Friday, November 4, 2011

Washday in Holland

When I do my washing, I often think of how my mother had to do this chore, and I am so thankful that I don't have to live like that.

My mother's washing machine consisted of:
  • a tin tub
  • a wasboard
  • a brush

Mother didn't have a wringer, like this lady, so all the clothes were wrung out by hand.

The clothes were hung on a clothes line to dry. But because it rains so much in The Netherlands, most of the time the clothes were brought in the house for drying.

We had clothes lines strung in the attic, that worked well during warm weather. But when it was cold, the clothes were hung to dry in the living room - the only warm room in the house. Clotheslines were strung from one end of the room to the other, and a clothesrack was put around the stove.

When I came home from school, the living room often reminded me of "Flag Day".

The hardest part of wash day was getting hot water in the house. We had no electricity, and only cold running water. There was a store around the corner, however, that sold steaming hot water by the bucket or barrel. That's were my mother went on Monday morning to get her hot water. She would buy two barrels of hot water, took them home in the store's wheelbarrow, then carried them upstairs (we lived in an upstairs apartment). And the stairs in Holland at that time were much steeper that those in America - with much shorter treads.

She also had to make her own starch (boiling about half and half cornstarch and water).

White clothing was bleached, but because bleach tends to make the clothes yellow, she used a product called Reckitts Blue. This always made clothes sparkling white. She used to brag that the clothes her children were whiter and brighter than those of the other kids in the neighborhood.

Then came the ironing. You have to have two irons (and they were heavy!). One to use, and the other one to warm up again until the first one got too cold to do a good job.
I don't know why they ironed sheets, pillowcases and dishtowels, but that took up the bulk of the ironing, Then one day someone gave my mother a mangle, which she used for the sheets. And she was happy as a clam. She was always happy on washday, please don't ask me why.

In some neighborhoods it was customary for the women to do the wash outside, mainly because the houses were so small and there was no room to do it inside. Hot water would be delivered to them on Monday morning by a worker in the "Waterstokerij". On mild days, the women had a good time laughing and gossiping. But they also had to do the work in rain and cold.

The "Waterstokerij" not only sold hot water, but kindling wood, soap, bleach, and other articles used for washing, but best of all, there was a section for penny candy. Once a week we would get a penny - and we agonized at the showcase about what kind of candy to get.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Statue of Liberty

Author John T. Cunningham wrote that "The Statue of Liberty was not conceived and sculpted as a symbol of immigration, but it quickly became so as immigrant ships passed under the statue. However, it was Lazarus' poem that permanently stamped on Miss Liberty the role of unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants"

Poem by Emma Lazarus, 1883:

Referring to the ancient statue on the Greek island of Rhodes,
Emma Lazarus speaks of “The New Colossus”:

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

And from the Prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon:
Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; … but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.” (
2 Ne. 1:7.)

And so, as the "Nieuw Amsterdam" sailed into New York Harbor on April 1950, carrying among others the Van Os Family, we all gathered on deck to see this great symbol - but the fog was so dense that we couldn't make it out.

Ever since then, for more than 58 years, it has been my wish to see Lady Liberty. And for my Christmas present last December, Trixie gave me a plane ticket to New York.

On Monday, October 27, 2008, Trixie, Adam, and I met Ralph and Stacy (who live in Herndon, Virginia) at Liberty Park. From there we took the ferry that took us on a 360 degree tour around the statue. The weather was beautiful and clear.

We ferried all around the Statue and took a gazillion pictures, of course. After the ferry ride we walked to the RR station. I remember that our luggage was taken from the “Nieuw Amsterdam” and stored in the Railroad Station. It took us awhile to find our luggage, because we were looking under the “O” for “van Os”, when it was actually stored under “V”. I had called the Greyhound station from the ship before we docked and asked them to have a bus ready for our group – I think there were about 30 of us going to Salt Lake City. The bus ride took 72 hours, stopping only occasionally for 10 minute breaks, and once a day for 30 min. After that I swore I would never get on another Greyhound Bus again.

Ralph, Adam, and Trixie climbed the stairs inside the Statue.
I declined, I'm not as young as I used to be.

Liberty Park is a good place to get a look at the NY skyline.

And I finally got my wish – this was a very special day for me.


Bombing of Rotterdam - WWII

Yesterday I saw a short movie on YouTube about the bombing of Rotterdam during WWII. I’ve never talked much about the war - maybe in an effort to forget it. But, of course, that’s impossible, and I owe it to my posterity to record as much as I remember. Actually, that’s why my granddaughter Kayla wanted me to start this blog - to once in awhile record something about "The Olden Days".

The war began in Holland on May 10, 1940 - I was almost 13 years old. Very early in the morning we woke up to the sound of airplanes. I ran out into the street in my nightgown and there we saw german airplanes dropping hundreds of parachutist on the city of Rotterdam (about 7 miles from my hometown Vlaardingen). These parachutist then took up strategic locations in the city. We were told later that many of the parachutists wore civilian clothes, and some were dressed as catholic priests, but I couldn’t tell for sure from where I was. I just saw figures falling out of planes.

During the next four days more planes and troops and then tanks and heavy equipment followed. The Germans invaded all of our borders. By Tuesday, May 14, they gave Rotterdam an ultimatum to surrender or be bombed. News of our capitulation reached the enemy in time but, nonetheless, heavy bombardment started about 1:45 in the afternoon.

For two and a half hours the Germans kept bombing the city - a relentless rain of death poured from the skies. After the bombing was over, more than 26,000 buildings lay in wreckage. Nearly 25,000 men, women and children lay dead in the street or buried under the masses of rubble. (I’ve never seen a complete and accurate count of the dead, but the general consensus is 25,000.)

Even though he bombing lasted for only a few hours, for at least three days the inner city was pitch black because of all the smoke and dust - there was actually more damage from the fires that broke out than from the actual bombing
Our LDS church building in the St. Jans Straat, where I had been baptized some 4 years earlier, was totally destroyed.

Also heavily bombed was the "Sint Laurens Kerk", a beautiful cathedral. Only the walls of the church survived. The entire interior burned down. The restoration of the St. Laurens Church took place between 1952 and 1968.
The church is now mainly used for concerts, lectures and exhibitions.

The next five years - my teen years, I spent trying to cope with the war, and utterly hating the germans.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Visit Back East

On Friday, October 24, I loaded my car up with clothes, computers, and sewing machine for my yearly winter visit with Trixie and her family in Arizona. I drove to Salt Lake where I visited for awhile with my sister Maria, and stayed overnight with my cousin Aartje Cluff. The next day I left my car in Riverton, Utah with Trixie's sister-in-law, Kliena. Kliena drove me to the airport where I boarded a flight to Hartford, Connecticut. Trixie (who had arrived a week earlier to help Kayla and the new baby) and Adam picked me up in Hartford, and we drove to Adam and Kayla's home in Thomaston, Connecticut.

In 1813 a man named Seth Thomas came to the Plymouth Hollow to manufacture clocks.

By 1856 Thomas was labeling his clocks with "Thomas Town."
He helped route the Naugatuck railroad through Plymouth Hollow,
linking us with the brass center at Waterbury.
On July 6,1875 Thomas Town became Thomaston in memory of Seth Thomas and the separation from Plymouth was confirmed by the State Legislature.

What a joy to visit with the Marbles. New Baby Gracie Ann was just 11 days old. The next day, Sunday was spent visiting, going to church (Adam is the Bishop) - taking lots of pictures.

Ellie - Adam - Gracie - Kayla - Emma

Four Generations
Trixie - Gracie - Aartje - Kayla

Emma was watching me knit, and when I told her I was making a little blanket for Gracie she looked at me with her big eyes and exclaimed, emphasising each word: "You're the very best grandma ever". I'm asking you, can it get any better than that?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Over the Hill

Today daughter no. 3 turned 50! So now she can officially join the Red Hat Society.
The founder of the society is Fullerton, California artist Sue Ellen Cooper, who in 1998 gave a friend a 55th birthday gift consisting of a red fedora she had bought a year earlier at a thrift store along with a copy of Jenny Joseph's poem:


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Jenny Joseph

Cooper repeated the gift on request several times, and eventually the group all bought purple outfits and held a tea party.
At first spreading by word of mouth, the Society received national publicity in 2000 through the magazine Romantic Homes and a feature in the Orange County Register that ran nationally. Cooper then established a "Hatquarters" to field the hundreds of e-mail requests for help starting chapters. She now serves as "Exalted Queen Mother", and has written two best-selling books about the Society.

Dutch Tradition when turning 50:
On your 50th birthday you are called Sarah or Abraham (depending on your sex)
When somebody turns 50 there is a saying that they have seen Abraham or Sarah. If it’s a man who turns 50 they say he has seen Abraham and when it’s a woman they say she has seen Sarah. To celebrate the 50th birthday of a person family members decorate the front yard of the house of this person as a surprise and put an Abraham or Sarah doll in their front yard. These dolls mostly represent something that the person in that specific case does. Like when somebody is a carpenter they dress up the Abraham doll as a carpenter.
The Sarah and Abraham tradition comes from the bible. Jesus said that he had seen Abraham. But that wasn’t possible because Abraham had already died. So then somebody asked him that if he wasn’t even 50 years old how could he have seen Abraham? So now Elaine is 50, old enough to have seen Sarah.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

WWII Memories - Bedspread

In 1943/1944 food was severely rationed in the Netherlands - and there wasn't enough to go around. There was always the black market, of course - and the bartering system. Transportation was also restricted. A good place to go bartering for food was boating across the river Maas, and visiting the farmers - but you needed a legitimate reason to go there. My cousin Jan worked for the police department in Vlaardingen, and he somehow managed to get a permit for my aunt - stating she was a midwife.

Tante Jaan

She now could safely cross the river, carrying a small suitcase. By smiling sweetly at the german soldiers she managed to look like a real midwife, and so was able to get past the checking station.

She had a plan all worked out. Unraveling her prized cotton bedspread, she used the yarn to make socks -

which she then managed to trade for bread. Every week she would bring home two loaves of bread - traded for a pair of socks. This went on for quite a few weeks - keeping the hunger wolves away from our door. Finally, however, the time came when she took her last pair of socks. The bedspread was all used up. Telling the farmer's wife that this was probably the last time she could bring socks, the "boerderin" exclaimed: Oh, you know, this is working out so well - I've been making a bedspread by unraveling the socks you brought, and I'm just about done!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hyder, Arizona - Ghost Town

Hyder is a ghost town and farming community in Yuma County, Arizona, United States. It and surrounding areas (such as "Sentinel" and "Agua Caliente") houses several different types of fish, shrimp, and other types of farms, one school (Sentinel Elementary School), and two gas stations/general markets..

During World War II it was the training spot of General Patton's desert forces. The nearby Agua Caliente also had a large hotel during this time.

Very little remains about the old camp, but veterans sometimes come back to visit this place.

Trixie making a purchase at the store. She lives about ten miles from the store, but does practically all her grocery shopping in Mesa or Phoenix. The Skousen children attend Sentinel Elementary (9 miles from home), and High School in Wellton (abt 60 miles from home).