In het archief van The Receptor lag een briefwisseling van een jonge Amerikaanse officiersvrouw met haar ouders, waarin ze verslag doet van haar dagelijkse leven op vliegveld Soesterberg. Typisch Amerikaanse verschijnselen als Tupperware parties, de viering van the Fourth of July en bbq's worden afgewisseld met historische gebeurtenissen als de eerste file in de geschiedenis van Nederland en het sluiten van de Warschaupact.
April 10, 1955
Dear Father and Mother,
Alan and I finally received your letter, though I see that it was sent weeks ago. I am reading it while listening to the rain drizzle on the windows. It has rained a lot since we arrived, though often just a quick sprinkle, and the country looks very green because of it. Tiny purple crocuses are beginning to poke through the ground, scattered through all the fields.
We arrived safely, and are settled near the Soesterberg Air Force Base. As you know, we are part of the first families to move here, so we are still getting used to things and trying to get settled in without much direction. But, the newly dubbed Camp New Amsterdam was named in tribute to the original name of New York. How clever!
It is very quiet out here, especially after living near Washington, D.C. I feel like a country girl, though I am assured that we are close enough to Amsterdam to visit soon. I am excited to visit, but Alan says we have to settle in first, get the ‘lay of the land’.
As we were moving into the houses, many of our Dutch neighbors (mostly the children) came to watch. One of the houses in our cul-de-sac had the Air Force radio station on, and the children were dancing about to the country music blaring from the speakers. We handed out some Hershey’s bars, and their parents gave us waves and smiles, then treated us the next day with fresh dug potatoes and eggs on our doorstep!
They have built us houses in a more ‘American’ style. For one, we have carports, which we see a few of the young boys pointing at, and the houses are a bit more modern looking. I secretly wish we could live in one of the more charming houses we pass by on our walks, with the beautiful old bricks and thatched roofs.
I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would live in Europe, and it is not quite what I imagined. All those pictures of fashionable and chic Paris, and the stunning Italian seaside didn’t prepare me for the green and flat countryside of the Netherlands. There are so many cows and sheep! But we are making the most of it in this charming country, which is more than I can say of some of the other families! Some of the women walk around with such dour faces. I think living so far away from the comforts of home has made many unhappy and unsettled.
The base tries its best to offer these comforts. They have a commissary here where we can get many food products from home, but there are still just some things missing. Like the smell of your Parker House rolls at Sunday suppers with a glazed ham. I have not yet seen one of those massive hams here, but next month the commissary should have tinned pineapples just in time to try one of those Polynesian barbecue recipes I’ve read about. And, they promise that more things will be coming in faster now. All the other officer’s wives have already put in an order for a Butterball for Thanksgiving – and that is months away!
You sure can give the home news, as that is what we love to hear. I got an old Washington Post this week, and believe I read all that was in it including the advertisements. Here, the talk is still about Mr. Churchill resigning. I guess I will close for today, but will write you again very soon.
Love, your baby girl,
July 16, 1955
Summer has finally arrived, and while it is not quite as warm and balmy as the summers at home in Washington, they are indeed splendid. Everybody is out on bicycles, the flowers are blooming, and the sky is clear blue (some of the time, at least), but with the most lovely fluffy clouds. We were able to plant a little garden with some of the seeds you sent in your letter, and now the beefsteak tomatoes are growing, though I’m not sure if it will be hot enough to make them as delicious as from our backyard, when they are spicy and warm from the sun. Still, the little plants remind me of you, Mother, and I wish you were here to help me put by the pickles next month.
Now that the families are all settled in their houses, there has been an explosion of barbecues this summer, especially among the officer’s families. It is like joining an exclusive club, though sometimes I wonder how the other wives and families are getting on. Each barbecue is different, with steaks or hamburgers, grilled vegetables and French bread, and even marshmallow treats for dessert hot from the grill. There is hardly a weekend where we aren’t busy. But first, I can’t wait to tell you about the party I hosted.
I wanted to feel useful around the house – I am one of the few wives who doesn’t yet have children – so I organized a Tupperware party. I had to work with the supplies department on base to get a shipment in, and when it did, I threw a luncheon for the ladies while their little ones played in the yard.
Oh, mother, it was so much fun, and you would have been so proud. I set up the Tupperware at the front of the sitting room on a table covered with our finest cloth (the one you gave me for our wedding). I gave a little introduction and showed how to use everything, and wouldn’t you know I sold many of the pieces. The best part was making all the food, and I used the Gourmet magazines you sent to try new recipes (the Benne wafers were lovely). And, thank goodness for The Joy of Cooking – I would be absolutely lost without it. I put together a relish tray with olives, vegetables, shrimp puffs, and small cakes. A dip called Hollywood Dunk was brought by one of the other dependent wives, and I’m including the recipe below.
4 parts deviled ham
4 parts horseradish sauce
1 part finely grated onion
2 parts minced chives
Whipped cream (unsweetened) to taste
Mix everything together, cover, and chill for at least one hour. Serve with ice-cold celery and cucumber. It has a little kick, so I know daddy will love it.
We listened to the radio after, and they were playing that new song by Bill Haley…Rock Around the Clock. Even the children were dancing, and for once everything felt like home. How I miss the music from home. Mostly we get country on the radio station here, so it’s a real treat when we hear the hits. Especially rock and roll. Have you seen that Elvis Presley? All the ladies here can’t stop talking about him.
For the Fourth of July, it was cloudy and chilly, but the base still put on a show inside one of the great big buildings complete with barbecue. They were even able to get hot dogs at the commissary, so everyone stockpiled them while they are in stock. The sausages here are good, but just not the same. There was baseball, and even some of the Dutch children joined in with the festivities, and nobody let the weather bother them. We just pretended it was hot and sunny like D.C. usually is that time of year. It is amazing how even when the language is different, children always find a way to communicate while playing.
Although it was festive, all the officers are still whispering about the Warsaw Pact that was just signed in May. Alan has explained it to me – how the Soviet Union is building its power through neighboring countries as if preparing for another war – but most of the other husbands don’t talk to their wives about the current events. It is a bit scary if you think about it; living in a place touched not so long ago by war. I think the men are afraid that their wives will be nervous or scared to live so close by (relatively speaking, of course).
Alan isn’t too worried yet, so we try to keep things light, and next month is our turn to host the NCOs. We’re hoping the weather holds out for another outdoor party, perhaps a Tiki theme. Oh, and we are reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the little book club I organized. I must stay up on academic pursuits, otherwise all the talk is over planes, Korea, and the Soviet Union, and it is enough to make a gal go crazy.
Oh, and I almost forgot! You will get a laugh out of this: The big news here for weeks was the first traffic jam the Dutch people have seen, and right nearby us to boot. It was over Pentecost weekend (they call it Pinksterdag here), and people walked out to the bridges and roadsides just to watch the cars sitting still! Sure, the Americans snickered a bit (how snobbish of us, really, mother), the Dutch really felt that this was their arrival into modernity! Imagine how for us having a color television means you’ve really made it in the world, but for the Dutch it is traffic.
All my warm thoughts, and love to daddy,
Marjorie (and Alan)
August 18, 1955
Dearest Mother and Father,
We had such a lovely summer, and even had a chance to finally visit Amsterdam. We took one of the cars from the camp (the perks of being an officer!), and drove into the city. It was spectacular. The city has so much energy, and there was a cable car running through the streets alongside the old canals. Many neighborhoods had fresh markets with fruit and vegetable stalls. I bought the most delicious asparagus that one of the farmers recommended we boil and serve with some of the wonderful cooked ham here. With a dab of the local spicy mustard, Alan is in heaven.
Asparagus with ham and mustard
Boil one bunch of asparagus until tender. Mix together 1 heaping spoonful of country (coarse) mustard with 2 spoons of whipping cream and a handful of chopped dill. Put the asparagus on a plate, cover with a thin slice of ham and a spoon of sauce. This makes a delicious salad to go with soup for a light dinner.
The weather did not participate for us when it was our turn to host the monthly officers dinner, but we have come to expect that here. So instead of a barbecue outside, we brought the sunshine inside with a Hawaiian buffet supper. I was able to get a whole pineapple to decorate the table, and strung together some flowers into leis for the women. Alan found Hawaiian music to play on the record player.
I made a feast, and Alan made Tiki cocktails with rum from the commissary and fruit juice. We had chicken curry with rice, sautéed bananas, green beans, fruit salad, and a pineapple upside down cake.
It’s only been a few months since we came, but I’ve become closer with some of the wives. It can be very isolating on base without a family yet, but I’m managing. One family already gave up, leaving their husband on base while they went back to the States. It is difficult now, and everyone is continuously concerned about safety, so living so near the ‘danger’ just was too much for Mrs. Johnson.
On a happier note, the ladies asked me to host another Tupperware party in the New Year when the new models come out. I think they want more of your famous shrimp puffs. Oh, Thank you for sending Scrabble for my birthday – I have already beat Alan twice!
Your loving daughter,