Coming to America–54 years later

The first of October 1953 we set foot on American soil. Gosh it was hot. It was 95 degrees in the shade and, of course, we had on our fall clothes as it had started getting cooler in the Netherlands and there was an 11 day trip on the Atlantic Ocean to deal with.  Dad and I slept in the hold in what looked like a barracks on bunks that were stacked 2 or three high. Mom and Etty had a litle room on one of the lower decks. The room was just large enough for mom’s bed and a trundle bed for Etty.

Our last meal was the morning of the 1st when we ate breakfast on board the SS Sibajak (the boat we arrived on). Mom, with a lot of foresight, grabbed a few apples and bananas that she hid in her purse. We were not allowed to take food off of the ship. The ship had docked in Hoboken, NJ. The men on the ship helped the ship’s crew unload some of the crates with belongings as there was a dock strike. I remember seeing several crates floating in the harbor. Lucklily, ours were not among them. We had 2 crates that were a little larger than the foot lockers that were used in the service. As a matter of fact one of the crates was a foot locker that my grandfather and dad both used in the Dutch military. I still have that footlocker.

We were processed off of the ship by customs agents and Immigration. Once off of the ship, there were folks from the Ditch Immigrant Society that assisted us to make sure that we got on the proper bus to take us to Grand Central station in New York City.  Once at the station we had to wait until it was time to get on our train. What a mess. Luckily, the Dutch Immigrant Society was there again to assist. We got on the train and departed New York City at 6 pm.  We traveled coach of course.  All the tickets werre purchased ahead of time as when we got to the U.S. Dad had a dollar in his pocket.  We shared some of the fruit that mom had stashed and tried to sleep as we would not get to Kalamazoo, Michigan for quite a few hours. It would take until 10 am the next morning.

My mother’s sister, Grace (Grietje) and her husband Bill (Willem) met us at the train station in Kalamazoo.  We were promptly initiated to a hamburger and soda pop before we made the 30 mile trip by car in Uncle Bill’s 1948 Kaiser to Decatur where Uncle Bill and Aunt Grace had a farm.

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