Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Non-Miniature History....

Sheila's and Huibrecht's comments on the Christmas creche set has set off some memories. As we are in a lock-down here again, due to Covid, I don't know if  I will have minis to write about today. So here are a couple of interesting stories, for those who might want something to read.

The creche figures and the original paper and wire grotto were kept in a Red Cross box. This box was a heavy, wooden affair, painted light grey and with the circle and cross on top. It was probably parachuted down into the occupied Netherlands during the WWII, and found a new life for a family treasure, eventually crossing the ocean to Canada. I have absolutely no idea where it is now, as I think Dad passed it on to someone when he moved from Ontario to Vancouver Island, BC at the age of 87.

(I should mention here that my father was transferred to Canada from The Netherlands, which meant that we could bring most of our household effects with us, as well as flying  - 12 hours (in 1956) in a KLM Clipper,  via Reykjavik, Iceland because Shannon, Ireland (refuelling stop) was fogged in, rather than travelling by boat. We were very fortunate, judging by stories from other immigrants at the time, who came with what they had in their suitcases and with legally limited amounts of money; my memory thinks about $100 per person back then,  travelling 8 or more days on board a passenger ship.)

My father's earliest memory was of standing on the bank of the Maas river, with a large man in a greatcoat and a spiked helmet checking his mother's papers, so that they could cross by rowboat to Belgium. This would have been around 1917, as my dad remembered he was about 3 years old at the time. The trip was because his step-grandfather had died in Liege, and my grandmother needed to deal with some family matters there. My father's older brothers (he was the baby) always teased him that his birth, on August 1, 1914, had been the cause of the outbreak of the first world war.

My only brother has an interest in history, and somewhere, as a child, he purchased a pikkel-haub helmet at a rummage or yard sale. (One of those black helmets with a visor and a brass spike on the top.) A few years ago, he discovered that there was a name under the sweat-band of the helmet, so he looked it up. It had belonged to a German poet, with a museum in his memory in his home town. The helmet was offered to the museum by my brother, and it is now on display there.

My younger daughter purchased a couple of vintage suitcases, to turn into bedside tables for the steampunk-themed guest room in her house,  two or so years ago. In the lining of one of the suitcases, she found an identification bracelet with a full name on it. With the aid of my older daughter, who has a degree in Museum Science, they traced the name back to a Canadian soldier. Research turned up no descendants that they could discover, and I'm not sure where the bracelet is now. Had they found family members, they would have given them the bracelet.

Things hold memories; no matter how humble, a box, a helmet, a bracelet, history unfolds and tells us a tale. It's good to reflect on memories....


  1. Hello Marijke,

    Well in this time of year it is fitting to reflect en reminisce over memories, is it not? What special have shared. Objects themselves can have such interesting histories! I loved reading about the Pickelhaube and the suitcases. Thank you for sharing them.

    The image of the WW1 soldier checking their papers on the banks of the Maas before they could enter occupied Belgium is a strong image. I can imagine that your father never forgot that image. And to think that WW1 was just over one century ago!

    Cherish all good memories, Marijke.


  2. Ik maakte mijn ouders gek met wat ik nog kon herinneren! Mijn eerste was een visite aan mijn overgrootmoeder die in Amsterdam woonde. Ik was, volgens mijn ouders, zo'n 2 1/2 jaar oud. Ik wist dat we bloemen hadden gekocht, in een glas-in-lood kioskje op een pleintje, dat ik een groen geruit jurkje met roode koordjes aan de hals en de pofmouwtjes, en dat er blauwe druifjes groeide rondom mijn over-grootouders' huis. Mijn over-grootmoder herinner ik me niet! En ik kan nog altijd mijn weg vinden in Maastricht, heel veel jaren later.

  3. This is very thought provoking. My observation is that many members of the younger generations are living in smaller homes and are not able to keep the reminders of past stories.

    1. I agree with that, Sherrill. Here in Canada, many young people have given up the hope of ever having a home of their own, and are paying very high rents for poky little places. All the domino
      effects of Covid aren't helping. We're on lock-down again....