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October 7, 2020

Historic Photo of the Van Halen Family on a Boat on Their Way to America, 1962

This truly historic photo was taken on the very boat that carried the Van Halen family to America in 1962. It was a nine-day boat ride, and to help pay their fare, Jan, Edward, and Alex provided the ships musical entertainment.

(Left to right: Alex, Jan, Eugenia and Edward)

According to Van Halen News Desk, while living in Holland, Jan and Eugenia Van Halen received letters from relatives describing the wonders of California. Despite Jan’s achievements in his musical career, the family was convinced Jan could find even greater success in America.

So, on March 9, 1962, the Van Halen family departed Holland by steamship. In their possession were a few suitcases, 75 Dutch guilders (the equivalent of about 15 American dollars) and a piano. It was a nine-day boat ride, and to help pay their fare, Jan, Edward, and Alex provided the ship’s musical entertainment. From New York the family took a four day trip by train to California.

In an interview with the Rolling Stone in 1995, Eddie recalled: “My dad played on the boat, and Alex and I did our little piano thing as a sideshow. Dad would pass the hat, and we’d make another $20. We moved to the U.S. when I was 8, and my dad ended up having to walk, like, six miles from Pasadena [Calif.], where we lived, to the Arcadia Methodist Hospital to wash dishes because he couldn’t make it playing music. He had, like, four jobs, and he would gig on weekends playing proms and bar mitzvahs, anything he could get. When we got here, his first thing was to find us a great piano teacher. And he found this Russian guy named Stasskalvitis. We were being trained to be classical pianists, little Vladimir Horowitzes. I actually won first place three years in a row at Long Beach City College.”

Jan and Eugenia risked everything by taking their two beautiful boys and immigrating to America. Once they settled in California, they continued to inspire his boys to become musicians.

Here’s the ship’s manifest showing the Dutch immigrants on the ship. The Van Halen family is listed on lines 11 through 14:

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