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Archive for September, 2013

Theresa Hupp wrote a lovely post today about National Family History Month, which begins tomorrow. Please enjoy!

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At this point in the interview of Grandpa, a time warp occurs.  The interviewer writes:

Once the children were in school, Edna went back to work. She worked in Western Michigan [University]’s print shop. She told Adrian that they were doing fine on his earnings so she was going to invest hers so they could travel. And travel they did. Between 1964 and 1988 they toured Europe (twice), Scandinavia, Spain and Portugal, North Africa, Australia, New Zeeland, Fiji Islands, Hawaii (twice), all the continental United States and Canada! After 1988 illnesses and surgery prevented them from traveling but this past summer [1994] they were again able to travel to Minnesota and Georgia.

In fact, it wasn’t until around the time that a few of us grandchildren were in school that Grandma went “back” into the work force full-time. I used to visit her on campus in the tiny old building where the print shop was housed. In there, she worked the mimeograph and xerox machines. It was fun to see Grandma in her work element with her co-workers–and at the college she had graduated from, as well as so many other family members (including, eventually, me). The only other time I had seen this was when she worked Christmas season at the J.C. Penney,in the basement of the downtown store. In an earlier post, I wrote about Grandma working as a teacher her first year out of college, but then she had gotten married and raised a family.

I remember when they first went to Europe in 1964. They brought me back an Eiffel tower charm for my charm bracelet, a signed book called Ludmila, from Liechtenstein, and a doll in a native Swiss costume.

Grandpa set up a projector in our living room and showed his children and grandchildren their slides from Europe. I remember the glory of the tulips in the country of his ancestors, The Netherlands.

I just bought this book to read about the tulip craze that swept the world and brought wealth to The Netherlands.

Travel abroad was so special in those days. Grandma and Grandpa spread their belongings to be packed out on a long table in the basement, showing us how they were bringing American toilet paper because the toilet paper was like sand paper in Europe. They were so excited to share all the little details they had learned about travelling out of the country.

When Grandma and Grandpa travelled to California, they took the train. At one point a little boy decided that Grandpa was James Arness, the star of Gunsmoke, or Peter Graves, the star of Mission Impossible (I can’t remember right now which one; the actors were brothers). He refused to be told anything different. That wasn’t the only time Grandpa was mistaken for a movie actor.

Because I was so young when my grandparents started travelling, I think they helped expand my view of the world–and of them.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part XI of Grandpa’s story . . . .

Here are the first parts of the story:

Click this link for Part I

Click this link for Part II

Click this link for Part III

Click this link for Part IV

Click this link for Part V

Click this link for Part VI

Click this link for Part VII

Click this link for Part VIII

Click this link for Part IX

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My grandfather was an individualist and an independent thinker. But he was also a bit of a contradiction because he was dependent on my grandmother (and she on Grandpa) and liked to talk to other people. Grandpa was a born storyteller and storytellers need audiences.

The next passage in Grandpa’s story illustrates his individualism:

Grandma and Grandpa attended First United Methodist Church in downtown Kalamazoo (known for many years as First Methodist before the denomination merged with United Brethren). Although his relatives had belonged to the (Dutch) Reformed Church, that stopped after Grandpa’s mother had gotten angry at someone. She had given a quilt to the church for a White Elephant sale (or something similar), and then she saw it hanging from someone else’s clothesline. The implication was that she discovered someone had “appropriated” the quilt for herself. That caused my great-grandmother not to go back to her own church. Like many of the family stories that have been told and re-told until I learned them, this could be the reason–or there could be another reason.

Grandma was brought up in Caledonia, and the Methodist Church was part of her upbringing. So it was natural that my grandparents attended the big English Gothic church. The building was brand new when my grandparents were starting out their lives as a married couple.

First United Methodist Church, Kalamazoo

First United Methodist Church, Kalamazoo

A lot of my mother’s extended family went to this church and it’s seen my family at baptisms, weddings, and funeral receptions. I attended Sunday School there at least one year and Bible School at least one summer and have gone to services, most notably many Christmas Eves.

Photo by Chad Boorsma

I remember looking for Grandpa after the service one Sunday. He was in the “treasury.” On other occasions, I remember trying to get him to come to service with us, but he never would.

Why? He said he couldn’t sit still.

And I think that’s true. Wherever Grandpa was with family, no matter what we were in the middle of, he would suddenly stand up and say, “Time to go, Edna.” He had what we used to call “ants in his pants” and had to be on the move.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part X of Grandpa’s story . . . .

Here are the first parts of the story:

Click this link for Part I

Click this link for Part II

Click this link for Part III

Click this link for Part IV

Click this link for Part V

Click this link for Part VI

Click this link for Part VII

Click this link for Part VIII

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In the last post I told you how Grandpa owned the Sunoco gas station. He actually ran it for fifty years. In the middle of the passage about the business, Connie mentioned the following:

They [Adrian and Edna] built a new house (Adrian can still recite all the specs and dimensions  for that house) and their son was born in 1936. They had two daughters, one 2 and one 7 years later.

I’d like to clarify what Connie wrote there.  Grandma and Grandpa got married in 1932, then built their new house in 1934, the same year their first child, my mother was born. Two years later, her brother was born, and in 1940, her sister was born.

Mom and Uncle Don

Mom and Uncle Don

According to Google maps, the house Grandpa built is still there.  Here is a photo of it from 1947:

Grandma and Grandpa's house on Burdick Street

Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Burdick Street

Eventually ivy grew up the chimney side of the house.

This is the house where my mom and her siblings grew up. It’s where we went for Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s where I stayed every weekday in kindergarten while Grandma babysat me.

When you walked in that front door, their living room was to the left and the kitchen to the right. Straight ahead took you to the two back bedrooms. Upstairs there were three bedrooms. The window over the front porch was the tiny room in front. In there they kept an iron crib and I found my uncle’s books. The bedroom on the side by the chimney was the big bedroom. In there I found the chest with my mother’s treasures and the little corner shelf. The mirrored shadowbox hung on the wall with the miniatures displayed on the shelves.  I slept in the bedroom which was really a hallway, tucked under the eaves, but right by the stairway and therefore closest to the only bathroom, which was around the corner from the bottom of the stairs.

This house is also where I read the books of my mother and uncle and aunt (Zane Gray, the Bobbsey Twins, Black Beauty, all the Louisa May Alcott books) and played with their toys, such as my mom’s miniature collection. I pored over all the scrapbooks my mother had made out of newspaper and popular magazine clippings.  Scrapbooks about grooming and beauty, Frank Sinatra, Shirley Temple. I studied the photo albums, especially the pictures of my mom with her light brown braids pinned up on top of her head.

Eventually my grandparents sold the house and bought one in Portage, the suburb their kids lived in. Though the house left the family, I doubt the house ever really left any of us.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part IX of Grandpa’s story . . . .

Here are the first parts of the story:

Click this link for Part I

Click this link for Part II

Click this link for Part III

Click this link for Part IV

Click this link for Part V

Click this link for Part VI

Click this link for Part VII

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When we left off, Grandpa had lost his parents and grandfather.

According to Connie:

Adrian and Edna were married just before Adrian’s mother passed away in 1932. That same year he bought back the family market. The following year he tore down the market and built a gas station on the corner of Burdick and Balch. He ran that station for the next 50 years.

As the story goes, Adrian and his sweetheart, Edna, married a few months before his mother passed away.  They got married in May of 1932 in South Bend, Indiana, without a big wedding. This is their wedding portrait:

Adrian Jr. and Edna (Mulder) Zuidweg, 1932

Adrian Jr. and Edna (Mulder) Zuidweg, 1932

What I hadn’t realized was that Grandpa bought back the “family market.” I hadn’t even known the store was sold! After his father got ill, Adriaan (sr.) sold the soda shop along with, I presume, the beautiful marble countertop. I don’t know who purchased it, but Grandpa bought it back–and instead of running the same sort of shop as his father, he turned it into a gas station.

Grandpa by the pump at his Sunoco station

Grandpa by the pump at his Sunoco station

In this photo of Grandpa by the pump, we are facing the station, which was at the SW corner of Burdick and Balch in Kalamazoo. On the NW corner, just across the street stood, and still stands, the Richard DeKorn house, built in 1885 by my great-great-grandfather. The brick house in the background of the photo is not the Dekorn house, but a different house, a bit farther down Balch Street.

Connie writes that Grandpa said that although he worked 12-14 hours a day at the station, he spent plenty of time with his kids.

When I was five Grandma babysat me every school day, and I saw that Grandpa had his own routine down. Early in the morning he would leave the house and pick up a newspaper at Michigan News Agency. It was still dark outside. Then he would leave for work while it was still early. However, the station was only three lots down from the house so he didn’t go far. And we could go down and see him whenever we liked–and always to bring him a home-cooked lunch.

When Grandpa came home from work at suppertime, his work uniform was covered with grease from working on cars down in the “pit.” He’d go straight downstairs to the basement and take a shower under the shower head he had rigged up over the drain in the floor. That way when he came upstairs to greet us, he would be squeaky clean and ready for his dinner.

Grandpa’s shock here at the loss of “personal contact” is emblematic of his practical and logical thinking, as well as his  homespun philosophies. I can’t help but feel that he was so right in what he said. If he knew that today people sit with each other and interact only with their cell phones, he would be appalled.

It’s true that Grandpa loved to take his family on vacations. My mother has good memories of the family road trips.  When I stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I discovered a cedar chest filled with my mother’s treasures, and one of them was a very pretty silver and turquoise bracelet she had gotten on a family trip.  I still have that bracelet.

Grandma and Grandpa playing shuffleboard in Florida

Grandma and Grandpa playing shuffleboard in Florida

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part VIII of Grandpa’s story . . . .

Here are the first parts of the story:

Click this link for Part I

Click this link for Part II

Click this link for Part III

Click this link for Part IV

Click this link for Part V

Click this link for Part VI

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