Early days of my life - III


He did not approve of his painting ethics, however, because the painters trade in the Netherlands required quite a time to learn. Father had developed his ability to a point of specialization. When he painted woodwork ... it looked like a china dish when completed. He could not understand how any one in this country could just hire out as a painter because one had to be an apprentice for some time in the Netherlands under a tutor before he was permitted to go out and paint.
I remember a certain Mr. Jan Stegehuis staying at our home for quite a while with my father as his tutor.

        I attended first grade at Grandville Avenue Christian School as soon as possible. The first three grades were in the Dutch language. We had a very strict man teacher by the name of Mr. Brandes for whom I had great respect. A school teacher was someone in those days...and they did not spare the rod.
I got along real well at school, though. I made good grades but I think I was a bit on the shy side. I believe that we really felt that we were indeed Dutchmen. Even the other children at our school were set apart, not because of their being Dutch immigrants like to were but because we attended a Christian school. When we met the children from Hall Public School, who were going home south and we north they would try to push us and say scornfully,

Dutchman, Dutchman, belly full of straw.
Can't say nothing but 'Yaw, yaw, yaw'.


They did not realize what we had which they did not have. We had wonderful Christian teachers who not only taught us the three 'R's' but who when they told us the Bible stories made them really live in our hearts. I owe much of my Christian upbringing to my Christian home but my school brought this all into perspective.

        At 13 years of age, I graduated from eighth grade. I think my average was 94, 2nd or 3rd highest in my class. I'm very thankful for the influence of my school. At that time tuition was twenty five cents per pupil a week. As I became older I would sometimes collect from grandparents and childless couples to make up the deficit when parents could not pay tuition.
I did this for my father. It was called the 'Supply Fund'.

        After graduating and turning fourteen I went to work for the Joe Stegehuis family. They had six children and besides caring for them I did housework and every other day made bread. These people were friends of my parents.
Mrs. Stegehuis was helping her husband in his cigar business. Later on, I worked as a domestic in other homes on the eastend of Grand Rapids.

        At the age of sixteen, however, I applied for a job at what was then the Grand Rapids Dry Cleaners. They were just opening shop and with my father at my side I applied for work there. Mr. Issac Hollemans who is now 80 years of age, still rubs it in to me once in a while with a good natured chuckle. He and Mr. Ralph Hulst were the owners.
I got the job and did the bookkeeping and other general office work. When I started I received $5.00 per week but by the time I left eight years later I was making $22.00. When I quit working there it was to get married.
As a wedding gift I received $50.00 in gold pieces from the firm and a dinner set from my friend Ike ... including an 'Original Receiving Set' (a little toilet in a huge box, all by itself).

        I had the pleasure of returning to my native land with my husband in 1969. It was a wonderful experience. We met so many relatives we did not know. We had a wonderful family reunion. It was held in the North Kerk at Hilversum and lasted from 4:00 p.m. Saturday until midnight.

...Niesje

Nellie Ruiter Baas
1970






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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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