Some more of my mother’s memories

In Friesland many kids and also the adults wore clogs, especially in the winter.  I liked walking in clogs, no wet feet, in the snow we made long sliding paths, which was much easier with clogs than with shoes.  Sometimes a thick layer of snow would stick under the clogs, than it was difficult walking, but we also tried to get as much snow as possible, that was a fun game.  If you managed a lot of snow, you sometimes lost your balance and you fell in the snow.  Of course that was not at all bad.  Sometimes the top of the clog broke, a metal thread was wrapped around it then.  But usually we got new ones pretty soon, black ones with some “gold” dots and stripes.

At school we had to take them off, neatly lined up under the coat rack.  Every child had their own hook for their coat and hat, or jacket and cap.  That stayed the same the whole year.  I don’t remember if ever there were clogs lost or exchanged.  If you forgot your hat or scarf, that was no disaster, the teacher knew which child had which hook.  In the clogs we wore black socks over our hose.  Those socks had leather soles, to be stronger.  The shoemaker sewed the soles under the socks.  When I was a bit older rubber boots came into fashion.  Those we could keep on in class.  I really loved my black boots.  A beret, a dark grey raincoat and my black boots.  I looked like a boy, I loved that.  The raincoat was made from an old coat of my father’s. I really loved it, also because it had nice deep pockets to put my hands in.

In those days there were many people who had no job, even if they had learned a trade.  The tailor, who had made the coat, was also hit by the crisis [Translator’s note: This was the same time as the Depression].  We had a baker, whose assistant delivered the bread to the customers.  One day he told my mother, that he had to leave his boss, because he couldn’t pay him anymore, but he had found a job with another baker.  And now he asked my mother to buy her bread from the other baker.  My mother did not really like it that he asked her that, but she also pitied him, as he also had a family to support.  So she decided to buy one week from the one and one week from the other baker.

I have come out a bit different than I planned, so now a bit more about the clogs.  Some children in school had to walk really far, sometimes an hour or longer, and they had no bikes, and the sand path were very muddy after a rain, and the snow did not get shoveled, so sometimes these children had very wet feet when they arrived at school.  Sometimes their clogs were even broken.  They were allowed to sit a while near the big stove in the corner of the room.  (There was no central heating in our school).  The stove burned coke [Transl.  note: a kind of coal], and the janitor of the school (Liewsma) had to light all the stoves early in the morning, because of course, it had to be warm when school started.  It was a big job, dragging the big coal buckets from the storage bin outside behind the school to the classes.  And a full bucket of coal had to be near each stove, so the teacher could fill the stove if necessary.  Nowadays people have again wood stoves, so the children can understand how nice such a big stove in the room was.  When it became early dark in the winter, the lights had to go on.  These were not electric lights, but gas lights.  Under the shade there was no light bulb, but a gauze “mantle” as they were called.  They hung from long tubes, through which the gas ran.  The gas cock was opened, a match was held neat the “mantle” and with a soft plop the gas ignited.  It whistles softly and the light was a bit bluish yellow.  If you pulled on a small chain, the flame became higher.

In those days the children learned to write on a slate.  At home we had a slate and slate-pencil, but just as I went to first grade they were no longer used.  There were loads of them in the closets, but I don’t remember what was done with them.  I had received a beautiful sponge-box, that was a box in which you stored a wet sponge to clean the slate.  But we did not need that anymore.  Instead we had to bring an ink rag, with which we could wipe the crown pen.

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