You’ve got mail

It’s getting hard to imagine life before cheap phone calls and “The Internet”. But  in the 1950’s and 1960’s, moving to the other end of the world was a pretty radical thing to do. Letters were the only practical way to keep in touch, particularly in the form of aerograms (single sheet, folding letters).

Letter from Oma Kooij

Aerograms were economical and convenient, taking typically around a week to travel between the Netherlands and Australia.

Mum and Dad kept any family correspondence and there are hundreds of letters in the archive. Of course, these are (with rare exceptions) letters from friends and relatives rather than those they sent themselves, but they represent an interesting snapshot of family history from the late sixties.

While all the correspondence is in Dutch, Google Translate does a passable job with the letters. Here is Dutch Transcription of the letter above and here is a English Translation. So… here is my next task, scanning and transcribing hundreds of letters… I have set myself a target of 25 letters a month to scan and transcribe, so this will be a ‘work in progress’ for a few years…

Here are 25 letters which I scanned in April. You will need a password…  please email me (mh@coomans.com) and I’ll send it to you.

 

 

Mucking up in class

I’m still working my way through all of Dad’s “stuff” , posting items of interest to the Picstory.net site.

One of the items was a sketchbook with photos, taking during his time at the Academy of Arts in Rotterdam. A bunch of students having a bit of fun (Dad is the one with the violin).

It looks like these photos were taken of the “activities” described in this letter (translation), suspending him from the Academy for two days. So what were they celebrating? The invasion in Normandy a few days earlier?

In any case, Dad did not finish that year at the Academy, he was picked up by the Germans, together with his future brother-in-law, Jord. They were sent to Germany by river boat but escaped on the way. He spent the rest of the war in hiding at Peer de Hoed‘s place. You can read a letter from his sister, Henny written during that time (detail on pictory.net).

Letter from Henny

Letter from Henny to Dad
22 Novemvber 1944

This letter was written to Dad in late 1944. At the time, he was in hiding at “Peer de Hoed” after escaping from a barge as he and and his future brother-in-law, Jord were on their way to Germany as forced labour. I remember him telling us about the worst blisters in his life which he got while escaping (as well as being shot at…

The letter is not in a very good state, here is what I can read of it. A scan of the original is here. (12/12/16 – Added a few missing words, Thanks Arie Kooij! And thanks to Simon for “gekebbel…”)

R’dam 22 Nov 44

Beste Jo,

‘t Is zoo vreemd zonder jou hier thuis en ons gekebbel, dat ik je maar eens zal schrijven. Het gaat je hoop ik al wat beter? We waren blij dat je alleen maar blaren had, ‘t had nog erger kunnen zijn! Henki groeit nog steeds en ik ben benieuwd of hij je nog kent. Vanavond zouden we voor het laatst licht hebben tot kwart voor 7, maar om half negen is het nog.

De jongens spelen konijn en eten rauwe kool. ‘t Is een stel apen hoor! Pa zou met Kooij naar the Hoeksche Waard, maar ze mochten niet over den brug. En regenen dat het deed. Jammer heh? Alleen wat savoye kool hadden ze.

Vanmorgen had de bakker de opwekkende mededeling dat er nog voor 14 dagen meel is. We eten nu kool en erwten!.

Nouw Jopie, het beste hoor en houd maar moed.

Hartelijke groeten van

Henny and Henki …….

Oom Jo, ik heb nieuwe zwarte lak schoenen!

Dag

…..

Jopie

Old wife how do you do?

Alles nog in orde? Met mij is alles nog bestig (?) We zitten allemaal te  xxxx over schrijf  dat en dit aan Jo  maar ik zeg. Ik schrijf enkel maar over mezelf. Leuk heh? Xxxxxx heeft zelf ook wat geschreven. Xxxxx xx?

Ach Jo ze hebben hier het allerlaatste avondmaal afgeschaft. Is dat geen rotstreek? En vanavond hebben we ERWTENSOEP. Zalig he ? Heb je

[Front top (upside down):]

Lieve Joop

Zondag zal ik schrijven

………………………………………………………… dag