Part 2 of 3 articles about luminary Indo scientist Edward E. E. Frietman known both in the Netherlands and United States for his extensive work in academia, sciences, and outstanding career.
1940 – 2020: My Life in a Blink of an Eye
Part 2: Netherlands (1952 – 1963)
By Edward E. E. Frietman
Being and remaining an Indo means being true to your origins and your principles, bearing in mind that success is not a coincidence, but besides persistence, it involves hard work and constant study.
Our (family’s) repatriation to the Netherlands in 1952 was via the ship S.S. “Sibajak” where my father and I slept in hammocks in the hold. We had no warm clothing at all, but at our stop in Port Said, Egypt, we could buy clothing packages for 125 Dutch Guilders per package via the Red Cross. When opening these packages aboard it turned out that all the warm clothes we needed had been removed.
We arrived in Amsterdam and were then transported to a “contract pension” (guesthouse) in Zandvoort, where we were housed in one room of 2.5 x 2 meters. My father quickly found work in Rotterdam and after some time we had to move to another pension in Rotterdam with a slightly bigger room. All costs, including the shabby clothes forced upon us, had to be paid back down to the last cent to the Dutch Government.
Education in Netherlands
Going to school in Holland was a misery. The teacher paid no attention to you because you were different and the education I received back in Semarang at the “Broederschool” was not adequate enough. As a result, I was put at the very back of the class. As a Dutch Indies boy, I was constantly challenged and if I came home with torn clothes, scratches and bumps, an additional beating from my parents awaited me.
After taking the entrance exam for the Willem de Zwijger HBS in Rotterdam, I was told that I could not be admitted due to insufficient knowledge of history and geography. Fortunately, the director, in charge at that time, was aware of the situation in the former DEI and personally decided that I could still start my studies. Everything went smoothly until I had to choose my field of study: languages or mathematics. I chose mathematics.
On the first day of school I met the teacher who taught chemistry, mechanics, and physics. At the end of the class he asked me to wait and bluntly told me that he didn’t like my skin color, therefore would discriminate against me in every way and that I would never get a sufficient grade for the subjects he was teaching. Every failure at school resulted in a merciless beating from my father, until I confronted him with the fact that he, as a former teacher at the Polytechnic School, could easily verify if I was indeed that bad in the 3 science subjects. He checked a total of 15 exams and found out that the lowest grade was a 6 and not a 2. However, the new principal chose to side with the teacher, and I had to leave the school.
My mother had told her doctor that she could no longer bear the shame that I did not want to finish my HBS. She was ashamed of the family and neighbors, felt that her health was badly affected, and could no longer tolerate my presence at home because of her severe war syndrome. It was around February 1958, my mother’s doctor told me that I had to leave the house immediately.
I had no money at all and urgently needed a roof over my head and a place to sleep and eat. So, I traveled to Nijmegen in the middle of the night and enlisted as a professional soldier with the Royal Netherlands Air Force. During the weekend, having decided never to go “home” again. I always went to my grandmother, who lived in Veenendaal.
After a couple of months, my squadron commander suddenly ordered me to travel home, because my father had called him saying that my mother wanted to see me again. I refused at first and told him what happened to me in the past. He convinced me to meet her first and only after that decide whether I wanted to return home again permanently. I followed his suggestion and decided to come home one day per month. Fortunately, the military training and involvement in gymnastics, baseball, and boxing gradually helped in decreasing the aggression that had taken hold of me.
Love and Encouragement from Inca
In 1958, I met my current wife Inca, to whom I am still married and who has supported me tremendously through all the difficulties.
Education and Graduation Honors
In January 1960, I was transferred for training to the Radio-Radar and Air Force Electronic School in Schaarsbergen. After the training, which I completed with honors, I was stationed at Twente Air Base to work on the North American F-86 K all-weather fighter. (See accompanying photos.)
From 1961 to 1963, I studied (avant la lettre in the 1960s: programming the radio tube-based computer in machine code) and skilled myself as a maintenance technician on the Nike Hercules missile at the US Army Air Defense School in Fort Bliss, El Paso, TX, graduating #2 among a major group of Americans, Asians, and European students.
It is worth noting that a group of Dutch Indies guys, all of whom worked at Fort Bliss, formed a Hawaiian steel band at location, gained fame, and were invited by KROD-TV to perform on the “March of Dimes” program. I am at the far left. (See accompanying photo.)