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chapter 3


After the war my father assisted the authorities to deal with the collaborators and trial proceedings of the war criminals. He was at one stage the commandant of a political prisoner jail which was an old castle near Ede and which contained a few high profile inmates,Hess was one of them, ending up looking after the one remaining one who had been jailed for life, the others had either been executed, died in prison or suicided.

The security was very tight because of the many attempts on the life of the remaining prisoner who was regarded as evil and had escaped the death penalty in return for giving vital evidence at the war trials.

Many years later my father was presented a medal by the Dutch Queen at a special award ceremony were he and others were recognised for their contribution to the war effort in the underground. He was always bitter for the lack of earlier recognition, having been overlooked until it was really to late in his opinion.

School recommenced after the war and we went to High School in a prefabricated building. I had the feeling that it was a prisoner camp, it was set out like one and probably was something of this sort before we got the use of it. One of the teachers stuck in my mind, a tall man who used to arrive in the class room, standing erect waiting for the din to die down. He arrived smoking, pulled a metal cylinder out of his pocket, unscrewing this, so very slowly, it seemed to take a long time, put his burning cigarette in it and rescrew the top back on.

He taught us mathematics and bookkeeping. Bookkeeping was the subject which took my fancy and therefore liked doing, never having less than a 100% grade for each assignment. I also liked geometry and algebra but never persued these subjects since and doubt that my marks for these where to fantastic. The problem with geometry in particular was the need to learn the many laws which was to much hard work for me. I cannot have worked hard at school having worked out a system that since the teacher judged you mainly on written work without to much probing what you actually had learned, my system was, on arrival home to sort out what I absolutely had to do by way of written work, do it there and then, disappear to play with my friends which by that stage were numerous and all over town, returning for dinner, and being out again unless I had to complete a major assingment.

I think I must have avoided having learned anything of consequense at school in those years. Used to feel strongly why not teach us practical things. Sort of liked the languages, French, German and English. Not so much Dutch. English was the easiest, this helped later when emigrating to New Zealand. This was the only language were one could have a go at speaking it before having learned much of the grammar and structure, it appealed to me that one could bluff one's way through the oral exams.

When I started High School there were seven classes, these dwindled gradually into only two and the cancelling of a whole school year, the last year at school even these were reduced into one class.

My father put his business on hold and started a job as a foreman for Wijnands and Willemsen who made and installed roller shutters and sun protection shade covers, mainly for large scale commercial projects but also the more substantial residences. One of the largest orders was for KLM, the Dutch National Airlines, at their airport at Schipholm, these were automatic steel roller doors for their hangars and you can well imagine their size.

Finishing High School I too started work in their workshop store. After a while I was allowed to reorganise their store and was put in charge of it. Soon thereafter I ended up in their office.

My father was one of the few true craftsmen taking pride in his trade and any aspect of what he did. On our Sunday walks he used to point out the houses he had painted years ago and were still in good condition, his long lasting results were his pride and joy. He also used to make and restore lead light windows, designing and making them up from stratch. He also restored the painwork of valuable antique motor cars and horse carts for clients, painting them by hand as a spray gun did not give the desired result. He applied dozens of lacquer coats, scraping each coat with glass and sanding down between coats.

The antique horse drawn vehicles required intricate gold leaf patterns and designs. He used to receive requests from all over the country as there were few craftsmen of his type still around but as these took so much time he ended up doing only one once in a while. He was fussy and made up his own paint from scratch not trusting the manufacterers, using large vats of red and white lead as their base. He was not a good business man. He had a few employees at different stages but he liked to work on his own better.

The firm my father and I worked for was in the adjacent city Arnhem. We travelled there each day by electric train. A feeder bus from the city centre took us to the railway station which was on the other side of town, if I was late, I walked to the station, In Arnhem it was a short walk to work.

As a typist clerk it was one of my jobs to type these very long detailed contract proposals, each many dozen foolscap pages long. No errors were allowed in them, nor alterations of any kind and in those days twink did not exist. Many a time I was required to retype a whole page for one letter mistakes, so well corrected that you needed a magnifying glass to see that there was an alteration.

As Salary increases, other than merit increases were based on diplomas and certificates of almost any kind in rapid succession I gained these in typing, shorthand and various bookkeeping and economics subjects. It took me a couple of months to get my typing diploma, slightly longer for the shorthand one. The shorthand tutor initially refused to allow me to sit for the exam as she said I was only half way through the course and could do with more practice, never my best point, needless to say she relented and I passed with credible marks. For that exam I had to travel to another town near by, the examination room was massive and the impression to this day was that the room was so large that you could hardly see the other side of the room. There were some male candidates but most were females.

Economics was a fun subject, I had a private tutor with a couple of mates. Very interesting was the study of the stock market, particularly as it related to International economic and political trends. At that point the Vietnam war was on the horizon and the stock market trends in the movements of materials could be clearly seen, examples we analysed were, if there was going to be a major conflict, textile stock would good to be in as soldiers needed uniforms, metals, not the least steel and copper would be good to be in as would be all resource stock and the list went on. Not only were we correct in the predicting of stock price rises and not to bad with estimating dates of major battle initiatives. The exercise clearly brought home how fortunes are made through wars.

At work I was teased often by the one and only female typist/clerk, a young well endowed lady who realising that my interests at that age did not include young girls and took advantage of that to tease me but even more through me the male office manager who thought she was a bit of alright. It was her practice to stand behind me when I was sitting at my desk and throw her arms around me. In my struggle to free myself more often than not one of her breasts would escape from her blouse to the considerable interest of the office manager who was as jealous as hell.

I was drafted into the Dutch Army for compulsory military service whilst in the middle of my accountancy studies and working my way up in the firm. There was no way out even if I thought it unfair to be out of circulation for two years. As it transpired at the conclusion of the initial basic training course I was selected for further training as commissioned officer which would lead to an extended stay in the army wether I liked it or not for a further three years making it a five year term at least, nothing of this exited me and after briefly flirting with the idea to finish my degree in accountancy in the Army decided against that and tried to find a way out.

Being called to front the commanding officer for some misdemeanour or other there and then put in a formal request for release from the army in order to emigrate overseas, I had come to the conclusion that death or emigration apparently were the only reasons to get out. The sheer audacity to make such request when being marched into the room to face the commanding Officer to await my punishment must have done the trick as I was allowed leave and then had to sort out where I was going to emigrate to.

I had not worked out were I wanted to go. Some of my friends had gone to Australia, Canada seemed to cold to me. I did not have much information on Australia but felt that it seemed everyone was going there and I was never keen to follow the herd so to speak and felt that there should be a more interesting place to go to. I became keen on South Africa and applied for a job as an underground mine supervisor trainee but did not succeed for that position for medical reasons, I did not have a large enough chest capacity. Opportunity to study, pay, terms and condition were great I thought at the time.

I next turned my attention to New Zealand, it was reputed to be simular to Holland in many ways as far people and social conditions were concerned and economic wise in much better shape than Holland which was only slowly recovering from the war. As it transpired after a few years the roles were totally reversed.

In preparation to travel overseas I started to take lessons in conversation English with a private teacher. I had learned English of sorts at secondary school but was far from proficient although I could read in that language ok.

Leaving for overseas I packed a small suitcase with basic necessities and made my way to Amsterdam, the port of departure waiving goodby to my parents when the boat moved away from the pier. My sister Margriet was conceived from about that day as an afterthought baby thus emotions were obviously running high

Hennie van Dyk

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