A Short Family History back to Dos Ramos Family Tree
By Edith U.M. Sjaarda - dos Ramos.
Bonaire, December 1995. Rewritten in Surinam 1997 and 1998.
The reason for writing my family history is that I was asked by my children Karin and Jan and also Armando's children, Janet and Melisa, to write this history of my family. This was not so easy since I had to do a lot of digging in my memories. I will try to give you all a short, but clear, story and hope that all of you will get an idea of how things were and how it all happened. After talking to my brother Carlos and several of my cousins I decided to rewrite this family history. Owing to their information, I was able to be more accurate. So I want to thank my brother Carlos, Irene and Lucretia Ho A Hing, granddaughters of Manna, (half sister of my mother), our cousin Dettie Pitti and her sister Claudine, both daughters of my aunt Marie (my father's sister), also Theresia and Gillie Nederbiel, children of aunt Goergetina, (my mother's sister) and Xenia De Abreu, daughter of my aunt Beatrice, (also my mother's sister).
A SHORT FAMILY HISTORY
At the end of the 19th century, our two grandfathers left Madeira for South America. In those days it was quite an adventure as the way to travel was by boat, and the boats were not as luxurious as they are these days. I guess there were only steamships and sailing boats, somehow I assume that they travelled South by steamship.
GREGORIO DOS RAMOS my grandfather
Thanks to the fact that my daughter Karin did some research on Madeira, when she was there on vacation in July 1998, we now know that Gregorio was the son of Ana de Jezus and Francisco dos Ramos, on his turn, this Francisco was the son of José dos Ramos and Francisca da Encarnaçao. Ana de Jezus, was the daughter of Joao da Costa and Francisca de Jezus.
|Gregorio dos Ramos, my paternal grandfather, was born in the first hour of March 22nd 1873. He must have left Madeira when he was approximately 25 years old. He came to Surinam as a bachelor, probably around 1898, and started a wine business in the Jodenbreestr in the centre of Paramaribo. He had a housekeeper taking care of him, since he was a bachelor. She was a black woman and her name was Mapo Finkly and not Findlay as I wrote before. So there was no blood relationship between her and David Findlay, editor of the daily newspaper De WEST.|
At first this Mapo was just his housekeeper, but later on she became a little more, and after a while she got pregnant with his child.
His other portuguese friends thought it was a big shame and they told him, that he should go back to Madeira to find himself a portuguese wife. At last he left, but he didn't go to Madeira, instead he went to Venezuela where he had some friends. Through these friends he met my grandmother Adelaide Rodrigues. I keep wondering though, if she was related to Antonio Rodrigues, since the father of the Antonio Rodrigues that we knew, was a friend of my grandfather. Possibly family of the old Antonio was living in Venezuela. This is just a guess, I don't know anything for sure, but it is remarkable that our grandma's name was Rodrigues. At least now I know that my grandmother was a Venezuelian. The mother of Adelaide Rodrigues, was an indian woman and her father was a portuguese. My grandfather got married to Adelaide Rodrigues and came back to Surinam around 1900, where all their five children were born.
Their first child was my father Carlos John, who was born on November 20th 190l. Second was Augustinus, born on July 25th 1904. Third was Joao Alfredo, born on August 15th 1907. Fourth was Maria Amelia Adelaide born on January 23rd 1911. Fifth was Lygia, probably born in 1914.
This Mapo stayed with the dos Ramos family as their housekeeper and her daughter Jet, grew up together with the other dos Ramos children. My grandmother was a kindhearted lady and accepted this Mapo and her daughter Jet.
All this information I got from my cousin Dettie, I never knew that tante Jet was in fact the half sister of my father, he always told us that tante Jet was his foster sister.
I never got a chance to know tante Jet well, because as far as I can remember she was living in St Laurent, French Guyana. She was married to a chinese man from there. She never had children of her own, but always had foster children. One of the children that she brought up was our cousin Claudine Piti, I don't know at what age she went to live with tante Jet, but I do know that she went to school there and came back to Surinam after she finished school. In the school vacations she used to come home to her parents and her brothers and sisters in Paramaribo, sometimes she would bring one of her foster sisters with her. I can remember one of the girls, whose name was Theo, I suppose this was short for Theodora. She spoke only french, so it was hard for me to communicate with her, but somehow we managed to understand each other and I really liked her.
BACK TO MADEIRA
As I heard Gregorio dos Ramos came from a large family, he was one out of sixteen children, so after their first two sons were born, my grandfather took a trip to Madeira to introduce his wife and two sons to his family, I suppose it must have been in 1906, because their third son Joao Alfredo was born in Surinam on August 15th 1907. In 1915, Gregorio dos Ramos and his wife, again went to Madeira for a vacation and this time they took their two daughters, Marie and Lygia with them. Their three sons were left behind in Surinam to attend their school. Mapo took care of them so it was no problem, because Mapo was a good woman. When my grandfather got there, he enjoyed being in Madeira so much that he decided to stay there and let his three sons come over too. It must have been one year later that their sons joined the rest of their family in Madeira. A friend of Gregorio by the name of Antonio Rodrigues, he must have been the father of the Antonio Rodrigues that I knew, arranged everything in Surinam for their departure to Madeira. They lived there for approximately 11 years. In this period their children went to school in Madeira and learned to speak Portugese well. As a matter of fact their daughter Marie never went to school in Surinam, as she was four when they left and fifteen when they got back in Surinam.
Somehow my grandfather grew homesick of Surinam after all these years in Madeira and decided to go back to Surinam with the whole family. According to the information that I received from Madeira, he applied for a new pasport on september 23rd 1926, so he must have left Madeira a few weeks or months after this date. It is nice to know that through this application for a new pasport, we now know that his length was 1.77 meter, his hair was turning grey and he had brown eyes. He was 53 years old at that time. When they returned to Surinam, most probably in 1926, my grandfather and his family went back to live in his house at the "Waterkant" where he started a store downstairs, whereas they lived upstairs. According to my brother Carlos our grandfather used to sell groceries and also tools and oil lamps. Most of his customers were bushnegroes who came to town to do their shopping. Carlos remembers that grandfather also had a boat with which they used to drag wooden poles to town. This of course he had heard from my father. Our grandfather also imported one of the first cars in Surinam.
Their stay in Madeira resulted seven years later in the marriage of uncle Alfred with aunt Isaura Sylvester, a native of Madeira, who he had met there during their stay. After they returned to Surinam, he kept writing to her and their love kept growing. Finally he had her come over to Surinam to be his wife. They got married in 1933. They got three children by the names of Florinda, Orlando and Inez. All of their children are still alive.
FRANCISCO GONSALVES SERRAO my other grandfather
Francisco Gonsalves Serrão was my maternal grandfather. To my estimation he was born around 1853. He was a widower, and he had had four children, however two of them, Isabella and Adelaida, had died in childhood in Madeira. According to the information, that I got from Madeira, through my cousin Xenia, our grandfather left Madeira in september 1891 with his wife, whose name was Maria and his daughter, whose name was also Maria, (probably born in 1877) and their son Francisco (born in 1879). We also know that our grandfather was 1.67 meter tall and that his hair was chestnut brown and so were his eyes. He travelled to South America with his family at the age of 38 and first settled in British Guyana (then called Demerara).
Here is where they made friends with the family of Maria Gonsalves, who became his second wife, after his first wife had died, as I heard, of a heart attack. Before his first wife died, she had told her husband, that if she should die, he must marry this Maria Gonsalves as she liked her very much. So after the death of his first wife, Francisco and Maria Gonsalves got married, I assume around 1895, because their first daughter Georgetina, was born in Demerara on October 18th 1896. So Francisco got a new wife with the same christian name of Maria, which was also the name of his first wife and his first daughter
MARIA GONSALVES SERRAO my mother's half sister
By now Francisco's first daughter Maria from his previous marriage was a grown woman and must have had a relationship, which resulted in her pregnancy.
She gave birth to a daughter, who was born in Georgetown, British Guyana on March 23rd 1898, and was named Claudine, Beatrice (later she was called Yaya Clarie in the family). She was the first grandchild of Francisco Gonsalves Serrao. I got the information about Claudine's birth date from Maria's grand daughters Lucretia (zusje) and Irene, who are the daughters of Claudine, and at the same time great granddaughters of our grandfather Francisco. At the end of 1898, my grandfather and his family, which included Maria and her daughter Claudine, moved to Surinam.I don't know why he took this step, maybe it was just an adventure, but of course there might have been another unknown reason. When Maria's first daughter Claudine was about four years old, she got married to a portuguese named Mackz (I think that his real name was Marques, but was not registered properly) After Maria got married to this Mackz ,she gave birth to another daughter, named Adelina, who was born on August 23rd 1903. Later they got a son named Janus, he was called "Broer" (brother) Janus in the family.
So Francisco and his family settled here in Surinam, and they had two more daughters, Adeline who was born on July 31st 1899, and then my mother, Maria Mathilda, was born on June 28th 1901 (notice that another Maria now included Francisco's family). When my mother was born they were living in the Wagenwegstraat, which today is called the Dr. Nassylaan. Our grandfather must have had his store here close to the Gravenstr. When they were living here in Surinam, our grandparents kept on moving from one place to the other. He had his store on three other places. After the Wagenwegstr they must have moved to the zwartenhovenbrugstr, then the Koningstr. and finally Pad van Wanica. This name of the Zwartenhovenbrugstr. needs some explanation. Around 1900, the court of justice was established on the corner of the, then called Steenbakkersgracht and the zwartenhovenbrugstr. The name of the court was "Het Zwarte Hof" (Dutch for Black Court), this was because the judges were all dressed in black. (The english word for Zwart is Black and Hof means Court ). Brug stands for the bridges that were then on this corner. These bridges made it possible to cross the Steenbakkersgracht. Gracht means canal.
Some time later, again our grandparents left for Guyana. I can imagine that our grandmother wanted to be with her family in Guyana for a while. By that time her parents might also have been alive and still living there. I do know that the wife of our grandmother's brother was still alive and living in Guyana in 1950 when our family had moved there after the death of our sister Yvonne. Our grandmother's brother was already dead at that time. This aunt Gonsalves, as she was called by my mother and her sisters had two adult daughters, Darcelita and Ilaria and a son called Lionel. Darcelita was already married, but Ilaria and Lionel were still living at home with their mother.
In this second period in Guyana, our grandparents had another daughter, Beatrice who was born on February 14th 1904. They were very restless and kept moving back and forth.I am not sure when they moved back to Surinam, but I suppose, that it must have been in 1905 or 1906, because their fifth daughter, Carmina, was born in Surinam on November 19th 1906. The reason why they went back to Surinam might have been the fact that their eldest daughter Maria (from his first Marriage) was living in Surinam.
Our grandfather started a store here again, probably at the Koningstr. He used to sell clothing material. They must have been happy here for some time, but when our grandmother got pregnant again after four years, sadly enough, this pregnancy meant her death. She gave birth to her sixth daughter Rosa in 1910, and died due to complications. The baby was born healthy.
My grandmother was only 39 years old when she died and was buried in a cemetery that was situated on the corner of the Rust en Vredestraat and the dr. Sophie Redmonstr. I think somewhere in the fifties a school, teaching housekeeping, was built there and is still on the same spot.
My grandfather, at the age of 57, was left behind with his six daughters from his second marriage of which the eldest, Georgetina, was thirteen years old and the youngest was just a baby. His eldest daughter Maria, from his first marriage, was married and had her own family to take care of. Maria was called Manna( which is portuguese for sister), by her half sisters. My grandfather was not able to take care of all his daughters so he sent my mother, Maria Mathilda, who was nine years old to a Portugese family, who was not related by blood, but they were very good friends of my grandparents. My mother, Maria Mathilda, partly grew up in the Jodenbreestraat close to the big market, where this portuguese family was living. The people she lived with were also store owners as I remember my mother told me, she had to help bottling wine which came in barrels from Madeira. It was a tough job for her to carry all these heavy boxes with wine to the storage-room.
When our grandmother died, aunt Beatrice was only six years old and missed her mother very much, so when she saw this portguese lady by the name of Christina Da Silva, she thought that it was her mother and felt drawn to her and so did Christina, who had no children of her own. Christina da Silva was at that time also living in Surinam and was a store owner. This is how Tia, as she was later called in the family, became friends with our grandfather and his family. After some time, Tia went back to Guyana and took aunt Beatrice with her. The youngest daughter Rosa was taken care of by a portuguese couple who lived in the district of Saramacca.
So aunt Georgetina, aunt Adelina and aunt Carmen stayed with their father. My grandfather at that time had a store selling clothing materials in the Koningstraat which was then way out of town. Later on he moved to the Pad van Wanica, across from the Commisarisweg, which is a sideroad of the road going to the airport,in the district of Suriname. Here is where he died in 1917.
In the period that my mother lived in the Jodenbreestr with the before mentioned Portuguese family, she scarcely saw her father. Gregorio dos Ramos was a good friend of the Portugese family where my mother partly grew up. He was a regular visitor of this family, so my mother saw Gregorio dos Ramos more often than her own father and he was the one my mother used to turn to when she missed her father and sisters and had problems with the people she lived with. He comforted and advised her and was like a second father to her. My mother told me that she was more or less a slave to these people, who made her work very hard.
As I mentioned before, my grandfather had moved to Pad van Wanica after his wife had died. He again opened a store here. There were more portuguese families living in the neighborhood.
When my mother's father took in ill she was sixteen years old, she was really worried about him so she went back home to be with her sick father. When our grandfather became ill he had moved in at aunt Georgetina's house, so she could take care of him. A short time later, I don't know how much later, our grandfather died at the age of 64 on December 15th, 1917. He was buried on the cemetery of the Welgedacht A road, this is a sideroad of Pad van Wanica, which is the road leading to the airport. There is a catholic church on this corner and this was the church my mother's family used to visit. The church is still there today, and so is the cemetery
Aunt Georgetina was already married when her father died and was expecting her first child Alma, who was born on may 17th 1918, so our grandfather missed seeing his first granddaughter from his second marriage. I am not sure but I think that aunt Linda (She was also called Lina short for Adelina) went to live with Tia in British Guyana after the death of her father, aunt Beatrice was already living with Tia for some years. Aunt Carmen first stayed with aunt Georgetina and later also left for Guyana.
My mother didn't go back to live with the people in the Jodenbreestr., but instead went to live with Yaya, who was the first daughter of her half sister Manna. Yaya was married to a shoemaker, by the name of Willem Ho A Hing. At the time my mother went to live with her niece Yaya and her husband Willem, they had two children, the eldest was born on November 1st 1915. She was born two years before our grandpa died. So Francisco lived to see his first great grandchild. Her name was Lucretia but her grandmother, Manna (as Maria was called by her sisters), had problems pronouncing this name, so she used to call her "Zusje", up to today everybody calls her "Zusje". In 1917 they had another daughter called Nadia, who was the second great granddaughter of Francisco. She was known in the family as "Neetje". Later Yaya and Willem Ho a Hing got 10 more children. Four of these children are not alive anymore. There names are Nadia,( born in 1917), Humphry (born in 1919), Theresia (born in 1921) and Purcy (born in 1925).
Besides this niece Yaya, my mother also had her niece Adelina and her nephew Janus, who was younger than his sister Adelina. This Adelina was called small (ptjien) Lina as we already had another Lina in the family and she was not only younger but also shorter than my mother's sister Lina. I remember that this nephew Janus used to visit my mother frequently but as I remember my mother never visited him, I don't know why, but I guess she didn't like his wife. I have never seen her but I think she was a creole woman.
My mother lived with her niece Yaya for about two years. In this period she used to work at the "Vlechtschool" of the nuns. As I understood the "vlechtschool" is where the nuns learned young women to make straw hats and other items and they also had a store selling them. I think my mother was working in the store and at the same time learning how to make these straw hats. On her way to work my mother used to pass by the store of Lodewijk Wiersma, who fell in love with her. He was a mulato widower, partly from dutch origin and partly creole, and was 27 years older than my mother. This is why my mother had her doubts about marrying this "old" man. However she never regretted her decision to marry him. After some time, she gave way to his flattering, and got married to Lodewijk, Julius, Alexander Wiersma in 1920. She was 19 years old then. According to my mother Wiersma was a real gentleman, and he always treated her like a lady. He was a tailor and had a store called "Westerwinkel" selling clothing material in the Prinsenstraat. He learned my mother sewing, so she was able to assist him in making suits for gentlemen and at last she could make a suit on her own.
In the back of the front building, where my mother and Wiersma used to live, there was a little house for two maids. In a part of the house my mother had "Broer" Janus (son of her half sister) living with his wife and her daughter (not his daughter).I heard from my cousin Theresia, who was then living with my mother that this woman was not treating her daughter right, she used to beat her and then lock her up in the chickenhouse. I suppose that this is the reason why my mother didn't like this woman
In 1928 when Eugenia was still a baby, aunt Beatrice and uncle Leo together with their daughter Eugenia (born 1927), and also Tia da Silva came over for a visit from British Guyana. They were then still living in Venezuela, where they had moved to shortly after their marriage in 1925. Later on aunt Adelina and aunt Carmen joined them in Venezuela where they worked for several years in a store and learned to speak spanish. This was nice, but later they had problems talking portuguese, as these two languages are a little similar to each other. I suppose that aunt Beatrice and uncle Leo were visiting family in British Guyana and also came over to Surinam to visit their family here.
The marriage of my mother with Lodewijk Wiersma remained childless just like his previous marriage. He passed away in 1931 at the age of 58 after they were married for 11 years, and had a happy life together.
The year before, Gregorio dos Ramos, who had been my mother's big friend, died very suddenly at the age of 57 in 1930, while he was having his breakfast. It was assumed that he had a heart attack, but I think it is also possible that some food got stuck in his throat and cost a suffocation, or it also might have been a stroke. So whatever caused his death on November 11, 1930 we don't really know. His death came about four years after his return from Madeira. His wife survived him by approximately twelve years.
MY MOTHER'S NEW LIFE
Two years after the death of Lodewijk Wiersma, my mother got married to Carlos John dos Ramos, who was the eldest son of Gregorio dos Ramos and Adelaide Rodrigues. Their marriage took place on September 13th 1933., probably in the St Rosakerk in Paramaribo. Witnesses at their wedding were Eugène Piti, husband of my father's sister Marie and Albert, Emanuel Vasconcellos, who was probably the son of my mother's godsister Manna Vaconcellos. In this same year my father's brother Alfred got married to his fiance Isaura Sylvester, who was born in Madeira.
When my mother and father were married, they first kept the Prinsenstraat 70 as their home and my mother was still running the Westerwinkel, which was situated on the corner of the Hofstraat and the Prinsenstraat. She kept this store until she had another location.
Around 1933, again aunt Beatrice and uncle Leo paid my mother a visit. After Eugenia, they had a son who died in childhood in Aruba and after this last baby they had another daughter, called Xenia. So on this visit they had these two daughters with them.
My mother was a very progressive lady and wanted a bigger store, so she bought a property on the corner of the Zwartenhovenbrugstraat and the Steenbakkersgracht (which today is called Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat). She tore down the small houses that were built on this property and built a big two storey building, that covered the whole property and she opened her corner store, which was named "STANDAARD", approximately one year after her marriage. They had also moved to the upstairs part of this building, which now was their home. This wooden building has been renovated in 1996 and still stands. Although they made the downstairs of concrete, it still has the same shape, the upstairs is still of the same wood.
My brother Carlos Lodewijk was born in this big building. My mother named her first son after her two husbands, she told me that she had promised Lodewijk Wiersma that if she ever got a son she would name him Lodewijk. So my mother kept her promise. After a miscarriage in 1934, my brother Carlos was born in 1935 on April 30th. This was also the day on which Lodewijk Wiersma used to celebrate his birthday.
The eldest daughter of my mother's sister, Georgetina, whose name was Alma, was then living with my parents in Paramaribo. If I'm not mistaken she was attending the Vlecht-school in town and she also helped my mother in the store. A younger sister of Alma, namely Theresia, was also living with my mother. She was about eight years old and attending the Rosa school in town. If I'm not mistaken aunt Carmen was also living with my parents after she got back from Venezuela and was helping my mother in the store. Another help in the store was Nadia, the second daughter of Yaya. Besides the family my mother had working for her, she also had a cleaning woman by the name of nènè Louisa, who used to live in a little house in the Prinsenstr, which was in the back of the house, where my mother and Wiersma used to live. This little house was the same house wherein Broer Janus used to live. This nènè Louisa stayed with us for many years and saw us growing up, in fact she stayed there until she died.
AUNT GEORGETINA my mother's eldest sister
Aunt Georgetina was married to Frederik Edmond Nederbiel who was of Dutch and creole descent and was born on 23rd of June 1886. I never knew that this was his real name since he was called Frits in the family. He was ten years older than aunt Georgetina. Recently I discovered his grave, aunt Georgetina who died on October 27th 1982, at the age of 86, was buried next to him and they have one big tombstone. Frits Nederbiel died on the 24th of december 1930 only 44 years old, just before christmas, after he had stepped on a poisonous thorn from a tree. They are buried close to Francisco Gonsalves Serrao who died on December 15th 1917. On his tombstone was written "born in Madeira", his date of birth was not mentioned.
Aunt Georgetina and Frits Nederbiel had seven children by the names of Alma (born may 17th 1918) René (born July 17th 1919) Arnold, Olga, Esselien (born March 31st 1926), Theresia (born March 31st 1927) and Guillermo (born February 8th 1929). They had one more son who died as a baby and a daughter, named Hilde who also died at a young age. After the death of her husband, Aunt Georgetina must have had a hard time taking care of her family. At that time there were no insurances to take care of a widow and her children. My mother and aunt Adelina, who could afford it, gave her some support.
Later aunt Georgetina got four more children with Mr. Homoet but she never got married to him. The names of these children are Carmen, Ewald, Antoinette (Nette) and Ronald. These four children carry the family name of Gonsalves Serrao. I think they were born between 1934 and 1941
MY RESTLESS PARENTS
Having a store and a family at the same time, didn't work out well and as my father was not at all a bussiness man, my mother decided to sell the store to the Bettencourt family in 1936 when she was pregnant with me.
My parents moved back to the Prinsenstraat 70, where I was born on sunday August 23rd, 1936 at a quarter to six in the afternoon. At birth I received the names Edith Ursula Maria. I got an explanation from my mother in regard to my names. My mother had read a nice book in which the main character's name was Edith and she liked that name, Ursula was the name my father liked and Maria is the name most catholic girls got at birth.
After I was born my father went to Aruba to see if he could get a job there as he heard from his brother Augustinus, (he was called Tini in the family) who at that time was working at the oil refinery, that there was a lot of work in Aruba and that the wages were high. Uncle Tini was married to a French lady by the name of Mart and they had a daughter called Marie Clair. They were living in French Guyana so maybe this is why I never met his wife nor his daughter. Marie Clair must be about my age and she still lives in St Laurent, French Guyana. This marriage of uncle Tini and Mart didn't last and after his divorce he left for Aruba.
At the same time my mothers younger sister Beatrice was also living there with her husband Leo d'Abreu,they were married in British Guyana in 1925 and moved to Venezuela after their marriage, where their first daughter Eugenia was born in 1927. Later they moved to Aruba where Uncle Leo got a job at the oil Refinery. I think that the being there of a brother of my father and a sister of my mother on Aruba, was the reason why my father went over there to see if he liked the place and could get a job so we could also settle there.
In the meantime my mother grew very restless in Surinam so she sold her property on the corner of the Zwartenhovenbrugstraat and the Steenbakkersgracht to the people who were running her former store by the name of "Standaard", that was situated on this property. She had the idea of joining my father in Aruba soon, but my father had then just decided that he didn't like Aruba and wanted to go back to Surinam. My mother was disappointed and was sorry she had sold her property. She first went to the notary to see if she could get it back but the papers were already signed. Lucky for her the lot next to her store in the Steenbakkersgracht 31-35, was for sale and she decided to buy it, so she still had something to start with again. We remained living in the Prinsenstraat until Robbie was born on sunday, October 8th, 1939, at noontime. So Robby and I were born on a Sunday, this makes two of us in the family. He was called Robertus Wilfridus Gregorius, my father loaded him with these Latin names.
My parents were just as restless as their parents, so in 1940 they decided to start a farm at Pad van Wanica, approximately 14 km south of Paramaribo. By taking this step, we became the neighbours of aunt Georgetina, who was already living there for some time. The idea of starting a farm, came mainly from my father who had seen a lot of beautiful farms in Madeira. Since then he had dreamed of being a farmer himself.
They started out with a few cows and my father started to grow some fruits and vegetables and he enjoyed the country life very much. I remember that, although I was four years old, my father was really proud of the big water mellons he harvested. It must also have made quite an impression on me, for me to remember it at that age.
What also impressed me very much when we were living there was that Robbie fell off the stairs and had a deep cut in his forehead, he was just one year old then so it must have been in 1940. This cut left a mark on his forehead for the rest of his life. I remember all the blood and exitement for he had to be taken to the doctor for a few stitches, however this was not done as the doctor was living far away and there was no bus running then.
When Robbie was a baby, he had once before been the source of anxiety for my parents, when he caught pneumonia, but due to the good care of my mother, he survived. In those days pneumonia was the cause of death of many young children
I also remember another accident that took place on the stairs when the wife of my mothers half brother fell off the stairs and broke her arm, which also caused a lot of excitement. At that time they were living in Venezuela and were just visiting their relatives in Surinam. This brother, whose name was Francisco, was 22 years older than my mother, so he must have been about 61 years old then.
I am surprised of all the things I can remember at the age of four. For instance my fathers mother, the only grandmother I knew, used to come very often to visit us and sometimes she would take Carlos and me to town to visit tante Marie, my fathers sister, who was married to Eugène Pitti and lived at De Kerkplein in Paramaribo. Our oma was living with them. I know that oma spoiled us a lot, she was very sweet.
When I was four and a half years old, one night I could not sleep because my ears were hurting, and I was crying out for my mother but she didn't come. I heard people walking on the wooden floors up and down the stairs, while I kept crying, then after a while my father came to see why I was crying, he told me my mother couldn't come because the baby was being born. I hopefully asked if I had a sister now, my father answered that I had a sister and a brother so I was very happy especially that I had a sister since I already had two brothers, but I was also happy to have another brother. They were born shortly after midnight, my sister was born first and about half an hour later my youngest brother was born. My sister was named Yvonne Adelaide Maria, her first name was very popular at that time and her second name was the name of my grandmother who was still alive then. She was called Wonnie by us. My brother was named Armando Jorge. My father wanted him to have Portugese names. They were born in the first hour of January 29, 1941. I have to mention that the midwife who assisted my mother had to come by donkey cart since there was no bus running at that time of the night.
Robbie was only sixteen months old when the twins were born, so you can imagine how busy my mother must have been. It was a good thing that our cousin Alma was living with us and she helped my mother a lot with our bringing up. She was like a big sister to us.
BACK TO PARAMARIBO
In 1941 my brother Carlos was six years old and had to start primary school, so my parents moved back to Paramaribo and went to live in their house in the Steenbakkersgracht 35, where we lived for some time. When moving to town I remember, and so does my brother Carlos, that we had to take a bus. People who had products, such as fish, fruit and vegetables, used to take this bus to town where they would try to sell their products. So here we were sitting in this bus among those people and their products when I started to feel sick, probably the smell of the fish stimulated those feelings of sickness that were getting worse. Finally I couldn't hold it any longer and vomitted on top of the fish in front of me. The fish woman got mad which I can now understand and so could my mother then, so she paid for the fish.
It's crazy, but I can remember the first day that I went to nursery school. I was wearing a red dress with tiny white dots on it. Usually children cry on their first day in school but I didn't cry because I found it very interesting to meet so many other children. After we moved to town, there were problems again with Robbie's health. He suddenly became asthmatic, in Surinam they called this illness "bezetting". It was really pitiful to see him suffer during such an attack. My mother got advise from almost everybody she knew, as to what to give him, and I think she must have tried everything. Anyway he got over it and my mother kept on giving him 'Scotts Emulsion for many years.
If I'm not mistaken it was shortly after we moved back to town that aunt Carmen got married to Willem Bosman, who was somehow related to the Nederbiel family. I can remember that my mother was not very happy with her choice. This marriage didn't last long. When aunt Linda's husband, Richard Figueira took in ill, aunt Carmen went to Guyana to assist her sister and just to be with her, since uncle Rick was very ill. He died in 1948 and aunt Carmen never went back to her husband. This marriage remained childless.
Approximately around 1942, there was another commotion in the family. My father was guardian over his youngest sister Lygia who had plans to get married to Nando Lobato de Mesquita who was a jew. She needed permission of my father to get married since she was not yet thirty years old. Above this age, you don't need permission anymore from your parents or guardian. My father refused to give his permission because Nando was a jew. She then sought permission from the officer of justice which she got so she got married to Nando Lobato de Mesquita. I think they got about five children. We never had contact with this family until after in both families around the same time one of the children died. I met this aunt Lygia several times in the house of her sister who was my aunt Marie. In my remembrance she was a very nice and kind lady just like tante Marie. Nando Lobato de Mesquita was a good pianoplayer. He used to play in the hotels and could also be heard weekly on the radio. I know that I loved to hear him play but sometimes my father would turn off the radio when he was on the air.
In 1942 when I was six years old our oma dos Ramos died. I was very sad and I wanted to go to the funeral, but my mother told me that there were no children allowed. According to my brother Carlos he did go to the funeral and he remembers walking from St. Vincentius Ziekenhuis to the cemetery in the Princessestraat. I suppose my mother didn't want me to go to the funeral, probably because she thought I wouldn't be able to handle it.
I am not sure, but I think that my mother's sister Rosa, must have died around this time (1942), because I remember that my mother and father used to talk a lot about Rosa. Whenever one of my mother's sisters visited her they would talk about her.
After we had moved to Paramaribo, my father got an office job at "van Romondt's handelmij" at the Waterkant. This company was agent of the Lloyd boats that were coming to Surinam. I remember that my father had to visit the Lloyd boats that entered the harbour, and he enjoyed doing it very much. The office of this company was in the same building where my grandfather had his store and where they used to live.
While living in town, we used to go back to the country in the school vacations to spend some time with my aunt Georgetina, who was living in a house, next to the house where we used to live when we were small and where Armando and Wonnie were born. We used to take the train at Valiants Plein. This was where the train-station was located in town, close to Spanhoek,in the centre of town. I think the train stopped running in the fifties. We knew exactly that we had to get off at the Helena Christina station, which was about 14 km south of Paramaribo. We have very fine memories about these vacations; during the days we had our cousins to play with and in the evenings, we sat on the balcony with oillamps as there was no electricity and no water in the country in those dsays. To pass the time aunt Georgetina would tell us stories which we enjoyed very much and always wanted to hear more as she was a good storyteller. Most of the stories were portuguese fairy tales, which she must have heard from her mother. I remember that the main character in her stories was Krekka, he was the one who was smart. Unfortunately, I have fortgotten the rest of the stories.
To give you all an idea of life in those days, on sunday afternoons there was a military music band, called Militaire Kapel, playing on the square in front of the Governor's house. Alma used to take us to these concerts, but first she dressed us up in our nice sunday clothes and made us wear white socks. It was custom that everybody dressed up for this event, which was a highlight of the week.
LIFE DURING WORLD WAR II IN PARAMARIBO
As you know in 1942 there was a world war going on and even in Surinam we felt some of the missery. There was shortage of all the imported goods, no butter, no cheese, no onions etc. There was also a shortage of sugar. I remember that Alma took Carlos and me with her and we all stood in line for a pound of sugar. In different parts of town there were shelters even in our street there was one. While attending school we often practised how to run to the shelters.
There was an American airbase at Zanderij Airport which is 50 km. south of Paramaribo. Even in town on the Kerkplein, where now the offices of the electrical co. are situated, there were barracks where the Yankees were staying. At some nights we would have black outs and nobody was allowed to even keep a candle burning. I remember one night one of the twins was very ill and my mother lit a candle to attend to her or him, I don't recall which of them was ill, when suddenly they came bouncing on our door and yelling that we had to put out the lights. My mother told them that her baby was sick but they didn't care, she had to put out the light. This in short were some of the experiences we had during the war in Surinam.
A TRIP TO GEORGETOWN
When the twins were three years old my mother took them together with Robbie to visit her sister in Guyana. Carlos and I had to stay behind to attend school. We very much wanted to go too, but there was no question about it. Robbie, Yvonne and Armando used to say that they were "drielings" (triples). So the drielings took off on their first trip to Guyana. They went by boat, if I'm not mistaken, the name of the boat was "Prinses Juliana". At that time taking the boat was cheaper than taking the plane. While they were away Alma took care of the three of us who stayed behind. I remember that in their absence we had a visitor in the person of Janus Mackz who was the son of my mother's half sister Mana (Maria). He used to visit my mother frequently and was surprised that she wasn't at home but at her sister in Guyana. He chatted a lot with Alma and Carlos and me, my father was at work. We enjoyed having this visitor who gave a little highlight to the silence caused by the absence of half of our family.
When they came back, they had a lot of stories to tell such as " aunt Linda had a very big dog, you could even ride on his back as if he was a donkey". Anyway on their return they were very excited about everything they had experienced in British Guyana or Demerara as it was called in those days.
As the twins were growing up my mother was getting active again and she tore down the small houses at Steenbakkersgracht 31-33 and decided to built a bigger house for which she could get a higher rent. My mother used to go to the saw mill herself to buy wood for the building of her house. Imagine her walking next to the donkey cart on which the wood was loaded, to make sure that it was brought to the right adress. So she built a two storey building. Upstairs was for living and could be rented apart from downstairs. Downstairs she divided into two sections. In one section there was a barber shop and in the other I am not sure, but I think a cabinet maker. According to Carlos I'm right and I remember now that this cabinet maker could not pay his rent, so he gave my mother a guitar which he had made himself. My mother then got somebody by the name of oom Henry, who was related to the Nederbiel family, to teach Robbie and Carlos how to play the guitar, because she loved music. She used to play on a harmonium.(kind of a small organ)
During the building of this house in 1943, I had an accident when I fell over a big pole, to my imagination it was a huge pole. Dr. de Miranda who came to examine me, diagnosed me as having internal bleedings and I had to be hospitalized. I was not allowed to get out of bed and lay in bed all day. I had bandages all over me which had to be kept wet. When I left the hospital after 10 days, as a matter of fact, I had to learn to walk again and I had lost most of my hair. I had to rest at home for some time before I could go back to school.
When I went back to school, I was welcomed very warmly by my classmates. My teacher, Miss Getrouw, was very concerned about me, and kept watching over me. There were preparations going on for our first communion, which was to take place in a month or so. My mother got busy, sewing my long white satin dress for this big occasion. The year before she had made Carlos a dark suit for his first communion, she had thereby been assisted by tante Isaura who was a good dressmaker, she used to do sewing work for other people, this way she was earning some extra money.
In 1945 when the war was over there was a lot of joy in Surinam, and we even had a beautiful parade in town. There were also Surinamees, who had died in battle while serving in the war. Also more boats were entering the harbour with all the goods we missed so much during the war. Later on even the small Portugese boats from Brazil started to come. On some of these small boats there were smugglers and whenever the police had an investigation going on, they would ask my father to interpret, as there wasn't a police officer who could speak Portugese. This way my father came to know these Brazilian boat people.
In 1947 Alma got married to Willem Graanoogst. My aunt Linda and her husband Richard Figueira came over from British Guyana to Surinam to be present at this wedding. Aunt Linda and uncle Rick had no children. Uncle Rick was not in such a good health, and I remember that he had to rest a lot. It was a real nice celebration and I enjoyed it very much. There sure was an empty spot when Alma left us and went to live with her husband on the Verlengde Gemenelandsweg, which was about 5 km away from our house. At first Alma used to come once a week to stay with us for half a day. We were always happy to see her because she had been part of our family and we missed her.
FAMILY VISITS WTH MY MOTHER
My mother used to visit Alma on many sunday afternoons and usually, she took us with her on these visits. Before Alma moved out, my mother used to take us with her on her frequent visits to Yaya, who was living in the Koningstraat. Yaya was the daughter of my mother's half sister Manna. She also used to visit Lina Overeem, frequently on sunday afternoons. Lina (daughter of Manna) was married to a farmer of dutch origin, his name was Jan Overeem. They were living in the l'Hermitageweg where they had their farm. At that time this was all farmland, now there are only houses on this spot and no farms. After Alma got married my mother didn't visit these families of her as much as before, instead Alma was the one she visited most. Besides this Overeem family had moved to another place called Houttuin, which was too far for us to reach by foot.
I have to mention that besides the walks we used to take with our mother on sunday afternoons, my father loved to take us for a walk on sunday mornings after church. Up to now I can remember how tired I was and could hardly keep on walking when our house was in sight.
In 1948 we moved to the big upstairs house on #33. It was inhabited for almost three years and I remember we had a lot of cleaning to do when the people moved out. In this house we had a girls and boys bedroom, whereas in the other house all of us were sleeping in one big bedroom. Just like in the old house, our parents had their own bedroom.
After the cabinet maker moved out, my mother started her store in clothing materials downstairs, so she was back in bussiness.
DEEP SORROW IN OUR FAMILY
We were happy in this house for a short time, because one year later there was a lot of sadness and sorrow when my sister "Wonnie" ( her real name was Yvonne) took in ill. She was first complaining of a headache, so she stayed home from school. My mother sent for the doctor immediately. The doctor came and subscribed Sulpha tablets because he thought it was some kind of infection. Although Wonnie got worse he kept on giving her these tablets. It was hard for my mother to attend to the store and a sick daughter at the same time, so we, the children, had to take turns to stay at home and help my mother. At that time we had an old Portuguese woman, who was no family of us, staying at our house. She was a diabete and every day a medical student would come to give her an insuline injection. The medical student advised my mother to call a paediatricion as Wonnie was getting worse. I had to call the doctor since this day it was my turn to stay at home. He came and gave her an injection but she was too far gone. I had to get my father from the office of Carlos Thomas in the Herenstraat where he was working then. It was a 15 minute walk, and I remember crying all the way going there. During this walk, when I passed older women in the street they would look at me and ask: "what's wrong girl?", but I just kept on walking and crying. The medical student was talking to my father when I entered the office; when he saw me he turned to my father and said:"I can see it's already too late". We hurried home to find my sister struggling to survive, she fought real hard. I watched it for a while and left the room as I could not face it any longer. In the meantime all my brothers were also at home, somebody had gone for them,(probably Willem Graanoogst). All of this happened in the morning of February 9th 1949. I really can't remember what time she died, but I think it was in the afternoon. Her dead body was kept at home and my parents took turn in sitting by the coffin during the night. She was buried the next day, and had a beautiful funeral. She was everybody's friend and there came people to the funeral that none of us knew. Also all the children of her school class came. I remember this medical student also came to the funeral with a small bouquet of white and pink roses and laid it next to her face in the coffin. His name was Jessurun, he later became a neurologist.
Wonnie died ten days after she celebrated her eighth birthday. Maybe by now you are wondering what was the cause of her death. I also have wondered for a long time, but in 1966 when my daughter Karin was born in the Diakonessenhuis in Paramaribo, I was sharing the sickroom with another woman who's doctor was the same medical student, who used to visit the portuguese woman in our house, when my sister Wonnie was ill. He had followed the sickness of Wonnie closely. He recognised me and started to talk about my sister. He told me the reason of her death was that there was something wrong with a blood vessel in her brains, (it is called an aneurysma) there might have been a burst in it; later l heard that she must have been born with it. He was a neurologist at that time and he told me that a few years ago, he had treated a cousin of mine with the same complaint. She got cured and is well again. I myself thought for a long time that it might have been an inflamation of the brain. She had been ill for just one week when she died.
ADVENTURE IN GUYANA
My mother had a hard time getting over my sister's death. Her sister Linda in Guyana had also lost her husband Richard. Shortly after their visit to Surinam, Uncle Rick's condition worstened and he had to be hospitalized. It was then that aunt Carmen went over to Guyana to be with her sister. Uncle Rick didn't make it and died after some time and aunt Carmen stayed with aunt Linda, because she didn't want to go back to her husband. It was hard for aunt Linda to keep up their lemonade factory, so she suggested that my mother and father come over to help her, since she found it hard to manage on her own, although she had aunt Carmen living with her, and helping her in the housekeeping. My parents gave it a thought and especially my mother was in for a change, my father agreed but only because my mother wanted it so badly. So the store was sold, we stored some of our furniture on the attic and some at Alma's, and off we went to Guyana for the next adventure. We travelled by boat, the name of the boat was "Prinses Juliana", it was named after the dutch crown princes, who later became Queen Juliana. This boat was owned by the S.M.S., which stands for Steamship company Suriname. We had to go to an English school, and had to learn to speak english. At first we found it hard but later on we even spoke english when we were together.
However this adventure didn't last very long, my father left I think six or seven months after our arrival in Georgetown, and we left one year later. My father didn't like the place, he preferred to live in Surinam. When he returned he could get his job back at Carlos Thomas as a bookkeeper.
On his return, he could stay with his sister Marie and her husband Eugène who had a big house and six children. Their eldest son Umberto was one or two years older than Carlos,the other children were: Bernadette (Dettie), Claudine, Marlene, Roland and Eugène(ventje).
Three months after my father left my mother got a message from tante Marie saying that our father was sick. She then left with Carlos for Surinam. Carlos had taken his bicycle with him to Surinam so it was no problem for him to stay at Alma who was living far away from his school. My mother stayed with my father at tante Marie, but he had to be hospitalized for further examinations, the result was they could not find anything.By now my fathers condition was worstening and my mother even feared that he was going to die. So my mother decided that Robbie, Armando and me, who were left behind with aunt Linda in Guyana, should come over to Surinam. We left soon after we received this notice and travelled by airplane. This was the first time we travelled through the air.There was nobody at the airport to meet us, but one of the pilots took care of us and dropped us off at tante Marie
Poor tante Marie she must have been very busy taking care of two families now. She did have a maid and her name was Geertruida. By now the doctor took the decision to operate on our father, just to make sure that everything was o.k. Luckily they still didn't find anything but as he was under narcosis, the surgeon decided to pull out his teeth that were in a very bad condition. My father never went to a dentist to get dental plates so he was left with an empty mouth for the rest of his life. At last he was able to chew on his gums and he ate most anything. Finally after many more laboratory tests it appeared that he had some kind of bad worm in him that was damaging his intestines. He had to have several treatments before he got rid of it, so it took some time before he was cured.
All my mother's houses were occupied, but she was trying to get some people out who were not paying rent. This was a small house in the yard of Dr. S.Redmondstraat, but we were lucky as the people of the Prinsenstraat 70 moved out shortly after the three of us joined the family at tante Marie's house on the Kerkplein. Her house was one of the houses that had to disappear in order to built the new Post Office. We as children enjoyed the stay with our cousins and had lots of fun together, whereas my parents longed to have their own house again and they also didn't want to be a burden to tante Marie.
I think we lived in the Prinsenstraat for three years. While living here my father suffered a deep depression. It appeared that he had a great shortage of one of the B vitamins. He got medicine from the doctor which made him sleep all day, this was to calm him down and make him relax. I think he slept for about a week and only woke up a few times a day, when he was awake, he was well fed by my mother. Again my mother was afraid that he was going to die, but he survived and went back to work at Carlos Thomas, who was glad to have him on the job again.
When the upstairs house at the Dr. S. Redmondstraat 33 became vacant, we moved back to it. This time, my mother started a furniture store in the downstairs building Carlos went to the St Paulus school, which was only for boys, and I went to the St Louise school, which was only for girls. These catholic high schools were situated next to each other in the Gravenstraat. Robbie and Armando went to a catholic elementary school called the St Stephanus school in the Weide straat. Later on Armando also went to the Paulus school. Robbie wasn't doing so well and had to go to another school.
After my parents got settled in the Dr. S. Redmondstraat they took up another adventure. They got a lot in landlease (erfpacht) in the Curaçaoweg which was a side road of Pad van Wanica. They were happy to have a countryplace (buitenplaats) where they could go to in the weekends. There were a lot of coffee trees on this land, so my parents were excited about the coffee trees, now they could make their own coffee, so all of us had to help pick the coffee beans. It was a lot of work as the coffeebeans had to be peeled, dried, burned and then grounded. After some time I stopped going with them as I found it rather boring. I think at last only Robbie and Armando went with them. As none of us wanted to go there anymore and they were getting older and also found it fatigueing, they stopped going. So that was the end of this adventure.
LIFE AFTER SCHOOL
In 1953 Carlos and I got our Mulo diploma.(Mulo is equal to secondary school). Carlos was lucky to be able to go to the Middelbare Landbouwschool, this was an agricultural school, and was just established the year before. My mother wanted me to become a teacher, so she put me on a course. To please her I did start the course but due to lack of interest I had to let it go. I got a job at the Vervuurt's Bank and I was happy to earn 50 guilders a month, at least I had something to do. Just four months later I could start as an X-ray assistant in 's Lands Hospitaal. Here I got a salary of 106 guilders which was more than double of what I was getting at the Bank. I found this job very interesting and enjoyed doing it. I kept this job for six years. After my Mulo diploma I got my diploma's for typing and shorthand in Dutch and English and also English correspondence. Especially the shorthand I used very much as I took up all the results of the X-rays which the radiologist would dictate to me in shorthand and typed them out later. Once a week we, the assistants, had a course in radiology that was given by the radiologist, who was our boss.
Armando was doing well in school and in 1958 together with his Mulo diploma he got his "vierde rang", which is the first grade you can get to become a teacher. When you have this diploma you can start teaching in the primary school and that's what he did for a short time. I guess we were not the family of teachers. I remember that Armando once said "do you know what it's like when all these 20 or 30 pairs of eyes are fixed on you". Anyway Armando found himself a job at the office of the Suralco Bauxite Co. at Paranam.
Around 1958 there was again joy in the family due to the fact that aunt Beatrice was coming over for a visit to Surinam. My mother was very happy because she hadn't seen her sister for so many years (probably more than 20 years).
Aunt Beatrice and uncle Leo emigrated to New York in march 1940. When they had six children. Their eldest daughter Eugenia was born in Venezuela on december 15th 1927,they also had a babyboy who died in childhood and was buried in Aruba. They got five more children who were born in Aruba, their names are Xenia born February 28th 1932, Frank born on January 16th 1934, Nello born in 1936,Leonard born somewhere between 1936 and 1939, Yvonne born on march 23rd 1939, and Warren, their youngest son was born in New York in 1941.
Aunt Linda was visiting New York and on her return to Guyana she took aunt Beatrice with her. First they went to British Guyana where they stayed for some time with aunt Carmen. Hereafter aunt Beatrice and aunt Linda visited Surinam, they stayed with us for a while and also spend some time with their sister Georgetina, who was living in the country, 14 km south of Paramaribo. This is where she lived ever since I can remember and she also died in this place. The four sisters enjoyed being together again and they were all very happy. This is when I saw aunt Beatrice for the first time, when she was staying with us she invited me to come to the States as she found it a waste of time for young people to be in Surinam. New York was the place to be. After the two sisters left, we kept talking about this visit for some time.
CARLOS' FIRST JOB
In the meantime Carlos finished his study and got a job at the Ministry of Agriculture and was sent to Nickerie, that's where he met Alice. Nickerie is situated in the west of Surinam by the Corantine river. Opposite this river is British Guyana. In this district, rice is the main agricultural product. In those days there was only a boat going to Nickerie. It was called the "Perica", with this boat Carlos would come and visit us in Paramaribo. There were no planes flying then and there was no road. Presently there is a road called "oost-west verbinding". While Carlos was in Nickerie my mother bought a second hand car (Hudson) for him as he had gotten his driver's license. But what now, there was this car standing in front of our house and nobody could drive it. I was eighteen and could get my license, so my parents and brothers wanted me to get my license. First a friend of Carlos who was living in the street would teach me, but later on I got a real teacher and I got my license without failing. I have to mention my first two teachers though, they were my two younger brothers, Robbie and Armando. They knew exactly how the car worked, whereas I didn't, so they have been a great help. Shortly after I got my license Carlos came back from Nickerie and I didn't get much chance driving that car again.
By now my salary had increased and I was saving to buy my own car. I had a parttime job working in the catholic hospital three times a week in the afternoons. Later on I had a third job working at a lung specialist, typing out his letters to other doctors. All of this helped me financially and in 1959 I could buy this cute little "Fiat 500" and I was really proud of it. I remember Robbie used to call it "babywagen".
While Armando was working in the office of the Suralco bauxiet company, at Paranam, his friend Robby Miranda was working there also. Paranam is about 25 km south of Paramaribo, so Armando would take a bus early in the morning, most of the time he got safe at his work, but once he was not so lucky when the driver fell asleep and the bus turned over in the ditch along the road. Armando hit his head and became unconscious and awoke when he was in the hospital of Paranam. He was kept there for observation and I remember that his friend Robbie Miranda came to my mother with the news. He did this carefully on Armando's request but my mother was worried anyway, so the next day I took her in my little car to Paranam to visit Armando. When Armando saw us he didn't want to stay in the hospital any longer, so he told the doctor that he was feeling well, in fact his head was still hurting, but it was soon before christmas and he wanted to be at home with us. He must have had a slight concussion, because he kept these headaches for a long time.
Soon Robbie Miranda left for Holland to study civil engineering at the H.T.S., which stands fot Higher Technical School. Before he left he had encouraged Armando to join him in Holland, so they could start studying together. After Robby Miranda got a room in Holland he asked Armando to come over before the new schoolyear started, so he could enroll at the H.T.S. also. This is what he did.
On August 8th, 1960 Armando left for Holland, little he knew that he would never see his parents again. He left by Air France for Martinique where he boarded the "French line" boat to Le Havre. From there on he travelled by train to Rotterdam where his friend Robbie Miranda was waiting for him. Together they travelled to Utrecht where they had a room. In September 1960 they both started their study in civil engineering at the Hogere Technische School in Utrecht. Later on Armando got his own room.. My mother used to send him some money every month, but it was not enough, so besides studying, Armando took on several jobs to keep on studying.
OUR BROTHER ROBBIE
By now Robbie(our brother), was a car mechanic. He had learned this trade from an old experienced car mechanic, Baas Willie, at garage Tjoe A Long in the Dr. S. Redmondstraat, close to our house. Later on he went to work at Garage van Romondt in the Keizerstraat. He worked there for some time and then got a job at the Suralco Bauxiet Company where he was able to follow a real course in mechanics. He kept this job for many years. But then when things started to go bad at Suralco they had to reorganize their business, which meant they had to let go a lot of their employees. Robbie was one of the unlucky ones. He remained unemployed for some time but finally got a job at Gembeco, a cattle farm, where also food for cattle was made. This cattle farm was owned by the Catholic brothers. Robbie was put in charge of the machine park. He was doing very well in this job, and was even chosen as a board member of the Trade Union.
Finally in 1960, three weeks after Armando had left, I accepted aunt Beatrice's invitation and left for New York where aunt Beatrice and uncle Leo were living. All their children had left the house so I could be their guest. I remember that Warren used to come home very often. Of course I met all the rest of their children, except for Frank, who was in the airforce in Arizona.
I took a course in hairdressing and beauty culture, at the Wilfred Academy in the 53rd street in Manhattan. At the age of twenty four I found it very exciting to be in New York where I met girls from different nationalities, which was very interesting. My cousin Xenia took me sightseeing a lot, it is so long ago that I can't remember all the places she took me to, but I do remember the statue of Liberty and the United Nations and also The Empire State building and many museums.
Together with aunt Beatrice I did a lot of shopping. She took me to Macy"s and to several stores in 14th street, where they had lots of bargains.
MY RETURN TO PARAMARIBO
After one year I returned to Surinam to start my own beauty shop in the downstairs part of Dr. S. Redmondstraat 35. Before I left for Surinam I had bought the furniture and equipment for my beauty shop in New york, and it was shipped to Surinam by this store. I did well in my new trade and had lots of nice customers and I enjoyed doing my work.
Shortly after I returned to Surinam our uncle Tini, who had retired a few years ago from Aruba, was very ill. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer, while I was still working on the X-ray department. The treatments didn't help and he was in a terminal state. After his retirement I saw him very often on his bicycle and we always used to greet each other warmly. He was a very pleasant person. He died in september 1961. We went to his funeral and as my father was the eldest brother we had to walk right behind the hearse and I remember that my mother was complaining of the exhaustgasses coming out of the exhaust pipe.
In december 1961 I was taken to a party by one of my girlfriends where I met Dirk Sjaarda who became my husband in 1963. Dirk is a dutch civile engineer and was working at Public Works.
MORE SAD EVENTS
After I returned from New York my mother was not well. She had to be operated on for gallstones, and so it happened. One night when I visited her in the hospital, I was spoken to by her doctor. He told me that her condition was serious and that there was little he could do anymore. She was allowed to leave the hospital and she got a bottle with two or three big gallstones from the nurse to take home as a souvenier. After this operation she was not herself again, she kept ailing. I suppose the tumor in her belly kept growing, and it was hurting a lot, so at last we had to take her back to the hospital. I remember when we were leaving the house, she looked around her and said:" I will never see all of this again".
I tried to tell my father about the serious condition of my mother, but could not find the right words to tell him, he had such high hopes that she was going to get better and I found it hard to disappoint him. Until one sunday afternoon, when he and Carlos and probably also Robbie had gone to a soccer game and came home late, I couldn't hold it anymore and I accused them of not caring enough for my mother and why they could not be in time to visit her, as she was seriously ill. We then still hurried to the hospital although it was a bit late. In the following days her condition was worsening and a few days later I received a call from Carmen(Robbie's girl-friend), who was working as a young nurse in the hospital at that time. She told me that my mother was getting weaker and I should come to the hospital. My father and I hurried to the hospital and found her in a very bad condition. The nurse told me that she was sedated and was not feeling any pain. Speaking was hard for her and we could hardly understand what she was saying, but we did understand the name of Alma, so we send a message to her. When we came the next day, there was blood coming out of her mouth and she kept moaning. She kept calling out for Alma, who came later in the afternoon Her sister Carmen was also present, she had come to Surinam on my mother's request and was staying with us.
Weeks before she died she had asked me to send a message to Guyana and ask aunt Carmen to come over. She and this sister of her disagreed about a lot of things in the past and I had the idea, that she wanted to patch things up with her sister Carmen before she died. They did get a chance to talk, but my mother was already in the hospital when she came.
Anyway, the day after we were alarmed, we went back to the hospital and spend the whole afternoon with my mother. My father and I left around seven to have something to eat at home. Aunt Carmen, Alma and Alice and also Alma's brother Gillie were with my mother. My father and I returned as soon as possible, but when we got there my mother was gone. She died shortly after we left on February 11th 1962. She was buried the next day, in the white dress that tante Marie had made for her.
The house was so empty when she was gone, only Robbie and I were still living at home. My brother Carlos was living next door with Alice and their two children, Gladys and Carlos. After my mother died Alice kept doing the cooking for the three of us. This was a very nice gesture of her since all three of us were working.
In november 1962 Robbie got married to Carmen Sussenbach in the St Rosakerk. It was a very quiet wedding, they did have a little get together with some friends and family. Dirk was the photographer and made some nice wedding pictures. They went to live in the Prinsenstraat 70 where Carmen was already living with her grandparents. This is the old house where my mother started her life with Wiersma and where I and Robbie were born.
My father and I were now the only two living in the house in the Dr. S ophie Redmondstr. We both grieved a lot about my mother since the house was so empty and nothing was the same anymore.
By now I was longing to start my own family, so Dirk and I got married on April 4, 1963 in the building of the "Evangelische Broedergemeente" called "Stadszending". After I tried to turn Dirk into a catholic, but did not succeed, I agreed to join the Dutch Reformed church, where Dirk was a member of. My father didn't grant us his permission to get married in the protestant church, so just like tante Lygia I got permission from the officer of justice for our marriage. The only family present at the wedding service in the reformed church was my cousin Alma and I was glad for that. My father was present at the townhall, where the civil part of the wedding was performed, and he was also present at the reception. We held a big reception at the chinese club Chung Fa Foei Kong at the Keizerstr. It was a very happy gathering, where lots of friends and family came to congratulate us. We had to shake so many hands that the weddingring really hurt at last. After the reception Robbie brought us home, which was at the Middenpad van Kwatta. It was a house of a colleague of Dirk who was away for a few months. Later we moved to the Franchepanestr in Zorg en Hoop. I remained working in my beauty salon for half days until we left for Holland.
OUR FIRST VACATION TOGETHER
After one year Dirk and I left for Holland since his contract at Openbare Werken had come to an end. On our way to Holland we had a wonderful vacation, we travelled to Curacao and Mexico City, then to San Diego where my cousin Eugenia was living with her family. She was at the airport to meet us and we were her guest for almost a week. Los Angelos was not so far away, so we took a bus to The Walt Disneyworld and had great fun. From there on we travelled by Greyhoundbus to the Grand Canyons and stayed a few days in Flagstaff, where we took a tour to the canyons. Our guide was a real southener, one that says "Howdy Folks". He had a big cowboy hat on his head and was very friendly, he gave us a lot of information about the canyons, which made this trip very interesting. On our way to New york we also made a stop in St Louis and stayed here one day. Eventually, after being on our way for three weeks we got in New York where we visited my aunt Beatrice and uncle Leo. We had taken a room in Hotel Holland in Manhattan, so we could visit some places of interest there.
We then continued our trip to Toronto where Dirk's sister Aafke was living with her husband Joop. We had four nice days, during which we drove around with them and spend the nights in motels. This way I got to know them a little, they were the first of the Sjaarda family that I met. From there we went via Paris to Amsterdam. In Paris we stayed overnight, so we could do some sightseeing by subway. On our arrival on Schiphol airport, we both had a relative waiting for us, my brother Armando was there for me and Dirk's sister Alie was there for Dirk, and together they were there for both of us. In Harlingen Dirk's father was waiting for us at the train station, where I met him for the very first time.
MY FIRST STAY IN HOLLAND
We lived with Dirk's father for two months. In august 1963 Dirk got a job at Gemeentewerken Sneek and at the same time, we got a new house with four bedrooms, but no central heating. We lived there for nine months. Our plans were to go back to Surinam but then Dirk had to start working for the "NACO". This consultancy bureau was going to supervise the building of the new harbour in Paramaribo. This company was situated in The Hague, so we moved to The Hague. It took about a half year before we left for Surinam, so we changed our address a few more times. We also lived in Valkenburg South Holland and Noordwijk aan zee, and again in The Hague at the Carel Reinierskade in the house of the actor Coen Flink, who was wellknown then. His house was nothing special, the only thing that was special was a grand piano, that he had locked.
At first I felt very strange in Holland. It was so different from Surinam and besides I had a new family now, who spoke Frisian. I met all Dirk's aunts and uncles and cousins. The Frisian language was at first very hard for me to understand, but I listened very carefully and sometimes somebody would interpret for me and so gradually, I began to understand it. Later on I understood it reasonably, but I never had the courage to speak it.
While we were living in Holland Carlos had moved to La Poule in the district of Saramacca where he was in charge of the management of the "Proeftuin" of the Ministry of Agriculture. When Carlos moved from the Dr. S. Redmondtstraat 35, Robbie went to live there with Carmen and their first son Armando who was born on April 20th, 1965 in the Prinsenstraat 70, where Robbie was also born. So Robbie and his family were close to my father. In this period Carlos and Alice used to come to town every saturday to do their shopping and they would stay with my father until sunday afternoon. This way he did get the chance to see his grandchildren which by now totalled to four, namely Gladys, Carlos, Ricardo and John.
SAD NEWS FROM PARAMARIBO
I was longing to go back to Surinam so I could be close to my father again, so I was glad that Dirk wanted to go back but, for some reason deep down in me, I had a feeling that I wouldn't see my father again. Early in august I received a birthday card from my father and I thought how thoughtful of him. I suppose he doesn't want to forget. He wrote in it "God bless you dear daughter". Then on august 19th., four days before my birthday, came a telegram which anounced the death of my father the day before. We were living in the Hague at the Carel Reinierskade when Dirk came home with the bad news. I was so sad that the tears kept coming to my eyes while I sat quietly in the rocking chair, remeniscing the past with my father. It was hard to realize that my parents were both gone now.
When I got the cablegram I went over to Armando, who was then living in The Hague at the Lorenzplein, to inform him about the death of our father. We decided to call Robbie the next day, so we could get to know a little more about this sudden death. So as agreed Armando and I talked with Robbie over the phone. Through lots of crying and sobs he told us that our father was not feeling well that day. Carmen had telephoned him and when he came home, my father was still sitting in his chair and asked Robbie to take him to bed. Carmen was also there, so Robbie asked her to give him a bath, as he was expecting the doctor to visit our father soon. After the bath, my father sent Robbie to the kitchen to get him something. Carmen was still in the bedroom, but he told her to go and see what Robbie was doing and when they returned he was gone. Of course this was a big shock to them as his death came so suddenly
Later on I heard that on the morning of his death our cousin Alma had visited my father and found him rather weak. He asked Alma to get him some pieces of ice where he could suck on. Before leaving my father, Alma did warn Carmen that he was weak so Carmen telephoned with Robbie, who was working at Van Romondt's Garage in the Keizerstr, which is not so far from our house. He was buried the next day, I was really sorry I didn't get to see him again. From Carlos I heard, that on the weekend before he died, they noticed that he was not looking good and that he wasn't eating well, so they offered for Alice to stay and take care of him, but he refused saying that Alice had to take care of the children. They told him that they had somebody to take care of the children, but he kept refusing, so they left while he was standing at the window seeing them off. This is the last time they saw him alive.
With the death of my father I want to end this story. I hope I have satisfied all of you who were anxious to know about the family history. I may not have been accurate enough in some parts, but this is due to failure of my memory. I still want to give all of you something of the way I saw my parents, the way they were, seen through my eyes. I'll start with my mother:
Maria Mathilda Gonsalves Serrão was a selfmade woman. She only went to primary school, but I must say, it was like she had a calculator in her head. Counting was not a problem for her She was not afraid of any kind of work, you name it and she would do it or at least try to do it. She had the trade spirit of her father and was very interested in the building of houses. She used to stand still and watch wherever a house was being built and I felt ashamed because in my eyes a woman should not do that, because that was men's work. She would stand up for her rights and was somebody with a very strong character. Still she had a soft heart and felt sorry for everybody who was in trouble and she would try to help as much as she could. She took me with her many times on her visit to an old creole woman of over 90 years old, who was lying in bed all the time, and was glad to see my mother who always brought her something or the other to eat. I could go on writing about her but then this story would never end, so I'll stop here with the description of my mother's character.
The character of my father Carlos John dos Ramos is a little bit harder to describe, as he was somebody who would not express his feelings, which always keeps you guessing. He was a very quiet type of person and would not harm a fly. He was an allround person and knew a little about everything. I think he was very clever, he always had an answer to my questions, but he was also very passive. He was glad that my mother took most of the decisions. He hated to go shopping, my mother would even buy his shoes for him since they had the same size. What he enjoyed was sitting in his reclining chair after work and read or listen to classical music like Beethoven. He would also listen to Radio Nederland Wereldomroep and write letters to the reporters. In his younger years he liked doing things with his hands (knutselen), once he made my mother an oven which burned on charcoal. My mother baked many a cake in it. He was also artistic, he liked to paint and at christmas time, he would make nice paintings of the shepherds in the fields and he would also built a big crib. What I never knew about him is that he wanted to become a priest and had already started to study, but my grandfather didn't want him to be a priest, he'd rather see him married and have a family. I have heard this from my cousins in the States and also from my cousin Dettie here in Surinam. He kept this a secret from us all his life, just like he kept the secret about tante Jet. This is also part of his character: keeping a secret well. Same applies to my father, I could go on writing about him.
At the end of my story, I'm sorry to mention that my brother Robbie is no longer with us. He passed away on February 19th 1992. I was in Holland and Dirk was in South Vietnam, when I got the news. I am glad I visited Robbie in November 1991 and that I was able to spend some time with him and talk things over, I knew then that I would not see him again. In his younger years, he was a happy go lucky fellow, always making jokes. When we were growing up, he teased me a lot, but also made me laugh a lot. After his marriage to Carmen he got serious and became a hard working father. I am sure that he was a good mechanic, because he was devoted to his work. Besides working, he also liked sports and race bicycling was his favourite. He passed his enthousiasm to his sons and they took part in many races. Robbie became a sports masseur in the last years of his life and was coaching The Gazelle bicycling club. He had many more plans in this direction, but due to his illness and his early death, he could not fulfil all his wishes. I still miss him very much.
Before I close this story I still want to mention the person that lived the longest in our family. She died in march 1996 at the age of 92. The person I am talking about is Lina Overeem, the daughter of our mother's half sister. She and Jan Overeem had 14 children of which one died in childhood. These children in their turn gave them 72 grand children and 104 greatgrands and also 4 great-great grands. Besides their own 13 children, they brought up 4 other children. They were socially also active and used to love to go to "set dansie", which is something like square dances. I guess I can say that they were a remarkable couple.
I still want to mention the person that became second oldest in our family, and that is our aunt Adelina Figueira my mother's sister. She died on may 27th 1989, two months before her 90th birthday.
I have written this family story to the best of my ability and as far as my memory could reach. Thanks to the help of several of my cousins, I have been able to be a little more accurate, so I hope that this new edition of my story, answers most of the questions that were still unanswered.
This is Edith U.M. Sjaarda - dos Ramos signing off.
All the best to all of you.
Edith U.M. Sjaarda - dos Ramos.