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

Learning to drive and getting a driver's license

One day we were all sitting around the dinner table and having dinner together when Mr. Vanboden asked his oldest son Henry to do something for him, but his son snapped back at him like he was nobody. I couldn't believe this as I would never dare to act to my father like that. When my father said something to us we listened, and didn't dare to say something back.

The part-time job Henry had in the supermarket, all the money he earned, he kept for himself. I had given the money to my mother until the last pay check I worked. Hans was only eight years old, but his father was always after him, otherwise he was always in trouble. The way those two boys lived was so different than what I was used to when I lived with my parents.

1954 Mercury 
Jeff Nordermeer's 1954 Mercury

I was more than two years in America and everybody kept asking me when I was going to buy a car. I rode the bus to work, but people in the plant kept asking me why I didn't have a car yet. I guess I was the only worker at the milk plant who didn't own a car. I had some money saved at the bank, but not enough to buy a new car. Friends kept telling me that I had to open a credit account with a bank, otherwise later on if I wanted to make a big loan with the bank I couldn't get one because I had no records of good credit. This was all new to me as I had never lived on credit before. I had never driven a car so I needed New York State driving license first. Henry Vanboden took me to the shopping mall parking lot a few times and showed me how to drive his 1957 brand new Ford. It had automatic power steering and brakes and was a very easy car to drive. After driving Henry's car a few days on the shopping mall parking lot, I felt comfortable to take a test for my New York State driving license. Fortunately I was able to take Henry's car for my driving test. When I arrived at the state driving test station I was told that I had to take a written test first. I lied and told them that I didn't know how to read or write English. I was very lucky as the instructor told me not to worry about the written test. The instructor sat next to me and told me where to drive. After we drove a few blocks around he told me to park the car between two other cars. Henry's car had automatic power steering, otherwise I wouldn't have parked it as perfectly as I did. I passed and received my driver's license a week later. Now I had to look around and find a good used car as I couldn't afford to buy a new one yet.

I had never driven a car before and I didn't know anything about a car engine or anything you had to take care of to keep the car running well. It was just all dumb to me. One of my friends who I thought knew a little bit more about cars than I did came along to look around to find a good used car. One day on my way from work I passed by a used car dealership and noticed this real clean cut two door light green 1954 Mercury on the parking lot. I called my friend and told him to come over to see this car. The price of the car was $900 - and it looked in and outside like it was never used. We asked the dealer if we could drive the car around the block a few times. My friend drove the car around and he liked it very much, he said it ran very good. So I listened to my friend and what he said about the way the car ran, then I made a deal with the car dealer that I wanted to buy the car. We agreed that I would pay $600 cash and would make a loan with a bank for $300 so I could establish a good credit record. After everything was settled I drove the car home. I was so happy having my own car. This would never have been possible in Holland. Here I was in America for over a little more than two years and I could already buy my own car. All those years I worked in the coal mines and all that hard work I did I was lucky I could drive a bicycle to work. I thought about the wasted years in the coal mines, and what I could have done if I had come to America much earlier. I was very proud I had my own car and took many pictures in front of my car and sent them to my family and friends in Holland. At that time not too many people in Holland could afford a car, and that's why many people in Holland always thought because Americans were driving those big cars, all of them were well off financially. Most of the Dutch people didn't know about the credit system the Americans were using.

I must have driven my car around for a week when one day I decided to take a ride out of town to visit a friend to show him my car. To get there I had to drive up a steep hill. As I was driving up the hill I noticed how far I pushed down the gas pedal, the car wouldn't go any faster. When I arrived at my friend's house I told him about it. He said to let him drive the car, so he could find out what was wrong with it. When he came back he said to me, "they saw you coming when you bought this car". He told, me the reason I couldn't go any faster up that hill was because the car didn't have any oil pressure. My friend told me to take the car back to where I bought it from, because the car was no good. When I took it back to the car dealer and explained my problem, he said that I might need a valve job on the car. He told me that I had a repair guarantee, but that I still had to pay $150 out of my own pocket. I had no choice than to get the car fixed, but it really upset me and I worried if something else on the car would happen, how was I going to pay off my loan from the bank? I had never owed anybody that much money.

CONTINUED: How I Crashed my Car
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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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