A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 44. Life in the Village during 1920s and 1930s

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The way I saw and lived it in those years, the way I understood and tried to remember: the community was divided more or less by religion.

Within half a kilometre was the catholic church, a boys school and a separate girls school with nuns as teachers. Within this boundary was the town hall, fire department and the only policeman. Most businesses were located here too: like three saloons, three bakeries, three groceries, two bicycle shops, two blacksmiths, two painting shops, one house builder and one horse stable.

At the crossing where the Holy Mountain road, the Stoutenburger street, Asschat and Hamersveldse road came together, we had two tolls to catch any outsiders who would want to visit for business or pleasure. One of the blacksmiths took care of both tolls. Us local inhabitants did not have to pay.

This of course was the vocal point of the district. Anyone with a little free time would grab their bike and head for the "Toll". Here was where local yarn was spun, rumors born, tall tales told, gossip started, feathers plucked, and the latest news digested.

This place was dominated by Catholics, not that there was any hate or friction: we treated each other not as brothers or sisters but more like good neighbors.

In business, there was no distinction, but on the social level there was very little mixing. Mother was very strict about that. Pa was much more liberal: he knew where the earthly goods came from. We had Catholic and Public (called Protestant) schools supported by paying tuition fees. The saying was, if someone made a mistake, "Go and get your school money back".

Ma made us go to church every morning at 8 a.m. I did not mind because I might be late for church, but I was always in time for school.

Ma always had a habit of being late. It was so well known that if someone who wanted to go to church saw Ma go by, they would say, “Forget it - There goes Heiltje, too late". I hated to be late. I guess I never got over it.

One time, Ma talked me into becoming an altar boy. She figured that was the first step to become a priest (her secret ambition). I said OK. You see, every year the priest would take the altar boys on a trip somewhere during vacation for a whole day. So Ma went to see pastor Van Harten. His answer was, "Sorry, but we have enough boys".

The truth of the matter was really “Only boys from important people are considered" - that is, wealthy farmers with lots of earthly goods. Yes, money and appearance determined your status. Equality was an unknown word, maybe even dirty. You had to take your hat off for the priest, the minister, the lord who lived in the mansion, the school teacher, the mayor and the doctor, and you addressed them with "thou" not "you".

Real gossip (not toll gossip) was practised on a daily basis about affairs that took place after dark. This was very interesting because everybody knows everybody so if you could stretch the truth a little more you became more important and people would look up to you.

It was tremendously exciting when in 1938 a girl who was 18 became a mother. A bachelor farmer of 38 years of age claimed to be the father. The people talked about it for months. Piet Stalenhoef, the farmer, even wrote a poem. He said "Business is going wild, unmarried and already a child." They did wed soon after.

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