C. The next day we had plenty of time to do some sightseeing in the Nation's Capital, as our next flight wouldn't leave until late afternoon. The streetcars were going along Pennsylvania Avenue. We took pictures of the White House and the Capitol building. This city was so different than what I had seen of New York. Here I didn't see any skyscrapers at all. There were so many green trees all over this city. I later found out that a French man had designed this city. All along I noticed some European influence.

Our next flight from Washington D.C. to Louisville, Kentucky was as smooth as our first flight. My first plane trip had gone better than I expected.

CONTINUED: Service in the segregated U.S. Army
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