An Indo Immigration Story.

By Ray and Ludy van Broekhuizen

The van Broekhuizen family on the Maasda ship 1961 from NL to USA

The van Broekhuizen family arrived in the cold “kikkerland”, the Netherlands, in November 1957 from warm and tropical Jakarta, Indonesia. At that time, the family consisted of dad, Charles Louis van Broekhuizen, mom, Nancy Cornelia Tency (van Slooten) and five children (Roy, Ray, Ruby, Rose, and Rene). They left Indonesia hastily because of the growing unrest and turbulent post colonial time in the still newly independent country. They left with only the clothes on their back and a couple of suitcases fearing for their lives. They arrived in the “fatherland” and ended up in a small village in the province of Overijssel but only stayed for a brief 4 years. Trying to acclimate to the cold climate (and some would say, the cold Dutch people and culture) was something that Dad just could not bear. So the family made plans to immigrate to America.

The van Broekhuizen family arrived in New York City on the Holland America Line ship, the Maasdam, in November of 1961 along with another family (Gaby and Zus Ladage with their son Frans) who unbeknownst to either would become life-long friends. The families then took a train across country from New York to Portland, Oregon. Dad only spoke a little English and Mom was tending to the children who at that point numbered six (Ludy, the youngest boy,  was born in Holland, had his second birthday on the ship).

Through the Pastor-Walter Act, we were sponsored by the Oregon City First Methodist Church. The church prepared for our arrival and paid the 1st month rent on what to us was a huge house compared to the small flat we occupied in Goor, Holland.  Since we arrived just before Christmas, the church brought us Christmas gifts (toys) and we were all so amazed and excited! The church even found Dad a job at the Ice & Cold Storage company in Milwaukie where frozen foods were kept until transported to grocery stores in the Portland area. Dad had a big heart and was always looking to help someone—sometimes to the dismay of Mom who was always taking care of us. Dad would often bring home damaged goods (packaged frozen vegetables and meats) and shared these with other Indo families all of whom were in a similar financial position struggling to get by. Mom cooked, cleaned, and took care of us kids (that by this time now numbered eight–Lorette and Michelle were born in the US) in a remarkable way that to today’s generation would seem impossible to do successfully. Every weekend we would “kumpul” with other Indo families (van Waardenburg, van Bronckhorst, Zeewald, Idzardi, Ladage, Bouwens, Rhemrev, de Water, Baden, Verdonk, Ramaker van Praag, Bergman,  Tjaden,  Monsauret, and many more) most of whom also had 6-8 children. And of course there was always Indo food. It seems like Mom was constantly in the kitchen and we kids went to school smelling like fried lumpia! There were so many joyful times for us growing up in spite of the lack of funds. We went camping and also took road trips to California and even got to go to Disneyland- often we would connect with Indo families along the way and stay with them to save money. The spirit of Indo hospitality was still very alive. Later in life, Mom confessed that she couldn’t stand camping since she, of course, was responsible for cooking for ten on a Coleman stove—she and the gray enamel rice steamer were always at work.

Unfortunately, Dad struggled with layoffs and English and though he tried his best, could never seem to adjust to life in America. For him, leaving Indonesia was the end of his happy life. The life he left behind was ever present in his psyche. At some point along the way, Dad decided he would try to start doing “business” in Indonesia. Nothing ever really worked out, and he finally left America for good in February 1977 leaving Mom and us behind and only looking back infrequently. This left Mom to start taking care of the business of making a living and watching over the family—most of the kids were already grown up, but the youngest was only ten years old. All of a sudden, the quiet behind the scenes woman took charge and started taking classes at community college, worked odd jobs here and there and basically did anything necessary to support all of us if not financially, definitely emotionally and spiritually. Mom has always been the true rock in our family. Throughout our lives she has blessed us with her wisdom, insights, and oftentimes surprisingly modern ways of “figuring things out”. Mom has lived through war, hard times, and the deaths of two daughters to cancer Ruby  and Rose. Her unwavering faith in God has helped her through all of these difficulties.  She has completely redefined herself as an independent woman who knows how to accomplish whatever she needs to do. At 87, Mom still loves going shopping, tending to her African Violets and other plants, cooking lunch for her friends, and talking with them on the phone. She is always trying to give us money even though none of us need it.

Michelle, Mom and Roy

Through all the ups and downs, as first generation immigrants, we were raised with a great set of old world values, manners, and respect for others and a true sense of heritage and community. Our parents raised all of us with the expectation that we get along, help each other, and stick together—and it worked out just as they had planned. Their sacrifice was our gain. Their suffering paved the way for our bright futures. Thanks to all the Indo parents who were willing to give up so much for the sake of their children. What an awesome legacy to leave behind.

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18 Comments on “An Indo Immigration Story.

  1. Thanks for posting Bianca, there are so many older Indos with similar stories, we are so thankful for our parents to sacrifice their lives so that we can have the freedom to choose our careers, businesses and pursue our dreams. What a legacy to leave behind, if I can only come a bit close to what our parents went through and did for us, I would be grateful. As my wife Louise and I chose to help tsunami survivors in Aceh province, Sumatra, Indonesia, starting with tsunami relief January 2005 and continuing to start Laga Handbags with 12 Acehnese August 2006, which has now flourished to helping over 400 Acehnese, mostly women, we really have seen how we can make a difference. Keep up the work you started with the Indo Project, it is a wonderful way to share the Indo story and keep it alive. Best wishes and blessings from Irvine, CA…..

    • Hello Ray and Ludy, this was the first time I have read your story of the Van Broekhuizen family, and how your family was raised with a great set of old world values, manners, respect for others and a sense of heritage, is something my brothers and I were also instilled with. I believe many Indo families of our generation that came to the United States as young children, in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, have a strong appreciation of the sacrifices and struggles our parents went through, so we could have a better life. My “hat off” to your parents and mother, for her efforts and pain to continue, so her children could have the American Dream. Recently I have met you Ray, and Roy at the Hong Kong 2 Plaza, food court in West Covina. Yes, it was also a pleasure to find out you knew my cousin and his family, Art George from Portland.

  2. Looking at your picture, it just dawned on me that we also were on the s.s. Maasdam, except we left on the 20e of
    March 1961. We also had 6 chlldren when we left, 2 girls and 4 boys. We landed in New York and went to Boston by train. We stayed in Swampscott for a while, then bought a house in So. Lynnfield, Ma. My husband Richard
    worked for Transitron , in Wakefield, Ma and later on worked for Raytheon. That company transferred us to California in 1962. We settled in Los Altos and lived there for 14 years. Moved to Morgan Hill, where we lived for
    17 years. We lived in San Juan Bautista (a mission town) where my husband passed away.

    Currently, I live with my son and daughter-in-law in Bend, Or.

    Drop me a note, when you have the time.

    .

    • Hi Vera, hopefully Roy has made contact with you by now. The immigrant journey of those first days sound similar to all who experienced it.

  3. Just came across this piece of history of which, I had some connection to.

    I was saddened to read that Ruby and Rose were no longer with us; THIS, I do not expect!, May they rest in peace and Happy at the side of their God.

    To this day, I tell people that my “American” name is what Om Lou gave me: James (“Jim”) van Broekhuizen!

    Yes, there was some sad part in my connection with you all; but, there was some happy and rewarding moments too, Thank You to the Broekhuizens!

    Sincere Love,
    Unggit “Jim” Tjitradjaja – Buffalo, NY

  4. So wonderful to see the (very abbreviated) van Broekhuizen story. I always have fond memories of hanging with the van Broekhuizens. Probably, all our stories have similar themes. The struggles my parents, Hugo and Fien endured to raise us kids, Inge, Margy and Frank, are remarkable to me yet they are common stories of difficulties Indos endured after leaving Indonesia. Our parents truly are great. Love you all. Frank

  5. It is now February 5, 2012, and here are a few updates:

    Our mom, Nancy Tency-van Broekhuizen, finally decided to leave her home of 50+ years, Portland, Oregon, to live with our youngest sister Michelle and husband Josh Mellicker in Los Angeles. The transition is quite difficult and it will take some time for Nancy to adapt to LA living but she is doing well. She would love to hear from her friends in Oregon and elsewhere. We are trying to get her to meet some new friends, but so far she is not quite ready yet.
    My brother Ray still lives in Corona, CA with his wife Jennifer and youngest son Jean-Paul who finished college last year. Ray works for a linen company, Alsco in Los Angeles, http://alsco.com/en/index.htm.
    Rene with wife Gail and youngest daughter Nicole are in Diamond Bar, CA, Rene is Regional Chef with McCormick & Schmick’s Restaurants-
    November 09, 2011
    After months of hostile volleys, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants has succumbed to a takeover bid from Landry’s Restaurants Inc., which owns the Rainforest Cafe and other chains.
    In a deal valued at $131.6 million, Houston-based Landry’s will buy McCormick & Schmick’s for $8.75 a share — a 29% premium above McCormick’s closing price Monday.
    He has been going to the headquarters of Landry’s in Houston, TX, more travel and so forth.
    My youngest brother Ludwig David van Broekhuizen started a new job/career and is now Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) at AdvancED, it is the world’s largest education community, serving more than 27,000 public and private schools and districts across the United States and in 69 countries that educate over 15 million students, http://www.advanc-ed.org/. Dr. Mark A. Elgart, President and Chief Executive Officer, is a long time friend of Ludy, he started January 3, 2012, and is currently living in a luxurious corporate apartment in Alpharetta, GA. He is waiting for his home to be sold in Greensboro, NC before purchasing one close to Alpharetta.
    Louise and I had a chance to visit my younger sister Lorette, husband Cass and family in Glendale, AZ, had a wonderful time visiting for a week while we did a quilt show at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.
    Always enjoy visiting my youngest sister Michelle in LA, especially now that mom is there, we go there as often as we can.
    Our company, Laga Designs International, Inc., manufacturer and distributor of handmade handbags and accessories made by tsunami survivors of Aceh province, Sumatra, Indonesia, is still going strong. Last year we did almost 30 trade shows throughout the US, this year we are cutting down to 20 or less.
    Check our website, http://www.laga-handbags.com/.
    Best wishes from Irvine, California.
    Roy & Louise van Broekhuizen et al

    • Dear Roy,
      Your family’s story is inspirational to many who traveled the same road. It was not easy in the early immigration years with so many hurdles to jump.
      Thank you for sharing the followup years.

      Bianca

  6. What a great story. My story is almost identical to this. I am in the process of writing a book of our family.

    • Dear Elsie,
      Thanks for commenting. How wonderful of you to write a book about your family. The more people write about the Dutch-Indonesian experience, the more our legacy will be known. We look forward to reading your family’s book !

      Bianca

  7. Dear Roy:

    I doubt you will remember me. I was a friend of your brother, Rene’s, and I spent time at your home in Oregon City in and around 1973-1975. Though not Indonesian at all, I have a great appreciation and visited Bali long ago. When I think of your mother I smile. She was great. She always made me feel welcome; I’m guessing she did that for everyone. I haven’t been in touch with Rene since 1984 (when he attended my wedding to Daniel), but I would love to know how he and his family are doing. Please send him my regards. If he’d like to reach me, get ahold of me on facebook. I don’t check facebook often, but it is a way to connect. My sister sent me a photo of Rene and I singing on stage at Oregon City High School in the production of “My Fair Lady.” It would have been in 1975. There was a group of us in the photo. It made me think of your family, and in doing an online search, I found this wonderful history of your family. I knew parts of the story from Rene, but now have a fuller understanding. What a great legacy your family and others have to share. Thank you for putting so much of yourself into the writing on this blog. I had no idea that Ruby and Rose were gone. I liked them both. My very best regards, Kathy (a.k.a. Kathleen Mary Gardner Corcos)

  8. Hi!! My family and I also left Holland on the Maasdam on November 1961. We lived in Amsterdam and were sponsored by the Brethren Church in Modesto CA. We lived there about two years, then moved to Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley & have lived in Los Angeles ever since. I had two older brothers who have passed away, as well as my Mom and Dad. I am the only one left of my family, except for some cousins here and in Holland and also in Australia. It was nice reading your story,sounded very similar to my experience coming here. I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1950 and was only a few months old when we moved to Holland. I have gone back to visit in Holland several times, but never to Indonesia. I would love to see were I was born and to see the nice land my father loved before leaving for Holland.

    • Thanks, Danny, for your note. I’m sorry that you have lost so many of your family members. I am still fortunate to have my mom, 3 brothers, and 2 sisters as well as a bunch of cousins both in NL and Indonesia. I try to go back to Holland every year and have also been to Indonesia several times- when I’m there I feel like I’m home even though I only know it from the stories my parents and older siblings shared… The experience of Indo families is so similar across our community. Seems like everyone has an interesting story to tell. Thanks for writing and I hope you are doing well. De hartelijke groeten uit Atlanta!

    • Hello Roeland,

      Gaby is my grandfather. Im sorry to say he passed this last July. He was a very loved man / grandfather and great friend to many here in the Portland, OR area. He was very proud to be an American and loved this country for the opportunity it gave our family. He retired from Tektronix after many years to raise my brother and I. We sure do miss him! Hope all is well.

      Nykolaus
      nladage@hotmail.com

      • Many thanks for your response Nykolaus.
        Very sad to hear about my uncle.
        I did meet him 2 times in my life.
        Shall send you a personal email.
        Best regards, Roeland, son of Frida Blok-Ladage

    • We knew “Oom Gaby” since coming together on the Maasdam ship from Rotterdam to New York in November 1961. I always enjoyed visiting him and his wife “Tante Zus” in Aloha OR when I lived there. As mentioned by his grandson, he passed away in 2015, really miss him. I moved to California in 1985 and currently live in Long Beach CA. Best wishes, Roy van Broekhuizen

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