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

My trip from Syracuse to New York City

Not long after my Canadian trip, I received a long distance call from New York City. An old school friend of mine who was in the Dutch merchant marine called from the harbor in Brooklyn. He said, "why don't you come over and visit me tonight". He had seen my address was Syracuse, New York and thought that I was very close in the neighborhood. Most people who live in Holland have no idea how far the distances are in America from one city to the other. I told my friend on the telephone that I lived about 250 miles away from Brooklyn, but that I would try to visit him for the weekend. I made up a story to the manager at the dairy that I needed an extra day off so I could visit my cousin who came from Holland on a ship to New York. It worked, and on Friday morning I flew with Mohawk Airlines to New York City. The airline fare one was sixteen dollars. I carried about 200 dollars cash along, for one weekend that would be enough for both of us to spend. I was wearing a nice light blue summer suit. My friend had not given me the name of the boat; the only thing I knew was that it was a Dutch freighter unloading sugar in the harbor of Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Bridge 

When I arrived in New York I took a taxi and told the driver to take me to the harbor of Brooklyn. I didn't know in which dock the boat was anchored, but the taxi driver let me off in the vicinity of the Brooklyn harbor. From far away I could see some of the ships and warehouses on the docks, so I decided to walk over to the docksides. To get there I had to walk through very low income neighborhood. The houses were old and run down and most people were sitting in front of the steps and talking in Spanish. What I didn't know at that time was that I was walking through a very bad Puerto Rican neighborhood. In my light blue summer suit those people looked very curious. The way they looked at me I didn't feel very comfortable walking along the Hudson River. When I arrived at the ship dock I saw a large gate with a small guard house. I asked the guard if he could help me as I was looking for a Dutch ship where I was supposed to meet my friend. He told me that Brooklyn had so many ports and ships coming in that he needed to know the name of the ship and where it was docked. All of this I didn't know. After he found out that I came all the way from Syracuse, he became worried as it started to become dark. It was late in the afternoon already when I arrived in New York. He said that I was very lucky walking all the way to his place. The neighborhood I walked through was very bad and well known for people to get robbed. He said they will rob you for a dollar and throw you in the river. I was having all that cash money in my wallet. The guard was so concerned about my safety that he didn't want me to leave his guard house until he found out where my friend's ship was located. After he called all kinds of shipping agencies and couldn't get any information from them, he called the coast-guard and they told him that a Dutch freighter was unloading sugar at the Dominican Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. The ship was docked on the other side of Brooklyn. The guard called a taxi as he didn't want me to go out by myself in that neighborhood. He said it was too dangerous. I didn't know how to thank this man who helped me so much. When the taxi arrived at my friend's ship, one of the sailors on deck took me to my friend's cabin. It was one of the latest built Dutch freight ships and very modern. All rooms on ship were equipped with air-conditioning. They even had ice water for drinking faucets. The whole ship was equipped for tropical freight service on the Indonesian Singapore line. My friend had signed a yearly contract to work on this line. When Cuba was boycotted and prevented from selling sugar to America my friend's ship was sent to Houston, Texas to pick-up a load of sugar for the Dominican factories in Brooklyn, New York.

My friend lied to the captain of the ship and told him that we were related to each other, so that I could stay with him in his cabin. Of course we did a lot of drinking and talked about old times in Holland. We had drank many glasses of beer when we lived in Holland. My friend spent many years in the Dutch navy and later went in the Dutch merchant marines. He had sailed all over the world and there weren't too many places he hadn't seen. He did know how to drink his beer, and he would drink many of them before he ever started to feel bad. I asked him if he ever drank any beer chasers. He said he heard about it but was never able to afford them. I told him we would go out that night and have some beer chasers. During the day I hung around the ship as my friend had to work his regular hours, but he was able to get half the day off. So we went sightseeing in New York City. My friend had been in New York City before but was never able to get much time off to visit the city. I had visited New York several times already and knew my way around a little bit. I told my friend that we were going to take the subway but in the city we had to take a transfer and it would be very crowded and he better follow right in the back of me. Once we arrived at the transfer station I told him to follow very closely as the station was packed with people. As I was going down the steps to catch the other train and I looked in back of me my friend was right behind me, but when I stepped in the train and they closed the doors, I saw him standing outside. Evidently he must not have kept up with the crowd and was pushed on the side. I said to myself what in the world am I going to do now. I knew he was far away from the ship and didn't have much money with him, and with all those people in the subway, how in the world were we going to find each other back again? I was hoping he would stay where he was. The next station I left the train and ran back to the other station where I would catch the train that would stop at the station where I was hoping my friend was waiting. To my surprise when the train arrived at the station I saw my friend waiting for me at the other side. As I got off the train I screamed as loud as I could to get his attention. I told him to wait there. After we walked through the streets of New York we laughed about it, but I told my friend how smart he was for staying at the same spot. He said he couldn't go anywhere and didn't know what to do.

Most of the day we did all kinds of sightseeing, and we took pictures from the top of the Empire State building. It had been an interesting day and, when we arrived back at the ship again we had several beers with other ship mates and talked about our subway experience.

CONTINUED: Life goes on and on
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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