Sunday 6 October 2013



My father, Teunis Waninge, or Teun as he was known, was born on 28 July 1918 in Westerbork, Drente. My mother, Gerritje de Heij, or Ger as she was known, was born on 1 November 1921 in Hasterland, Friesland.

Teun was working in Friesland staying in a camp and they met at a dance evening there. He asked her out for a date, they did and Ger liked him but was not smitten. He persevered, they had more dates and then he got her pregnant.

They married in May 1941 and Jan was born in December that year.

Were they a happy and devoted couple?

On the surface they appeared to be pretty content, like millions of other couples that found themselves in the same situation. There was a lot of common ground. They both loved fishing, cycling, long walks, everything to do with nature and gardening.

But I now know Ger was not happy in this marriage. Teun was a very difficult man. He was dogmatic, an authoritarian, a disciplinarian and unemotional.

Ger, to my utter surprise, confided in me, towards the end of her life, when we talked about children and married life in general that, had she married Teun in today’s day and age, she would have divorced him within a year. And she meant it.

However, of course, at the time of their marriage, divorce was totally out of the question. There was no financial support for a single mother and her family would, almost for certain, have disowned her.

She had no choice, other than stay with him through thick and thin. She became fiercely loyal to him and supported him in all his endeavors. The exact same thing could never be said about him.

Children were a byproduct for Teun in this marriage and children were to be seen and never heard. They were not allowed an opinion nor had they ever had a say in anything affecting their lives.

Anyway, it was in the middle of world war two when they married. Luckily they lived in a small village in the country and had enough food to get by. Teun was still working and staying in the camp during weekdays. Ger did all sort of odd jobs to earn some extra money.

Their home was a peculiar one. The ground floor was one large open plan space. A narrow ladder would go up from that open space and the floor half above was also one large open space. They had no garden. The only way Jan could be unsupervised outside was by tying him to a pole with a string so Ger had her hands free to do needle work to earn some money. They had no running water. They had to get their water from the village pump like everyone else who lived in the village. They also shared toilets with the village, which were placed on the village green.

In 1944 the Germans rounded up all men between 16 and 60 to work in weapon factories in Germany. Teun had no inclination to do this and he went undercover, joining Cor Polak, Ida’s husband, who, being a Jew, had been undercover for some years. They were hidden on a farm underneath a horse stable. The farmer always made sure a nasty, bad tempered horse would be kept in that stable so no Germans would go searching there.

The Germans had become pretty sophisticated in their search for undercover people and they knew a farm was always a desired place with many hiding places. During the day all the boys, as there were more than Teun and Cor, had to stay under the stable whilst the farm went on its usual daily way.

When suddenly word came that a raid was on the way, the farmer’s daughter, who was the only one who could handle the horse, would quickly check if the hatch was fully covered with straw, the straw reasonably believable dirty and give a pre-arranged signal that they all had to be very, very quiet.

The farmer was always very apologetic about the horse and often demonstrated that it was impossible to get into the stable. The daughter, of course, pretended to be a dumb kitchen maid.

When, in the evenings, the coast was clear, the boys could come above ground to get some fresh air. They never strayed far though, as a raid could always be imminent.

The horse did a very good job because they all survived the war.

Geert was born in 1944 and in 1947 Harmina Marianne. Her name was shortened to Miny.

Teun found a new job in the newly laid dry North Eastern Polder, the second polder retrieved from the South Sea, which had become Lake Ijsel, and again he stayed in a camp. He had to take his own tools to work every morning. Weekends he would be back home.

In 1950 they were offered a house in Marknesse, a village at the early stage of being build. To see the house the family cycled to Marknesse on a Sunday, a journey of 4/6 hours to and 4/6 hours back depending on the weather.

The new house was a temporary wooden barrack. But it was huge! It had a kitchen with running water, an inside toilet and several bedrooms. It even had the luxury of a bathroom! It also had an enormous garden to grow vegetables and enough space was left for their children to play safely in. Teun and Ger were smitten indeed.

They could move in pretty quickly. Teun could now come home every evening, as the work was much closer by. He became involved in planting trees and digging ditches for a forest in this newly claimed land.

Shortly after they moved to Marknesse, beppe fell ill and died. Ger returned to Friesland for the funeral and stayed there for several days after.

She loved being back in Friesland with its meadows and wild flowers. The little ditches surrounding each meadow full with frogs and salamanders. The birds and wildlife she was so used to seeing in the meadows. To be with her family again and speaking in her language absolutely delighted her. After returning home in Marknesse she became very homesick.

The polder was very new and everything was grey clay, sandy here, stony there and miserable. Nothing grew there yet. This newly claimed land was at the beginning of development. She missed Friesland very much. Friesland was far away and, with no buses in place yet, virtually impossible for short visits.

Ger was deeply unhappy and became pretty depressed.

Apparently my arrival in 1952 snapped her out of her depression.

The polder grew fast. Houses, churches, schools, banks and shops appeared everywhere and the family moved to a proper house.

And we began having holidays away from home! On bicycles! One such holiday saw the family cycling to their holiday destination when they came across a beautiful wide road. Fantastic, they said, and so quiet! So much room too! Happily they cycled on until stopped by a police car.

Apparently this road was one of the first motorways as yet to be opened and no cyclists were allowed. After a caution the family had to trudge through a forest to find another road to get them to their holiday camp.

They moved to Ens, for reasons unknown to me,
and in 1958 Eize was born.

Jan went to higher education in Emmeloord and for one year Geert, Miny and I attended the same basic education school in Ens.

Then Teun was promoted to supervisor and forester in a brand new polder, Eastern Flevoland, and we moved to Elburg, which was originally a Hanzestad, meaning a thriving fishing town before becoming a popular tourist attraction.

The family stayed here for many years. I have very fond memories of my time there.

Teun invested in a motorbike. He also smoked a pipe and, to this day, when I smell a pipe or hear a BMW go by, memories come flooding.

Later he fitted a sidecar onto his BMW. When he did his first test drive, not realizing he had to steer wider to take a bend in the road, he ended up in several gardens, mowing down hedges in its path.

I remember how snug it was, with my baby brother, to sit in the sidecar instead of being squashed between my parents on the back of the bike.

Later Teun invested in a Messerschmitt car, a replica of an airplane cockpit, he could drive with a motorcycle license. This contraption had a roof you opened to get in and two seats, one in front and one at the back. Unfortunately it would always stall and Ger had to push it, with its roof open high, to bystanders’ hilarity, to get it started again.

He exchanged the Messerschmitt for a Heinkel, again a replica of an airplane cockpit. This one had a door, which opened one whole side, and three seats, two at the front and one at the back, which Eize and I shared.

But Ger nagged him to get his driving license and he took lessons. His first test saw him having an enormous argument with the examiner and a long walk back home. His persistence paid off in the end and the family became the proud owner of real car, a Volkswagen.

Teun apparently was very much liked and appreciated by his employees and his boss. When he retired he was presented with a road named after him. As far as I know ‘Waninge Straat’ still exists. It winds in the forest between Elburg and Kampen if ever the need arises for a visit.

Teun was always sniffly and sneezy for reasons unknown to him. We were all used to it. That was until he stopped working. All those symptoms disappeared. He then realized that he simply was allergic to trees.

After Teun retired, and with only Eize still living at home, they bought a house in Oosterzee, Friesland. Ger was back home and she loved living there. Eize, till this day of writing, still lives at that address in Elburg with his wife and children.

Unfortunately Teun fell ill with lung cancer and after his recovery they sold the house with its large garden and moved to rented accommodation in Emmeloord. Five years later the cancer came back in his liver and Teun died in March 1985.

Ger somehow managed to get him buried in Dronten, Eastern Flevoland as, she argued, he was a pioneer in that polder and not the North Eastern Polder. She also managed to get a house there.

Some years later the polders were re-named Flevoland, and made the twelfth province of the Netherlands.

Ger loved living on her own and took up writing poetry and short stories.

She died of a heart attack in the early hours of August 1991, aged sixty-nine.

The wristwatch, after some debate, was given to Jan’s son Andre.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

My history for my grandchildren continued

OPA (pronounced OPAH)AND OPOE (pronounced OPOOH)

My paternal grandfather, opa, was a child born out of wedlock in 1891, son of Trijntje Waninge. I don’t know who his natural father was. What I do know is a little bit of his history.

He was named Jan. His mother was a poor servant who, as a single parent, was very lucky to be employed, as a live in maid, by a wealthy landowner, Jan Loof. Jan Loof fell in love with her and eventually they married. He and Trijntje had one son. He brought opa up as his own. Opa had a pretty privileged upbringing. He went to school, then higher education and had the option to attend university, which he declined. Then his mother died. I seem to remember, from stories, in childbirth.

Several years after her death, after Jan Loof re-married and had more children with his new wife, opa got a maidservant pregnant. Her name was Harmina Bosch. I know nothing about her ancestors. Opa was given a wristwatch (??), thrown out of the house, never to return and he married the maid Harmina, my opoe.

They were poverty stricken and lived in a mud hut, on the heath in Drente, built by him. They had seven children. Trijntje, Teunis, Anna, Roelie, Jantje, Eize and Lammie. Their eldest daughter, Trijntje, died aged 35 or 36, I don’t know from what or when. I do know she had children, though I never met them.

Opa became a shepherd and life became a bit more bearable. They moved into a small two-bedroom house, which was attached to the job. The girls all shared one bedroom and double straw beds. The boys slept in the loft. There were no plates. Everyone ate out of one pot from the middle of the table.

The toilet was a wooden shed in the garden and when the hole filled up, another hole was dug, the toilet moved on top of the hole and a rhubarb plant planted where the old toilet used to stand. A pump outside gave them fresh water. Life was tough with very little money. Clothes were hand-me-downs. They wore wooden clogs. All the children left school at nine to help earning money.

The family kept chickens and they grew their own vegetables and potatoes. To ensure the family would have meat throughout the year, they bought a piglet every spring. It was opoe’s job to care for its welfare. She always became very attached to it and it to her. Then, in the autumn, she had to entice it to the slaughter shed for the bloodletting. She would go for a very long walk so as not to hear the pig’s screams. Once, I was told, after the bloodletting, when boiling water was thrown over the pig to de-hair it, to her horror, the pig was not quite dead yet.

Later they moved to Emmeloord in the newly laid dry North Eastern Polder. He was employed there at a weighing bridge, weighing the few cars and lorries to see if the new roads would hold them. Life became a lot easier also with the new minimum wage firmly in place. They had electricity, and an indoor toilet. Most children had left home by now and they could afford shoes and new clothing, plates and crockery.

They were a devoted couple. They were also one of the first ones who enjoyed the newly installed state pensions and later moved to one of the also new fangled state retirement homes.

They absolutely loved the new invention of television and their favorite program was a story called ‘The Fabeltjes Krant’, made for children, depicting life of animals living in the forest. All the characters were cut out of paper with the wise owl, playing the lead part, reading from the newspaper (The Fabeltjes Krant) all the happenings of that day in the forest. Opa died after a short illness in his early seventies. Opoe was devastated and kept saying she wanted to be with him wherever he was. She missed him very much. She died of a heart attack a couple of years later, in 1973. The wristwatch, with its strange inscription, was given to my father.

PAKE (pronounced phakeh)AND BEPPE (pronounced Beapeh)

This family, my maternal grandparents, has a completely different history. They were born in the 1880s. Pake’s name was Geert de Heij. Beppe’s name was Geertje Scholten. They were born and bred in Friesland and spoke the language fluently, better than Dutch.

The reason I know so little of this family is my father, the all time boss. His family came first and foremost. They also lived closer by. Friesland, at the time with so few cars owners, was like another country, far, far away. The language was also a barrier for him because, whenever they would visit her family, they would speak in their own language. This irritated my father tremendously. Visits to my mother’s family were far and few between.

I know they had numerous offspring; one of their children was, of course, my mother, Gerritje, named after pake’s brother Gerrit. Her youngest sister, Ida whom she was very close to and whom was my favorite aunt I knew well. Griet was another sister I met once and Jurjen, her eldest brother whom I met also. There was also an older sister Geertje and three brothers Herman, Hilbert and Gerrit whom I have never met. I know no other siblings by name.

All their children also had very little education, needing to bring in the money. They knew how to read, write and the basic mathematics and that was enough. My mother would have loved to stay on at school and when she couldn’t, would have liked to go into service as a maid but was forced to work in a milk factory because the money was much better. She loathed the job but had no choice in the matter.

I don’t think pake and beppe were a happy couple. They had several children in the beginning of the twentieth century, then nearly ten years nothing and then more in the early twenties.

Pake liked his drink far too much. When the wages came in at the end of the week, he would spend half the money for drinks in his local to beppe’s fury. Sometimes she would try and ambush pake when he left work with money in a paper bag, but he often spotted her and used a different exit after which beppe would search for him to no avail. He wasn’t stupid and used a different cafĂ© to have a drink after making his escape. Money therefore was often short even though he had a very good and well-paid job as a furniture maker.

Later he started his own furniture making business at home and he was the first one in the family to be able to buy his own house for the princely sum of 100 guilders. An absolute fortune in those days when the weekly wage was a daalder (1 guilder 50 cent). He later bought the attached house next door too.

Beppe was the most untidy and uncaring mother in the world. The house was always dirty and in a mess. Washing and washing-up would pile up, the ironing never done. Her daughters usually would do the cooking, cleaning and shopping. Beppe would hardly be at home at all. She had many friends she rather spend her time with than be with her family. Even when grandchildren came along she had very little time for them also.

Most of Beppe’s daughters, including my mother, therefore became the most tidy and house-proud people you would ever meet. Griet was de only exception I know. She was exactly like her mother, to my mother’s despair. Beppe died of tuberculosis before I was born when she was sixty.

Jurjen, the eldest son, and his wife Berendje moved in with pake to take care of him and to try and curb (unsuccessfully) his drinking. Their only child, a daughter, Bea and her family, moved into the attached house pake also owned.

Pake died in his sleep in May 1967 in the early hours of my parents’ silver wedding day. He was in his eighties. None of her family came to the toned down celebration, which was very sad for her and also for me. I never got to know more about her brothers and sisters.

The only sister of my mother who visited frequently was Ida and her husband, Cor Polak. My father got on very well with Cor and Ida. They would all always converse in Dutch.

After pake died, Jurjen and Berendje stayed in the house as sitting tenants. The two houses, over time, became one. My mother always regretted not to have disputed the right to a share of the houses.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

No more scripts people, instead I write my history here.

My history for my grandchildren.

I was born in January 1952 in Marknesse Holland, the youngest daughter of five children.

My eldest brother, Jan, was born in December 1941. The second son Geert, in September 1946 and my sister, Harmina Marianne, in June 1948. My baby brother, Eize was born in May 1958.

My mother, Gerritje, was originally from Friesland and her surname was de Heij. My father, Teunis, came from Drente and his surname was Waninge.

Thus I was named Geertje Trijntje Waninge, named after my maternal grandmother and my father’s eldest sister.

My mother had little say in the naming of her children because my father, very much the boss in this household, was traditionally inclined. The eldest son, in this large family, was always named after the paternal father, the second son after the maternal father. The first daughter was always named after the paternal mother and the second, me, after the maternal mother. My youngest brother was named after my father’s only brother.

My father reluctantly conceded to my mother’s wishes. She so dearly wanted her first daughter to be named Marianne and so this became her middle name. I have numerous cousins named Harmina, Mientje or Miny and several cousins named Jan.

And you, my darling grandchildren, have loads of family in Holland.