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In 1933, when I was 13 (easy to remember, me being 20 years younger than this century), I had to make a choice: stay in school for another year, or go to a place of higher learning.
Seems John would keep on trucking, now he was 18 and got his driver's licence. The law said, everyone had to stay in school till the age of 14.
Sister Annie suggested that I become a priest. I said, "No way, I am much too mean for that. Imagine some day a guy coming to confession and telling me he committed a crime; I would go right after him and beat the devil out of him. You see, Annie, that would not work."
Become a farmer? No, that would not work either, my heart was not in it. The reason might be that I already learned a bit about farming. Every night after school, I went to work at the farm of Jan and Keetje van Zuilen across the road. Jan taught me how to milk a cow, how to tie a rope around her legs so she could not kick, sit on the right hand side and pull and squeeze for the fluid to come out. I never became good at it.
The work on the farm was never done. In the winter, when the cows lived in the house with the people, the cows had to be milked, the manure had to be shovelled away, feed had to be hauled in from the barn, hay had to come in from the hay berg (stack) outside and the cows had to be fed and watered. This was all repeated in the morning.
In the summertime was the added burden to grow feed like beets, hay, oats etc., etc. This was going on 7 days a week, 365 sometimes 366 days a year. I thought there might be another possibility to make a living.
Maybe if I went to school some more, and learned what was cooking on the other side of the fence, I might get a taste for something I like.
When I asked Pa what I should do, he said "I don't know, I am too old." When I asked Ma, she was all for getting more education. But learn to be what? I didn't want to be a farmer, priest, doctor, bookworm, beggar, dentist, or a teacher. What was left?
Down the street resided Jan Smink. He was a house builder and had a very modern shop with all kind of woodworking machinery. Some days when they were working, you could hear those big saws just a screaming. That was very intriguing, but also scary. I never dared to get too close but it always seemed to call me back.
So when Ma asked what I wanted to learn, I said, "I want to be a carpenter." I am sure the reason was that I wanted to find out all about them there machines. In my heart, trucks which could run faster and carry much bigger loads than a horse, were even more appealing, but there were only 3 in the whole district, and to get involved with them, you might as well try to fly to the moon.
One day, Ma had arranged a visit to see the trade school in Amersfoort and I was to come too. I was awed by what I saw: a great big building with many classrooms. To my big surprise, you could learn everything. Not only carpentry but also plumbing, electricity, blue printing, painting, machinist, welding and automobile repair. Later on, I cast many a longing look at the boys in that last shop. However, it was too late for me, I was already enrolled in the sawdust factory.
The headmaster asked Ma how much Pa earned, Ma said $20 a week. Based on this information, the school figured the tuition fee they would charge.
I had a little money saved up myself. Pa let me keep the tips, how did I get tips? Every month, the farmers got paid for the milk they delivered. Dad got a sealed envelope from the dairy with the name and amount for each client with their money inside. He would bring it home and hand it over to us.
This was an exciting day when we would see the reaction of the different farmers when we handed over the loot. They would look inside right away to see how much or how little money they got this month. Mostly it was happiness, because the times were hard and getting a whole month of milk money was something to behold. They appreciated it so much they rewarded us with a tip of ten cents.
But some would growl because they figured they should have got a lot more. I started to think it was all a show, being always the same ones. No tips here of course. Thus I talked my little sister into delivering the pay for those customers, so she could enjoy the griping and whining too.
Now with all that currency in Ma's hand, we were in shape to get to school. I was required to bring a pocket knife, wow, wee! Because there was no pocket knife in the family, Ma was obliged to get me a brand new 25 cent one. Boy, oh boy, first new tool ever.
Besides this, I needed a bike. This was a different story: only one ladies' bicycle at home and mother needed it every Friday to go to the market to sell eggs. I don't how they managed, but a brand new one came from the city.