Ben Oostdam's Autobiography:

Summer, 1950

This was probably one of the most exciting summers in my life!
It was also the first time that I went abroad and really slept with a French woman ...
Also got accepted into the Royal Netherlands Naval Academy.


Together with fellow graduates Karel Broers and Piet van Bentum, I cycled to Kaatsheuvel, sleeping the first night (July 12, 1950) in a haystack in Gorinchem (left). In Brabant, we had much fun and games, sang "Ritseritseritselijn" and went swimming and walking. The other two discovered some charming girlfriends, I just collected addresses - presumably for later use...
(above) :
Piet sitting in front of tent,
Karel standing in back
(below) :
Karel seated at left,
I at right of two girl friends


On July 26, I took the train to Voorschoten, traveling at the expense of the Kingdom! In the MOC (Naval Training Center) there were 209 fellow candidates who had been selected from over 800 applicants. The first three days we had medical tests, the weekend we spent on the beach, and then we were subjected to the gruesome officer tests and interview by "the" Commission. Some 70 of us passed all tests, and I also passed a subsequent test for Flight Officer.
In between time, I also hitchhiked, biked and ferried to Amstelveen, Ommen and Garderen, where Dick Hilgen had arranged a mixed camping event of three male graduates of the Hervormd Lyceum with three females from the OCMA. His girlfriend was one of these, another girl had claimed Karel (or ><) and the girl "destined" for me was a blind date who happened to be my cousin Len Holtz! (statistical probability estimate close to one in a million)


On August 13, my parents bicycled to Garderen on the occasion of my birthday and to present me with an envelope of foreign exchange.
They were soaked by the intense rain, but dried out enough to continue their trio to Friesland the next morning. I went the other way (left)
On a sturdy Dutch bike I carried considerably more than my own weight in camping gear packed in seven different bags, five on the back, two up front. The three gears gave up in Belgium, where I camped the second night at Liliane Beaupain's house in Verviers, and got stuffed full of steak and chocolade. I continued along the river Meuse, visited Namur, Dinant, and the caves at Han (one of my first experiences with mountains and rocks!). Next came Bastogne, well-known for the "Battle of the Bulge" and the word "NUTS", shown on every souvenir.
Even though I walked and pushed my bike most of the time, I had a good time and met several other small groups of Dutch bikers. We crossed the border to Luxembourg and freewheeled for about 7 kms on our way to Clerveaux when friend Frans fell into the gravel and got damaged almost as much as his bike - I did first aid on him while the others tried to restore his bike. The next evening I was all by myself again and decided to treat me to a steak, considering that I had spent less than one guilder (US$ 0.25) a day up to then. When the steak was done, I put it on a rock to cool, and took off for a bush to make some space; imagine my delight when I returned and saw a dog run away with my steak!
Next came the French border and a visit to Verdun and the depressing thousands of graves of WW1. On the way to Rheims, on August 28, my pedal broke and could not be fixed. I was referred to little house along the railroad, where the lovely witty widow MMe G.M. kept watch and would fix me up with a ride to Paris. However, after dinner no more trucks showed, so she promised there would be newspaper trucks at 4 in the morning - so I said I would pitch my tent in the yard - so she said that was not necessary since she had a double bed.. The last I remember is her asking me not to ravish her but to be gentle, so I said good night and turned around and really went to sleep! After all, I was a boyscout and aspired to be a gentleman...The truck did take me to Paris where I was the guest of a French lady scout who had visited Amstelveen in 1949. I sold my father's stampcollection to raise money so I could ship the bike back to Holland (cost 15 guilders), and I decided to hitchhike back home to be in time for the start of the Naval Academy. To my surprise, the hiking went better than biking, and I was back in Amstelveen within 48 hours, climbing though the bedroom windows in the early morning of September 3.

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