Dutch Ancestors…

 

My maternal grandparents married in 1924. My grandma, Jacoba Berghuis graduated from high school in Sioux Center Iowa, May 1924. She immediately went to Des Moines for her teaching certificate which she obtained in October the same year, with spectacular grades. That’s about 4 months to get her teaching degree! I have her diploma (it’s beautiful). She started teaching, married my grandpa, Gerrit, nicknamed (Lakey) Wanningen in December. In those days, married women were not allowed to teach, so they kept their marriage a secret. I’m sure they continued to “date,” but you know back in 1924 there was no way were they living together. Lakey was very tall, somewhat awkward, and a few years older than Coba. He felt that he was the luckiest guy in the world.

My grandma, Jacoba Berghuis HS graduation, 1924…

At the end of the school year in 1926, Coba and Gerrit would come clean on their marriage as they were expecting a child. Wonder if they had to show their marriage license as proof? My mom Florence Elaine, and her twin brother Floyd Duane were born on December 13, 1926. Twins were a big deal in the small town of Sioux Center.

 
Floyd and Florence Wanningen, 1927…

 

Write ups in the paper, things were great, but Coba at just 20, was not bouncing back from this difficult childbirth. Kidney complications set in and the newborns lost their beautiful mom when they were 10 days old. My mom always felt that her dad blamed her and Floyd for taking away his beautiful young wife. Certainly Gerrit could not raise the babies. Both sets of grandparents however were vying for the chance to raise the twins. Coba’s parents were younger, even had a grown daughter, Lena still living at home.

 

Mom’s aunt Lena Berghuis, about 1920 graduation pic…
 
Lakey’s parents though older, oddly enough, had built a huge 2 story home a few years before. They were actually teased about the house. Folks thought it was strange that they were in their 50’s, building such a big house for 2 people. God must have known it would soon be filled with an extra 2 little mouths to feed. There was no big fight between the grands, paternal’s won out, house and money wise. The Berghuis’s insisted that the Wanningen’s hire a nanny for the first 2 years. Grandma Wanningen was now 60 with 2 newborns, yikes. She spoke almost no English, still wore wooden shoes, and my mom grew up loving her with all her heart.

Jenny, grandpa, Lakey and Grandma Wanningen, early 1900’s…


I never got to meet my great-grandma Wanningen, she passed away in the summer of 1950 when Mom was pregnant with me. I do remember going to Sioux Center with mom to visit Grandma Berghuis when I was young. Mom was really raised by both sets of grandparents. Grandpa Lakey would re-marry when Mom and Floyd were in grade school and decided he and new wifey would raise the twins. That didn’t last very long. According to mom she and Floyd cried constantly, didn’t get along with their new step mom or her children and soon were back in the loving care of their grandparents.

Mom, grandpa and grandma Wanningen and Floyd, mid-1930’s…

As the twins were growing, many weekends were spent with the Berghuis clan too. Sioux Center was a small town, and the grandparents lived only a few blocks from each other. There were 3 Berghuis uncles and 3 aunts with whom they were very close. Mom and Floyd were actually named after their uncle Floyd and aunt Florence Berghuis, also twins. One aunt was married and had kids about the same age as the twins. They spent a lot of time on the farm with their aunt Alida DeZeeuw and her family.

 

Mom’s aunt Alida Berghuis DeZeeuw, 1920’s…

 

It was Grandma Berghuis who would often “do stuff” with the twins. If they were staying there for the weekend, after church and a big Sunday dinner (noon meal), almost everyone took a nap in the afternoon. Not much fun when you’re a little kid, but by this time both sets of grandparents were nearing 70. All four grandparents were deeply religious, even to the point that Grandma Berghuis would peel her potatoes on Saturday for Sunday dinner, thus eliminating some of the work from a Sunday. “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days thou shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the 7th day is holy and thou shalt not do any work.” (close enough) I guess though this did not mean a little fun stuff now and then. Grandma Berghuis did not nap on Sunday afternoon when the twins were there.

 

Mom’s grandma Berghuis, early 1920’s…

 

They often would make a batch of fudge or penuche (Dutch brown sugar fudge). These candies, having only about 5 ingredients each were boiled, then had to cool before beating it until it was thick enough to pour on a buttered plate and set up solid.

 

 

Penuche. Dutch brown sugar fudge. Super sweet…

 

 

A favorite story that my mom frequently told was the time they had a batch of fudge cooling in the back haukee (Dutch for small enclosed porch). Someone knocked on the door for a visit, and rather admit to their indiscretion (minor sin) and bring the fudge out, opted to “let the cooling fudge set,” never mentioned it, and by the company finally left, the fudge was solid. No big deal, they had a good laugh and ate it out of the pan. (sorry God)…

 

I still use great grandma’s Berghuis simple recipe…

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Dutch Ancestors…

  1. You’re right Paul, a very tough loss for the young married Wanningen family. Twin newborns without a mom, but both sets of grands really stepped up to fill Coba’s shoes in raising her children. Wonder how different Mom’s life would have been had she not lost her mom so early in life?

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