Memories of my youth #6
by Hendrik Smid
It was tough, sometimes mother had literally not a penny in the house. That happened once when she was in her late thirties, and on one occasion she sang a psalm ...but the Lord shall bring relief. Psalm (42:8 or 9) And He did. In the afternoon, who came hobbling out of the woods? Old Albert, that’s who. He came to mother for half a pound of butter. [Mother churned butter too] Mother’s fortunes didn’t change dramatically, for Albert was a miser, but relief had come.
So when the time arrived for Lumke, the oldest child, to go to school, mother insisted that she’d go to the Christian school. Father asked what that would have to cost and his hair stood right on end when he heard the answer. The cost of the buildings as well as the salaries of the teachers had to be born by the parents. But mother said
“Even if I have to eat dry bread, the children are going to have a Christian education.” She got it her way, all her children were brought up in the Christian school. For years our parents carried their pledged money to school, every week twelve to fifteen cents, depending on the amount of children attending school. Children of farmers paid more and a supplement fund was available to help unemployed and sick parents.
Before I was allowed to go to school I had to be vaccinated against the smallpox. The pox came up as it should and I was allowed to go. It was a half-hour walk, but I didn’t mind, I was proud to go with my slate and pencil, and sponge eraser box. I felt like a king.
My first teacher was a son of rev. Groot-Nibbelink, a kind man, a little too kind, he had a hard time to keep order in the class. Relieve came for him when he got drafted and after his stint in the army he managed to become principal of a school in the province of Zeeland.
My second teacher was from Groningen, who started by drawing a line on the blackboard. Who was tardy or disobedient got his name under that line and got a detention, he also taught us what we considered nice songs about cats catching mice and birds, which we had to act out too, but when I demonstrated that at home to the pleasure of everybody, father got really upset.
My father worked in Germany that year where he stayed for half a year. After about three months mother received a post card, it showed a Bavarian with a big mustache, with the message “Dear wife and children it is well with me I hope with you too From Fokke Smid.”
“Another one of those mustaches” grumbled mother, happy to hear something from her husband, to whom she wrote to every week. My father wrote after that no more, since it was only three months that he would be home anyways, no need to waste another stamp.
By the time father came home was all the misery forgotten. Father was frugal, he saved his money in a leather pouch, which he carried on his skin, supported by a strap around the neck, for as long as he was in the foreign country. Nobody was going to steal his money.
It has been a another mystery to me how Pake Fokke and Beppe ever got together. Pake was not brought up 'in the faith' and therefore not allowed to participate in the baptism of their children. Beppe Aukje was. Beppe stood by herself to answer 'yes' to the questions asked by the minister before the baptism was performed on three or four of their children.
The minister told pake that it would be wise and beneficial for his family, to be able to stand by his wife, and pake finally agreed. He did confession of faith and when their fifth baby was born, stood by his wife in front of the congregation, to answer 'yes' to the questions asked on the baptism form, when their son Bernardus was baptized in that terrible cold year of 1913, and did the same when later their sons Roelof, Daniel, and Bertus were born. lex
Another riddle to me was the outright racist songs heit taught me. This one goes about the church bells of Haarlem tolling bim bam, abruptly changing into – the beul, the beul, (the hangman) of Haarlem, who lashes the jew, the jew cries, the jew cries, o what hurt my posterior.
That my father would teach me that has always been a riddle to me, but that was not the only racist ditty he taught me. There was another one even worse, which I as a five year old, proudly recited and acted out going from door to door in the neighborhood for candies.
How that fitted in with my heit's faith, teaching us about god's son, the Jew Jesus, I could never understand, and neither could pake Fokke obviously, because he says somewhere 'if that is all they teach at that christian school, his children were better off at the public school and – 'which doesn't cost me money either.' lex
Father said, “Is that all you get taught at that Christian school?” I was not allowed to sing that kind of song anymore, and got orders to tell that to the teacher.
So I refrained from singing in class and when the teacher asked why I didn’t sing, I didn’t dare to tell him, so I was detained. I didn’t want to tell my parents of my punishment for fear that father would scold me, so I carried the injustice of it all, as I saw it, by myself, deep within my heart.