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

Our weekends in the Shenandoah Mountains

All my family was happy to have met Lu Lu. Plans were made that my mother had to come and stay with us for a little while. Lu Lu hated to fly and she was so happy when we arrived in Washington D.C. again. She said she had seen all of my family and all of her friends in England, and that she wouldn't fly again. If they wanted to see her they had to come to Washington. This was my second trip home since I left in 1957 for the U.S.A. So many things had changed over the years. All of my sisters were married and had their little children. It was nice to see all of them but after a few weeks I was ready to go back home again. Somehow my home wasn't in Holland anymore. So many things had changed, my family, friends, even the environment. It wasn't there anymore what you had hoped for to see. I guess what I had left several years ago was still in my mind, and you expect to see the same back again as when you left it. What we sometimes do not realize is that we are progressing daily in life, and this happens in most parts of the world. Changes in life are very difficult to adjust to. It gives you sad and pleasant moments. Lu Lu and I had to make our life together far away from our families.

We both worked very hard but shared so much money with our families far away, and the friends around us. We became much involved with many of our friends' hobbies which were sometimes very costly for us. Some of them liked to play the slot machines at North Beach which was about a one hour ride by car from Washington D.C. Most of the time we would go to the Rod and Reel restaurant, and sometimes we would drive all the way to Waldorf. We became such regular customers at Rod and Reel that whenever we ran out of money the owner asked us how much money we needed, or he would cash any check we had. Lu Lu and her friends were always playing the slot machines, I usually sat at the bar and drank my beer and talked with people who sat around me. Since all of us were a foreign extraction, and people had seen us around so much, they thought we were associated with some Embassy in Washington. The owner of the restaurant always thought that I was a diplomat with some Embassy. When I told him that I was working for Embassy Dairy and that I was a lab technician he wouldn't believe me. I always wore neat suits, and that's what made him think I was a diplomat. There were many nights that we spent our last dollar in the slot machines. Thanks to my very good friends around the neighborhood I was always able to borrow some money until my pay-check came around. This was very bad, but the slot machines were so attractive to us and our friends that we couldn't stay away from them.

Shenandoah Mountains 

During the summer time we spent many weekends in the Shenandoah Mountains in a little town called Syria. It was very close where former President Hoover used to have his retreat. People who live around there still call it "Hoover Camp".

Mr. and Mrs. Mesina, two elderly people Lu Lu and I knew, we called them Pap and Mam. I had board and room with them when I first came to Washington D.C. Mam was born and raised in the town of Syria. She met Pap in her younger years when she came to Washington D.C. to do domestic work in people's homes. Pap came from the Philippines and had worked for an American family in the Philippines who later brought him along to work for them in America. Mam told me when she married Pap the townspeople in Syria looked down on her because she married an Asian. In the older days this was not very welcome. But as the time passed by, and after the war many more Philippine people came to America, people started to get used to Asian faces. In the year 1940 Mam was able to buy this old, large brick stone house on the foot-hills of the town of Syria. It was surrounded by mountains. In front of the house ran a clear water creek, and it was always stocked with trout fish. Next to the house was a large garden, and in the summer time it was filled with all kinds of vegetables. Around the house was about 150 acres of land. For all of this Mam had paid $2,900. Most of the people of Syria lived on the foot-hills of the mountains. There were still a lot of people who lived in logwood houses without running water inside. It was only a 90 mile car drive from Washington D.C. to get to Syria, but the difference in style of living was like day and night. At that time to get to Syria, I drove down route 123 which was just a country road. Route 66 wasn't even heard of.

Lu Lu and I became very well known with the people who lived in this little town. Most people of the town were Pap and Mam's friends and so became our friends. Lu Lu and I had never been involved with country people in America. This was something new for us. The way they talked, their way of thinking was so different than the people we had met in Washington D.C. As we became more familiar with the town and people, Lu Lu and I drove around the mountain roads and visited people's houses. Most people we met lived a very simple life. The town itself had no job opportunities. The people who lived there were small farmers, and in the summer time worked around the fruit orchards. It was not a rich life but a very healthy one to live around. The people had their own livestock, like chickens and pigs, and enough vegetables in the gardens to can for the whole winter time. On most every property was a spring house, and the water was always ice-cold. I noticed the cans of milk sitting in the spring house where they just scooped off the cream from the top and made their own butter. All of this reminded Lu Lu about her own village in Burma. She felt at home among those people.

Coming in the town of Syria there was one general store. Inside the store was everything the town people needed including a post office and a bank where the people could cash their checks. In front of the store was a large bench, and it was always filled with people who lived in the town. It was like a gathering place where you could get the latest news. Most people who lived on the foot hills of the mountains would take a walk to the store every day. There they would get the latest news and they would know which stranger came into town that day. Whoever came into town had to pass by the general store, and it was like a check-out place. Once you pass the general store you could only drive into the town of Syria, and the road would run dead into the mountain. Once you reached the top of the mountain you had to make a u-turn to get out of Syria again.

CONTINUED: Drinking Virginia Moonshine
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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