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

The oppressing poverty of Washington

It was very sad that by the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King who had always preached non-violence for so many years, a situation was created where the black people felt it was time to take things in their own hands, which was denied to them for so many years. All of this made America wake up for more Negro social justice. It was sad that the whole world had to know that it had to be done by violence in one of the most well known cities of the world.

In June 1968 Robert Kennedy was killed. Everybody feared for Robert Kennedy's life when he was running for President. But the humanitarian aspect he saw about certain people's lifestyles couldn't keep him out of politics. The Kennedy family had their share of sadness. Their fathers might be dead, but I am sure that America will always remind the American people of the death of their fathers, and traditionally they will reach the goals in life their fathers believed in so strongly.

Robert Kennedy 

I had been working for Southland Corporation for six years. I had an assistant in the lab and was getting off every Saturday. For three years I had worked in the lab by myself, and never had a Saturday off. But slowly things were looking much better for me. Southland was expanding so rapidly on the market, that we couldn't keep up with all of our supplies to the 7-Eleven stores. Southland Corporation introduced so many new products in their 7-Eleven stores all over the country. Their sales in the 7-Eleven stores did better and better every year, and my Profit Sharing was really showing it financially. I had known all along that Southland Corporation was a good company to work for. I got involved with so many of their new programs, which gave me a lot of paper work to write and speeches to prepare. Those were never my favorite subjects. I always felt very uncomfortable whenever I had to speak in front of a group of people. I always knew what I had to talk about, but somehow I easily froze whenever I stood in front of a group of people. I know in order to be successful with Southland Corporation and the way they were expanding I had to go back to school at night and take some managerial courses. So I went back to night-school again and learned a lot about speech and report writing. I had to stand in front of the class and speak to other students. All of this was very helpful in years to come.

With the long hours I spent at work and the nights I went to school my days were very busy. All of this extra energy started to pay off. I was getting yearly salary increases with other good financial benefits. Lu Lu and I started to do things we weren't able to do before. With all the luck and success I had in my work I always had feelings for people who weren't as lucky in life as I was.

The Embassy Dairy plant was located in the heart of Washington D.C. It was a low income neighborhood, and most of the people who lived there were Negroes. We always had a lot of street people hanging around our premises. Our parking lot was very small and only management and supervising personnel was allowed to park their car on the parking lot. Even having your car parked on the company's property, it still wasn't saved from break-ins and stealing. I became very friendly with one of the street people who was always around our parking lot. His name was Sam. Sam made his pocket money from the people who worked in our dairy plant, and some cars he washed on the parking lot. Whenever I came to work Sam was waiting for me on the parking lot. I had told Lu Lu about him and she would always put an extra sandwich in my lunch bag for Sam. I would always ask him if he had enough money to buy himself a cup of coffee in the morning. In return Sam told me not to worry about my car as he would look after it. Sometimes he would wash it for me. Sometimes after work before I would get into my car I would have a little talk with Sam. My general manager noticed it a few times. One day when I was in his office he made a remark about why I had to associate with those street bums. I told my general manager that I never lived a bum's life and I wanted to know what makes a person become a bum.

I asked Sam why he became a street person and didn't want a steady job. He told me after he was discharged from the army where he had been a master sergeant and was getting a small pension from the army, his marriage didn't work out, and so he went on his own. His mother lived a few blocks away from our plant and owned her own house, but he didn't want to worry his mother. He wanted to be free on his own and do what he liked to do. He said to me, "I don't have to worry like you to get to work every morning, and there is no boss behind me telling me what to do". I asked him where he slept during the night. He told me to come along and he'd show me. There were several torn down buildings next to our parking lot. The demolition company had leveled the buildings, but had done nothing to the basements. Sam slept every night in one of those basements. I wanted to see where he slept and Sam took me down some old broken steps into the basements. His place reminded me of World War II when the Germans bombed us out of the basement. There was rubble all around. In one of the corners was an old bed. Around it was all kinds of trash and rubble from the torn down building. It looked like a pile of trash with a bed in the middle of it. When I saw the environment Sam had to sleep in every night I could have cried. I couldn't understand how a human being could let himself go that low in life.

There was a lot of poverty in that area. I noticed many families living with small children in crummy basement apartments. I always felt very sorry for the children that they had to live in an environment like that. And what would happen to them after they had grown up in an environment like that? Would they also become people like Sam? When I was young I saw a lot of poverty myself, because there was a war going on. But here in this country there was no war and yet there are so many poor people.

CONTINUED: A trip to Florida and the death of President Eisenhower
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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