A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 24. The Music Man and the Chicken Farmer

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Once a week, an organ grinder came to our village. The organ was a huge music box on wooden wheels with steel rims - four altogether - two on one axle in the middle of this contraption, one smaller wheel in the front, and one in the rear.

They could balance this machine so that all the weight was on the centre axle which made it possible to get around the corners. It was very hard to move it but wifie was always there to give a helping hand. They stopped in front of every house. He would get busy cranking this man killer while she got out her wooden cup coming to the door for a hand out - one or two pennies were usually the profit.

They were very friendly people. She always wore a smile with her shiny black hair, and he always carried a big mustache.

My brother who was five years stronger than I, asked one time, "Can I turn the big wheel that makes music?" The man said, "Go ahead." Well, he did not go very far. He managed a couple of turns on the wheel but poor John could not get it up to the speed which is needed to make it work.

I have seen other organ grinders at work but they were more modernized or richer perhaps, because they had an old worn out horse to pull the organ, and a gasoline engine to drive the big wheel.

Another old fellow was Mister Pieterse, called the "Chicken Farmer". He had no farm, no, all he had was a transport bike - called so because of the heavy frame and tires. Over the front wheel, he had a good size basket with a lid where he carried his merchandise which was mostly chickens. Every two weeks or so, he stopped in at our house to see if Ma had any chickens for sale. Out of 200 hens quite often there were sick ones or ones that got too old or did not lay eggs any more. Those were good for Mister Pieterse, he would buy them all as long as they were still breathing.

We asked one time when he purchased another sick hen, "What are you going to do with this sick bird?" He said, "I have an old lady customer in the city to whom I sell this. The next morning I go to her house to see if the window shutters are still closed. If they are open, I know she is still alive and good for another one". Well, we thought that was a smart way to find out if he lost her as a customer.

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