Sunday, August 31, 2014

Grandpa and Grandma's Memories

Today my grandpa would have turned 94 but instead, it's his first birthday celebrating in heaven. I wanted to take the time to record some of his and my grandma's memories along with a few pictures.

I blogged about some of my favorite childhood memories of Grandpa back on his 90th birthday. After his death, one of the few possessions he still had was a little memory journal my sister gave my grandma when she entered the nursing home called To the Best of My Recollection.  It's a guided daily journal of childhood memories and is also a great idea to have for someone who is homebound or in the nursing home so visitors can ask them about their childhood and write down their answers to preserve the memories.

My grandma liked talking about herself :) and I used to visit her a few times per month before my volleyball league games. Once in a while, grandpa was there too and he'd chime in. Here are the answers to the questions I asked. I wanted to record them not only for my own memory but for those interested family members as well. Sometimes the notes don't make the most sense, but it's what they remember and what I wrote down.

When were you born?
Grandma: May 29, 1920
Grandpa: August 31, 1920

Name your brothers and sisters and when they were born:
  1. Joyce Marna Koele - 10/20/18 m. Pete Timmer
  2. Velma Beth Koele - 5/29/20 m. James Vander Kooi
  3. Fern Eileen Koele - 8/14/22 m. ? Hall
  4. Phyliss May Koele - 10/6/25 m. Leonard Campbell
  1. William "Bill" Vander Kooi (6.5 years older) m. Grace
  2. Agnes Vander Kooi  m. Wilfred Worfman
  3. Josie "Jo" Vander Kooi  m. Jake Van Berkam
  4. Sarah "Sally" Vander Kooi m. Jacob Timmer (brother to Pete who married Grandma's sister). He was a candy salesman for Thorburg.
  5. James Vander Kooi - 10/31/20 m. Velma Koele
  6. Gertrude Vander Kooi (4 years younger) m. Gene Scholton (only surviving sibling and lives in George)
None of the kids had middle names. Bill and Gert went to Western and the rest went to Hull Public because his dad couldn't afford to send multiple kids to Christian school at once.

Do you have any knowledge of the origins of your family name?
Grandma: "Koele" (my grandma's maiden name) was not originally our name, it was "Gerritson", but they changed it to Koele in the Netherlands because some other family abandoned that name. Not sure why? Scandal? The Koele house [in the Netherlands] has 1854 on the thatched roof, so the name change was before then.  "Ver Steeg" was her mother's maiden name, but Velmca's mother's grandpa was not a Ver Steeg because her dad was conceived out of wedlock-not sure who the father was.
My mother didn't know what to name me and she saw the name "Velma" in the paper.
Grandpa: "Vander Kooi" means "from the cage". It's fitting because my grandpa William (Ben's dad) was a bully. We couldn't go to school on grandpa's birthday-we had to go to a party. He was the king, but he didn't even know our (grandchildren's) names.

Did your mother work outside the home?
Grandma: She was a seamstress-sewed clothes for people. She was also a post mistress - worked in the post office. She went to college in Omaha.

What did you and your brothers or sisters fight about the most?
Grandma: They had a lot of laundry from the barbershop and grocery store. She also ironed for "four fussy old maids" and had to turn clothes inside out, iron the seams, the turn right side out. Her sisters helped, but none of them liked to do it.

Tell about a favorite Aunt:
Grandma: Aunt Ada and Aunt Millie were old maids. Millie was "slow". I did lots of errands for Ada. Ada taught school (Latin) in Ames for 40 years and lived to be 83. She had teacups and leather books. She bought Kleenex, etc. whenever it was on sale-hoarded it. She tried to save every penny- would go across town to save $0.05/lb on oranges. Found $500 in a dresser drawer when she died.
Grandpa: "Tante Hanna" Vander Kooi. Most uncles and aunts lived around Hull.

Tell about a favorite Uncle:
Grandma: Gordon Mackie- went to basketball games with him and played canasta with them when Jim was in the service. His wife was Coba--she was a trouble maker and jealous of her sister (Grandma's mother) because she had a college education. There were 9 uncles on the Koele side, 2 on her mother's side, but wasn't close to any of them...just visited.

Grandpa: Uncle Charlie came for coffee every morning - next to where he worked. Uncle John Vander Kooi - he was a mechanic at a garage in Hull. Ben (Grandpa's dad) owned the garage for a while, then John took over. John had a boy named Bill, a little younger than grandpa- he was killed in the service.  John spoke Dutch and only had one eye - think he dropped a tool on it. His wife was real Dutch. They called them "Tante Hannah and Oma John". She did most of the talking. They went to Ben and Theresa's (Grandpa's parents) every Sunday after church for coffee and expected a cigar every time they came over.

Tell about the neatest shoes you ever owned as a youth:
Grandma: We couldn't have many pairs of new shoes-we were poor. The slip-on shoes were cheap - the leather was worn down on the heel, but I had to wear those white shoes for Sunday. I only had 3-4 pairs at a time.
Grandpa: I had 2 pairs of shoes - work shoes and dress shoes. I wore the dress shoes to school. We took a bath once a week on Saturday night-everyone wanted to be first. We used a round tub heated on a cook stove.
Grandma: We had a boiler on the side of the cook stove and always bought Palm Olive Soap.
Grandpa: My mother made soap.

What did you do to earn money when you were young?
Grandma: I had to wash white barbershop towels once a week - at least 100 towels, 2 towels per customer. Starrett's Store towels - also washed those for extra money. I made popcorn for band concerts and sold it for $0.05/bag. The merry-go-round cost $0.05...
Grandpa: No, it was a penny a ride. The merry-go-round was next to where Pizza Ranch is now in Hull. A pint of ice cream was $0.15.
Grandma: Donuts were about $0.05. Weezies next door made cake donuts in their garage every Saturday for $0.25/dozen. They were good!

Tell about the naughtiest thing you ever did:
Grandma: Hitchhicked home from college in Mankato in 1940 at age 20. She wanted to get home so badly but didn't have money for at rain ticket. Rode with several different cars and one let her out in a cornfield. Her parents were very angry.

Tell about the worst winder storm that you can remember as a child:
Grandma:They had so much snow they made a tunnel in the street to go to school. She doesn't remember school getting called off for snow.

Who was the most famous person you ever met as a child?
Grandma: Governor Blue of Iowa - Gov. for a long time. I met him in Des Moines at a ball game in high school.

Tell about the first time you ever saw TV:
Grandma: We had one of the first TV's in town. Jim damaged it when we delivered it somewhere so that's why they got it. The first show they watched was a boxing match.

What was your favorite radio program?
Grandma: Amos and Andy (comedy) and The Hit Parade (hit songs of the week) in Junior High. The family sat down and listened.

What was your favorite movie as a youth?
Grandma: "Gone with the Wind". She was a freshman in High school. There was a theater in Rock Valley and Sheldon and we'd go there on a date.

Tell about your first date:
Grandma: We were on the Boyden-Hull school grounds, sitting on the merry-go-round, played on the teeter totter-stayed at the park all evening. One of our first dates with a car, they borrowed Bill's Model A, drove to Doon to pick up a friend's girlfriend. On the way, we tipped over, didn't get hurt, and just kept going and went on with the date.

What is the biggest problem you remember having in High School?
Grandma: During a fire drill, someone had waxed the escape slide and I slid right out.

Describe a place you liked to go to be alone.
Grandma: I liked to go away in the car by myself-either go someplace-sometimes to Rock Valley to visit Joyce. I just liked to go away in the car. Not all women had a license, but I was determined to learn how to drive-otherwise it would be along day.

Tell of a place that you discovered or built as a "haven" for your gang.
Grandma: We had a gang meeting on the school grounds. We would all congregate on the merry-go-round and teeter totter. We'd make our own fun - played jacks.

Tell about a favorite "hang out" place for you and your friends.
Grandma: Bruce (her son) and his friends always hung out in the basement of the Hoekema house and wouldn't let anyone else come in. 
I hung out on the school grounds - broke her left arm on teeter totter - broke the skin and had to go to Omaha to get it fixed and in the sling. That trip was my first taste of potato chips. The kids would play marbles on the sidewalk and slide down the outside fire escapes.
My dad was the manager of the city softball team-they played in the SW corner of the school grounds and were called the Hull Orphans because no one would sponsor them. Jim and Dick Dykstra and Chuck Kroese played. We lived across the street from the school when I was K-12 in school (where Tom Van Leeuwen lives now). I painted the outside of the whole house herself, gut bursitis and had to be in the hospital a whole week with a sore arm. I painted it white with a yellow sunburst.

Did kids every tease you? About what?
Grandma: They teased me about being left-handed. They'd call me an "odd-ball". And I was short and had dark hair.

Tell about the best pet you ever had:
Grandma: Goldfish - didn't have to monkey with it.

Tell about other pets:
Grandma: Bruce had a toy terrier "Sparky" when he was young. She wasn't too fond of that. He got one because she thought he deserved one, being a little boy, but she ended up taking care of the dumb thing-that's probably why she didn't like it.

How did you spend you Saturdays during the school year?
Grandma: Helping my mother clean the house. Every Saturday night I worked at a popcorn stand in front of the grocery store and just got paid with free popcorn.

How did you spend your Sundays?
Grandma: Church and Sunday School. Had a big Sunday dinner- roast, potatoes, carrots, and pie. We could invite friends over to eat. I did homework in the afternoon and goofed off. We had afternoon service at 1:00 but our family usually just went in the morning.

What was the naughtiest or meanest thing you remember doing in school? What were the consequences?
Grandma: We had school in the little white school house- an addition to the regular school. We had typing in there. When we were alone, we'd scatter the coal that was stored there. The teacher didn't do anything about the coal because everyone was involved. We'd also draw pictures on the sidewalk with chalk in front of the school. The school just accepted the chalk drawings as "kids' stuff" - they were never mean pictures.

Tell about your schoool.
Grandma: School was very different. There was one big school with a little white school house next to it because they ran out of room. I took typing in that schoolhouse and could type over 100 wpm. Junior year I won a typing contest in Minneapolis. Freshman year of college I went to a spelling contest in Minneapolis. I never took semester tests because I always had an above 95 average.  I was the salutatorian because I had a 95.23 average. The valedictorian was Marie Wallinga who had a 95.42.

What year did you graduate from high school?
Grandpa: 1938 (they were in the same class)
Grandma: After graduation they had a party at the superintendent's house...
Grandpa: ...where they had cake and ice cream. There were 24 students in the class at Hull Public School.
Grandma: We were one of the largest classes at the time.
Grandpa: The superintendent also taught Math classes and coached basketball and baseball (the only sports teams we had) and I played both. The High School gym was a cracker box. We played games at the Opera House.

Grandma: The Prom (we called it The Banquet) was in the HS gym, decorated like Holland and we used a big mirror from the barber shop and broke it when they put ducks and rocks on it. Juniors and Seniors got to go to the banquet.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your childhood?
Grandma: I came from a family of 4 girls. My mother and grandmother also came from a family of 4 girls. I canned peas, beans, raspberries, rhubarb, carrots from the garden-a lot got thrown out.  I always lived in town and my father and grandpa Ver Steeg were barbers. Grandpa Ver Steeg was the post master and he would deliver the war mail right away (WWI). He was honored with a rocking chair for his service. His daughter (my mother) because assistant post mistress-she worked in the post office here and in Bellflower when she lived in California.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from recent years of Grandpa:

Meeting Ryan in the hospital (2009)
Ryan's baptism

Memorial Day 2010 with Ryan
90th birthday (2010)
Memorial Day 2012?
Meeting Cohen James, Christmas 2012
Ryan and Cohen 2013
Thanksgiving 2013

This is my favorite picture from recent years because it's how I want to remember him--laughing.

We love you and miss you, Grandpa!


Anonymous said...

I was so excited to discover your post. The state of Washington opened up adoption records last year. I learned that my birth mother was Ferne Eileen Koele born August 31, 1922. She was your Grandmother's sister. Since that time I have made contact with her daughter and my half sister. She sent me some pictures of our Mother and her family. I am planning of meeting my sister later this month. I just completed a picture album that I plan to give to her and your Grandmother is in several of them as a child and young woman.
What a neat idea to interview your Grandparents and record it for future generations.
Thank you for doing that!
Jan Light

cobo said...

I'm glad you enjoyed, Jan. I hope you are able to meet with your half-sister and receive some additional family information.