Early days of my life - II


For mother, it meant leaving behind her only brother, Arend. He was married to a wonderful Christian, Ante Jo, whom he had tought to read and write while he was courting her. He had already established himself in the Rusk Industry even though he had begun in a very humble way. In fact, this business had taken on such dimensions that he was already considered to be a wealthy man in Zuidwolde, Drenthe. Many were the poor people who turned to the Bosscher home for relief in their poverty ... and they were never sent away empty.

        There was a great attachment between my mother and her brother. He used to take her to the grave of her parents as a child even though she did not seem very interested. When my father told his brother-in-law of his plans to go to the U.S. with his sister and children, my mother's brother was crushed and thinking that my father was, perhaps, leaving because of financial pressure, he offered my father $1,000 if he would reconsider. This offer was made unbeknown to my mother, this time my father could not be dissuaded and so final plans for passage were begun.

        After staying at the home of relatives for one night in Vroomshoop who lived right on the canal we proceeded on to the world's greatest harbor, Rotterdam. 'Goodbyes' in those days meant parting until we would met each other on the heavenly shore.
My father never saw his family again for just about the time that his family had grown up he passed away at the age of fifty one years (June 15, 1929). My mother returned to her homeland for a visit in 1936.

        The trip on the ocean in March (departed on the 10th) was not too pleasant. I remember many a time that I had to cling to my father's coat-tails as I was trying to walk on the ship because it was so stormy. At one time a great wave caused everything on the table to capsize. My mother was pregnant with her fourth child ... this baby was born here in August, a little Emma but she died a short time there after.
One night the boat stopped for a short time and we were told that an only child of a certain couple had contacted scarlet fever and had died. Being a contagious disease the body had to be disposed of in the watery grave of the ocean. This made me feel very sad.
With us on the ship were also many Russian Jews. Our crossing took place about the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. I recall the stench on the promenade deck, when these people with whatever their diet was, gave way to their sea sickness.

        After about a two week trip, we landed at Ellis Island just off land from Now York City. It was my fifth birthday, March 21, 1906. As I remember it was a dismal place. We were herded in for inspections, etc. Finally, we boarded the train for Grand Rapids. There my great aunt, Tante Griet (Huls), my father's mother's sister, received us. They lived on Coate Street. She and her husband, Oome Harm, had five daughters, Jennie (Postema), Fannie (Bosma), Hattie (Slanger), Nellie (Van Dyke) and Josephine (Lenger) and one son named Louis.
The girls gave us American names. I, Niesje, became Nellie. I still don't like the name. I would have preferred to have had it remain as it was. My sister, Lammechien, three years of age, became Elizabeth and my brother Pieter, one and a half years, became Peter.

        We settled in a home on Caulfield Avenue. However, this was quite a long distance from Grandville Avenue Christian School were I had been enrolled to go to school. In fact, my mother evidently felt the need to walk the distance with me for I can remember that she brought me and other children to our school at the 'Toll-Gate'.
My mother knew this could not continue and so in May we also moved to Lily Street near to where Tante Griet lived. I remember that my parent found out that there were bed-bugs in that house and so my father filled every crack in the beds with paint to eliminate them. My poor mother!

        My parents bought only the furniture which they considered absolutely necessary. What a far cry from my mother's beautiful home in the Netherlands! At first she was very lonely and unhappy and would have crawled back to the Netherlands had she had the chance. She was so taken back with the strange land. The language, in particular, was a great barrier. She did not care to learn it and continued to speak Dutch most of the time.
My father, on the other hand, had to get out into the world. He got a job as a painter for Klaas Hoeksema, a Hollander.






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In 1970 Niesje (Nellie) Ruiter typed three pages with, what she called, the early days of her life. Her memories of the voyage from the Netherlands and the first years living in the U.S.A. make an interesting comparison to the story as told by her father in his letter from 1906. In the beginning it was definitely not as rosy as Roelof would like his relatives in the Netherlands believe.
Only four years after she wrote this little autobiography, Niesje died.
Bob Haan kindly sent me this copy.



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