I, the owner of the Borculo website have entered this obituary of my uncle Len VandenBosch to give better time perspective. This is not part of Len's narraative.
Leonard J. Vanden Bosch, 80 Obituary
ZEELAND -- Leonard J. Vanden Bosch, 80, of Zeeland, died Friday afternoon, Aug. 13, 1999, in an area care center. He was a member of Third Christian Reformed Church where he served in various capacities. He graduated from Hope College, and was a veteran, serving in World War II. He retired from FMB after 36 years of employment. Surviving are his wife of 58 years, Sadie; children, Lynwood and Mary Vanden Bosch of Ada, and Luann and Dave Kempema of Zeeland; four grandchildren; brothers and sister, Jeanette and Lou Taylor of Allendale, John and Jan Vanden Bosch of Kalamazoo, and Jay and Vicky Vanden Bosch of Miami, Fla.; brothers- and sisters-in-law, Gradus and Alice Vollink of Grand Rapids, Mrs. Austin (Lois) Weaver of Borculo, and Ken and Eileen Vollink of Florida. Services are 1:30 p.m. Monday at Third Christian Reformed Church, with the Rev. Marc Nelesen officiating. Burial will be in Zeeland Cemetery. Visiting is 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Sunday at the Yntema Funeral Home, 251 S. State St. Memorials may be made to Third Christian Reformed Church Memorial Fund, or Haven Park Christian Nursing Home.
The Leonard Vanden Bosch Memoirs
The recollections which follow represent those which have come to mind personally. It is possible that other members of the family may recall more vividly a number of details associated with early life, but no attempt has been made to substantiate or to elaborate on events which may at times appear as isolated incidence with no apparent association with our family as a whole. While contemplating those things which are noteworthy and represent a significant place in my life, it is strange how certain happenings are recalled as though they occurred yesterday whereas other periods of life are vague and indistinct. Possibly they would be of no consequence anyway. Personal feelings and emotional accounts of specifics are sure to color the account as we move along.
Period: Age 0 to about 7
The earliest recollection of personal existence, of being someone, of self, began on a farm later to be known as the Ten Brink farm on the corner of 104th and Stanton. We knew it as such only because in our growing years Simon Ten Brink and family lived there. This was the farm that Dad purchased, reportedly in the dead of winter, moving there from Zeeland. For those involved, this must have seemed like moving to the middle of nowhere. Considering the conveniences of city living and being close to friends, relatives, church, and shopping, a move to the country must have been shocking. In my early life nothing is recalled to indicate that this was an emotional experience or that it became a matter of regret or that it resulted in discussions of having exercised poor judgment. With the arrival of Spring, in the year of the move, the true condition of the property became evident. The land was very poor and making a living for an ever growing family was practically impossible. Dad eventually lost the farm through foreclosure. The John Handlogten family lived there for a period to time, followed by the Ten Brinks. Before leaving the Handlogtens, mention should be made of Helen Handlogten. In my estimation she was beautiful and even though she was considerably older, she still represented the type of person normally regarded as possessing the qualities necessary to accomplish something in life. Whatever happened to her is unknown to me.
Only a few things stand out in my memory of life on that farm. One thing vividly recalled is an incident which took place at the Ottawa School. This may have been my first day. Anyway, in the course of being introduced to other children, Al Meengs picked me up in a friendly sort of way. This was not to my liking. The harder I tried to get away, the tighter he held me, until finally my last resort was biting. This was administered to one of his fingers and it must have hurt, because he dropped me immediately and complained about his sore finger. We have seen each other innumerable times since then, but to this day, whenever we meet, the thought crosses my mind as to whether he still remembers that incident.
Also remembered is a particular meal with all the family together at the table. George had had problems which were diagnosed as St. Vitus Dance. It was a strange thing then and still sounds strange to me today. To some extent he seemed to have lost control of his legs and arms. Suddenly his legs would kick or his arms would jerk without any conscious effort. Whoever arrived at that diagnosis is not known and whether anyone else ever had it before or after is not known, but at this particular meal, the matter of George having to go to Ann Arbor for treatment was discussed. In those days, Ann Arbor seemed like the end of the world. He could have gone to London and it might not have seemed any more distant. Mom was to take him there. It is assumed that she did. Memory of what happened is clouded. What remains clear is the feeling of remorse, of sorrow, which struck everyone. Recalled is my own reaction of leaving the table, going outside and crying and crying. Ours was a large family, but if one suffered, we all suffered. This aspect stands out in my mind as characteristic on many occasions. Many a tear was shed over members of the family during sickness, when getting married, or leaving home. We depended on each other. Age variance made no difference. We were one and when part of that unit was missing, there was real concern. Undoubtedly, there will be more references to poverty as we move along, but we were poor. The beauty of the condition is that we didn't realize it. Everyone was poor and had trouble making ends meet. Everyone was in the same boat. Getting back to George and his going to Ann Arbor, trying now to imagine the frustrations this must have created makes me wonder how the family held together. Imagine George and Mom leaving home, leaving family, with very little money, no cars, going to a strange place, not knowing exactly where or what they would find. Today we think very little of going to strange places and traveling great distances, because the farthest of points have become so close to us through modern transportation and methods of communication. Not so then. It must be that our loving Heavenly Father was watching closely and that He has a host of angels caring for us all the time.
Sometime in the course of the years we acquired a car. It was a Ford touring car with removable side curtains. Oh, to have one of those now! It wasn't bad in the summertime, but it wasn't ideal in the winter. The earlier models didn't have the luxury of a heater. Later on a manifold type heater became available. It was a simple device, a metal housing attached to the manifold (exhaust system) running along the block from a point close to the fan to a hole in the floor of the car. The heat from the motor warmed the air forced through the housing by the fan and in turn brought some heat into the car. It was better than nothing, but there were so many holes where the curtains did not fit properly, or were just incapable of closing out the air so that competition often overcame any real benefits from the heater. Anyone riding in the back seat had no benefits at all. Blankets were always carried along to huddle up in. Many such experiences come to mind. Taking a trip to Zeeland did not occur frequently, but what an occasion it was when we did go. We always knew well in advance, like next week Saturday. When that day finally arrived, we couldn't wait to go. We always stayed close to home to make sure we were not forgotten. We usually got to go downtown just to see the sights. There was no thought of candy - maybe there was thought, but certainly no hope. We generally visited Uncle Hank and Aunt Katie Karsten. There were many other relatives living in Zeeland also, but we very infrequently visited them. The Karstens were our favorites. We always felt welcome there. Aunt Katie (Mom's sister) was such a kind, loving individual. We didn't think then in terms of being a Christian, but she most assuredly was a Christian. Possibly most of our family at one time or another spent days at a time with the Karstens. Not much is remembered about their daughter Marg in those days. Maybe she was already married. Hop Karsten is faintly remembered , but besides Marv Lamer, the two we got to know best were Bill and Betty. Betty was such a sweet girl. I never could figure out why she never got married. Bill was the distinguished business man. He was always quite quiet, but when he spoke, he spoke with authority. He was one we always looked up to. Marv Lamer was my age, He came to live with the Karstens real early in life following the death of his mother, Aunt Nellie. He continued to live with them until he went into service and was killed during the Second W.W.. He will enter the picture again later on. A thing remembered about the Karsten home was the huge grandfather clock which Uncle Hank had made. It was a beauty with its deep tones ringing out the quarter, half, three quarters and hourly times. The use of their bathroom was also a new experience. They had a flush toilet with a chair pull which released water from an overhead container. Besides, this was located inside in a heated room. That was quite a luxury compared with our outside 'Jon'. Eventually the time would come to leave for home. We kids, as many as possible, crawled in the back seat, covered ourselves with blankets and somewhere along the way fell asleep if we were lucky. It wasn't just a fifteen minute drive either. In the first place, the car couldn't go fast and even if it could, it wouldn't have mattered. The roads were dirt roads with bumps, ruts, mud or whatever, depending on the time of year. So spending the time in sleep was hoped for to hasten the journey and alleviate the misery. One last comment on early life on the Ten Brink farm. It still seems strange to me that a major occurrence, such as the burning down of the barn never left an impression upon me. It reportedly happened, but the memory of it is gone.
Period: Age 7 and beyond
This era marks the beginning of our stay on what was known as the Bloemers farm. This farm was located only about three quarters of a mile south on 104th Avenue from where we formerly lived. As kids we thought we really had it made. The fact that Dad lost the previous place never reflected in our feelings, nor did it distract from our eagerness to move. This farm was owned by Dr. Bloemers, a veterinarian, who lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His brother lived not far from our previous farm, attended Ottawa Church and no doubt had something to do with putting Dad in touch with Dr. Bloemers and eventually resulted in our renting of the farm. This was quite a farm, more acreage, much larger house, big barn, several other buildings, and a wooded area which bordered a creek. That creek will be considered more fully later. Memory is clearer on events which took place on this farm.
Mention has been made of our outside 'Jon'. This may not be the place to go into detail on our outdoor facilities, but it might be forgotten later. These 'outhouses' were usually located a short distance from the house, built for the purpose of relieving ourselves. It had a door and some even had a peep hole in the door. That wasn't really necessary because there were generally enough cracks in the building or around the door to determine at a glance whether the place was occupied or not. Some also had an opening on one side about 6' by 10'. More often than not, this was just an opening with no glass in it. It wasn't really needed for ventilation, because there was plenty of air circulation without it. And, it was too high up on the wall to be able to look out when seated, so it wasn't needed to watch for anyone else approaching. Maybe it was mostly for appearance. Inside, against the opposite wall from the door was a bench sort of arrangement with two holes cut out of the board which served as the seat. Usually one hole was smaller than the other to accommodate children as well as adults. There may have been the fear that small children could fall through if only large holes were provided. In simple terms, when the urge to go could no longer be suppressed, you made your way to the outside 'Jon', sat down and relieved yourself. The structure was movable and had to be because it was placed over a hole dug maybe six feet deep. This location served until the hole became full. The hole was then covered up and another hole dug with the outhouse moved to the new location. We never knew about toilet tissue in those days. The standard supply was a Sears of Montgomery Ward catalog. What a blessing it was to finally have the old catalog used up and to be able to start on a new one. You see, the catalog had soft sheets as well as shiny, slippery, course sheets. In fact, it always seemed that the bulk of the sheets were of the latter type. Naturally, the soft sheets were used first and then came the hazards associated with using the slippery pages. While dwelling on this subject, it should be noted that the covered up holes required refilling occasionally to prevent the possibility of someone walking across such areas and sinking in, boards were placed across the hole until such time as it was determined safe. Another thing should be mentioned. Very little effort went into trying to make the unit weatherproof. The wind freely whistled in through the sides, the door and particularly through the seats and holes we sat on. On warm days there was no great problem, but on cold wintry days, 'going' was experience all by itself. You can be sure no one went unnecessarily and no one lingered very long. During snow storms, just getting in was problem and sometimes by the time you had the seat cleared of snow you either couldn't wait any longer, or you lost the urge. It is surprising that our health wasn't more directly affected by this inconvenience than it was. Who knows, maybe there were definite ailments traceable to a reluctance to 'go'. In this situation, as well as the state of poverty previously mentioned, we never considered ourselves deprived of anything, because of an outside 'Jon'. Sure, the warm room and flush toilet of Aunt Katie was nice, but on the farm we were back in our own element again with no feeling of jealousy. All the farmers, all our farmer friends, all the kids at school, used the same method for relieving themselves.
The 'outhouse' served another useful purpose. Most of us began to experiment with smoking quite early in life. This, of course, could not be done in the open because Dad and Mom did not approve of our smoking, at least not at an early age. The present day stigma attached to smoking did not exist in those days. Almost everyone, sooner or later, either took to smoking or chewing. Anyway, the 'Jon' was used for that purpose. Many a time we barely escaped detection, at least we thought we had, only to have the next occupant report a strong odor of smoke. This would lead to an inquiry as to who had used the 'outhouse' as a smoke house.
While on the subject of smoking, the corn field was also a favorite place for engaging in forbidden pleasures. Armed with newspaper, we took off for the cornfield and in late summer when the corn silk turned brown and dried up, we rolled it up in the newspaper. Now, to the inexperienced, this may sound relatively simple. Not so. In the first place, newspaper did not stick together very well. Even after thoroughly wetting the paper with saliva, it still tended to come loose and fall apart. Another hazard was the fact that newspaper quite readily burst into flames as well as the dry corn silk. This required a considerable amount of clever manipulation to satisfy the desire to smoke, but at the same time avoid scorching the face or hair. One incident well remembered was a time that Marv Lamer came to visit. We went to the woods to look for porous roots. Marv had convinced me those were the best for smoking. We found a number of perfect specimens. His instructions were to put one end in your mouth, light the other end while taking a deep draw. This was done, but to my deep regret. The porous root was a perfect conductor of the flames from the match. Oh, did that hurt! My mouth was sore for quite some time after. He just stood there and laughed and laughed. Another source of 'tobacco' was the dried seeds of ragweeds rolled up in newspaper. Even though these adventures often left us 'sick as a dog', we didn't give up. Another favorite hideaway smoking spot was under the bridge of the creek along the edge of our farm. More on the creek later.
Along with time, came advancement in the smoking technique. What a great discovery when cigarette papers with adhesive came on the market. By then we had also graduated to bags of Bull Durham tobacco. One occasion well remembered was a night Jer and Ray Morren came over with a cigarette rolling machine and packages of Bugler tobacco. The tobacco was placed in one end, the paper in the other and then by pulling a lever the gadget rolled the tobacco into the paper and there we had a manufactured cigarette. Sometimes they were rolled so tight it was almost impossible to draw through them, but by experience this soon was corrected. With advancing years came the day brother Bill would share his cigarettes with me. He always loaded up with Marvels, Wings, or Sensations every time the peddle wagon came on Tuesdays and Saturday.s He sure was good hearted, but his moods often changed. One day you could be his best friend, and he would give you anything, but the next he might be at odds and then we stood the risk of him telling Mom or Dad everything he knew - including the fact of smoking. John and Jay did not enjoy his good graces in the distribution of cigarettes as early as I did. They were the 'butt snatchers'. They went around looking for cigarette butts that had been discarded and really thought they had something when they found one only half smoked. Their usual rounds were the ash trays of cars particularly.
Pages 6-10 Now we swing back again to the time of moving to the Bloemers farm. Prior to moving, it was necessary to clean out the barn, particularly the stables. Whoever had lived there before had used the stable area for housing cattle, not individual stations, but as as enclosure where the cattle could roam about as they pleased. This resulted in the entire area being built up with a considerable depth of manure. This all had to be cleaned up. Brothers Bill, George, and maybe Marv, on occasion, and myself took on the unpleasant job. During breaks in this smelly, tedious schedule we scouted around and soon located an old car, almost hidden away in the back part of the barn. Following that discovery, the next day we returned with wrenches and proceeded to remove every nut and bolt and every part which would respond to our strength and tools. We operated on the motor and every other place that looked inviting. We even used the force of a hammer when a nut or bolt would not respond to normal measures. We had "worked on" it for quite some time, and had reduced it to a worthless shell, when word got back to Dr. Bloemers that his priceless 1912 Buick Touring had been stripped. The day is still fresh in my memory when Dr. Bloemers appeared at the farm. What method of transportation was used is not known, but he took off as soon as he heard what had happened. The scene of him confronting Dad with the fact that the car was like new when he parked it there and that now it was worthless, made shivers go down my back. He shouted, stamped his feet, waved his arms and used language not normally heard around our house and shook his fist at my Dad on a number of occasions. We stayed far enough in the background not to be seen, but close enough to hear. He threatened to kick us off the place (by then we had moved). Dad's replies were not as audible as those of Dr. B., but an argument he used is that we should have been informed that the car was there and that it was not to be tampered with. How it was all resolved is not known, but it is known that this was a hot issue for quite some time. But our family remained.
That car remained in the back of the barn for years and years. No one seemed interested in it any longer. So, one day we hitched the horses to it and pulled it out of the barn and parked it under a tree in the back yard, behind the barn. The sight of it still makes me sick. It must have been a beauty with steering wheel levers controlling speed and spark. It was an open two seater which today would be invaluable. It weathered the storms out there under the trees for years. The only attention it received was a curious cow checking it out occasionally or using it for an itching post. Its final destination is not known for sure. It was still there when my turn came to serve during the Second W.W. in 1942. It is generally thought that during the war, many drives were held for scrap materials, and that on one such drive, the car was donated. Dad moved off the farm during my tour of duty, but on my return it was determined that the car was gone. Who knows, maybe it could have been restored.
Our house on this place, as previously mentioned, was large. It had a large kitchen, large dining room, large living room and parlor, and one bedroom on the main floor. The upstairs was mostly unfinished, except for one room used by the girls. The rest of the upstairs, including a large attic, was not finished. It was open to the roof with the outside walls open to 2x4's. Beds were simply placed in various locations and served for a number of years just that way. Then there came a time of improvements. Another bedroom area was enclosed. It was nothing fancy, just painted plaster boards for walls and ceiling. It never got painted, but it served the purpose. This room housed two beds. The unpainted plaster board became a place for art work, drawings, and what not. The only thing between us ant the outside were poorly fitting sidings which in the winter time failed to hold back all the snow. We would awaken sometimes in the morning to find snow on the floor along side of our bed and even sometimes on our bed.
One thing that may not sound very inviting, but which we accepted as quite normal, was the clatter of mice racing up and down the walls of our upstairs. Most of the activity seemed to occur at night. But of course, that is when our attention would be drawn to their commotion as we lay in bed and everything about us was quiet. They must have been engaged in a game of tag or something the way they constantly moved about. Their presence was regarded as part of the environment, and as far as is known, nothing much was ever done to try to eliminate the nuisance. Sometimes if sleep was affected, we would pound the walls in an effort to scare them off. This had a limited effect. They would be quiet for a short period of time, but when they realized there was no follow up, they resumed their fun and games.
Our bedrooms were not heated. Central heating was unknown in the country. Our home had one cooking stove in the kitchen, and a 'pot-bellied' stove in the living room for heating. The kitchen stove was for heating and cooking. A reservoir on one end served as a source of hot water or a kettle on the stove served the same purpose. Coal was generally used, but we also used a lot of wood. We were permitted to cut up any trees in the woods which had fallen due to storms or old age. Each winter we took to the woods. The trees first had to be sawed up into manageable lengths, split, hauled behind the barn, and sawed up into stove lengths on the buzz saw. The pieces were carried to the house and thrown into the basement for ready use when needed. The memory of sawing logs with a two man saw, Dad on one end and myself on the other still makes me groan.
Back to our home and heating. The living room was not used much in the winter time. Usually, on Saturday evening the living room stove was lit in preparation for our weekly baths. That was an ordeal in itself. A large tub was placed along the side of the stove. Such tubs were commonly used in the process of washing clothes and one not generally seen today. Water was heated on the kitchen stove, placed in the tub and each one, quite reluctantly, took his or her turn. How often, if ever, the water was changed cannot be recalled, but the procedure is quite vivid. Generally, the room was not too well heated, and the transition from long underwear plus other layers of clothing to standing nude in a tub with possible six or eight inches of water was quite shocking. The side of the body facing the stove roasted, while the other side nearly froze. Needless to say, the whole operation was performed in record time. And oh how nice and warm that newly washed woolen underwear felt right after a cold bath. How fortunate we were when physical health determined that taking a bath was regarded as a risk to recuperation.
In the summertime we used the entire downstairs. The front room, or parlor, was also used as a bedroom. Exactly when we transferred from the upstairs to the parlor is not known, but sleeping upstairs and downstairs is well remembered. It seems to me that we occupied the bed downstairs with three of us: John, Jay, and myself. It was a metal bed and in the summer, when the mattress became compressed, we slept below the side metal strips. With three in bed, the persons occupying the outside positions were generally awakened during the night from being pushed against the rail. A word about compressed mattresses. They were called ҳtraw ticks.ӠThey were large bags which, in the fall, were filled with fresh straw. In the process of filling them, as much straw as absolutely possible was stuffed into these bags making them almost round. When placed on the bed and used for the first time, it was necessary to climb up in order to get into bed. There was also the danger of rolling off and no doubt this happened on occasion. After continual use, the straw became compacted and slowly on the hill became a valley.
Home furnishings were very minimal. In our living room was a well worn couch, a type not seen today. It had a flat surface for the body and a sloping, elevated section on one end for the head. We had one upholstered chair, a couple wooden rockers and possibly a couple wooden straight back chairs. We had no wall-to-wall carpet in those days. Generally the floors were bare wood, but there came a time when we had a rug in the living room. A very important piece of furniture was the phonograph. The cabinet housed the turntable on top and record storage on the bottom. In order to operate the machine it had to be wound up by cranking a lever on the side. It was then good for a couple records, no such thing as long playing records. This was Bill's favorite pastime. The problem was, our record selection was very limited, so consequently we heard the same records over and over again. Quite often he would lay on the floor and fall asleep. The sound of that phonograph can still be heard as it slowly wound down, going slower and slower until finally it would stop in the middle of a record. Television, of course, was unheard of. We didn't have a radio until somewhere in my teens, possibly. One experiment recalled is a crystal set which Marve tried to make operational. It seems to me the most we ever got out of it was some static. Then came a radio with dual dials. Each dial had to be synchronized in order to bring in a station. This was operated by one A battery and two B batteries. Reception was mediocre at best and there was always the problem of batteries giving out. The most effective radio we had was in the car. It wasn't built in as we know them today, but a separate unit installed under the dash. This was our favorite spot for listening to Harry Heilmann broadcasting the Detroit Tiger baseball games. There were problems here too. Sometimes the radio was used in excess of the capacity of the battery and no power was available to start the car. We often heard Dad remark, "You youngers have been at it again." Of course John and Jay were the chief offenders. When pickles needed picking or carrots needed hoeing, they could usually be found listening to the car radio and smoking cigarette butts.
The garage in which the family car and George's were housed was a make shift affair which served the purpose, but was never quite completed. Being a rental property, it was understandable that Dad didn't care to put too much into it. It was attached to the north side of the barn and near the west end with a roof slightly sloped for water run off. It had a dirt floor and was just long enough to get the cars inside with doors on George's stall only. The other stall was against the barn and always created a challenge in going in and coming out. A little snow or ice made it very easy to find yourself tight up against the barn. It seems that the ground sloped in that direction too, but we didn't seem to bother doing anything about it.
Back to the home. Our dining room was a large room. It had to be to have room for a table which could seat our entire family. Dad's drop front desk was in one corner, Mom's sewing machine along one wall, and other than the table and chairs, that was it. As the family became smaller the kitchen came to be used for meals during the week. But on Sundays, when the rest of the family came home, we were in the dining room. We always had plenty to eat. We knew there was a depression because we heard so much talk about it, but we never really felt it. In the fall, we would usually kill a pig and maybe a cow and all the meat went into cans. This was our winter supply and how delicious it was! We may have tired of it, but the thought of that canned meat even now makes my mouth water. A thing to remember is the fact that we had no refrigeration. Our basement was our refrigerator. We had no problem with such items as canned meat, fruits, and vegetables because these were all processed before going into the can and as long as the can was sealed properly, there was no spoilage. And what a delicacy were all the bones which were left after the meat was cut off! When a pig was killed, the pork - the rind - was fried and then the hot fat and pork rinds were poured into a crock. In cold weather this became solid in the crock and always stood on the first landing leading down to the basement. Each day as supplies were needed, we went to the crock and picked away until we had a sufficient for a meal. This pork and fat were then reheated in a frying pan and served just that way. The fat was used for dipping our bread into and with the addition of a little syrup became a tasty morsel. Those pork slices were also good and especially those porous rinds. We used to let those accumulate on our plate during the meal, and then afterwards munch on the rinds only. Boy, that was good and sounds very inviting right now, except that health experts have now determined such food is not good for us.
Previous mention has been made of the cook stove in the kitchen, but a few things associated with it should be mentioned. In the winter the cook stove provided the heat for the kitchen and in spite of cooking, there was no discomfort from excess heat, but in the summer, when no additional heat was needed , the stove had to fire up pretty much as usual. This, of course, created unpleasant working conditions in the kitchen. Mom always baked her own bread and this required considerable heat. Oh, how the smell of freshly baked bread still stimulates the appetite! Just the smell of it was enough to make you want to dig in right away. Of course, it was best when fresh, but the freshness did not last long. The extra loaves were placed in the cupboard unwrapped, and soon became stale. It was always more difficult eating the last loaf than the first. Years later when Dad stopped at the A & P and bought store bread, we really thought we had it made. But the newness soon wore off, and our longing for home-made bread was revived.
Almost everything we ate was home grown. We grew potatoes which were stored in a separate room in the basement. The entire winter supply was kept down there. The carrots we grew and kept for family use were stored in a hole dug in the back yard. The hole was generally deep enough to keep the carrots below the frost line. They were covered with a layer of straw and then topped off with dirt. In order to get at them in the middle of the winter, it was necessary to first clear away the snow and then pick away at the frozen top soil, brush aside the straw , and then reach in and remove whatever quantity of carrots was desired. Once the pit was opened, if not properly resealed after every use, the carrots often froze. The experience of reaching into the pit and grabbing into a pack of juicy, mushy carrots is well remembered. It seems to me that potatoes were also sometimes stored in this same manner.
Our kitchen was quite large. It was narrow, but extended the entire width or depth of our house from north to south on the west side. The cook stove stood along the inside wall just to the left of the door leading to the dining room. A daily supply of wood was piled along side of the stove as well as a coal container which required constant attention. Coat hooks lined the walls on one end. The washing machine was also known to occupy this area in the winter. This was a Maytag with a gasoline motor which always smoked quite badly. A flexible metal hose attached to the exhaust, extended through a hole cut in the back door and out across the back porch. This took care of some of the smoke, but there was always plenty remaining in the room. Surprising that no one ever was overcome by those fumes. Except for a short counter and sink area, cupboards lined the entire exterior wall on the west side. Our kitchen table occupied the space on the end opposite the clothes and washing machine.
The sink was small with a drain which extended through the outside wall to the outside and maybe extended six inches or so beyond the outside sidings. From there the discharge from the sink found its own level as it flowed out across the ground. There were no septic tanks. Our water supply was a hand pump located outside near the front of the house. A huge crock stood along side of the sink. Each day, and usually more than once a day, water was pumped, carried into the house and poured into the crock. This provided water for cooking, drinking, dishes, and facial needs. This was one of the jobs around the house which was assigned to us by turns. Seeing the water level in the crock go down to close to nothing on a cold winter day was always a sickening feeling for the one responsible on that particular day. To make matters worse, sometimes the pump would lose its prime or worse yet, it would freeze up. This would require thawing it out before any water could be drawn.
We had no electricity. The source of light was kerosene lamps and lanterns. At maximum efficiency, they weren't much. The chimneys always became clouded with the smoke from the kerosene and the wicks had a tendency to burn out. So the
Pages 11-15 chimneys had to be washed regularly and wicks trimmed frequently in order to be able to see where the light was coming from. A big improvement was the introduction of gasoline lamps. These operated with gas under pressure in a container at the bottom of the lamp. The gas entered a generator near the center of the lamp, was vaporized as it entered two mantels suspended from two outlets. This type can still be purchased as sporting equipment. There were problems with these lights too. To begin with, with both kerosene and gas, you had to follow the light in order to benefit from it. If it was needed in the kitchen, that is where you went. The gas lamps required constant pumping to keep up the pressure. As the pressure went down, the brightness also faded until sometimes the light was barely visible. The too, after even limited use, the mantels became less effective, requiring replacement. However, more often replacement was required due to a fly or mosquito flying against the mantel and breaking it. Sometimes a sudden bump would also cause a mantel to break. They were extremely fragile. The most aggravating problem was with the generator becoming clogged. This required a special tool to unseat it and then take apart to clean out the tiny openings through which the gas was forced. In the barn we always used kerosene lanterns. They didn't give much light, but were considered safer and where you couldn't see, you simply felt your way. Becoming familiar with the lay of the land, where everything was placed, every step down or up was very important, because coming and going was often done with no light at all.
Marv was always the innovator, the inventive type. One day he installed an electric light in the barn. Inside the barn, along side of the hay mow, a ladder extended to a height of about 12-15 feet. He drilled a hole at the top of the ladder, inserted a car light bulb, ran wires from there to the bottom of the ladder where he attached them to a battery. It worked and we really thought we had something, but it never was used much. Here too, possible the battery was more often dead than alive, and maybe the batteries just weren't that plentiful or more likely, too expensive. Some years later, around the time of World War II, Marve made another change. By this time we had electricity through O & A Electric. He bought an electric water pump, attached it to the well outside, and pumped water into the house. The place had really gone modern!
Back to earlier days. Under conditions such as we experienced, colds and what-not were commonplace. Home remedies were the common prescriptions. Only in extreme emergency was a doctor called or any other medication used. For a sore throat and chest congestion, there was a particular method of treatment which brings back many memories. A piece of wool cloth was taken and soaked in melted lard. This was applied to the chest as hot as possible and once in place was attached to the underwear with two safety pins....and off to school we went! It didn't feel too bad as long as the cloth remained warm and flexible, but once we got outside and walking to school, that rag would stiffen and feel awful, feeling more like refrigeration. Can you imagine sitting in school all day with a rag like that on your chest? Sometimes it would stick to the skin, but when pulled from the skin, felt cold, stiff, and clammy. No one seemed to mind the smell, except the person wearing it - at least no one ever said anything about it. Here again, everyone used pretty much the same cures, so it was nothing new. Our poor teacher! She must have held her breath on many occasions when approaching any one of her pupils. And we think we have to take a bath everyday and use all sorts of deodorants! Life was simpler then!
Before getting off the subject of ailments and illnesses, there was an occasion when Dr. Bloemendaal was called to the house. Whatever brought on the condition warranting a call is not known, but he came , and after examining me reported that I had leakage of the heart - whatever that meant. This stigma followed me through life and was particularly annoying when attempts were made to secure life insurance. It sounded bad enough and the restrictions which Dr. Bloemendaal applied were even worse. This must have occurred at about the age of 11 or 12. The first restriction was that I remain in bed, on my back, for thirty days. Then there followed a two year period of very restricted activity - no running, no jumping, no bike riding, no horse back riding, and no exertion of any kind. That was a long two years, and coming at an age when these types of activity were so much a part of everyday life, it was quite difficult to abide by. A privilege well remembered was the use of the car in going to school. Certainly, it was not used every day, but on special occasions, possibly when we had bad weather. Imagine, at the age of about 12 or 13 taking a car to school. I had no drivers license, but had a lot of experience. Before we were even big enough to look over the steering wheel, we were already driving cars and trucks around the farm and those were all straight sticks and mechanical brakes which required a great deal of effort applied to the brake pedal in order to get the vehicle to stop. How we ever survived surprises me to this day.
Our first experience driving the truck was usually in unloading hay from the wagon into the mow in the barn. This was done with a harpoon fork which was inserted as far as possible into the hay on the wagon. With a series of ropes and pulleys, the end of one rope being attached to a rafter in the barn and the end of another rope attached to the bumper of the truck, by backing up with the truck and pulling on the rope, the harpoon fork along with the hay was lifted high in the mow and then by pulling on a smaller rope the fork was tripped and the load dropped wherever it was wanted. Most farmers used horses for this job, but we got to use the truck. It was one of the fun times in the tedious job of haying.
Another time we got to drive the truck was in bringing milk to a flowing well following our evening milking in the summer time. About a quarter of a mile back in the fields was a flowing well. It had been there for years with a steady stream of real cold water flowing continuously. In our day, the only remaining pipe was a rusted off section far below the surface of a cement walled encasement about five by five feet. This stood about a foot above the ground and was maybe five feet deep. This entire encasement filled with water with the overflow running off the sides making the adjoining area very muddy. This area was fenced in for pasture and this was the water supply for our cows and horses. They came here to drink. But in the summer, it served another purpose. In order to keep the milk from turning sour in hot weather, we brought our milk here in the evening in creamery cans, suspended them by ropes or wire in this cold water. We hauled the milk here by truck. We would leave the truck there at night, and in the morning Dad would walk over there to pick up the milk and bring back the truck. He usually had that job finished before we began to stir in the morning.
At one time Dad had two milk routes. He began by hauling milk by wagon or sleigh in the winter time to a station known as Meadville, located on the corner of 96th and Fillmore. Many years ago the place was torn down and a house now stands on that spot. He was able to expand his milk route when trucks became available. In later years, a second route was added which George handled until after he was married. He gave it up after he got a job at GM. Hired help took the route for a time, but it was eventually sold. Dad continued to pick up milk on a route which took him through Allendale, Pearline (now combined with Allendale) east and north to Bass River, west along the river and then south to his last pick up at Mart Elenbaas on 96th. That farm has since been bought by a Bill Headley with very little resemblance to its former state. Following his last stop, delivery was made to the Mead Johnson plant on east Main in Zeeland. Many trucks came into this plant. The plant still remains, but the facilities have changed considerably. All milk was picked up in creamery cans and deposited on a revolving track outside the building. Today all pickups are in bulk. The plant continued to receive bulk deliveries for a time, but is doubtful that they still do today.
Dad's milk route became very familiar because on numerous occasions, on Saturdays and during the summer months, it was my privilege to run the route. It was with a feeling of pride that I took to the road with what seemed like a big truck, stop at the various farmers, unload the empty cans, and load up the full ones. Many of the stops were very difficult. A full can of milk was heavy and had to be lifted to the height of the truck rack which on level ground was possibly 48 inches high. The trouble was not all loading areas were on level ground. A couple in particular required lifting the cans out of a water tank, carry them up a grade about thirty feet, and then standing on an upgrade, swinging those cans on the truck. Another place which tested my stamina was on the farm of Gene Ten Brink. Here it was necessary to reload by double decking full cans of milk on racks in the front and rear of the truck body. Besides this chore, Ten Brink always had 10-12 cans of his own. It was always with a sigh of relief to be able to go on from there. My back aches thinking of it. How a 135 lb. skin and bones individual could handle those cans is still hard for me to understand.
One incident well remembered is one day on a country road, approaching a valley with a one way bridge at the lower level, a truck was seen coming from the opposite direction. Trees at the crest of the hill obstructed our views of each other until we both began the descent. The brakes were applied with all my might, but as stated before, the mechanical brakes didn't hold very well, especially with a full load of milk. The truck coming from the opposite direction had the same problem. We met at the bottom of the hill, right on the bridge which had no guard rails or protective edge. In attempting to keep to my right side of the road as far as possible and following the jolt from meeting bumper to bumper, the right rear wheels nearest the ditch had dislodged some sod from the bank, and it looked like the truck would topple into the ditch any minute. Dan Bekius, the driver of the other truck, had a chain which he attached to his truck and ours. By slowly backing up with no power applied to the wheels of our truck until after it had moved a short distance, we managed to get out of the predicament. What a relief to be back on the road again. No damage was done to the trucks. We had almost come to a stop by the time we met. But thinking back over what might have happened made me shiver for a long time.
At a younger age, another time we got to drive the truck was for bringing supplies to our annual Sunday School Picnic of the Ottawa Reformed Church. Every year this picnic was held in our woods adjoining the creek. Dad usually brought many of the supplies along home with him that day from town. These supplies included pop, ice cream, ice, candy bars, etc. We couldn't wait to bring the stuff to the picnic grounds. There in the woods a counter was constructed between trees on which many of the items were displayed. Seeing the woods now it is hard to imagine it was ever used for a picnic grounds. It is entirely grown up with bushes, shrubs, and cluttered with fallen trees. But then the woods was kept clean of underbrush and all fallen trees and branches were cut up for firewood. We considered it a perfect spot for a picnic. An adjoining hay field served as a ball field and some pretty good battles were waged out there. Another thing we appreciated was picking up empty containers afterward. We always checked the ice cream containers first. Anything left had of course turned to liquid, but that didn't matter. We emptied them of their last drop. We also checked the grounds particularly around the canteen for lost coins. Sometimes we found a little, but to my knowledge it never amounted to much. Still, a nickel in those days could buy a pretty good sized candy bar.
Speaking of candy bars reminds me of a treat we used to enjoy. On Saturdays we would occasionally catch frogs in the pond near our house, cut off the hind legs, and fry them. Also, Saturday was the Vollink peddle wagon day for stopping at our house. On those frog hunt days we would manage to scrape up a couple nickels, buy a couple Mr. Goodbars, which were really big, and eat them as somewhat of a dessert. The "we" usually was made up of John, Jay, Elmer and Jim Driesenga, and myself. Driesengas had a small brooder house behind their home which was not clean even by our standards. Evidences of chicks and chickens were everywhere present as well as the odors. But it had a stove in it and that was important. We simply overlooked the environment. We borrowed utensils from our homes as well as bread, butter, salt, and whatever else was needed. We fired up the stove with corn cobs, put plenty of butter in the frying pan, and tossed in the frog legs. Boy, was that good eating! Then to top it off, we had our Mr. Goodbars! It just couldn't be beat!
Jim and Elmer Driesenga lived directly across the road from us. Every spare moment we had, they were either at our house, or we were at theirs. We didn't get in their house very often because they pretty much confined their living to a small kitchen which was hardly large enough for them, let alone us too. That cluttered little room is still clear in my mind. Still, we were always attracted to their place. There was always something going on there. They had goats which climbed over everything. No sooner was a car parked, then up on the roof were those goats. They would hop on the running board of the car, climb up the fender, jump to the hood, and then to the top. It was a good thing no one had new cars in those days, but even then not everyone appreciated having goats climbing over their car.
there was always someone either pulling an old car apart, or putting one together in the hopes of getting it to run. A son Harry could usually be found covered with grease, under a car flat on his back. Dick Marlink lived with the Driesengas for quite some time and ended up marrying their daughter, Gertrude. Nice arrangement! We didn't think too much of it, because we knew he didn't have a penny and at least he was getting something to eat and had a place to sleep.
Behind the Driesenga home was another chicken coop (larger than the frog leg fry house) in which a Mr. Vogel lived. His exact relationship to Mrs. Driesenga escapes me now, but he was related somehow. We always called him "old man Vogel." The chicken house he lived in was nothing but a shell. Horse manure, a common type of insulation, was piled around the foundation to keep some of the draft out in the winter. Inside, a smell greeted you which is unforgettable. He used liniment freely, chewed tobacco more freely, and didn't always hit the container he aimed for with his spitum. There was also the original smell of chickens plus body odors resulting from wearing the same clothes for the whole season and maybe not taking a bath for the same period of time. Somehow, we frequently ended up picking him up for church. He never left his chewing tobacco behind. If riding in the car, no matter what the weather, he had to frequently lower the window and release an accumulation. Especially well remembered were the times we went by sleigh to church. It must have been Mom's concern and loving care that always put him on the best spot in the sleigh, in the center with plenty of blankets to cover him and keep him warm. Being so tucked away made release of his tobacco juice somewhat of a challenge at times, but he never gave up even though the blankets caught it sometimes and others on the sleigh are known to have gotten sprayed when the wind was in the wrong direction.
Yes, in the wintertime we frequently took the horses and sleigh. That was the only way we could get out. County snow plows, such as they were, remained on the main roads. Toward spring we could usually count on our road being plowed out. Cars and trucks were often parked a mile or so from home on a better road. Dad would often take a large tree log, hitch the horse to it, and pull it back and forth to the mile corner cutting two tracks through the snow. Now you know it is virtually impossible to keep a straight line with a device like that, and following those tracks with a car or truck was also almost impossible. Anyone attempting this feat looked like a drunken sailor zig zagging all over the road. It helped, but oh, the hard work to accomplish so little. Back to church going by sleigh. It was a tedious, cold procedure. The horses had to be harnessed, hitched to the sleigh, as much as possible of the accumulated snow shoveled off the sleigh first, some fresh straw spread over the floor of the sleigh, some blankets spread over the straw, determine the prevailing winds and select a spot accordingly, set yourself down, and pile the blankets on top. And off we went! It was
slow going because sometimes the horses had difficulty walking through the deep snow drifts. Once in a while there would be a straight stretch with not much snow depth and the horses were brought to a trot. We kids quite often held on to the back of the sleigh as we walked and half slid behind. This helped to keep us warm. Once we arrived at church, Bill would have to unhitch the horses and tie them up in a horse barn behind the church. All country churches in those days had horse barns. Then when the services were ended, Bill would hitch up the horses again, everyone would crawl in, and off we went for home. Can you imagine anyone going through all that trouble to get to church and then sleeping through the entire service? It happened.
The desire to attend God's House had to be very strong and in the case of our mother, it was. In those days Ottawa had no minister of its own. The congregation was too small and too poor to support one. We had classical appointments, retirees, and sometimes a minister from one of the Holland or Zeeland churches. One of the ministers heard quite frequently was a retiree, Rev. Tysse. He wasn't all that great as a preacher, but he was a kind elderly man. We learned to imitate his speech mannerisms, one of which was the constant use of "uh". Our favorite imitation was, "and uh, so uh, we uh." One minister we always enjoyed was a Rev. Stoppels from Holland. One of his sermons is still remembered, based on Ps. 16:6, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage." During the summer months we were served by a seminarian who sometimes lived in the area during those months. The names of Rev. Prins and Rev. Goulooze come to mind as outstanding seminarians and later on, Rev. Teusink. Our catechetical instruction will be covered later.
Ottawa Reformed Church, in our early days, was a small, simple, unadorned structure far different from the properties seen today. There were three rows of seats. The side pews were small, holding maybe four people each. The center pews were larger. Total seating capacity may have been 100 or so. The rear center pew was always occupied by young men who had graduated from family supervision. An amusing thing is the fact that this seat was set against the back wall, and everyone sitting there rested his head against the wall. Spots on the wall from greasy (Brilliantine) hair corresponded to positions taken in the pew. This also became known as the spot where the unruly sat. The pulpit area was simple. A piano stood in front on the right and a table in the center. One large register in front of the lectern served to heat the entire building. The heat was not very evenly distributed. For years, there was only a partial basement and even that was not finished. Mention was made of seating capacity. The church was seldom filled. Generally, there were four or five pews occupied on each side and the middle.
A few members stand out in my memory of those earlier days. There was Harm Hassevoort and his third wife, Winnie. His first wife died, his second - a real flapper - left him, and his third wife was a bit slow mentally. Old Harm had physical problems which seemed to affect his voice. Prior to services, he and others engaged in conversations which could be heard all over church. Then soon after services began, he would fall asleep and awaken in time to leave. Another character was Harm Shoemaker. He was what is called in dutch, unvaschulets (now if I only knew how to spell it). His reasoning process didn't always function properly and he was known to "fly off the handle" (become angry) quite easily and frequently. He had a nice wife. They lived (how they survived no one knows) in the sand hills west of 112th on Stanton. Oppy Geertman is another who should be mentioned. He always came to church chewing tobacco and traces of tobacco juice could always be seen in the corners of his mouth and in the crease in his lower jaw.
Mention has been made of our friends, Jim and Elmer Driesenga. Incidentally, Elmer was one of the early casualties in W.W.II. We played together often, but there were occasions when we were not welcome. They had a cousin by the name of Marv Maatman who came to visit maybe once a year. Whenever he came they would try to hide from us. But we weren't to be shunned that easily. One day we came and they ran to a willow patch some distance behind the barn to get away from us. We followed, but as soon as they saw us coming, they ran for the drain ditch. We kept following at somewhat of a distance and found them hiding along the ditch bank. They started to throw things at us, called us names, and told us to leave. We finally did leave. After all, there comes a time when it suddenly dawns on you that you are not wanted. We went home, no doubt felt hurt for a day or so, but before long we were back together again.
One of our favorite pastimes (Driesengas, John, Jay, and myself) was a game we played in the dining room of our home. It was always at our house. This was played at night. The doors to the kitchen and living room had to be closed so that there was no possibility of light coming in. In preparation for this game, we cut up can rubbers in pieces maybe 1/2 inch long. Each one saw to it he had a good supply. Then armed with a few rubber bands, the battle began in the dark room. The pieces of can rubber were doubled over the rubber band, and then by stretching the rubber band, the can rubber was sent sailing at a pretty good speed. The object was to hit someone. Positions had to be changed continually because someone was bound to hit his target and then a yell went out which of course revealed to everyone else where that person was located. He then became the center of attack by the rest of us. And oh, the poor sucker who without thinking passed by a window, he was immediately spotted and the can rubbers went zinging in that direction. This went on and on and must have created a lot of noise for the rest of the family, but you know, never did we hear anything from Mom or Dad to quit. They sure took a lot. We must have made a mess too with can rubbers all over the room and furniture out of place. One of Mom and Dad's favorite expressions in Dutch was that "boys had to play" or "let them be as long as they are quiet." This last one didn't really make sense, because we were far from quiet.
The drain ditch adjoining our property holds many memories. A bridge crossing this drain was made of steel with loose boards forming the road bed. Very few cars traveled our road, but when they did, they could be heard at our house as they rumbled over that bridge. Even the speed of the cars could be judged fairly well by the time sequence of the rumble. With so few cars passing by, we naturally looked down the road as soon as we heard the rumble to determine if the car was going to stop at our house. Usually, when the sound was heard, our dog prepared himself by taking a position near the road and giving chase if the car passed, or following it into the driveway.
The drain also had a few fishing holes, wherever the drain turned in its natural course, a deep hole was formed where fish could often be found. There weren't many varieties of fish, mostly bullheads which were an eerie looking thing and not much good for eating. Many of the fish were so small that all they did was eat our bait and seldom got caught on the hook. One day Jay and John found an automatic hook advertised in a catalog. This was to be the answer to our problems. They sent for it. It was a two pronged, sharp ended device something like a set of tongs. It had a spring mechanism and when the prongs were opened up and set, a fish hook stood out in the middle. The principle of the thing was that as soon as a fish touched the hook to get the bait, the prongs would release and catch the fish. We had a lot of fun with it, but it never worked too well.
The drain ditch also served another purpose in the summertime. This is where we went "skinny dipping." We never owned a bathing suit or swimming trunks, although there were times we jumped in with our shorts on, but most of the time it was in the nude. We didn't have to worry about anyone else because that little woods road was hardly ever traveled. In early summer, the ditch usually had several inches of water in it, but as summer moved on, the depth decreased. We would then build a dam, with an arm full of burlap bags and a couple shovels, we began filling the sacks with sand dug from the bank of the ditch. These filled bags were laid end to end across the ditch and then others piled on top until we had a dam maybe three feet high. This stopped the flow of water and resulted in a build up behind the dam. Not much water flowed , but over a period of time, it got deeper and deeper until finally it would flow over the dam. This gave us a great place to go swimming. In the middle of the summer the water was always warm. One inconvenience we had to put up with was the blood suckers. Every time we came out of the water we would check each other over for any possible blood suckers stuck to us. It was a weird thing. When attached to the body, it appeared as a spot, but when you took hold of it and pulled it, it stretched what seemed an inch or so before it finally let go. Mention was made of not having to worry about anyone seeing us, but one day as we were swimming, we heard some snickering come from over the bank of the drain. We watched and soon there appeared the heads of three of Simon Ten Brink's girls. They took off running when they learned they had been discovered, but by then they no doubt had seen all they had wanted to see.
Before leaving the drain ditch, a couple things should be reported. One day George and Marv set out to dig out what they thought was a rabbit in a hole along side of the bridge. They had been digging awhile when Marv decided to reach in,to feel for the rabbit and pull it out. In so doing he also stuck his head partway into the hole. All of a sudden he pulled back, rubbing his eyes, and shouting to George to spit in his eyes. The rabbit turned out to be a skunk and when disturbed, he "let fly." Marv ran around in circles until finally he went down to the drain and washed his eyes with water from the ditch. That must have been painful.
We always had one or more dogs on the farm. One of our dogs was named "pup". She had been around for a long time and with advancing age, she slowed up considerably. One day she could not be found. We searched everywhere and finally found her dead body along the bank of the ditch. She had simply laid down and died. We ran home and told Dad. He said he would go with us after supper and bury her. It just so happened that the Rev. Oostendorp (a Calvin classmate of Dad) and his family from Zeeland stopped to visit that night around the time we were to bury the dog. Rev. Oostendorp went along and still remembered is his joking remark that it was fortunate a minister was present for such an occasion. We didn't feel like joking. It was serious business. Old Pup was buried and the exact spot is still remembered. We had buried an old faithful friend.
Once during each summer, we visited the Ed Hassevoort boys at their place, and they once each summer came to our place. They lived where the Bill-Mar Turkey Plant is now located. All of us attended the Owens School together. They were always on a rigid schedule, but ours was quite flexible. When we were there, we always played with miniature farm animals, wagons, horses, or tractors. They all had chores to do and at a given time they dropped everything and it was time to go home. When they came to our house too, they always had to be home by a stated time.
We worked too, but Dad always said, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," so in our case pleasure often came before work. We even "worked out." One place was at the Ed Hirdes farm. The first job remembered was helping Mr. Hirdes shingle a shed lean-to to the barn. My job was to lay out the shingles and he nailed them down. He always called me "his boy." We also worked on his farm in the onions. A son, John, was in charge in the field, but he didn't seem to regard me as "his son." They had long rows of onions which we straddled as we moved along weeding on our hands and knees. On a hot day it was miserable and to make things worse, the grains of muck soil always worked up our pant legs under our knees, grinding away like sand paper. John Hirdes was always a taskmaster, always trying to get us to work faster, checking all the time if we missed any weeds. The pay received was not much, possibly two or three cents a row.
Another place where we "worked out" was on the Mart Elenbaas farm. He had one daughter, Pearl, so he always needed help with haying. She drove the horses on the hay wagon and we leveled off the hay as it come on the wagon from the hay loader. For a full day of hard work we received one dollar. One of the benefits was to eat dinner there at noon. Mrs. Elenbaas always prepared a big, delicious meal for us "workers."
Besides outside work, we always had plenty to do on our own farm. Besides the normal chores of milking the cows morning and evening, feeding them, cleaning stables, feeding chickens and pigs, there were the summer jobs of picking pickles, weeding carrots, and mangoes. Our farm had a small low land area where the soil was black. It wasn't really muck, but it was good for garden type crops. Below the black surface soil was a layer of peat. Sometimes in late fall we would burn off the weeds and grasses, but on a couple occasions the peat below the surface also became ignited and was known to smolder through most of the winter until the spring rains came, flooded the field and put out the fire. It was quite hazardous to walk over that area while the peat was burning because the burning was below the surface and sometimes we could step in such a spot, drop down a few inches, and come out with a hot foot. This is where we raised carrots, etc. These required almost constant weeding and it was this type of work that always "delighted" John and Jay. It wasn't my favorite either, but quite often when the carrots needed weeding or the pickles had to be picked, John and Jay conveniently found other interests like listening to the car radio in the garage.
Haying time was a busy time. When the weather was suitable, it had to be mowed, and after drying, raked into wind rows. We then went to the field with horses and wagon hitched to a hay loader. By straddling the wind rows, the hay loader picked up the hay, carried it up a conveyor system, and dumped it at the rear of the wagon. From there it had to be distributed evenly across the entire rack and build up to a height which was regarded as safe to transport to the barn. Sometimes the load became unevenly distributed, resulting in losing part of it or having the wagon tip over. For many years Dad cut hay for a Mr. Timmirman, a short distance away, on shares. For every three loads, he got two and we one.
Shortly after the haying season came time to harvest the grain. There were no combines in those days. Everything was cut with a binder which tied the cut grain into bundles and kicked out these bundles on a carrier. When the carrier was full, it was tripped leaving the bundles in a heap on the ground. This heap was then set up in shocks and stood until time for threshing. That was quite an event. Bill Zienstra owned a threshing rig. He and Gerrit Groenhof covered the area, going from one farm to another. Neighboring farmers helped each other, some came with horses and wagons to haul the grain from the field, and others provided muscle power to carry the grain to the granary. Many farmers stacked their grain in stacks near the barn, making hauling from the field unnecessary. Compared with today's method, what a lot of work was involved and what a lot of grain must have been lost during all those separate handlings. A thing of pride was to be able to build a stack beautifully proportioned. Generally, they barely survived the time of threshing. They bulged in all directions and leaned rather precipitously at times. Once the day for threshing came, there was a lot of activity getting everything ready. The kitchen was busy with the preparing of food. This was the highlight of the day. Some places went all out preparing meals for all the men. However, there were certain places at which we didn't look forward to eating. In earlier years, before we were old enough or strong enough to carry a bag of grain or pitch bundles of grain into the threshing machine, we took delight in managing the blower. This was a dirty job, but the dirtier we got, the better we liked it, because then everyone could look upon us as one who had really worked. Now, the blower was at the rear end of the threshing machine where the chopped straw came out. The machine was usually inside the barn and the straw was distributed in mows inside the barn. The cutting of the straw, along with a variety of weeds produced an awful lot of dust. In fact, sometimes it was impossible to see where the blower was pointed. Being able to wear goggles was also a mark of distinction. Anyway, it was a dirty job, but we loved it.
One time, while helping thresh at one of our neighbors, one of the men told how chewing tobacco was good for most anyone doing any type of threshing operation. He had a package of Beechnut which he said was sweet and wouldn't make you sick. A couple of us "green horns" took a chew, but after having it our mouths for only a short time we really got sick. We could hardly manage to keep working and passed up our dinner. The guy who gave it to us sure had a lot of laughs though.
Milking time was not one of our favorite activities, especially in the summertime, when the pressure to be done in time so we could get out and play ball was always on our mind. Bill always liked to start chores early too, so he could leave for the neighbors on time. This helped us, but didn't set too well with Dad, especially during the busy times of haying, etc. We would often hurry through the chores, quick catch a bite, and off we would go for practice or ball games with area competition. When milking was more leisurely, we often engaged in milk squirting skirmishes. We (John, Jay, and myself) would try to arrange our positions so that we milked adjoining cows. The poor sucker who ended up first in line got to be the target for the next in line and the second in line the target for the third. The normal milking position was to extend the right leg under the cow while holding the pail between the legs. This became a perfect target for the person milking the next cow. By shifting positions a bit to the side, a stream of milk could be directed right into the shoe of the other person. It generally took a few squirts before it suddenly dawned on you that your foot was feeling warm and then came the realization that you were the victim of foul play. Another effective method was squirting the milk over the cow behind you and letting fall on the head of the person milking that cow. We always had a number of cats, and they also played a part in our games. They would sit a short distance behind the cows and we would squirt milk at them while they, with their mouths open, tried to catch it.
A high point in our lives occurred in 1938, when Dad sold the one milk route. As kids, we naturally delighted in a nice car. Our dream was to have a new one, but this was beyond expectation. Then one day Dad said if the milk route sold, we would get a new car. Even prior to the sale we were already shopping around and had one picked out at Madder Chevrolet in Zeeland. It simply had to be a Chevrolet. As far as our family was concerned, that was the best car on the road. The day for the purchase finally arrived. It was to be finalized that morning and after Dad had finished his milk route, we were to meet him at the Chevy garage. We were there and then came Dad. He had bad news. He said the sale did not go through. That meant no new car. Boy, were we disappointed! We must have really looked downhearted because Dutch Madder said to Dad that he couldn't really disappoint us, and to go ahead and take the car, and settle for it whenever the milk route sold. This Dad agreed to do, and we became the owners of a brand new Chevrolet. In those days there just weren't many new cars around. We felt like we were sitting on top of the world.
While speaking of cars, something comes to mind which characterized many young drivers in those days, and that is the decorations and accessories we used to add to the cars. We would add distinctive hood ornaments, we added fender lights, which clamped to the front fenders and stood up about 12 inches high with a little light on top. We would attach mud flaps on the rear fenders with red lights in the center. These all lit up when the lights were turned on. Sometimes little lights would be inserted on the grill or fog lights attached to the front bumper. A spot light was a real luxury. Sometimes red lights were attached to the rear bumper which were activated by the brake. Our cars looked like a lighted Christmas tree going down the road at night. Dad didn't appreciate all those extras and of course, they were hard on the battery.
Just a fleeting remark now on a number of trivia. The night music in the spring and summer was source of peace and contentment. The frogs croaking in the swamp, and the crickets chirping away often sang me to sleep at night. Walks down our lonely one way road with brush and weeds grown high on both sides and lightening bugs flitting about all around also gave a sense of peacefulness and certainly and awareness that God was in control. Newly plowed fields which turned up an abundant supply of angle worms was always a delight. Just the smell of the ground was enough to stimulate praise to a God who made it all. There was the salt block, about 12 - 15 inches square in the pasture back of the barn intended for the cows to lick, which served as a delicious appetizer as we chipped off a piece and licked the clean sides. There was the time we housed a Shetland pony for a farmer on Dad's milk routes. He (the pony) was an ornery little thing, always squeezing us against the stall when we came to get him, nipping us in the arm and refusing to run when going in any direction away from home. When headed back toward home, he would really take off, turning into our yard at a speed which sometimes nearly threw us. On day while John was riding him, the pony balked and kicked and threw John to the ground resulting in a broken arm. There were visits to Joe Meengs. Their place was always so neat and clean. Their car stood in a nice garage with a cement floor, always covered with a sheet when not in use. Their barn was always so orderly and clean. Also remembered is the building of their new house, having participated in the lathing bee at the age of maybe 6 or 7. Joe was always kind to me. He would let me turn the handle of their corn sheller while he pushed in the ears of corn. There was the Sunday apportionment of peppermints. Each Saturday, when the Vollink peddle wagon came, a bag of peppermints was purchased. Before church, these were counted out in piles for each member of the family and each took his or her own share. There was the milk house where, after the milk had cooled and set awhile, that we went to and skimmed off the cream and drank it. There was the gas pump with underground tank along side the milk house where the trucks were filled up, but also served as a supply for the cars when needed. There was the lack of toys which we never missed; bicycles that barely hung together - no fender, bolts for pedals, handlebars which never seemed to want to stay in place and generally no seat; Christmases which came and went with no gifts exchanged - the only things received at Christmas were a box of hard candy from the Sunday School and an orange at the school program; there were the polliwogs in the pond by the hundreds which turn to frogs and the explanation of Mom that God planned it that way; there was the wash house near the house added in later years - miserably cold in the winter; there was ice skating in the winter on flooded areas on the farm, and ice hockey played with selected tree branches as sticks and a tin can as a puck - oh the hurts that resulted from being hit with a stick or getting that beat up tin can in your face; there was Margaret Sytsma, our teacher at Ovens School, who so patiently and lovingly taught all eight grades and dealt with pugilists like John Zimmick and Henry Ver Lee; there were visits to the dentist only after the tooth ached so much you couldn't stand it any longer and it usually ended up being pulled. There were the occasional visits by relations - Uncle Hank and Aunt Katie, Uncle Pete and Aunt Bertha De Jonge, and sometimes others. We didn't go visiting much. We never needed a baby sitter We weren't involved in a lot of outside activities - there just weren't any. Our longest trip was to Tunnel Park once a year or possibly two to the zoo at Getz Farm. Our home was the center of activity. There are many other trivia, but as a climax to it all, and not to be regarded as trivia, was a caring father and a loving mother who although they had very little of this world's goods, gave their all, their love, themselves. What more could anyone ask? If in my life I may have given but a portion of what they gave to me; if my children could but think half as highly of me as I of my parents and my children had but reason to do so, life would be considered worthwhile.
Following is a sketch, a brief account of each member of our family. Some of the reflections will be those tempered by time. Our family was large, six boys and three girls, but bound by love then, even as we who remain continue to be bound by that same love.
Dad will always be remembered as a very hard worker, kind, and with a generous spirit which could not be matched. The circumstances surrounding his decision to leave Zeeland and set out on a hard way of life are immaterial to me. To reason that things might have been different is no consolation or basis for argument. He applied himself with every energy in an effort to keep the family together, and he did. He had trials and these often weighed heavy on him. He became discouraged, but he is remembered more for his optimism. He worked many long hard hours every day. He began each day with milking chores, followed by his milk route that lasted until about noon, and then the farm work and chores at night. His familiar figure sitting in his usual chair, fast asleep, with his pipe almost falling out of his mouth is still fresh in my memory. He is remembered as battling the snow drifts with his truck, putting chains on the dual wheels of the truck flat on his back in the snow in sub-zero weather. He is remembered for many kindnesses; the buying of an ice cream cone every time I rode with him on the milk route; for the use of the car whenever I wanted it; and for just simply caring. His generosity will never be forgotten. During dating years he always gave me money even though he really had none to spare. There was never a charge for anything. The car was filled with gas at the pump. He never expected or wanted any of the money we were able to make on the side. After our marriage, we used one of his cars while living in Holland, and every time we came home, he sent us back with a full tank of gas, eggs, produce, meat, and whatever he had that we might need. The amount he paid for my tuition at Hope he refused repayment. On furlough one time, he decided I should have a new electric razor, so he took me to a jewelry store and paid a big price for the best for something I really didn't need, but didn't have the heart to refuse. The family struggles, the problems with brother Bill, and frustrations associated with Mom had their effect. He remained single for a number of years following Mom's death and then remarried under circumstances which for a time drove a wedge into our relationships. I thank God that in the last couple years of his life, communication was reestablished and some of his former self returned.
Writing about her is going to be difficult. Before even going into the details of what she meant to me, tears already come to my eyes as I reflect upon her life. Hers was a life not easily understood. As has been said many times, if there had only been mental facilities for the treatment of her condition in those days as we have today, how different her life might have been. Nothing was too much for her. She was always busy with large family; washing, ironing, making meals, sewing, darning socks, canning fruits, vegetables, meats, and all the other chores about the house. She was deeply religious and always wanted the best instruction for her children. In the days when catechism was taught for a couple months in the summer at Ottawa, she insisted we also take catechism through the fall and winter months at the Borculo CRC. We didn't always appreciate it, but we did it. She also enjoyed attending the Dutch afternoon services in Borculo. It was my job to take her there. This too was not always greatly appreciated, but I did it. She had good days when she could smile and appeared happy. But unfortunately, the times I remember best are those when she was discouraged and depressed. This depression was not a mild emotional state which disappeared in a day or so. She was confused. We never quite understood the problem,. but the reason was known. She was convinced that salvation was not for her, and no matter how long and how hard anyone tried to reason with her, she held to that position. Her brother, Rev. Peter De Jonge, came frequently to try to help. Ministers who served as classical appointments tried to assist, but no one could help. Well remembered are occasions in church when communion was being served that she would sit constantly wringing her hands until finally as the elements were passed and she did not partake, that she would begin crying uncontrollably. However, as stated before, there were times when she seemed to be able to rise above those feelings of depression and she seemingly took on a new nature. With the passing of time, her periods of depression became more severe and lasted longer. At such times she took on an entirely different nature. She would simply nibble at food, lost an awareness of everyone and anyone, did not and I am sure could not communicate, lived in a world all by herself. I recall putting my arms around her once and telling her I loved her. She didn't look, said nothing, only held my hand like she didn't want to let go. Times when she would disappear became more frequent. Dad would go out looking for her when he found that she was not in the house. Sometimes she was found in the corn field and when approached she wasn't even aware that Dad was there. She seemed in a trance. She wanted to stay, but Dad would take her by the arm and lead her back. Once she was found on the bank of the drain ditch again oblivious to everything and anyone else. Then one day, while I was working at the Borculo pickle station Mr. Koop came over to me and said, "You had better go home, your Dad needs you." There was no doubt in my mind what had happened. Driving home with the accelerator to the floor all the way, the only thing in question was how it happened. When arriving at home, it was learned that Mom was dead, she had taken her life by hanging. An account of the details will end here. Gone was her depression, her confusion, and uncertainty. She had entered the New Life, Eternal Life where sorrow, tears, pain, disappointment are no more, and was there greeted by her Savior, who ushered her into the home prepared for her with the assurance that she was one of His for all eternity and that His death had satisfied for all her sins. An incident occurred in my life in relationship to Mom which seems impossible for me right now to write about, but possible in sharing some of the pain will be diminished. In my earlier days, while seated at the kitchen table and Mom was ironing, a request must have been made and denied. She began telling me why the request was denied, to which I replied "Don't preach to me." She immediately reached over and slapped me across the mouth, but said nothing. I ran out of the house determined to run away, thinking I was the one who had been hurt. It didn't take long for me to return, but it was some time before I realized she was the one who was hurt. Following her death, a song plagued me for a long time. It goes something like this: "When I was but a little child, how well I recollect, how I would grieve my mother with my folly and neglect. But now that she has gone to Heaven I miss her tender care. Oh Savior tell my mother I'll be there." This song was long forgotten until one day in the Hudsonville Christian Nursing Home, while standing outside the door of Nell's room, a little old lady with no legs came along in a wheelchair, humming that song. How it cut once more! Yes, Mom, I'll be there and some day the joys we never really experienced together will be fully realized in an eternity of happiness and praise.
It was necessary for Mom to go to the doctor, what seemed quite frequently. Our family doctor was Dr. Masselink. In fact, he may have been the only doctor in Zeeland for years. He was always busy, and very slow in turning out patients. He made no appointments - first come, first served. He worked endless hours, but not always untiringly. He reportedly would fall asleep between patients with a waiting room full of people. He was also known for conversing with his patients to extreme in spite of the many waiting. Mom on may occasions would spend the entire day in his waiting room. If you weren't sick before you came, you certainly were by the time your got to see him, or you possibly considered the consequences of your illness as less severe than wasting time and left before being helped. It is also known that she visited a Dr. Ten Have, who set up practice in Zeeland for a short time, for the treatment of blood poisoning in her arm. She can still be seen soaking that arm in water as hot as she could stand, resulting in blisters over her whole arm.
Pages 26-30 Brother Bill
It is hard to think of Bill without wondering what he might have been had there been facilities then as we have them today such as the Ottawa Area Center. As long as can be remembered, Bill was one we had to deal with in a special way. He was always accepted for what he was - mentally handicapped. The extent of his formal education is not known. He went to school, but undoubtedly, after failure to progress from grade to grade, somewhere along the line he dropped out. He had certain abilities, but could not always be trusted to perform as instructed. He was strong, and was capable of doing most of the work around the farm. It may have been a blessing for him and for all of us in our relationship to him that we lived on a farm. He was given work to do and although he didn't always appreciate those jobs, and sometimes someone else had to finish what he started or redo what he had done, nevertheless, he was kept busy. This was quite necessary in order to discourage as much as possible his making a nuisance of himself with the neighbors.
As stated before, Tuesdays and Saturdays were peddle wagon days. On these days Bill would stock up on all kinds of candy and cigarettes. On those nights, as well as others too, he would walk to the Boersma's about a mile from our house. There he would share his goodies with the children.. He would stay for a couple hours and then return home. This went on for years and years. We often wondered how they put up with him and often apologized for his regular visits, but the Boersmas were kind, patient people. They never made him angry. Teasing him could make him very upset, and result in his not wanting anything to do with such individuals.
It was surprising sometimes to see how much he could read and grasp from the Zeeland Record. He read all the area news, Knew who died, who was getting married, and who visited whom. His favorite pastime when at home was listening endlessly to the phonograph, as stated before. He had many favorite records, and these were heard over and over again. He had many favorite hymns which he sang and did so fairly well too. He wouldn't think of skipping church services. He kept me supplied with cigarettes for a long time - Kings, Marvels, Sensatipn - to name a few. Sometimes Dad would become provoked over his performance. His cleaning of the stables often meant removal of a little here and there and to leave the rest. If he had some place in mind he wanted to go, he could work fast, but his usual pace was slow and less than deliberate. He could become angry very easily and he often chased us with a pitchfork threatening to kill us. He didn't really mean it, but we didn't take any chances. Seeing him cry, not from pain, but from frustration, was pathetic. He did a lot of work with the horses and related machinery. Sometimes in his attempt to fix something he would make it so badly messed up that major repairs were necessary. He couldn't drive a car, but one attempt ended up in a ditch not far down the road. In later years, he sometimes drove the tractor, but that was quite risky. One day while plowing a neighbor's property which adjoined the drain ditch mentioned before, he failed to turn soon enough when he came to the end of the field and ended up in the ditch, tractor, Bill, and all.
His later years were ones of frustration and disappointment. After Dad sold the farm and remarried, Bill went to live at the County Farm in Eastmanville. He was not happy there. One day, while chipping insilage in the silo on the farm, a large piece of frozen insilage came loose above him, fell on him, and he died. It was a tragic ending to a life which seemingly had little hope for the future in terms of earthly existence, but very definitely had a purpose. He could be content with so little. He would do so much just for a little consideration and would become overjoyed with just a little kindness extended. Many of his pet phrases still ring in my ears, but the promise of God that he will be a God to parents and to their children sounds out very clearly in its extension to Bill also. Someday I hope to see him too in perfection - without mental restrictions.
George was the financier of the family. From earliest recollections George always had money. At least these were the impressions we lived with. Maybe it was because he earned money while driving the milk route. Undoubtedly, he didn't make much on that job, but he didn't spend it foolishly either. It's not what you make, but what you save that counts - so the old saying goes. Anyway, George was able to buy a car all his own and was it a dandy! It was a 1928 Chevy Convertible with rumble seat and spare wheels mounted in the front fenders. He always kept it clean and polished. Being the man with the money, he was also able to travel. He and Al Meengs went on trips together. He also had a camera and took a lot of pictures on his trips. We were all eyes and ears as we viewed his pictures and listened to him relate his experiences. Well remembered is a trip he made to Traverse City. To us, Traverse City could have been in Europe so far as accessibility for us was concerned. We would check it out on the map and wow, what a long way from home. It seemed especially far for us kids whose radius of operation was restricted to nine miles. It seemed to me that on some of his trips George would wrap a couple extra tires and inner tubes to the rear of the car. In those days, flat tires were common place and a thing to be expected. Why, that was one of the first questions asked of a person who just returned from a trip - how many flat tires did you have? Cars were equipped with all the necessary tools for changing tires. Also part of standard equipment was a tire pump and a supply of patches and cement for making repairs to inner tubes. Tires were of a much poorer quality in those days, but the roads were more hazardous too. Also, tires were used until there was almost nothing left of them. The tread was generally completely worn off with the fibers showing below the treaded area. Nowadays, as soon as the tires show considerable wear, but long before the tread is completely worn down, new tires are installed. We just don't dare to take a chance with worn tires at today's speeds on today's highways. Blowouts were common in those days, but of course, the speeds traveled were not that great. Still, a blowout was quite a shocker and required expert maneuvering to avoid going into a ditch or losing control.
Marv was always considered the intellectual one, the thinker, the innovator, the inventor, the one with ambition, imagination, and determination. His goals consisted of ambitions beyond that which could be readily attained and represented desires not immediately realized. His satisfaction was not in the accomplishment of the ordinary, but in striving for the heights. His specialty was not in the day to day work around the farm, but in thinking up ways to do the job more efficiently with less effort. He was the electrician who hooked up the electric light in the barn before the days of electricity. He was the brewer of home brewed beer. He was one we always looked up to. We were proud of him and admired him. We always regarded him highly and it was with a feeling of pride that we referred to him as "our brother Marv." He was not at home much. He was the first to go off to high school, sometimes riding horseback to the Allendale High School and sometimes boarding there. He was also away from home much of the time during his Junior and Senior years at Zeeland High School. One thing remembered during those years was a Model T touring car he and cousin Pete Lamer owned together. One time repairs were necessary in the transmission and in the process of putting the parts back together, the reverse was interchanged with the forward gears. The result was going backwards in high gear. What fun it was riding through the hay field next to the house in reverse gear at a pretty good clip too. He attended Hope for a short time and then transferred to Calvin. Upon completion of college he was admitted to the University of Chicago Medical School. His leaving for Chicago was another occasion which brought tears to my eyes. How treasured are the memories of Marv even to this day!
In my estimation, Mae possessed the qualities and the beauty to become a movie star. That was in the days when movie stars were deserving of admiration at least to some extent. We weren't even that familiar with movie stars, because movie going was strictly forbidden, but we did have some concept of what a star was like. In my estimation, she was "it." For someone to have impressed me so highly it would only seem likely that much would be remembered regarding her. But there isn't. She did work out, first at the Veneklasens in West Olive and later at the Battjes in Grand Rapids. It was then that she was regarded as having joined the "higher class." The Battjes were wealthy people and to have your sister work and live in such luxury did something for us younger ones. Sometimes we would go along to take her back on Sunday night. That was quite an experience driving up to their beautiful home and letting our minds wander as we tried to imagine the comforts and the luxuries that existed behind those closed doors. Mae is best remembered for her love and kindness. She was always sweet and helpful.
Nell was about two years older than myself and as such was more directly involved in daily experiences. It seems that she and I were always competing with one another in various ways. For one thing we didn't always cooperate very admirably when it came to who was to drive the car. This was a controversial issue on many occasions. But to dwell on our differences is not my intent now nor would it be very relevant. The deepest impression gained from her was during the last few days of her struggling, painful life on earth. When reminded of the words of the 23rd Psalm and asked if the Lord was her shepherd she said "Yes, Len, He is my shepherd, I shall not want." Then to see her lying in a casket with the scars of pain and suffering now gone and in their place an appearance of happiness, of beauty, and of peace, brought a joy to my heart which cannot be expressed. God had erased the marks of years of suffering and had given to her an appearance of heavenly ecstasy. She is another who "has gone on before" and we await the day when we shall all be reunited.
No matter how many words are spoken or how many praises are extended, never can enough be said for the role Jeanette played in our lives. Here was one who had real potential, who had ambitions, abilities, and dreams of fulfillment, but one who laid everything aside for the sake of family. She would have liked continuing her education and would have been excellent in any chosen profession. As a child she dreamed of being a nurse. She played nurse, but never had the opportunity to put the play into practice. However, in a sense she did. Where could we ever have found a person capable of filling in for a mother? No one could have filled that role as lovingly as she did. She was the anchor which held our family together. It wasn't an easy job, but never was there a word of complaint. She never expressed a regret over being deprived of educational benefits. There were no "ifs" in her life. She accepted her function as a commitment. She performed willingly because she felt God had called her to this task. And the love she demonstrated to each of us was a love she first of all experienced in her life, a love born from the knowledge that she was loved of God.
As stated before, her role was not an easy one. She was only fifteen when Mom died and the responsibilities of the family immediately became hers. There was the family wash. How well are remembered the days that she struggled with the inconveniences of carrying washing and water to that ice cold wash room; how she labored over an endless batch of ironing and always did such a good job of it; how she prepared meals, days, weeks, and years on end; how she worked to keep the big house clean; how she administered her loving care in times of sickness and above all, how she so cheerfully accepted every responsibility and responded with a happy heart to every challenge which came her way. She came to be known as "Nettie." This was not a nickname. It was more a title of affection. It was disheartening at times to think that one who gave so much of herself was not appreciated more and that with the passing of years, with an opportunity to look back and to make a proper appraisal, only then does there come a realization of the greatness of our little sister. For some of our family the time is no more for making compliments, for commending, for praising, and for extending appreciation or expressing thankfulness. But for you, Nettie, the time is now, the occasion the present, and the desire is to tell you in all sincerity: Thank you for all you did for us; Thank you for all you meant to us; Thank you for the wonderful, cherished memories we have of you our sister whose heart was in tune with the heavenly directive which represented the will of our loving Father. I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say, we loved you then, and we love you now.
Brothers John and Jay
John and Jay will be considered together because during the period represented by this summary, they seemed to operate as one. Where you saw one, you saw the other; where one went, the other followed; what one did, the other was sure to imitate; when one had an idea, the other helped carry it out; what one purposed to do, the other assisted in the plan. Now, all these comparisons must be considered in the light of the fact that John was the older of the two. He exercised authority over Jay; he decided the direction to follow; he made the rules; he interpreted the regulations; he influenced the decisions; and he had the last word in any disputed issue. So, you see, the oneness of the two was in a sense a forced or imposed relationship which was not always greatly appreciated by the second party (Jay).
At one time Jay and John became interested in playing a guitar. They pooled their meager resources and sent for a guitar from Sears. John immediately took to learning how to play it. Jay stood by waiting his turn, but John somehow always seemed to be able to convince Jay that his role was that of observer rather than as a participator. On certain occasions Jay got to pick away at it, but not very frequently. John went on and became skilled at playing and along with his singing performed for quite some time on WKZO radio. His followers still refer to his program, but they are becoming few with the passing years. John had the ability to perform among the best of cowboy and western singers, but the world was not quite ready for him. Had he come along a number of years later, he would undoubtedly have made Nashville.
Another interesting combination is the baseball pitching and catching performance. John was the pitcher and Jay the designated catcher, not necessarily by choice. John would take his position on the "mound" and Jay stood next to the barn using the barn for his backstop. Catching was not an enviable position considering the equipment they had to play with. The catcher's glove was little more than a piece of leather with very little padding. John had pretty good speed, and I can still see Jay shaking his hand and jumping around in pain after catching one of John's fast balls. Jay would intentionally let the balls hit the barn and then retrieve it rather than suffer the anguish of trying to catch it. It is quite possible that the barn still shows the scars of broken boards following repeated battering. Jay would manage a turn at pitching now and then, but John kept telling Jay that he (John) had to keep his arm in shape. His favorite expression was "my arm feels good today." Jay knew immediately what he was in for. John was a good pitcher on the Zeeland High School team, and may have been headed for the Majors until he had an accident playing ball at school. This ended another illustrious career.
John took a job at Hubble Mfg. Co. following graduation and later worked at the Chemical Co. Before long he was sporting a car of his own. I believe it was a 1935 Chevy, the model with the doors opening from the front. Jay entered Hope College following graduation, and shortly thereafter the draft changed the course of the lives of all of us.
Following the service, John took up residence in Kalamazoo, worked for a dairy for a time, and when the new General Motors facility located in Kalamazoo, got a job in the accounting department from which he retired. Jay continued his education and received his M.D. degree. He continues his practice in Miami, Florida. He is the only wise one of the family, having located in a warmer climate.
Pages 31-35 A word about the early schooling we all received. Starting at the Ottawa School, and later at the Ovens School, all our grade school education was in one room schools. Imagine one teacher and one room for all eight grades. A recitation bench was located in the front of the room. Each class was called forward to respond in each given subject. There were definite disadvantages, but one thing is sure, we learned. There were no frills of art, swimming, athletic programs, and all the many other present day programs which fill in a daily schedule. I feel inclined to think that much was lost when the old country schools were closed and students were transported to consolidated larger city schools.
We walked to school every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. The distance was one and one half miles one way. Once in a while, if the weather was too severe, we would be picked up by car or sleigh. Well remembered are the snow drifts and deep snow. On a couple of occasions I wore ice skates to school. The ice was so thick on the road that we could skate over it. There was nothing smooth about it, but getting a few strokes of skating was possible occasionally.
A Christmas program was put on each year for the parents. This was before the day when parents objected to anything religious in the schools. The program was always well attended, no gifts were exchanged, but the school board gave each student an orange for the occasion.
It was the responsibility of one of the students to get to school early to light a fire in the stove located in the back of the room. At best, by school time the frigid inside temperature was improved to an uncomfortable chill. The front of the room was always cold. I don't remember our teacher wearing "long johns" but how they survived I'll never know.
One highlight of school life was inviting our teacher for supper. We thought that was great, and never thought of apologizing for conditions at home. All I remember is the thrill of having her at our house, and the delicious meals mother always prepared.
We carried our own lunch pails. What a sad state of affairs that today children have to be served breakfast besides lunch at noon. How ridiculous, in a land of plenty, and during times of prosperity, some people feel the necessity to provide balanced meals at government expense (our expense). Our whole education system has gone to pot. What really amazes me is how our generation survived. Our dinner pails were not stocked with fresh fruit, bakery items, and cold cuts. Our sandwiches were cold, but only due to the temperatures. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the order of the day. Well remembered is one family who came regularly with homemade bread (stale) and lard as a spread. Those were hard times, but we made do with what we had. There were no government handouts, and our parents wouldn't have accepted them had they been available. Today there is a frenzied effort to get something for nothing. We hear the cry "children come to school hungry." What shame! Where are the mothers? Why aren't they in the home providing for them? Undoubtedly they are off to work, or sleeping so they can go to work to provide a standard of living which contributes to all the chaotic problems in our society today. Much more could be said, but trying to solve today's problems is not the intent of this material.
Recreational activities at school were simple. Everyone was expected to go outside during noon hour and recess. In good weather we played ball with balls and bats taken from home. Another game was "stick in the hole" and many others which I forget what we called them. We even had competitive sports. Occasionally our ball team would play the team from another school. Recalled is the rivalry which existed between certain students. There were the Zimonich boys, John, Mart, and Charlie. They were big guys, then there was a spindly little guy named Henry VerLee. He was always getting into a fight with one of the Zimonichs. I can still see them fighting on top of the ash pile and seeing Henry being dragged right through the ashes. Can you imagine what a sight he was? And the feud went on.
This is my life as recalled for the period of time covered, and this is my family as they were known then. As stated before, we didn't have much in terms of this world's goods, but we had each other. We were poor, but we didn't know it. Our younger years were lived during the Great Depression. There were no handouts. Dad and Mom wouldn't have accepted any if there had been. They believed in working for their daily bread. There was dignity in labor no matter what that work might be. Recalled are the various W.P.A. projects which provided employment for those unable to find any kind of job. One of those projects was digging ditches, and one of the ditches ran along side of the road past our house. I can still see those men with boots and shovels slowly on digging their way along until the project was finally finished. It wasn't much of a job, but it was something, and gave a person a sense of pride in having earned his daily bread. Somehow we have deviated from that way of life, and from those standards, and our society today is in a bad way on account of it.
Back to the family and early life. There may be repetition in what follows, but so let it be. Ours was a large family and supposedly each of us played a particular role. We had our differences and arguments, as every family has, but those things have faded in my memory. That which stands out so vividly is our interdependence on each other and our concern for each one's welfare. When one suffered, we all suffered. Home was the center of activities. In fact, there were no activities apart from the home; except for school and church. Entertainment was simple and consisted of what we ourselves provided or devised. A small thing often meant a lot; such as a shared bicycle with little more than wheels and frame, or a worn out baseball glove to which we added our own padding. Even a hoople stick was a thing of pride. All it was was a stick with a cross piece on the bottom used to push a metal circular barrel hoop. These were homemade sticks, but a deluxe model was the envy of others, and depth of the grooves on the cross piece was an indication of extensive used and miles traveled. Then too, the hoops varied in widths and circumferences. The wide, thick ones were those most sought after. We pushed them everywhere and especially to school. Manipulating them on a rough road, through sand and tracks, became an art in itself. Those early years of dependence and concern are best remembered and treasured most highly. Then came a time when it seems that almost imperceptibly we tended to go our own ways. There was a change in thinking, feeling, ambitions, and goals. In effect, we began to "grow up" and we began to go our separate ways. The oneness of the family faded somewhat in the establishment of separate identities.
Looking back now upon the long way each of us has traveled, there is a return to those original concepts of dependency and concern. There is again the desire to, in a measure, bring back the closeness of relationships we once enjoyed. There is the feeling of hurt when another member of the family suffers. Maybe this is due in part to the fact we are all getting older, that our days are numbered, and that time is limited. Hopefully this is not true to a great degree, but rather may our present emotional reflections be a renewal of those precious dependency experiences of our youth.
Much remains to be said about experiences concerning the years following this period of time. It was not my intention to cover that period, but Sadie convinced me this should be done. There are so many experiences such as marriage, early married life, army days, return to civilian life, Jay living with us, employment, birth of our children, etc.. This remains for another day.
Postscript to Section 1
Following completion of the first section a couple of things came to mind which concern winter activities. The first is skiing. We had nothing fancy, no manufactured skis, only barrel staves. These were about four feet long and slightly curved. By sanding down one side and attaching a leather strap to the other side for foot placement, we were all set to go. We sometimes skied behind the sleigh, but the most fun of all was skiing behind the car. We would use a long rope and take to the open fields along the road. This was somewhat hazardous, because the skier had to be continually on the watch for fence posts, wire fences, and in some areas, telephone poles. The open fields were nice for skiing, because the snow was usually soft, level, and undisturbed by tracks. Well remembered is a cartoon which showed two tracks of skies approaching a telephone pole. Just beyond the pole the tracks continued. The caption simply read, "Ouch!" The rest of the interpretation was left to the reader. This practice of skiing behind cars was permitted for a while, but it wasn't long before it became illegal.
Another form of winter entertainment was tobogganing. Someone, or a group of guys in Borculo, built a toboggan with about a five foot long board serving as the seat. This was mounted about twelve inches from the ground and attached to two runners in the back, and two in the front. The two in the back were stationary, but the front ones were movable. The passenger in front could control the direction of the toboggan somewhat by placing his feet on the front runners and pushing in the direction desired. As regarded now, this was a very hazardous sport. Every Tuesday night after catechism, whenever the weather was suitable, we would attach the rope of the toboggan to the back bumper of our car, and off we went. As many as the toboggan could hold climbed on. Sometimes we would go south of Borculo on 96th. The roads were not always completely covered with snow. Imagine the jerk and jolt the riders received when we hit a bare section of pavement. Well remembered were the sparks which would fly from the runners. One night going west on Port Sheldon, the driver suddenly put on the brakes and slowed up. This caused slack in the rope and the toboggan headed for the side of the road. We all landed on top of each other in the snowbank. I don't recall if anyone was injured, but Jeanette lost her glasses, and she was so dependent on them. Imagine looking for a pair of glasses at night in the snow. To the best of my knowledge they were found. Traffic was not as heavy on those roads in those days as it is now, but on occasion we would meet a car, or a car would come up from behind and finally pass us. It makes me shudder to think of what might have happened if the rope had broken, or the whole toboggan had collapsed, or if our toboggan had entered the oncoming land of traffic just when a car approached. We didn't think too much about those possibilities at the time, but I sure do now.
Another winter activity was sparrow hunting. On cold winter nights they would seek refuge along the eaves of buildings and especially inside bars along the beams and rafters. There was a time when a bounty was placed on sparrows. I don't think the sparrows were any more of a nuisance then than they are now, but apparently an effort was made to eliminate them. We could turn in our sparrows to Charles Bartels, who was the township clerk, and receive two cents a head. That was big money in those days. Isn't it interesting that Jesus in Matthew 10:28 makes mention of a similar practice. It reads, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing and not one of them falls to the ground without the will of the Father." Just think of how insignificant a sparrow was, and yet our Heavenly Father cares for them and shows concern over them. The Psalms say, "Even the sparrow has found a nest for herself where she may lay her young."
B-B guns were popular in our day, and armed with our guns, we went out at night to hunt sparrows. B-B guns varied considerably in quality and accuracy. It was the pride and joy of the owner to possess a good gun. Another important piece of equipment was a good flashlight. Owning a five cell was really something, and especially so if the lens could be adjusted for it to serve as a flood or spot light. With a powerful spot light, we could zero in on a sparrow at quite a distance. We would climb to the top of the hay mow across thick beams, and check along the roof board for spaces which would allow room for a sparrow to squeeze into. In areas that were accessible, we would catch the birds. Placing the neck of the bird between the fingers and with one quick snap the bird would be dead. We usually carried a bag into which we put the dead bird. Those we could not reach from our position were shot at. We would do a lot of shooting to get one bird. Imagine all those b-bճ falling into the hay and then feeding it to the cows and horses. My dad never complained about it, so the practice continued. At school the next day following a hunt, records of catches were compared. The Hassevoorts were always successful, and talked about hunting in Mart Elenbaas' barn. So, one night we invaded their territory, and tried our hand at Mart Elenbaas. The results were not spectacular, so we never went back. We never kept the birds around very long because they could begin to smell after a time, and there was always the danger of cats finding our catch. Charley Bartels would usually take our word for the total. I can't blame him for not wanting to count each bird separately. We were told that he would take the birds behind the barn and throw them on a pile. An interesting story circulated about some boys who gathered up some birds from the pile and then sold them over again. We never engaged in that practice. Ours was strictly legitimate. But we did feel pretty good if we could unload a bag of 100 sparrows and go home with $2.00.
Section II - 1992
Introduction to Section II: Most of Section I was written around the year 1985. For a long period of time nothing further was done. Following inquiries by our family, it was decided one day to bring it to completion. The manuscript was not found in the usual compartment of my desk, and after repeated thorough searches, it was presumed to have been thrown away. A week of so ago (November, 1992) a little used filing cabinet located behind a refrigerator in the basement was checked to see if anything worthwhile remained in it. The drawers were emptied of old appliance warranties and operating instructions. In one compartment were a few manila envelopes and sure enough one of them contained the material. But by this time my eyesight had deteriorated to the point where I was unable to read what had been written and revised. We were able to determine what had been covered and where to begin the second part. I wanted badly to complete the story, but by now I was no longer able to see what I had written. Frustration and disappointment became very real. Luann offered to type it and to provide a Dictaphone, but after writing a letter and finding that Sadie could read it, we decided to proceed with writing. Not being able to review the last line or paragraph written makes it necessary to continually be aware of the last thought expressed. I used lined paper, but it was impossible to follow the line. My sentences were zig-zagging all over the page, and sometimes into the previous sentence. Many times I felt like giving up, but Sadie kept encouraging me, and hopefully it will be completed.
After graduating from grade school, I took a year of absence from school and studies. Not much is recalled about that year, but it is considered providential, because the following year 9th and 10th grades were offered in Borculo. Several students enrolled and some were in the same category of having been out of school for a year or more. Among them was a cute little girl named Sadie who caught my eye, and after five years or more of courtship, became my wife. So the year away from school was not wasted. It was a time for fitting into the eternal plan of God for our lives.
A word about the school. It was one room in the basement, one teacher - Dave Van Vliet. He was a great guy, and everyone respected him. He taught all the subjects including Latin. I often wondered if his knowledge of the subject was no more than his daily preparation. What he lacked in ability, he made up in personality. He was one of the gang. The closeness of relationship was unmatched in any other school.
Following graduation from Borculo High School, I entered Zeeland High for the 11th
Pages 36-40 and 12th grades, graduating in 1938. I took the car to school everyday, picking up Florence Vander Woude, Elsie and Clara Stegenga, and Gerald Blauwkamp. As I recall, they paid a quarter a week to ride. The nice part of it was that dad told me I could keep that money. That was clear profit, because dad paid all the operating expenses on the car including gas.
Following graduation from Zeeland High School, I entered Hope College in the fall. Again I drove back and forth each day. Gerald Blauwkamp rode with me quite regularly. My major was in Economics with minors in English and Mathematics with a goal of being a secondary school teacher. My practice teaching was done one semester at Holland High School. The class was Civics with my supervisor Mr. Van Lente.
We now go back a few years and consider our period of courtship which lasted about five years. As mentioned before, Sadie and I became acquainted in the Borculo High School. That relationship continued to develop over the years. There were pleasant and difficult experiences. One bitter experience occurred early in our career. The story is not a pleasant one, and does no credit to me, one I would like to be able to erase from my memory. One summer, six of us; Sadie, Jeanette, Ruth Morren, Don Vonk, Ray Morren, and myself decided to go the the Ionia Free Fair. We took dad's car, as usual, and started out going east on Port Sheldon Road. While riding along, Ray was lighting firecrackers and throwing them out of the window. While driving I was watching him fearful that one might explode in the car. I must have kept my eye on him too long one time, and before we knew it, we were in the ditch along side of the road. Here my memory of details fades. Sadie was in the back seat on the side which lay in the ditch. She received a severe cut on her right arm from the broken rear window. She tells me that a passing motorist stopped, picked her up, and took her to the Zeeland Hospital. I don't know how the rest of us got home, but I vaguely remember that we traveled aimlessly around the area, and am reminded we attended a movie. No more Ionia Free Fair. The bitterness of the event is well remembered. I never went to the hospital to check on her injuries and to see how she was doing. I didn't even contact her for some time after she came home. Dr. Bloemendaal did the work on her arm, and did a very poor job. She still has an ugly scar - a reminder of my carelessness and failure to show concern. Some time later, I don't know how long, I must have sheepishly returned to apologize. As an indication of Sadie's strength of character, she forgave me and took me back. But the scar remains, and the bitter memory lingers on.
In spite of the number of years of our courtship, we really didn't seriously consider marriage until the fall of 1941. We knew we would someday marry, but when was never decided on. After beginning the first semester of my senior year I was informed that I would be required to be in residency during that semester of my scheduled practice teaching. That required finding an apartment for myself. The more we thought about it, the more we thought about the possibility of marriage. For after all, we were informed that two could live as cheaply as one. True or false, we decided to go ahead. I had no money, but Sadie was the wealthy one. She had a job and had even saved a little. We made plans to be married during the Christmas vacation on December 30. Many men were already being drafted, but I was sure of being able to at least complete my four years at Hope. Then came December 7, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The complexion of affairs changed considerably. For awhile we thought of canceling our plans, but after some thought decided to go ahead.
The ceremony took place in the living room of the Vollink home. Rev. Andrew De Vries of the Borculo CRC performed the ceremony with Rev. Howard Teusink of the Ottawa Reformed Church assisting. Guests were crowded into the living and dining rooms. Brother John and Sadie's sister Grace stood up with us. One thing we were never happy with were our wedding pictures. My cousin, "Red" Staal had set up a studio on the corner of Main and State. We thought we should patronize our cousin, but his workmanship was not the best. But then again, consider what he had to work with! He should have taken over the Buick Agency in Grand Rapids earlier. That agency was known as Staal Buick for years.
Financially we had very little, in fact, following the marriage came the shivereers which was the usual thing. I didn't have enough to pay them, so I borrowed from George to silence their noise. I sure hope I paid him back. Our possessions were minimal. Dad gave us a studio couch which served as the main item of furniture in our living room, and as our bed at night. We may have had a couple chairs, a desk, and a kitchen table, but other than that were shower gifts received.
We rented an upstairs apartment at 349 Maple Avenue, Holland, from a Henry and Gladys Driesenga. I had known them for years. Henry's parents lived across the road from us on the farm. The apartment had a living room and bedroom, but the bedroom was never used as such. It served as our refrigerator and storage area. We had a small kitchen with just enough room for a small table. We didn't have many invited guests in those days. We must have had a bathroom, but I don't remember it. The location of our apartment was quite convenient. Sadie walked a couple blocks morning and night to and from River Avenue. She rode with some other men working in Zeeland. Those two blocks could seem awful long especially on sub-zero days. I could also walk back and forth to Hope College.
We always had a car thanks to my dad. He let us use it all through that second semester. We usually went home to Sadie's dad and my dad on weekends. Before returning to Holland, dad would fill up the gas tank with fuel, packed up dairy products, eggs, and whatever else was available. We never went back empty handed. Sadie's dad would also make things available to us. We didn't have much, but we didn't feel we were lacking anything. We had each other and the support of caring parents and families. Shortly after graduating in June, I received my induction notice for August. I received my "greetings" and was inducted into the army in Grand Haven. Our families joined us that day when I said "goodbye" to each one, and left by bus for Fort Custer.
Such pain, sorrow, and disappointment I had never before experienced. I'll never forget seeing their faces for the last time as the bus pulled away. The fact became ever more real that we were in for the "duration." When would I see Sadie and the rest of the family again? Who knows. Would I ever return to a family life which meant so much to me? I wondered and worried. Where would I be assigned? Which Theater of operations would I be expected to participate in? Question after question arose in my mind with no answer to be found. I thought of Sadie and the rest of the family and wondered how they must feel. Tears came to my eyes frequently. I tried to look away to involve myself on other thoughts. Many of the men were having a good time and really whooping it up, but my mind could not be channeled into thinking about anything other than that which I had left behind and my own unpredictable future.
I soon learned there were a couple other men from Zeeland on the bus. Their names were Postma and Wahl. We became acquainted somewhat on the bus, but their carefree attitude and anticipation of excitement soon began to turn me off. After arriving at Fort Custer and having gone through the ritual for new inductees, they excitedly took off for the first beer hall available. They asked me along, but I declined. Theirs didn't appear to be the type of style of life I had become acquainted with.
One Sunday while at Fort Custer, Sadie, John and Ardis, Jeanette and Lou came to visit. That was great, but oh the pain of separation and the return to the reality of army life. One day while at Fort Custer I met Nels Coelingh, a cousin of Lou Taylor. He later married a daughter of Bill Zienstra who was from my home area. We had something in common, our appreciation of home, religious values, and common interests. We would often sit together on the curb and just talk about what used to be, what is and what might be. My first assignment was to Camp Wolters, Texas where I received my basic training. Clearly remembered were the calisthenics, taking twenty-five mile hikes with full field pack, gas mask, and rifle. Some wouldn't make it and many of us thought we would never make it, but continued to the end. Another exercise was crawling on our stomachs with full field pack and rifle, underneath tightly drawn strands of barbed wire just high enough off the ground for us to clear while tracer bullets fired just above the wire kept reminding us to keep down. If we got caught in the wire, it was up to us to untangle ourselves. Qualifying on the rifle range is also remembered. As I recall, I qualified for marksman on the first try. Of course rumors abounded, one of which was that all those who qualified for marksman on the first try would be sent overseas with the first contingent. This thought was not very exhilarating. Another part of basic training were the obstacle courses. The thought of them make my muscles ache. Before the end of training at Camp Wolters, Sadie, with Ade Gebben and Evelyn Zienstra came for a weekend, staying in the dumpy little town of Mineral Wells.
Following basic training, there was a period of heightened activity. Various written tests were given to determine in what field an individual was best qualified. Many video classes were offered in which an effort was made to stimulate interest in selecting a particular field of service. I recall going to one of these classes, and this class was one on paratroops. Two of my very close friends, Chuck Derbin and Bill Gadouski, became very much interested and both volunteered to enter the paratroop division. They urged me to join with them in volunteering, but I decided against it. I never heard from them again, and I have no idea what happened to them. Encouragement was also given to enter officer training. I considered this for a time, but rumor had it that no matter which field of service you trained for, once becoming an officer, you would be assigned to the front line where the need was especially great. With that in mind, I never applied for officer training. Had there been the opportunity or the assurance that I would be able to get into a finance division or something similar to that, I would have considered it more seriously. Of course rumors were a dime a dozen. Advice was free, but it was not always accurate. I finally decided to take whatever assignment was offered to me.
A short time later I was assigned to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana near the city of Alexandria. Here I became part of the Adjutant General's section of the 103rd Infantry Division. I was assigned as a filing clerk in the records division of the 103rd Infantry Division. The man in charge of that section was a Harlan D Laster of Little Rock, Arkansas. We became very close friends. The man in charge of the Adjutant General's Department was a colonel by the name of Croll. He was an ornery old cuss and was determined to throw his rank and show his authority whenever possible. He had no regard for the individual. Everyone detested him as well as hated him. While in service it was always my hope that someday I would have the opportunity to meet this man outside of the service and be able to tell him frankly what I thought of him. That time never came.
After being assigned at Camp Claiborne, it was possible to find an apartment for Sadie, and shortly thereafter she joined me in Alexandria, and we were able to be together most of the evening except those when I was on special duty. We rented a bedroom from a family by the name of Rush. They had a very nice home and we had one bedroom. Marve came to visit us here at this location and all three of us slept in one bed. Mr. Rush owned a laundry downtown. He was very gracious in offering Sadie a job in his laundry. She could ride to work with him in the morning, and walked back in the evening. He always gave her special favors. One time she questioned the amount that she received in her pay envelope, and he replied that the amount was correct. She thought she had received too much, but he explained that she had received a raise and that she should not mention it to the other employees, because she was receiving more than the other employees. From time to time she continued to receive raises and was assigned to a better job.
Well remembered too are the early morning walks to the bus station downtown to catch a bus in order to bring me back to camp in time to stand in line for roll call at 6:00 a.m.
We never associated much with the Rushes during our period of stay with them. They stayed in their part of the house and we stayed in ours. About fifteen years ago or so following a bank convention in one of the southern states, we decided to stop in Alexandria and tried to locate the Rushes. We went to the former location of the laundry. That was no longer there. After a number of inquiries, we were finally able to determine the laundry was still in operation at another location by their two sons. We found out where the laundry was located, drove down there, introduced ourselves, and they very warmly received us. They called their parents and informed them that we were at the laundry and their parents encouraged us to come to their home. We were given directions on how to find it and went to their home and were very warmly received. We spent the rest of the day and evening with them, went out to eat together, and then they insisted that we stay overnight in their home. However, we had prior to trying to contact them, rented a motel and felt strongly that we should stay in the motel rather than impose upon them. They reportedly did a lot of traveling and hoped to come to Michigan possibly to the Tulip Time Festival, and then contact us. However, that time never came and their whereabouts at the present time are unknown.
Before leaving the Alexandria location, mention should be made of our Sunday activities. A Christian Reformed serviceman's home was located in the city with the sponsors of the home or the parents in charge being the Rev. and Mrs. Boeve who in turn were the parents of Edgar Boeve who at the present time is a Calvin College professor of art. Almost every Sunday, we, along with a number of other servicemen from the area, got together at the Boeve place. They always served a delicious dinner of chicken, potatoes, and the works. At night we went to a Presbyterian church which served a light lunch for servicemen prior to the service. We usually took advantage of that opportunity and also attended the services there. We always enjoyed the ministry at that place.
Following nine months of service in the Alexandria area at Camp Claiborne, the 103rd Division was transferred to Camp Howze, Texas. Here we would spend another nine months of intensive training and field exercises. Shortly after arriving it was possible to find a place where Sadie could come to join me. It was only one room in a home occupied by five couples with one bathroom and one kitchen. It was a cheaply constructed home, very plain exterior and interior. The home was located on a windswept hill, no grass, only weeds and sand. The monthly rental was considerable, but we were in no position to argue, because places were difficult to find and at least we were together. It was at this time that we became more closely associated with the Lasters. H. D. Laster's wife Margaret joined him, and they lived a considerable distance from our location which meant that we had to walk across open fields and through back yards in order to visit with them. But this we did almost every Sunday. They liked to play bridge and this is what we did every Sunday. We never really learned the game thoroughly and never played it again afterwards. H.D. was a wonderful man. His wife often said to Sadie that she wished that she and H.D. could go together to church the way we did. For some reason or other H.D. would have nothing to do with attending church services. On day while returning from a southern trip, we decided to try to locate them in Little Rock, Arkansas. We stopped at a motel and looked in a directory and found their name. We called them, they were home, and they were anxious to come to meet us. They came to the motel and stayed with us for a period of time. We went out to eat and to our surprise, H.D. opened with audible
Pages 41-45 prayer prior to the meal. In our conversations that evening, Margaret informed us that H.D. was a member of the consistory of their church and was active in church affairs. This was very gratifying. We spent some time at their home and left that evening. Some years later we were very disappointed when we stopped in Little Rock once again and called Margaret to find out if it was convenient for us to stop in to see them. She apologized and said that H.D. had died. We were very much disappointed especially not having been notified of his death. We did stop to see her and spent some time with her. Following that visit, nothing more has been heard from her. We felt that we had lost a very close friend and the feeling of not having been notified stayed with us for some time.
The nine month training period finally came to a close. Again rumors spread like wild fire. We heard reports of going to the European theater, to the Eastern theater of operations, and all kinds of reports. The day finally came when we were scheduled to leave. Sadie was still there and well remembered are the last few hours that we could spend together. They were very difficult. We were parting, not knowing if and when we would ever meet again. I remember walking back to the barracks and glancing back a number of times to give one final wave. Finally the buildings obliterated my view. The separation became very real. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Sadie left the Army base for our apartment in Gainesville, and the following day took a taxi to the train depot and left for home. Prior to this time we remarked that we couldn't go home on another furlough, because our savings had all been used up.
We were transferred to the New York Port of Debarkation. It was here that Jay and I were able to meet one day. Jay was in naval training. It was wonderful being together, but the memory of what our activities amounted to are faint. Just seeing him once again was enough in itself.
We were loaded aboard ship and stayed in dock for some time. Prior to even leaving the dock, some of the men were already becoming seasick from the slight movement and roll of the ship. One of those who was sick was H.D.. In fact, I don't think he ever got out of his bunk all the way to France. The journey across the waters was very rough. We encountered a storm and the going was very difficult. Not once on the entire trip was I sick. Although, sometimes I came close to losing my appetite entirely as we had to move from one deck to another following stairways which showed evidences of other men who had problems with holding their food down. This of course was not very appetizing. As we approached the coast of France, and in particularly the Port of Marseille, there were evidences everywhere that the war had been very real in this area. There were ships everywhere, some on their sides, some tipped over entirely, some with one end pointing out of the water and debris floating everywhere. We landed in Marseille on a rainy day, in fact it was a steady downpour. We were not issued umbrellas, and transportation was not provided, so we had to walk in the rain to our bivouac area. As soon as we were permitted to, we pitched our two man pup tents on the wet and muddy soil. It was night, so as soon as we had everything settled, we crawled in and went to sleep, only to find that in the morning, the water from the hillside had run through our tents and had pretty well soaked everything that we had on the ground. After spending a few days here out in the open, we were loaded on trucks and went to our first stop, which was the city of Bruyers, France. Almost all traveling was done at night, so the enemy could not spot our convoys. This trip was also made at night with blackout lights used only. The headlights of trucks were not used. The blackout lights were hardly sufficient to light the road, but were mostly intended to show where the next vehicle was. Traveling was very slow. It was during this trip that we got our first sight and sound of battle. We could hear and see flashes in the distance. We thought they were incoming artillery pieces, but we were soon assured that these were our own artillery firing at the enemy. Upon arrival we stayed in a former school building. It was nice and dry, but there was no heat. It was at this time that I experienced frost bite on my feet. They have been tender ever since.
Our division was assigned to the Seventh Army which proceeded across France, across Germany, and into Austria until, when the war ended, we were located in Innsbruck, Austria. We were part of division headquarters which meant that our unit was a considerable distance behind the lines, generally. Sometimes our long range artillery pieces were behind us, but generally they were ahead of us. One job that I was chosen to perform for the headquarters unit was to go ahead into the next town to clear buildings so that our Division Headquarters could move ahead and occupy those buildings. The reason I was chosen was that on my records there was an indication that I had taken courses in German. Now the courses that I took in German in no way qualified me to go to German speaking people and converse with them in their language, but this is what I was expected to do. We would go at night, select the area in the city and the type of building that we wished to occupy. We would pound on the doors, and whoever came, informed them that they would have to move out immediately so that our unit could move in. Wherever we went, we heard a storm of protest. I couldn't understand half of what they were saying, but at least they understood the little bit of German that I knew which meant "get out." In a short time, people were trudging along the streets, packs on their backs, carts loaded with as many of their possessions that they could carry with them and headed for I don't know where. Looking back upon the experience, it was a heartless way of handling a bad situation, but at the time we had very little sympathy for the people. However, many times I could not help but feel that here were some people who really had nothing to do with the conduct of the war and the cause of the war, and they really were the ones that were suffering. Those feelings could not dominate, and we proceeded to clear out entire sections. Then as the sections were cleared out, the Division Headquarters moved up and unloaded their trucks of supplies and equipment into whatever buildings were available. Then as the front of the battle line moved forward, another city would have to be visited and the same procedure followed. Sometimes we came close to the front lines where the noise of battle was very audible.
After arriving in Innsbruck, Austria, we were able to set up our location, and soon after that, news came that the war had ended. It was a beautiful city to be located in when the fighting stopped. However, for a period of time precautions still had to be taken, because with the announcement of the end of the war, not everyone was aware of that fact, and not everyone was willing to lay down his arms. So there was on occasion firing and sniper activity in the area. It was during this stay in Innsbruck that we were able to appreciate the snow covered mountains. There was a resort located on the side of the Alps which was formerly an officer's club. A chain driven car from the base of the mountain took us up to that location of the officers' club. This was converted to an enlisted men's club, so we were privileged to visit that place. From that location a cable car took us up to one of the peaks. I never skied down any of those long peaks on the mountain, but in the area of the enlisted men's club, there was more or less a level area where we did do quite a bit of skiing. This was quite a change from the regular army life. Here again I was assigned a job that I did not particularly appreciate, and that was having had some German, I was expected to make contact with women in the area who were willing to do our laundry. This I did, and was successful in getting the services of a number of women who did the laundry for whoever was interested. Shortly after the end of the war, the 103rd division was deactivated. Our division headquarters was also split up. It was at this point where H.D. and I parted company. Another friend of mine, George Keller, and I were assigned to 3rd Army headquarters of which General Patton was in command. The headquarters was located in a former academy and covered quite an area of property. Well remembered are the parades that used to be held in the center of the academy grounds. General Patton would come out to review them and we stood in awe of the man as he approached the field and strutted past the troops. I remember the location of his office which was near the entrance to the academy grounds on the first floor. The building had two levels and if it became necessary for us to move from one position to another which required going past his office, we often went to the second level and walked the second level until we had passed his office space and then descended to the level that we were originally on. We didn't wish to have an encounter with him.
It was during our assignment to 3rd Army headquarters that troops were given the opportunity to select some area of interest for further education. George Keller and I decided on an education course in Glasgow, Scotland. We were accepted and went to London, where we were placed in a housing unit for a couple of days. It was during this stay in London that my barracks bag, which I had attached to the post of my bed with a lock on it, was ripped from top to bottom and all the pictures that I had taken all during the time across France, Germany, and Austria, all the pictures that were developed and all the pictures that were still to be developed, as well as my camera were stolen. This was very disappointing. George and I enlisted the help of policemen, but they halfheartedly indicated there wasn't much that could be done. We did a little private detective work on our own, going to different pawn shops and making inquiry there, but we never came across the camera or the pictures. More than likely the pictures were destroyed and the camera sold. We traveled on to Glasgow, attending the University of Glasgow, taking an education course there and visiting several of the Scottish schools in Glasgow as well as in Edenburg. We spent a few days in the beautiful city of Edenburg visiting many of the historical spots, and then returned to our headquarters location.
Marv had written to me sometime during my course of stay in Europe that he was interested in a certain Leica camera. I was successful in locating such a camera and purchased it for him. Making use of it myself for the remainder of the time spent in Germany. Finally the day arrived for us to return to the States, taking pictures as we went. We boarded a much larger ship this time, and on our way home ran into an even worse storm than we had experienced on the way up. I had never experienced anything like it before, and hope to never see it again. Such masses of boiling, rolling water. Sometimes lifting our ship almost out of the water, and sometimes plunging it below the level of the waves. Sometimes the ship would seem to rest on the crest of one of these bodies of water and teeter at that point, and we could hear the ship creak and crack as finally it moved off the crest.
After arriving in New York, we were sent to Camp Atterbury, Indiana for our discharge. Here I had another experience with pictures. Those that I had accumulated from the time of the loss of the other camera until arriving at Camp Atterbury were in a pouch in a shoulder bag that we carried over our shoulder. We were being discharged. We were instructed to pile different items in different piles. Our duffel bags we could keep for ourselves in which our few possessions could be carried home. The shoulder bag was left behind, and it was tossed on a huge pile that others had discarded. Returning to the barracks that day, I suddenly realized that all the pictures that I had, all the films that were exposed were still in that shoulder bag. We went back to the building where the materials were stored, and in a frantic effort to locate my bag, we searched a huge pile, but never came across it. So there went another collection of pictures that could never be replaced.
After almost three and a half years of service, in January of 1946, we were finally on our way home. Well remembered is the final trip, the train ride from Chicago to Holland. Sadie was at the depot along with members of the family, and we went to the Vollink home where everyone assembled. It was a great time. True feelings of gratitude for being home once again can never be expressed nor can the excitement of seeing everyone be put into words. Sometime during my course of service, dad had moved from the Bloemers farm to what was known as the Moeke farm on 96th Street, two miles north of Borculo. This is the farm which presently has a number of turkey buildings on it, and which Bill and Marv De Witt presently own. This was where we stayed following our return home. It wasn't long, however, before dad began thinking of selling the farm. One night Mr. Schmidt came over and discussed the possibility of purchasing the place. Naturally we were disappointed over the idea of having the farm sold, and of losing our place to stay. As it turned out, he bought the farm and was interested in moving in a relatively short period of time. We of course had to find something else which was not an easy matter in those days. At this point, my memory of details becomes a bit hazy once again. I'm not too sure what really happened. I know Sadie and myself ended up in a real small trailer that Gerrit and Mae had parked behind their house, and dad and Bill moved to the upstairs of Gerrit and Mae's store. It is possible that Jay joined them there, or that he lived in the trailer with us. We are not sure. If he lived with us in that trailer, there sure wasn't much room to turn around.
As mentioned before, my intention was to go into teaching, but being discharged in January of 1946, particularly at that time of the year, it was difficult to obtain a teaching position. At that time, Dad used to visit at the home of the Kapengas, and their daughter, who worked at the bank, reported that there was a job opening at the bank. I went there, made application, and was hired. Starting wages were very minimal at that time, and chances of advancement were quite remote. It was not until a number of years later, when management changed and bank services were broadened, that I received the status of Officer and wages, promotions, and salary increases became more realistic.
How long we stayed in that trailer is not known, but sometime or other we were successful in renting a home on the Pete Ver Plank farm which was a little south and east of Borculo. This was a second home on the property. We are sure that if not before, but certainly at this location Jay came to live with us. Experiences on this property are many and memorable. The first is that we became associated with a man by the name of Peter Ver Plank. He was the owner of the Royal Casket Company and had an inflated ego and expected everyone to honor him. The easiest way to raise his ire was to call him Pete. He demanded that everyone call him Mr. Ver Plank. If anyone made the mistake of calling him Pete, he was certainly corrected in a hurry. I'm no longer sure of the amount of rent that we paid for this house. It was high, and considering the wages that I was making at the bank at the time, it seems to me the rent represented two weeks pay. We didn't especially appreciate that, but at least we had a place to live. Then one day while eating my lunch at Bosch's Restaurant, Pete walked into the restaurant, stopped at my booth, and in a loud voice immediately began to call me everything in the book for having reported him to the OPA, which was the Office of Price Administration, an agency which governed rental properties and the amount of rent that could be charged. I denied the charge, but no amount of arguing could convince him that I had not done so. One day he came to the house and acknowledged the fact that the OPA had contacted him and the rent would no longer be the amount originally stated, but the revised amount as we were notified by letter. He did not appreciate it, and he was very belligerent, informing us that we should move out. Shortly afterwards I was contacted by a representative of the OPA who inquired whether the rent had been reduced. When assured that it was, he asked if we had any complaints. I informed him that we were told by Pete Ver Plank that we should get out and look for another place. He said, "Don't move. You don't have to move. I'll take care of the matter." He immediately contacted Pete and told him to lay off. He should no longer contact us with any more threats.
Shortly after this, we found that he was taking action in retaliation. The rental property was located a short distance from the main house, which was located along the driveway. We were told that we could turn off on a gravel path just behind a row of trees, and that path would take us directly to the house. This we did, and continued to do. However, one day his men came by and put steel stakes in the ground in the path which we normally took to get to the house. When we noticed this, we simply turned off a little sooner between a couple trees cutting across the lawn to the house. The ground was soft, and that big old Olds left some rather deep tracks across the yard. As soon as he noticed this, he had his men back again to drive stakes in between the trees. This didn't stop us either. We went beyond the placement of the first stakes, and
Pages 46-50 entered through an opening beside one of the farm buildings. We continued this approach until the time of our move.
Mention should be made that at some point in time after Jay came to live with us, we pooled our resources, and purchased a car. Good used cars were difficult to find, because cars were not produced during the war, and were only beginning to appear at dealerships in 1946. We were not in the market for a new one, but even if we had been, we would have been on a long waiting list. Consequently, trade-ins were scarce. There was a man in Zeeland by the name of Donald Cook who dealt on the black market, and was always able to find cars. We went to look at what I think was a 1938 Olds and bought it. We paid a big price for it. We would ride together. Jay would drop me off at the bank, and he would proceed to Hope College. At the end of the day, he would pick me up and we rode home together. The car seems to have performed quite well, but it certainly was no economy model. When Jay was ready to leave for New York, we dissolved our partnership, sold the car at a much depreciated price, and split the benefits.
We stayed in this farm house the winter of 1946. At this time also, Woody was born. Another memorable experience was having our road blocked with snow from time to time. At such times, we would park the car on 96th Avenue, and then walk in, which was maybe between 1/4 and 1/2 mile. On normal days this was not too bad, but at one point, our fuel supply began to run low, and we picked up a couple of burlap bags in Zeeland, put them in our trunk, parked the car alongside 96th, and then we each carried a bag of coal on our backs all the way from there to our home. On clear roads this wouldn't have been all that bad, but with snow drifts and stormy conditions, it wasn't very pleasant. And of course, two bags of coal didn't last very long.
We moved out of the Ver Plank home sometime possibly in the Spring or early Summer of 1947. I'm not exactly sure. We moved into the house that Dad was having built on Port Sheldon, west of Borculo. The home was not yet completed, but we moved in just the same. It also seems to me that Jay came with us, and lived with us for a short time in this house, but after awhile he left for New York, where he pursued his medical studies. We in turn looked around for another place to live, and we finally located an upstairs apartment at 43 West McKinley in Zeeland. The home was owned by a Mrs. Klanderman. She was a widow. As I recall, we either paid $13.00 or $15.00 in the Summertime, and $10.00 or $12.00 in the Winter. The reason for the difference was that in the Winter she allowed for my work in carrying fuel into her house. Her coal and wood were located in the garage behind the house, and everyday supplies had to be brought into her house and placed beside her stove. The apartment wasn't much. For one thing, it had a very steep stairway which led to the upstairs. The kitchen ceiling was so low that you could reach your hand up just a short distance and touch the ceiling. The rest of the house was sizable enough except that the entire house was nothing but a shell, and very difficult to heat in the Winter. It was here that Marv and Casey came to visit us one day. We suspected that the purpose for their visit was to claim the Leica camera which I had purchased for Marv in Germany. After visiting for awhile, I mentioned to him the fact that I had obtained a Leica camera for him, the exact model he had requested. He was surprised and couldn't believe it. I had written to him and told him I was able to find such a camera, and would take it along home with me. He never received the letter, and therefore had no knowledge of it. I brought the camera out and showed it to him. His eyes lit up as he examined it thoroughly. He couldn't believe he really owned a Leica at the very reduced price I had paid for it. He bought us a small camera which served us well for many years.
For a number of years following dad's second marriage, the relationship with his children suffered. Undoubtedly this was not entirely his fault, but when we continued to hear reports from him regarding Aggie's children, and about his involvement with them, we began to feel cut off from his concern for us. Looking back, this certainly was not true, but we were quick to perceive it as such. The estrangement became more pronounced with passing years. Aggie was a wonderful woman, but sad to say we never appreciated her goodness until after my father's death. With the passing of time it seems that Dad became less and less enamored by her family, and he began to try to reestablish the relationship we so long enjoyed. He would stop at the bank and talk, I would stop occasionally at the school where he worked, and he would come by himself to our house just to talk. The relationship which meant so much to us for so long was again coming to expression. The love and understanding which we formerly enjoyed were returning when one night we were informed that he had died of a heart attack. Following his death we became closely associated with Aggie, and only wished that the understanding and appreciation had occurred earlier. I miss my dad. He was a wonderful father. My one regret is that I waited too long to tell him so. He died at age 74 on June 7, 1957, twenty years after my mother.
Aggie continued to live at the Lincoln Street address. My job every Fall was to remove the screens and wash the windows and storm windows before putting them up. In the Spring I would take the storm windows down, store them, wash the windows, wash the screens, and put them up. Long before her death, Aggie had indicated she wanted the property to go to Dad's children. She often said that she had nothing when she married him, and wanted the property to remain with his family. Prior to her death, she signed off the property. The property was appraised and I placed a bid for the appraised value. This was satisfactory with the rest of the family, and purchase was completed. Following the purchase of the property and the marriage of Luann and Dave, they moved into the lower apartment. They in turn later purchased it from us and lived there a few years before selling it and moving to a new home on Westenbroek where they still live.
Years passed by. I gave notice to the bank of my intention to retire at age 62. This would occur in the year 1981. I would work to the end of the year. In December of 1981, I experienced a heart attack and was advised to have by-pass surgery. The day following a heart catherization was the planned farewell at the bank. We went ahead with those plans and entered Butterworth the following day for surgery. Another catherization was scheduled, but not completed due to my emergency condition. I had five by-passes and experienced a good recovery.
Following retirement and recuperation, we began thinking of moving to a condominium. This we did in 1983. We have never been sorry, and enjoy it very much. We were especially grateful for the change when in February 1991, I experienced extensive surgery, and spent eight weeks in the hospital. I spent the next seven months in a hospital bed at home. Recuperation was slow. The greatest satisfaction was experienced in February of 1992, when it became possible once again to eat food and enjoy it. Prior to this I was on Ensure Plus. Even the thought of eating and the smell of food was sufficient to induce vomiting.
My driver's license expired during this period. I dreaded the thought of having to take a written examination and eye test. I took the test, passed the exam, and was once again able to drive. This lasted only a couple months when in August, 1992, my one good eye started to go bad. Being declared legally blind erased any hope of being able to drive again. We are presently working through the Commission for the Blind, and have already received a tape player, a disk player, a talking watch, several books, short stories, two issues of U.S. News and World Report, plus catalogues which list what is available free of charge. Next week we hope to meet with Nancy from the Blind Commission, and following that meeting will be authorized to make an appointment with Dr. Walt of the Low Vision Clinic who will advise and make recommendations on whatever additional visual aids are available and appropriate for my use. Hopefully a type of telescopic lens will be suggested and that some vision may be restored.
The years of retirement have been very enjoyable. The actual retirement didn't really seem as such because the first couple months were days of recuperation from the heart operation. Adjustment to retirement was easy. We were able to go to Florida two or three times during the Winter. We did a lot of golfing together around home, and most Winters we felt content to just stay at home. Slowly on driving became more of a chore and our desire to travel diminished.
At this point one main event becomes a joint venture. Sadie and I have been the recipients of many blessings throughout the years. One blessing has been the privilege to be married for 51 years. Our experiences together have been varied. There were happy times and times of frustration and disappointments. We have had hopes realized and ambitions denied. We have together experienced sorrow, pain, and disappointment of various natures. We have laughed together and cried together, but through every experience we can testify to the goodness of our God. After all, hasn't He promised that He would never leave us or forsake us? We know that His eye is upon us at all times, and His ear is attentive to our cry. This simple trust has carried us through, and we are confident that "The eternal God is our refuge, and that underneath are the everlasting arms."
Having said that, we must confess that our faith was often shaken. There were times during hospitalization and recovery that we cried out, "Where are you God?"
Here I would like to focus attention on Sadie. I shall never be able to thank her for the tremendous burden she so willingly carried. She had a more difficult life than I did. All I did was just lay there, but Sadie gave herself in a very literal sense. When discharged from the hospital, I was in no condition to return home, but there I was one day, and it was basically her responsibility to care for me. Along with me came all the tubes and attachments which were simply bewildering. Even for an experienced nurse, the attention required was demanding and overwhelming. She was suddenly thrust into an area she was not familiar with. Nursing was not her specialty. She had tubes to adjust, monitor a feeding machine which did not always work to perfection, an ileostomy which required emptying and cleaning, and medication to apply and prescriptions to monitor. For a number of months we had a nurse come in each morning and evening, plus a nurses' aide each morning to give me a bath. This helped a great deal, but there were so many hours in between when Sadie was entirely on her own. Hers was a twenty-four hour vigil. She slept on the sofa right beside my bed for months, afraid she might not hear me if she slept in another room. She never slept soundly, and her sleep was often interrupted by some emergency. Once awakened, getting back to sleep was not easy. Emergencies happened frequently when she simply didn't know what to do. I was of no help, being barely able to move a muscle. Many times she would go off by herself and simply cried. Sometimes the frustrations were so great she broke down crying while trying to help me. She had no time for anything other than helping me, answering the many well meaning telephone calls, and entertaining visitors. The only time she could get out was when the nurse came. She would then hurriedly go to the Post Office, drug store, bank, or store for groceries. She didn't take time to eat. She lost her appetite. She continued to lose weight, something she didn't have an excess of to begin with. Her physical life was suffering, but much more so her emotional life. The Bible says, "Greater love has no man that this, that a man lay down his life for a friend." She gave her everything, and in so doing almost gave her life.
The impact of the experience has taken its toll. She has since gained a little weight, but emotionally there is a great difference. She can no longer take pressures, she is easily disturbed and troubled. What once was the ordinary, now is a mountain. The fact that I am still dependent on her for certain things, and am no longer able to drive has added more to her list of responsibilities. She does not like to drive, but now finds it necessary to drive under conditions she would never before consider. Little jobs around the house and outside the house, which I would normally perform, are now left for her, because I can no longer see to do them.
To this great, wonderful, loving, considerate, sacrificing, dear wife, I owe my very life and existence. Help has been suggested, but she would have it no other way, than to give of herself no matter what the cost. To her I say "Thank you, Dear," from the bottom of my heart. Even those words seem so inadequate in terms of the tremendous sacrifice she made. Again, thank you my dearest. I know that your eternal reward will compensate for the disappointments and misery experienced here below, but I hope and pray that I may still be able to contribute something to easing the burdens in the future.
Another blessing we have, and continue to experience, is the joy of two healthy, caring children. Woody was born November 5, 1946, and Luann was born February 27, 1953. Throughout their various stages of growth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and parenthood, each one has added a lasting contribution to the happiness of us as parents. We are extremely proud of them as well as their spouses and children.
On May 31, 1969 Woody was married to Mary Stob. Woody is an attorney in Grand Rapids with the firm of Tolley, Ver Wys, VandenBosch. Mary is kept busy with the family along with her volunteer work at church and at school. They have three children: Amy, Katie, and Dan. Amy is now 19, and a sophomore at Calvin College. Katie is 17, and a senior at Grand Rapids Christian High. They live at 3726 Chamberlain, SE, Grand Rapids.
Luann was married on July 20, 1973 to Dave Kempema. Dave is a supervisor at the Howard Miller Clock Company. Luann is a full time secretary at Zeeland Christian School, and is a partner in Second Chance, a retail outlet for second had clothes. She and her sister-in-law own the operation which is located downtown in Zeeland. The business is doing very well, and has been in operation for some twelve years. Initially she was active in the business, but now relies on good help, and only goes occasionally. They have one daughter, Kristin, who is 17 and is a senior at Holland Christian High School. They live a short distance from us at 281 Westenbroek Drive, Zeeland.
This is our family. Small compared with some standards, but large and significant when measured by the yardstick of love expressed, caring demonstrated, and sacrificial sharing voluntarily extended. In III John, verse 4, these words, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth," best describes the hopes which we as parents had for the developing and maturing years of our children. We can now look back in humility and thanksgiving that those hopes have been realized as we see our children walking in the ways of our Lord. We also give thanks for the same divine guidance which is evident in our grandchildren. They continue to be a real joy, and we are proud of each one.
A very essential part of our happiness and satisfaction with our family is the role played by the spouses, Mary and Dave. They have fit into the family perfectly from the start. They have been a source of inspiration. We couldn't have done better if we had hand picked them ourselves. In fact, I think we would have made a mess of it. We are proud of each one, and grateful that they are part of our family.
As said before, Woody and Luann were always a source of pride and joy. As parents, we may not have participated in their activities as we might have, but we tried to be there when they needed us. One day after Luann and Dave had been married a short time, Sadie received a letter from Luann thanking her and telling her how much having Sadie at home meant to her. She wrote how much it meant to her that when she
Pages 51-end came home from school or play, she always knew her mother would be there.
When Woody was about eleven or so, we took out a golf membership at the American Legion Golf Course in Holland. He and a friend of his would often ride their bikes to the golf course in the morning and spend most of the day there We often golfed together too. Saturdays were always special. This friend of Woody, his father, Woody, and myself would play a round in the afternoon, and then we got together with the rest of our families alternating at each otherճ homes for a hamburg fry. We always looked forward to those days. This went on for years. At first, I could score better at golf than Woody, but before long he could do as well, and he gradually pulled away and I could no longer catch him.
An activity our family especially enjoyed and appreciated was the Saturday afternoon chicken barbecues in the Summertime. Just the thought of it creates an appetite even now. We would get a good bed of charcoal started, and after it was producing real well, we pushed the charcoal to the back, put the cut-up pieces of chicken in the basket, and hooked up the rotisserie, basting the chicken frequently with melted butter. This required frequent checking to make sure the coals were hot, the rotisserie was turning, and occasionally basting to keep the chicken moist and tasty. After about two to two and a half hours, the chicken was generally done. All sides had to be uniformly browned and the meat had to show signs of pulling away from the bone. We were then ready to eat. The picnic table in the back yard was spread with a variety of dishes which varied sizably from time to time, but we generally had Sadie's potato salad, a gelatin salad, maybe hot pork and beans with bacon, onion and garlic toast. This came fresh and hot from the oven. For dessert we might have vanilla ice cream with hot fudge and nuts, or when in season, a watermelon or muskmelon.
Quite frequently, Scot Los, son of Rev. Los (they lived a stones throw from our house) would join us and occasionally we would invite the entire Los family. We had great times together. These were memorable occasions. The Los' still remark about the good times and meals we enjoyed together at the picnic table in our back yard on Lawrence Street.
We sold the charcoal burner and rotisserie at our garage sale just before moving to our present condominium, and replaced it with a gas grill - no rotisserie. We very seldom use it any more. The thrill of barbecuing for two is not the same as when we were together as a family. We have tried barbecuing on the grill, but it just is not the same. Oh to smell the smoke of chicken juices and butter spattering on the hot coals, and to taste that mouth watering goodness once again!!
As a family we traveled a little. We went to Florida a couple of times, to Washington DC and Gettysburg, and to Denver a couple of times. One memorable trip was to the Black Hills and the Bad Lands. It was at the entrance to the Bad Lands that our car caught fire. It was a Buick, hardly a year old. It is a long story of waiting and hoping, but finally help came. With a temporary hook-up, we were able to drive still deeper into the Bad Lands to a dinky little gas station. The attendant apparently was skilled in making-do with what he had. He took a section of hose off the air conditioner on his mobile home and used it as a vacuum hose on the car. He had a set of Chevrolet spark plug wires which served the purpose. The surprising thing was that after he had everything put together, after driving a considerable distance to get us, and all the time and effort spent in fixing the car, we asked him how much we owed him. We expected a sizable amount because we were entirely at his mercy. There was nowhere else to go. He gave some ridiculously low figure like $20.00. Sadie's dad was with us at the time, and he gave him another $20.00.
About this period in time, old cars began to intrigue me. The first one purchased was in partnership with Mel Boonstra. It was a late 40's Jeepster. Luann always enjoyed riding in this car. It was a classy little four door with a convertible top and side curtains. We drove it mostly in the summertime when we could have the top down. One ride she always appreciated was going to our old farm, taking the trail along the creek, and listening carefully as I related the locations of the picnic grounds, the old swimming hole where we built our dam, and favorite fishing holes. She would ask different times to take the Jeepster and travel that same route. The time came when Mel Boonstra's boys were of driving age and making extensive use of the Jeepster. One day Mel suggested he buy my share. This he did, and a short time later one of his boys wrecked the car.
While on the subject of old cars, we owned a number of them. We had a Kaiser, Edsel, Corvair, Model T, and a Studebaker. The Studebaker was the car Dad formerly owned. Mechanically it was in good shape. The motor ran so quietly it could barely be heard. The body needed attention. We put on four new fenders, rocker panels, a complete paint job, and the car looked like new. This car, and the Model T, were the last two cars owned and the most difficult to part with. We were anticipating a move into a condominium and there simply was no room for them. I still think about them occasionally and wish we still had them.
Involvement in the lives of our children was soon to become very real following Woody's graduation from Calvin. The war in Vietnam was still being carried on and the U.S. involvement, although very unpopular, was still very actively resulting in young men being called to serve. After graduating from Calvin, Woody fellowshipped at Michigan State in a Post Graduate Political Science course. He was able to finish one semester before being inducted into the army on January of 1969.
He took his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky which he completed in March, and then to Fort Polk, Louisiana for infantry training. His next assignment was overseas to Vietnam in June of 1969, but before leaving for Vietnam, he came home on furlough. While on furlough, on May 31, 1969, he and Mary were married.
The wedding was an occasion for real happiness and it was, but underneath all the joy and well wishes was the deeper emotional feeling of future uncertainties. We were happy that they were able to get married before he had to leave, and the closeness of our relationship with Mary following his departure deepened and became more meaningful.
The day for his departure finally came. It will never be forgotten. The last view of him ready to enter the chute to board the aircraft taking him away from us was heart rending. We had shaken hands, kissed for the last time, and assured him of our constant prayers. As he waved his last good-bye and disappeared from our eyes, the tears could no longer be held in check.
How long would we be separated? When would he return? We tried to dispel the questions of if and how, but in spite of our best efforts, those questions arose. Maybe the fact that Sadie and I had gone through similar experiences made the events even more devastating. We knew some of the experiences he would be having, and some of the dangers he would be facing. His leaving left an emptiness which could not be filled. The situation was out of our control. We did not know what the future would hold, but we knew who held the future. We turned to God in prayer and left our burdens with Him. No, the heaviness of heart did not suddenly vanish, but we learned to trust where we could not see, and to hope when circumstances appeared so hopeless.
After a year in Vietnam, he returned to the States, served the remainder of his term at Fort Riley, Abilene, Kansas, and was discharged in time to enroll at Northwestern University Law School from which he graduated. With thanksgiving to God, our family circle was once again complete.
Years passed by and almost imperceptibly our children had grown up. Their own schedules took precedence over joint activities. This was good and only natural, but as parents we began to realize that the era of dependency had shifted to the state of independence. We were in a period of adjustment. With the passing of time another transition took place. The words of Jesus in John 21:18 come to mind. "I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
We have always enjoyed the love and concern of our children, but in recent years that love has been most beautifully demonstrated. They are constantly in touch with us, visit regularly, and always offer their services in every way possible. For example, Luann drove us to Ann Arbor three times for laser surgery. I can't see to drive, and Sadie hates to drive except in the immediate area. One of those trips meant staying overnight which resulted in her missing work for four days. She wouldn't hear of any other alternative than her driving. We were glad she did. I think she has built in radar. She can locate places with no difficulty and always knows how to get from place to place.
The developmental stages referred to in our immediate family relationships as dependency and an increasing state of becoming independent has a somewhat parallel development in our relationships as brothers and sisters. When we were small we depended on each other. As we grew older and eventually married, that dependency decreased. Our relationships were devoted to our own families. Then as our children married and established their own homes and contacts, the ties that bound us together re-exerted themselves. There evolved a new appreciation for each other as brothers and sister which had as its roots the common elements we could so readily relate to. An outside appraiser might interpret it as a return to childhood, or a sign of old age, but personally, I feel this dependency relationship very strongly and regard it very highly. After all, there are only four of us left. The time is getting shorter for us to communicate our appreciation for and admiration of each other. To each of you, Jeanette, John, and Jay, my sincere gratitude for being what you are, for having contributed so much to my life, and for the anticipated joys and happiness we may yet share together. I have the best of the stock when it comes to brothers and a sister. May there yet be much time to enjoy each other's fellowship.
The independence we so long enjoyed is changing to a state of dependency, especially on my part. The degree to which I am dependent sometimes becomes discouraging. Sadie is constantly called on to explain simple items and to read all communications. She never complains and is always willing to assist, but adding these responsibilities to her already full schedule is not the direction I would prefer to go. Our lives and activities have changed considerably in the last couple years. I no longer drive at all, and Sadie cannot drive at night, so we are at home almost every night with scheduled activities planned during the day. We are adjusting and are perfectly content with the situation as it is.
We have learned a new dimension in patience, in contentment, and thankfulness. We have been refreshed by God's promises that "He will never leave or forsake us." We have the assurance that "the eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." We are confident that "our help comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth," and that "He will keep us from all harm - He will watch over our life. The Lord will watch over our coming and going both now and forevermore."
A song which we have come to love and one which has spoken to us a different times and in different circumstances will represent the close of this narrative.
Come to the Savior now, He gently calleth thee, In true repentance bow, Before Him bend the knee. He waiteth to bestow Salvation, peace, and love. True joy on earth below, A home in heaven above.
Come to the Savior now What'er your burdens be; Hear now his loving call , Cast all your care on me. Come and for every grief In Jesus you will find A sure and safe relief A loving friend and kind.
Acknowledgments and Appreciation
Writing this story was a real pleasure. Looking back, I can say I really enjoyed reliving treasured experiences, but there were times I could easily have given up. Without the encouragement of Sadie, Woody, and Luann I might have done so.
To Sadie, my deepest appreciation for times innumerable in which she would read the last line or paragraph written, so that my train of thought would return and I could continue writing. Page after page she would tirelessly try to decipher what I had written and made corrections. It was not easy.
To Luann, my deepest appreciation also. When she first heard of my writings she immediately volunteered to do the typing. When the time finally came that I had the first section finished, it was given to her. In an unbelievably short time she had it finished. She did the work on their computer, ran off entire copies for each member of the family, and bound them in individual ring binders. Without her help I don't know what I would have done. I doubt that it would have ever reached the finished form. Thanks again, Luann, I still don't believe the beautiful job you did. How you ever made sense out of the scribbling with the written lines running at all angles across the page and often crisscrossing each other is amazing. But then, you are an amazing daughter!