leroy_moorreesBy 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.




    • Sir, sorry for my late reply. Yes, I believe my Father ordered our family book through you ? As did my Uncle from Dordrecht ? Thank you for your reply.

  1. Thank you Leroy for sharing your family’s experience. My family also came on the Groote Beer, but in September of 1962. We took the train to Chicago and then on to Oregon. Our sponsor also had a house prepared for us. I remember my mom thinking it was their house and crying when they left to go home, realizing the house was for us, fully furnished down to the groceries in the refrigerator. Yes, pap also took a janitorial job at the Presbetarian church and worked hard. I had emergency surgery (appendicitis) shorly after arriving. My mom had difficulty conveying that I had this condition and was told that here in the US we have the flu. My brother Rene (4th grade) and I (2nd grade) went to school and within months were speaking and reading English in the top reading groups. We moved to California in 1966 to be closer to my mom’s older sister in San Jose. My father got a job at United Airlines. My brother Rene and I both finished college and became teachers. My younger brother is a retired Oakland police officer. We married, had kids and now are Oma’s and Opa’s. ‘Amerika’ has been good to us. We have had every opportunity we have ever wanted because our parents made the decision to come here and reinvent themselves for the second time. They truly are heroes. Let the next generation know!! God bless.

    • Hedy, thank you for your story. Sorry for the late reply. I find it always great that we took our parents’ work ethic and used it to our advantaged to succeed in out jobs, and hopefully pass it on to our kids. More important, the other good family values is something I also appreciate that my parents gave me, which I am glad many Indo families have. Thanks again.

        • We ended up taking the train across country to Los Angeles. We lived in South Central L.A. for a while; then moved to Inglewood, Calif. My dad saved the passenger list from that voyage that we were on. If you have ever watched that program “Parking Wars”, on cable TV, you can see the S.S. United States in the background near the Philadelphia parking authority office. I understand that one of the biggest problems with the old ship is asbestos removal.

  2. Oh my goodness my story is so close to the same as yours. We immigrated from Holland in August of 1962. We were on the Waterman and from NY to San Diego by train. Sponsored by the Presbyterian church in Spring Valley California. A completely furnished home including stocked with food toiletry items etc. I went to school not knowing the English language. But learned it quickly. I was 10 years old. Amazing adventure and quite the experience.

  3. Dear Leroy,
    I happened to come upon your story just out of curiosity this morning, and am glad I did. My family and I share a similar story of immigrating to the U.S. and so many of the sentiments that you express ring true for me and my siblings. My parents with seven of us kids in tow came to America by ship in June 1960, processed in NYC and transported by train (the same old Erie train) to Chicago and on to Los Angeles via the Sante Fe Railways, which happened to be a nicer and more modern train. My parents have both passed away now but my siblings and I are eternally grateful for their courage and sacrifices. We also know the importance of passing their story on to the next generation of Indo’s.
    With kind regards,
    Linda Koch Walla

    • Hello Linda, thank you for your feedback and family’s similar experience. So where did your family end up living first? I find it interesting and great, that after so many years we meet and hear about other families, of course because of social media. For some of us to hear these similar stories, we go back in time, when our parents were still alive, and we realize the important things they did for us, or tried to teach us to pass on. Nice to hear from you.

      • Hi Leroy,
        Like many other immigrant families in the 1960’s, we were sponsored by the Presbyterian church. A representative met us at Union Station in dowtown L.A. and arranged for us to lodge with another Indo family until a house could be found for us. A few days later, we were able to move into a nice little house in central L.A. We were enrolled in the nearby elementary school and learned English rather quickly and assimilated well into the American culture. Six months later my parents received a notice that a freeway was to be built in the area where our house was located (the 10 fwy) and therefore were required to move. That is when my family relocated to Culver City, where we lived for the remainder of our family life together. My siblings and I eventually married and moved away but still live in different areas of California.

  4. It shows courage to tell your family story. You must have inherited it from your brave parents.
    Hi Roy, we know each other already for a while, but the experience of your parents are unknown to me. A friend in The Netherlands pointed me to the story of the family Moorrees. To show some round figures, about 300,000 Indo’s were kicked out of the East Dutch-Indies and left for the Netherlands. Due to both the horrible Dutch treatment and the cold weather an average number of 50,000 of the 300,000 showed even more courage to leave for the land of opportunity, the United States of America. Nearly all did well. I know from stories, many other Indo’s, who did remain in the Netherlands, regretted that.
    I am glad to know you and see you at the kumpulan Hongkong Plaza.

    • Glad to hear from you Ron, and thank you for your comments. Yes, there are many Indo families that have similar stories. My father was lucky with his work in Indonesia, he worked for Standard Oil, an American company. But due to the changes after the war, he also decided to leave Indonesia after marrying my mom in 1955. After arriving in the Netherlands, my father worked for the Dutch government in the accounting, book keeping admin section of the Welfare Department. Again, his thoughts about better opportunities in the U.S. at the time, and weather climate made him decide the move would benefit his family in 1962, when the chance came.

  5. Awesome Leroy. You and your family did well. To me it showed character and the old adage of “pukul terus” no matter what. Bravo!

  6. Hello Leroy,
    Thank you for sharing your childhood memories. In your retelling of that time, I
    really felt that anguish when your family had to leave everything that was familiar, and reinvent yourselves all over again. And yet, to hear of the compassion shown by your sponsors, at that critical juncture, must have meant everything!


    • Hello Eric, sorry I am answering so late. Well as you know, our history to pass on and learn from is what its all about, starting with our own personal experiences. Its important we start recording our stories, for others if possible. It does not matter how you do it, through personal journals, or which ever way you choose to record it. Well I look forward to seeing you at the next Indo party, and hopefully hear more enjoyable stories to share.

  7. This is a wonderful story that reflects so many of us immigrant Indos. We are proud of what we accomplished in our host country. We are grateful for those who helped us assimilate into the US culture. After having lived here for 56 years, it is with gratitude that I look back on my personal accomplishments. Without the blessings and opportunities offered to all of us, none of this would have been possible. We are proud and grateful Indos!

    • Thank you Joyce for your feedback. Yes in the U.S. we got opportunities that may of not been possible in the Netherlands. But with help from our sponsors, Mr. Emile Koemans and his wife, and hard work throughout the years, our parents made it possible for their children to have a good life.

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