by Benjamin Jacobs
The Story Behind the Indo Girl Logo
Before the war, my father was an art and engineering student. He was also in the Dutch army. My father was an artist at heart and was creative in everything he did. More importantly, he was a husband and father. Here’s his story and the reason we carry on with the legacy.
The Japanese army invaded Batavia, Indonesia, (Dutch East Indies) in WWII. Like many young men who were of Dutch Indo descent, Karel Jacobs was rounded up by the Japanese army and held in a concentration camp. My uncle, Hans DeJonge, was also there and told the story that Karel and himself managed to escape the camp and fled to Karel’s father’s house.
Karel’s father turned them back over to the Japanese army for reasons unknown. Upon their return, Karel and Hans were hung by their thumbs for their escape attempt. My father was then sent to Japan and endured three and a half years in a Japanese prison (camp Kawasaki). This was where he met captive Americans who spoke fondly of America. During the occupation, my mother and her family spent three and a half years in an internment camp in Indonesia.
After the war, Karel returned to Indonesia, met Han’s sister Ellie DeJonge, fell in love, and married. Two kids later, Karel and Ellie Jacobs fled Indonesia to the Netherlands. They left Batavia (now Jakarta) during the exodus of Dutch Indo citizens.
Karel and Ellie spent almost ten years in Holland where their family grew from two to five children when their sponsorship application to America was accepted.
The American Dream
The Jacobs family traveled from Holland to New York by ship, then by train to Reno followed by a car ride to Bishop, California. In 1956, Karel, Ellie, and their family were sponsored by a small Presbyterian Church in Bishop, California, that still stands and operates today. My middle name is actually named after one of our sponsors, ‘Lloyd’ Covington. That illustrates to me how much they appreciated the generosity of these generous, caring Americans.
My mom was a housewife and my father was an engineer working for an electric company. I’ve heard stories that my father even helped engineer and build some of the first ski lifts on June and Mammoth Mountains.
After living in Bishop for several years and making lifelong American friends, they ultimately decided to move closer to their recently immigrated family members in La Puente, California, and be closer to more job opportunities for my father.
In their suburban southern California neighborhood, there were five first cousin families within walking distance of each other. Capitalizing on my mother’s gift for cooking and hospitality, my parents opened an Indonesian restaurant/store called AMMKAB. AMMKAB was named after the first initials of all of their children–even the newly added Benjamin: Adriaan, Maurits, Mieke, Karel, Anton and Benjamin. The store was on Nelson Street in La Puente.
Cousin Else recalls her mom working at AMMKAB as she sat on the bags of rice in the back. The mailman would come in and have a lumpia for lunch.
The Logo is Born
In 1967, Karel, Ellie, and their six children moved to Huntington Beach, California, to be closer to job opportunities. Ellie had the itch to start another restaurant so Karel created the Indo Girl logo for their family to run an Indonesian restaurant in Huntington Beach. The name of the restaurant was Restaurant Jakarta and was filled with wonderful exotic dishes that my Mother Ellie prepared.
Karel and Ellie created a family-friendly atmosphere that embodied their passion to showcase the wonders of Indonesian/Dutch cuisine and share their culture with their new American community. The restaurant is long gone but not forgotten.
Karel and Ellie as well as all of my siblings have all since passed on too, but the logo, legacy, and spirit of hospitality live on.
After sharing this story with a good friend of mine, I mentioned that all I have left from my family were crumbs of a logo, some old sketches from my father, and memories. He corrected me and said, no Ben, these are not crumbs, these are seeds they left you. My mind was blown.
Now that my eyes are open, I have decided to carry on the Indo Girl logo as a brand to memorialize and honor my parents and siblings, keep their story alive, and celebrate the beautiful Dutch Indo American experience through this brand.
The author and publisher disclaim any liability in connection with the use of the information and content of this article.
It’s not my story to tell but I wanted to write that the father of a Dutch-Indo family, also with 5 sons and a daughter eventually settling in the USA (east coast), was also in Kawasaki 2B prison camp. He is in that prisoner photo.
Such terrible events.
The more I learn, the more I discover that many families share a similar story. I cannot even imagine what my Father and Mother went through to survive. It’s hard to fathom being held against my will for 3 1/2 years and surviving. The trek from Batavia to Holland to America and starting a new life in America gives me so much respect for the ones who have gone before us to give us a better life. Thank you for sharing!
Ben, this is wonderful. So happy to see this full story put there! Love you man.
Thank you Gary! Thanks for the wise words and encouragement to see this all come to light. I’m discovering that many people have similar stories and so many second and third generation Dutch Indonesians are learning theirs.
Thank you for a great story. I believe my dad Herman Van Overeem may have known your family. They were wapen broeders in the KNIL…same…
I think a long time ago we ate at the Restaurant Jakarta in HB…then it closed….
Thank you for the reply! I do recall old friends of my Father and Mother often visiting the restaurant and our home in Huntington Beach. They would talk for hours, share photos and reminisce. I was just a child at the time. I’m now just scratching the surface of what your Parents and my Parents endured. We share a great story.