THIS IS MY LIFE






by
Theadora Dantuma Drost
(Taetske Johannes Dantuma)




It began on October 15, 1907. I was born in Hoogebeintum, Friesland, Holland to John and Jennie (Zylstra) Dantuma, joining my two brothers Charles and Richard and my two sisters Grace and Katherine. Soon the three oldest children went to the two room school house, which had a brick play yard. Grades one through four, had a lady teacher and grades five through eight had a man teacher. Katherine and I were not old enough to go to school yet, and sometimes (as kids will do), we got ourselves into trouble.

I remember one day when we were to meet our brothers and sisters coming home from school, we didn't do as we were told. There was a ditch near the road, and crossing this ditch was a bridge (really just a wide board). We were told not to go near the ditch, and were cautioned not to cross over the "bridge" as if we did, the frogs would grab our foot and pull us into the water. We saw a man going to work, crossing the ditch on the board bridge, and nothing happened to him, so why couldn't we? Katherine went over the bridge first and nothing happened to her, so of course I followed. On the way back however, I fell in. Now, I don't know if the frogs had anything to do with it or not, but I did go under the water. The man happened to look back, and seeing only one little girl on the road thought maybe the other had gone back home. It continued to bother him that only one little girl was there, so he ran back, and sure enough, there I was at the bottom, swallowing all the water I could and drifting off to the river a short distance away. He got me out and took me to our house where I was put to bed. (Now I don't know if that was my punishment or if there wasn't any dry clothes as Mother was washing.) I don't remember Katherine being sent to bed, but maybe she wished that she had!

My Grandparents (Dirk Zylstra) lived on a small farm not far from us. I stayed there when my brother Herman was born. When Grandpa wasn't looking, Grandma would give me candy. (He always said it was bad for my stomach.) I would go with Grandpa when he took the cans of milk to the main road. He had a dog cart pulled by two large dogs. We would walk next to the cart on the way up and ride in the cart on the way back home. It was maybe only as far as a city block, but it was fun.
If the weather was nice, we would spend the weekend with Grandpa and Grandma Dantuma who lived farther away. Mother would take all of us kids (with Herman in the baby buggy) and we would walk to their house. Dad would come after he finished the milking. Dad was a farmer, working by the year for a man named Mr. Visser. (He was the Grandfather of our friend Jalta Visser from Washington.) Anyone that had a job by the year had a steady job. Mr. Visser also had two men that worked by the day. Dad had every third Sunday off. The farm homes in Holland had several rooms. Our apartment was one big room, with beds built into the wall (like births on a train) behind doors which were closed during the daytime. There were other cupboards for things like the dishes and our clothes. The boys slept in sort of an attic area upstairs. The barn was built onto the house, much like the garage is here, but between the house and barn was a large room which was used in the Summer as a kitchen so the dining room would stay cool. The cook stove served as a heater too.

 The cows were in the barn only in Winter. In early Spring, as soon as the grass was long enough, they'd turn the cows out and they would be milked in the "milk yard" which was in a fenced-in field. Then the pails of milk would be carried back home, hanging from a yoke on the shoulders of the farmers and set in water to keep cool. The barns were scrubbed with hot soapy water and disinfectant. Reed carpets were put down on the floor and before you would go into the house, the wooden shoes were left on a shelf in the barn part. You just didn't walk in the house or even the Summer kitchen with your wooden shoes on.
The hay was cut with a scythe and put into haycocks to dry. Some would be put up green in a stack (much like pea vines are today), and fed to the cattle after it had been allowed to "cure". Corn was not grown as the season was too short. Oats, wheat and sugar beets were grown and were cut up for cattle feed. Most families in the village had a sheep or goats for their own milk. Grandpa Zylstra had a few sheep and we had 3 goats and 12 chickens. The toilets were in the shed where goats were kept rather than outdoors.
Groceries were ordered a week in advance and delivered once a week. The bread and sweets came from the bakery, which was also ordered and delivered. Mother would order one loaf of spice cake which lasted for a week (if no company came). Some homes had small flower gardens but our property had room for only a few tulips near the door. There was a small lawn, about 9 x l2 feet, upon which a housewife would lay the white clothes she wanted to bleach in the sun. Washing was done on a wash board.

The main roads were gravel, the side roads cinder and in the villages the streets were of brick. The canal that ran past our house was very deep. It was like a street, with house boats, motor boats which hauled milk to the city, sail boats and even row boats. In the Winter when the canal froze over, folks came to skate. It was hard enough to skate on for only a very short time before the ice opened up again. I remember one day when it was good skating, many people were there and they had set up a tent near the bridge which was near our house. Some ladies were selling hot chocolate and cookies. The chocolate sold for 2 cents per cup, but I don’t remember how much the cookies cost. Katherine and I didn't have skates, so we came with an old chair with the back off which we would turn upside-down, holding onto the legs. We'd push it as fast as we could, then jump onto the seat and slide across the ice. A man told me to sit on the chair and he pushed me really fast, then came back and gave Katherine a ride on her chair. To us it was great fun! Our folks and Charlie had skates, in fact, I think Charlie still has his.
We enjoyed going to Grandpa Dantuma's house, as Grandma always had something good for us kids to eat. Grandpa worked in a flax factory. While we were there we would also spend an afternoon with Dad's sister Amie and family and also his brother Simon and family. Their children were our age and we would play together. On Sunday mornings we would all walk to church together.
There would always be a big parade for Queen Julianna's birthday (much like we have here for the 4th of July). The school children marched, boys dressed in white shirts and dark pants, with an orange scarf-like banner over one shoulder, crossing the chest and fastened at the waist. The girls dressed in white dresses with an orange sash. Older girls wore orange pins or flowers. Those that had horses in the parade had the manes and tails trimmed in orange, orange being the National color. The people of Holland don't all wear the baggy pants and white pointed bonnets we see in pictures. They actually dress just like we do in the United States, except they wear wooden shoes. Only on the Island Flevoland do they dress that way.
I started school the first part of April 1913, but as we were to move to America in May, I didn't learn much. In Holland the school year starts in April. There was no summer vacation like here, they gave the oldest children two weeks off in the Spring to plant potatoes and other things, and again in the Fall they would get 2 weeks off to pick up potatoes from the fields. By the time you are 9 or 10 years old, you would have finished the 8th grade. My brother Charlie was 9 when we left Holland, and he was in the 8th grade.




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