By Leroy Moorrees
In July 1962, my parents, two brothers and I, left Vught / ‘s-hertogenbosch, the Netherlands for America. I remember very little from the ship, the Groote Beer that took us from Rotterdam to New York, just getting sick once on board, and the food wasn’t great.
Once in New York, I watched our luggage being unloaded on the docks, they weren’t too nice with the big crates, and hoped our stuff didn’t get damaged.
Moving on, we took the train from New York / New Jersey to Chicago, on the Erie-Lackawanna line. Our cabin section was very dirty, and Mom had to wipe down every seat before we sat, and it seemed dark. Later on, in life, I realized and heard they still had separate sections at that time, cabins for White and Black folks. Anyway, the train from Chicago to Glendale, CA. was okay, but I don’t remember how many days it took. When we arrived in Glendale our sponsors, the Koemans family from Pasadena were waiting for us. I remember the bright California sun hitting my face, and looking up at the San Gabriel mountains, what a sight.
We went to Pasadena where a small house was waiting for us, furnished and even with food on the table. My father would never forget this, and was forever grateful to our sponsors, and did everything to show his gratitude for the next 30 years. After a couple of days, my father found a job in a factory, but didn’t stay long.
The owner of the small house gave us three months free of rent. Our family did eventually move as another opportunity was given to my parents by St. Philips the Apostle Church in Pasadena. We moved into an old house from the priests less than 100 feet from the Church. I think it was September, and my older brother had to start school there, and because we didn’t have a car yet, it was best where we lived. My Pop became the parish janitor and gardener. At times, he had to wax the church floors, mostly by hand in those days. Pop was a well-educated man, who studied to be a geologist and had a minor in Mathematics from the University of Bandung in Indonesia, but accepted this job for the welfare of his family. The First Generation Indos, who emigrated to the US, took any jobs that were available to them at that time, and worked hard for the American Dream. Mom also started working in the Priests Rectory as an assistance maid, helping an old Irish lady, who was also an immigrant, cook and clean. Mom did this for a few years at St. Philips.
My parents were so busy starting a new life, that one evening I asked my Mom, what date it was that day. To my surprise, my Mom looked a little surprised too, it was my fifth birthday, and my folks had forgotten it. Maybe my parents were too tired after working hard all day, or were worrying about my our future. I know one day Mom did not come out the bedroom the whole day. At dinner time, Pop served us yesterday’s leftovers. So, we knew something was different, and asked Pop, what was wrong with Mom? His answer was Mom was sick. I had heard my Mom cry earlier in the day. Pop was not a good cook or good liar, Mom was worried about us making it in the U.S, and starting over again, for the second time after Holland.
I don’t know how many Indo families had experiences with different churches, but my two brothers and I will always remember, how much St. Philips did for us. The next 7 years we attended school here. We moved out of the big old house after a year or more, when Pop found another job to sell life insurance, which he did for the next 17 years. Mom also soon found a job in an electronic factory at Burroughs, in Pasadena, where she worked a total of almost 30 years in different factories.
Through my parents, I learned at the early age of five, that family values are important, and will always be grateful and appreciative of them. I tried to show this throughout my life, wherever I live, maybe not always succeeding, but hoping I can return the favor whenever possible.
Family in photo: younger brother standing next to my Mom(her left) Michael A. Moorrees, Electrical Engineer in Redondo Beach, age 58 ; Next my Mom, Ann van Tilborg- Moorrees, born in Nwagi, central Java, 1925-2007; older brother, Raymond W. Moorrees, age 61, Accountant in Pasadena; next being held by my Pop, Leroy R. Moorrees, Retired U.S. Air Force, age 59; and my Father, Remile W. Moorrees, born in Kudus, central Java, 1925-1993.
Photo time frame, early 1962, before we left Holland to U.S.