A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 6: The Roaring Twenties?

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Life for me in the 1920s was very exciting. I had to contend with my bigger brother and sisters. They were good to fight with if there was a lack of other excitement.

When there was a wedding in the village and we heard about it, we were always listening to hear the horses trotting down the road. If there were more than one - like 3 or 4 - we ran like lightening to see if it was the bridal party. If it was, we stood there just a-waving. Usually the party-goers were in a good mood and would throw candy out to us. Abruptly, the waving would stop as we all dove for the sweet stuff, then the fights would start about who got the most.

Other times we would make a run for the road when we heard a car coming. That certainly was no daily occurrence, in total there were may be 2 or 3 in the village. Once we witnessed two cyclists who had a rope fastened on the spare tire, which was on the rear of the automobile, being towed. We figured that that must be the easy way to get around.

Another time, I was on my way to school when we met the doctor driving a model T. When he drove by us, one of his rear rims came off. But no problem, he just kept right on going on the wooden spokes until he got home where he promptly ran into the steel fence of wrought iron which was in front of his home. That stopped him alright. So now we had to find out how to fix it. The tire was still in the ditch where it came off the car. You can imagine how well we kept our eyes and ears open.

It wasn't until the next day that a truck came from the big city. The driver brought with him a long pole with two little wheels, on top of which was a kind of fork. To operate this contraption, he raised the pole up in the air, pushed the wheels and fork under the car axle, then he pushed down on the pole and lo and behold the car axle and wheel came off the pavement. Now it was a simple case of tying the pole to the truck and off they went, the Model T running backwards to the big garage in the city.

Close to the church was what was known as the nuns' house. In it were the girls' school, the nuns, of course, of which some were teachers, some old people who could no longer look after themselves, and some older folks who had enough money to board there and be waited upon.

Well, one day, a rich lady moved in from the city. We got the idea that she was rich from the fact that her possessions were moved by a truck which was unheard of. We heard ahead of time of this event and boy, were we ready.

Us boys were astounded by the enormous contraption. We were quite frightened when it thundered past to deliver its load. However, we were not discouraged by the noise and the pounding on the brick road. We felt very safe behind a tree. When it stopped and the men started to unload its contents, we shuffled up close to gape at this modern marvel. I looked up with respect to a man who could drive an intricate machine like this.

The place up front where the operator sat, was full of handles, levers, knobs, buttons and pedals. Yes, sir, he must be real smart with a lot of education. Soon the moment would come for the truck to move. The ropes and blankets were thrown back on the truck. The driver went in behind the huge steering wheel and hollered something to his helper. His helper took hold of a crank which was hanging in front of the engine and started winding the thing but nothing happened - maybe he was turning the wrong way. "No", said Pete Hilhorst, "you cannot crank it the wrong way." He knew because a week ago a car came to his store to bring some stuff and he watched to see how that fellow did it.

In any case, the helper soon got tired but the driver insisted that he crank it some more and by golly it went with a puff of smoke and an awful racket. It did not seem much trouble to get it moving. The operator stepped on some pedals, pulled some levers and away it went, just a bouncing on them steel wheels with hard rubber pads. We noticed how it was driven by a chain, just like a bicycle, but of course much, much bigger. For about a kilometer we ran behind it until we got tired. Then we watched for awhile until it disappeared around a bend in the road.

Other exciting events happened during our early years - one was during harvest time. After the farmers got their crops, piled up in the (hooiberg) haystack, came thrashing time. If we didn't hear the arrival of the thrashing machine by word of mouth, we would hear it in the distance working on a farm. Every year, one machine would come around and go from farm to farm to do the thrashing. To us, it looked like a scientific marvel. It was huge and wide with wheels and pulleys protruding everywhere. It was usually towed by Fordson tractor with steel wheels. All my friends, who didn't have to do chores at home, or had already done them, came to discuss and advise on how things should proceed.

It became especially lively when the tractor wheels started to spin, being made of a smooth steel band, so as not to tear up the brick roads. It did not have much traction when the going got tough. We, of course, enjoyed that because the enormous contraption came to a stop. Then the operator had to bolt big cleats on the wheels. They made holes in the ground but were effective. Now he could pull the machine wherever he wanted to.

After the thrasher was put in place, the tractor got hooked up to it with a long flat belt and made the whole contraption come to life. It took about 8 men to work it. Two men on top, one collected the sheaves and sliced the band which would hold them together, then shoved it off the table to a man who kind of pulled them apart and fed it into the machine.

When the thrashing started, it seemed like they fed a big hungry monster, because every sheaf it swallowed sounded like wwwwwwooom, grrrwwwwoom, grrrwwwoom, and you could hear that noise over a long distance.

At one end, there were bags tied to the machine to collect the grain, all cleaned and separated in different grades. At the other end, the straw came out. There were three men to catch and tie it up again. Usually, the farmer had a basket with (Blomay) or Red Star (Rooie ster) apples standing around for the workmen. But we tried to get our share. In order to accomplish that, we started by helping out with different things. If we succeeded, we got our share, if not, we had to try the next farm when the machine got there.

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