There was no food in the stores or coal available anywhere to heat the houses. Food was being cooked in a central kitchen and could be picked up, a coupon was needed for every family member, at noon by bringing your own pail or pan. To heat your house most people used old furniture or whatever was laying around in parks. By this time our family had grown by two more brothers and my Mother was pregnant of another one. My Father took me to the central kitchen a couple times and I saw some of the food they had prepared, it looked like a thick soup, which some very hungry parents would drink immediately and only leave with half their allotted portion for the family at home. My Father, with the help off some of our neighbors, had cut down some trees in the park when after that the Germans posted a notices there saying, anyone who destroys more trees here is going to be arrested which got everyone so scared that they would only burn wood they had around the house. My Dad however had a better idea and took me and my younger brother to the train station, where there were large piles of coal that was used by the trains, where he told the two of us to go and play. He wanted to know which one of us could get the most coal in our pockets and take it home. In the meantime my Dad was distracting the German guards by talking and joking to make sure we were going to be safe. We didn’t have to be told twice because it was fun, my Dad did not give us hell for getting dirty like Mam, however my brother cheated because he picked small pieces and I picked large ones so he had more but I was the fastest home but to Dad we were both winners. It made us feel good, my brother and me, to see our parents happy in a warm house and as soon we saw there was no more coal we would beg them to take us back to the station again. This coal stealing was not as dangerous as it may appear because in our Town we had more older German soldiers (Grandparents) that were used to me and my brother picking up cigarette buts discarded by them and we would then take these Home for my Dad who would cut them open take out the Tobacco and roll a new cigarette with paper from our bible.
Another time I was at a German check stop where they would stop everyone and take away their bicycles, examined them, keep the good ones and the bad ones were strewn in the
looking for young men, those under forty, to work in Germany. All German young people were in the army and they needed Dutch young people, many had already volunteered, to dig trenches and clear bombed out neighborhoods in German Cities. These raids always created a scene because if a young person was found they were imprisoned and their families were heavily fined or could be shot. My Father had been picked up many a time but because of his talkative nature always managed to come home after one or two months. I quickly ran home to inform my Father what was happening whereby my Mother told my Dad that he should tell his sister about this. My Father ran across town, making sure nobody saw him, to his sister’s house and told her what was going on and she thanked him. He was not home for more than an hour when he heard from someone that a young man had been shot by the Germans, and to set an example for anyone not to run away, they would not allow the family to pick up the dead person for twenty four hours. That evening we were told that it was our cousin who had gotten scared when he saw the Germans coming so ran out the back door where they saw him and shot him. Later we found out that if he had stayed home he would still be alive because they had already finished the raid. My Aunt from then on blamed my Father and Mother for his death and never talked to them ever again.
These things shaped my life for the first six years never knowing if there was going to be enough to eat or drink. One year we had a rabbit and I was looking after him as my pet, every day I would pick dandelions a favored food for him and he would eat it so heartedly. Then one day my Dad said that we had to slaughter it because we had nothing to eat, which I didn’t want to hear, so took the rabbit out of his cage and ran away. He found me after a couple minutes, the neighbor’s told him where I was, and promised me he would not kill my rabbit. He told me we had to let this one go so it could return to its family to be happy, to which I agreed, however the meat in our pan sure looked like my pet and I still will not eat rabbit.
|Opafiets courtesy of wikimedia commons
I left Holland for a job in Luxemburg for one year when I was seventeen and there I lived in the same house as the head laborer whom, with his wife and children, treated me as Family. Together we milking seventy five cows three times a day but we had a new invention, a milking machine, which helped tremendously. It was a good time because milked cows was much faster now and the rest of the time I could explore the country side. We were close to a town called Esternacht a very hilly district, unlike Holland which is flat, therefor it is known as little Switzerland. This was the first time I was so far away from home but had all my money to myself and was more in depended. Now if I went to a dance, girls danced with me and even wanted to marry me. This was something new and there happened to be a girl which I liked who introduced me to her Mother, a widow, which would love to find someone like me to help her with bringing home the bacon. So I phoned my parents in Holland and they said they would phone and talk to this girl’s Mother, which I believe they did, however I don’t know what was said for I never saw this girl again. A couple months after that I got a notes to report to an Army base in Limburg for a physical so had to return Home.
|SS Groote Beer (The Big Bear) courtesy of Wikipedia
This year it has been fifty-five years that I’m here and it has been good. Been married for over fifty years, without time-off for good behavior, to Margaret who was also born in Holland and I believe this was one of the things which attracted me to her because we both believe in having strong Family ties. We now have two Sons, two Granddaughters and two Great-Grandchildren and I don’t believe that it ends there, so we are blessed. I still think of Holland and have a strong pull towards that country. But here in Calgary is where I belong and Canada is my country now plus I want to be buried here. When I sit at home alone or with family I’m in heaven. Even when on vacation, sometimes Disneyland which I enjoy, I still long to go back to Calgary a beautiful city with the mountains in the background that once they get it finished will be a great place to live. It is my Home.