In memory of my parents Hendrik Marinus Kakebeen (1916-1979) and Myra Eleanore Middleton/Kakebeen (1920-1993)
I always felt that Mom and Dad were very special people and wished they would have shared the stories about their childhood, their parents (Oma and Opa), their education, their war experiences, Holland experiences, but we were never curious enough when we were younger. Myra and Hendrik were not whiners or complainers. I do know that they were smart, dedicated, loyal, considerate people, and loved their family and friends. They were the best at what they did and were not afraid of hard work. They taught us to look good, be smart, and that our decisions had consequences. People close to them would know Myra as Noortje and Hendrik simply as Hank or Henk. They truly are my heroes and I’m thankful for the life that they led.
By: Ronny Kakebeen
Here is their story:
While Hendrik was in the Dutch Royal Air force in Indonesia, he met Myra Middleton and fell in love. They got married and had their first son, Marinus “Dino” Willem Kakebeen, just before WWII started. Because he was Dutch, Hendrik was placed in a prisoner of war camp for the duration of the war. Myra had to care for a newborn child and herself without the comforts of a home or an income. As explained in the movie “Buitenkampers”, their experience would be shared by many.
Somehow, they both survived the horrors of war and sometime after the enemy’s surrender. Hendrik was freed and searched for Myra and his son who he had not seen for five years. They found each other and the love and survival story continued. On October 27, 1947, Ronald was born in Jakarta. He was followed by one more boy, Freddy, born May 25, 1949 in Zeist. After Myra and Hendrik went on vacation to Holland, they returned to Indonesia around the time that Independence was claimed. It was extremely dangerous to be Dutch in Indonesia at that time, so Hendrik took his family to Den Haag, Holland around 1950.
The family faced some racial issues, and it became too uncomfortable to live in Holland. Hendrik appealed to Brazil and the United States. Finally, in 1957, the Kakebeens were granted admission to America but they had to learn English, American history, and be sponsored with possible job offers. The Kakebeens boarded the Groote Beer ship and after many days on the ocean they finally spotted the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island with New York in the background. After all the standard admission protocols and signatures, they boarded a Santa Fe train headed west to California. Hendrik always wanted to live in Florida or California.
They arrived in Los Angeles and acquired a second story one-bedroom apartment overlooking MacArthur Park. Hendrik spent days looking for employment he would qualify for, but his green card status would not allow him to work on airplanes. With his mechanical skills he was offered employment with a heavy equipment repair company called Challenge Cook Bros. As the paychecks started rolling in, the Kakebeens moved three more times until they had enough money to purchase 828 S. Burlington in Los Angeles. This became the first home they would own.
The Burlington home soon became the center for families and friends to be sponsored. Many parties, weddings, and events occurred there. Using his mechanical knowledge, Hendrik would earn extra cash by repairing and overhauling car engines in the spacious rear of the house. The kids attended Precious Blood Elementary, Belmont, and Loyola High schools. Myra and Hendrik hoped their kids would go to college to become lawyers, dentists, and doctors. While their children followed their own version of the American dream, they were successful and became homeowners themselves.
I’ve been writing songs since 1962, but this is the first time I’ve written a story and put it into rhyme and music. The subject matter was a no brainer. There is no greater love and survival story than my Mom and Dad, Myra and Hendrik. While vacationing in Whitefish, Montana during the pandemic, I was inspired to write this song. I dug up as many pictures as I could from old deteriorating books and pages and was able to put some faces and people on and around my subjects. With all my love and respect, this is the Ballad Of Myra & Hendrik.
Here are the lyrics:
The Ballad of Hendrik and Myra
by Ronald Kakebeen
Hendrik was handsome, and Myra was his star,
They met in Indonesia, just before the big war
Misfortune found him a prisoner, of war for five years
While she raised their newborn son, conquering her fears
When victory was accomplished, it was 1945
Somehow returned to each other, insuring love would survive
Two more boys later, it was hard to believe that
Indonesia was in turmoil; with little they had to leave
To their country of Holland, they had to start all over again
But their desire for America made this a temporary stay
Another boy, and girl later the United States said come
With few belongings, boarded a ship,
which took them on their way
Behold lady Liberty with open arms it was the promised land
From New York 2 LA by Santa Fe train 2 the passengers it was grand
To a 1 bed room apartment, the 7 strong would gather with delight
Hendrik hit the road and searched for employment
and Myra kept the family all right
Although skilled to work on airplanes,
his green card would not allow
With his knowledge and perseverance,
the paychecks rolled in somehow
Myra managed the kids and money, scraped enough for a loan
They moved to 828 S. Burlington, they finally owned a home
They are my heroes, they aspired to be the best
They gave us everything we needed to feel safe and succeed
The love they imparted to their family and friends has no equal
I thank them everyday for the lives that they’ve lead
Ohhh…… awwww Ronnie accidentally I run into this. How beautiful and well written. Yes….. your parents were great people and our bffs. We met them at the AVIO in 1962 when they asked us “if they could sit with us” And Dad always asked me to dance and his favorit question always was “come on meis gaan we even buikschuiven”.So many great memories we have and all the love we received from them. She was like my Mom. I still adore her daily by making all the Indonesion recipies she taught me. Because of your Dad Oom Hans got his first car they went out together. Then all the amazing parties we had. Thank you so much for this beautiful story. With love always Hans and Toni Heinicke
So true of a family history that has much parallel to ours. I am happy to read that it was all for the best. Our parents definitely imparted a legacy that can only be appreciated by the survivors and those following with first hand experience. I wish the families of the Kakebeens much happiness and succes. This ballad has much depth and meaning and I thank you for putting it out to share.
Thank you for your nice comment. I hope it will inspire others to ask their parents and grandparents about their journeys. I am related to a Peggy Boermeester, now Peggy Kakebeen. She’s my sister in law. Regards, Ron Kakebeen
Hallo Cor, Thank you so much for your comments. I too wish all much happiness and success. I hope I inspire all to ask their parents about their journeys before that information is all gone. All these people are heroes for doing the best they could with the circumstances that surrounded them. They all aspired to be and do the best they could. Regards, Ron Kakebeen
Hello Ronnie, my wife found this web page purely by accident curious of my Dutch Indonesian history. I have vague memories of you and your family as I was young. My parents Chris and Nancy de Koning lived across the street from your family on Burlington. My Ohm, Rudy Brouwer was also part of the memories. I believe Tommy Middleton was your Ohm, and I have very vague memories of three sons as I was very young. I doubt I’ll ever know what truly happened as my parents don’t talk about their upbringing much. They are still alive at 85 and 86. I’m sure they would love to see / speak with you if possible. Kind regards, Allan
Nice story and song! By the way Ron, you must be related to Peggy, my old neighbour!