The article below is a brief resume of the life of Reg Doedens. It is structured on the ghosted auto-biography prepared by Anne Rand, with additional notes by the reviewer, (a neighbour, cadet, employee, hardware store co-owner, interviewer (for another book), family friend and fellow Christian). Some of Reg’s story is also told in his sister Elly’s story – see Elly Schuth, also on this web site.
DOEDENS, Reinder O. 26 Jan 1924 – 21 Dec 2017 Memories of life in Holland and Tasmania Compiled by Anne Rand
“My father’s story is that of a man of faith and courage who has lived in interesting times. This book is written so that his descendants may know how he met the challenges that confronted him.” Richard Doedens.
Published May 2003 by Richard and Annalisa Doedens. CONTENTS Chapter 1: Grandparents and parents Chapter 2: Childhood in Haren Chapter 3: 1938 – 1945 Chapter 4: Post-war experience : 1945 – 1950 Chapter 5: Migration Chapter 6: Partnership Chapter 7: Partnership enterprises Chapter 8: Family concerns Chapter 9: Christian community undertakings Chapter 10: Family life Chapter 11: Our family Chapter 12: Second marriage Appendixes A, B & C Family tree
Chapter 1: Grandparents and parents Reg (Reinder Oltman) was born and raised in Haren, then a town of 20,000 people in Groningen, a town close to the provincial capital. He was the second of four children. The extended family was quite large – lots of uncles, aunts and cousins – and they were all each others best friends. On Sundays especially they would spend a lot of time together – going to church, gathering around an organ for an afternoon of singing, going for walks, visiting each other, being together.
His uncles were all in the building trade, excepting one who during the war could only find work as a greengrocer, a business which flourished.
Chapter 2: Childhood in Haren Reg’s father was a tailor, known to be a perfectionist. He generated a reasonable income but perfection reduced his potential earnings. Primary school was close by, high school was in the city of Groningen, five kilometres with the bike. The school was run as a Christian Parent-controlled School Association. A distinct memory was the necessity of memorising a Psalm each week for homework. His father’s role in this was to explain what the text meant.
There was no sport at school, but always something interesting to do in the playground. Discipline was quite strict, so teachers were remote, and school was not attractive. The family home featured a tap in the kitchen and an internal toilet. This was a bit better than many houses, but not to the level of having a basin in each bedroom. The only hot water was in the kettle on the stove. Showers were only available in public bathhouses, for a fee. Food was sufficient – mostly bread and toppings, and potatoes with a vegetable for the hot meal. A pot of soup was made once a week, meat was usually once a week, and sausage once or twice mid-week
One of Reg’s aunts married a widower, Jaap Meyer. Two of the daughters eventually migrated to Tasmania – Janny as the wife of Murk van Driezum, and Tina as the wife of Cees Overeem, who was to become Reg’s business partner in Tasmania.
Chapter 3: 1938 – 1945 Reg left school at 14 y.o. when he found a job in a workshop, repairing bikes. A condition of leaving school was that he attend night school. Every night, four nights a week, from seven until nine p.m, nine months a year for four years, followed by a course at Technical College qualified him to practice and teach as an electrician.
In 1942 the German army occupying the Netherlands directed that all men born in 1924 were needed to work in German factories. Like many others, Reg resolved not to go, which meant that until liberation three years later, he lived underground, a fugitive in his own town. Initially he was hidden on a farm, sleeping in a dugout, literally underground. During the day he helped with farm jobs – milking, harvesting, whatever needed doing.
Eventually he hid at home, first with his elder brother Daan, and later with his sister’s fiancée, Jetze. (A highly skilled carpenter, Jetze made a trapdoor to a hidden cellar in the floor under the couch. It proved its worth several times). Daan was caught by the Gestapo and sent to work in a German camp. Otherwise, apart from a few scares, the family survived the war intact, a rare experience. After the war he joined his friend Jetze and volunteered to serve in the Dutch army in Indonesia. It was to be an adventure after the deprivations of the previous three years.
Chapter 4: Post-war experience: 1945 – 1950 The ship that carried 3,500 troops, including Reg and Jetze, to Indonesia was built as a passenger liner for 700 – 800 passengers. The troops were mainly there in a policing role, freeing villages from militia groups. As a sergeant he insisted on strict discipline amongst his soldiers, prohibiting violence against the villagers in order to gain information, and prohibiting looting.
On return from Indonesia, Reg returned to work with his old boss, with a view to take over the business. He also did more part-time study improve his qualifications.
In 1949 he began to notice his sister Elly’s best friend, Corrie Sikkema. The romance grew slowly, and it was some time before he asked her to be his wife.
Chapter 5: Migration A group of men who had worked together in the Resistance during WWII were looking at emigrating. They had discussed various possibilities and decided that Tasmania would suit them best. A meeting was called, through word of mouth, for people interested in joining them. [The narrative on this matter is better described elsewhere – see K Bolt, LettersfromTasmania, and the thesis Dutch Migration to Tasmania in 1950: Motivation, Intention and Assimilation published on www.dutchtasmanianconnection.com/academic-studies.html – Ed.]
At the end of this meeting, Reg and Jetze decided to go. This meant that their fiancees had to be informed, business arrangements cancelled, weddings to organise, and the emigration process (paperwork, preparing and packing) dealt with. Six weeks after marrying (29/6/1950), the men flew to Australia with Corrie’s brothers Henk and Wim. They were able to start work the day after they arrived.
Australia was different (spiders were big and August nights were cold) and Australians were relaxed. (On their first Saturday Reg, Jetze, Henk, Wim, Eerke vdL and Eb Pinkster went up Mount Wellington in the ABC jeep and had a snowball fight with some locals. The military service of the migrants proved decisive.) The book describes the first days, living in a tent, then in Howden, going fishing, learning English, the jeep, driving licence, local customs, bringing a plate, sawdust on the butchers floors, barbeques, Australian work ethic and welcome to migrants.
The story of church life in Tasmania, and how the Reformed Church was established, is succinct. It was not an easy path, people were hurt, sacrifices were made. Looking back, Reg is confident the correct path was chosen.
32 photos in the middle of the book are literally a snapshot of Reg’s life, from childhood until his 75th birthday.
Chapter 6: Partnership Reg and Cees Overeem met in the Netherlands at a wedding which established a tenuous link between the families. Cees heard that things were going well for Reg in Tasmania and began a correspondence. This led to Cees migrating and the formation, in 1953, of a business partnership called Electrical and Plumbing Services, Kingston.
They did many jobs all over southern Tasmania, and had a workshop in Church St, Kingston. To meet Council requirements for a showroom they bought two houses in central Kingston and demolished one to build their first shop. It is currently the bakery portion of Banjo’s Bakery, Channel Court. Paul’s Salon was built next, (and it still has the original vinyl tile floor.) Demand for shops led them to build two more (now the NAB and Dave’s Noodles).
Increasing demand for shops, and for a bigger shop for themselves, led to a new shop or two being built every year. (It also helped in keeping their employees working when other jobs were scarce).
Recollections of the 1967 bushfire are vivid, trying to describe the fury, chaos,danger and angst of the day. His recollection of establishing electrical and sanitary facilities in Snug Park is quite brief, (and far too modest. The Kingborough Municipal Commissioner’s report made at the end of that month, details the achievements. The report is dry and bureaucratic – the noted amount of infrastructure built for the people of Snug amazing) with more concern about missing a church service than about the relief work done.
Chapter 7: Partnership enterprises Reg convinced the Education Department that the land behind the shopping Centre, which was a creek in a steep valley, was not suitable for Department purposes. At the same time the foreman from the Southern Outlet project was looking for a place to deposit spoil. At the same time Reg was aware that a Purity Supermarket would be an excellent addition to the shopping centre, but they needed a large carpark.
With one strike Reg was able to satisfy all three. A pipe was put in to take the creek water, the valley was filled, and the supermarket was built, partially on piles driven into the fill. (Channel Court was given its name by a resident of the Channel – her entry won a public naming competition. All of the entries were kept in a box in a backroom of the hardware store for almost ten years, until someone bothered to put them in the rubbish.)
Reg served on the Kingborough Council from 1970 to 1972. It was during this time that there were different views on how Kingston should expand, with some pushing for centralisation around Kingston Town and others wanting Channel Highway and Channel Court to be the centre of town. Opinions were strongly held and became quite acrimonious. Channel Court continued to expand, eventually joining forces with a shopping centre built next door by Laver and encompassing most of the square bounded by Freeman St, Church St, Hutchins St and the Channel Highway.
Land was bought and subdivisions built to keep their workforce together when other jobs dried up. Jantina and Corinna Place (named after their wives) was the first. Aldinga St, Redwood Rd (originally called Mountain View subdivision, Channel Highway to Senior Citizens Centre, $3750 per block, 1973), Drysdale Ave in Kingston and Endeavour Ave in Margate followed. An unfortunate side effect came from using jackhammers – damage to hearing already damaged during service in Indonesia.
Land was also bought in Denison St. Some blocks were sold to cover costs, at least eight were given to the Association for Christian Homes for the Aged and the Reformed Church.
The initial showroom on Channel Highway became, twenty years later, a Mitre10 licence holder, at which time Reg sold the business as Channel Hardware Mitre10. It had moved several times to allow for expansion and was the dominant business in the Centre until it was sold again in 1992 and relocated to Huntingfield.
At about the same time Cees Overeem retired, and Reg bought out his share of the business. The contracting part of the company, and the workshop, stores and equipment, were sold to the sons of Cees Overeem.
Chapter 8: Family concerns Reg built his first house in Maranoa Rd, in 1955. Despite all due care taken, and professional advice, he built on the wrong block and was obliged to buy the next one as well. Shortly before this (July 1954) he had become, with forty other people, a founding member of the Association for Christian Parent-controlled Schools, Kingston. Eight years later Calvin School opened. Reg was often on the Board, including several stints as Chairman.
When his father was diagnosed with cancer, and his mother bedridden with a broken hip, Reg returned to the Netherlands to care for them. While there he persuaded his wife’s eldest brother Jan to emigrate. In the years to come, Reg’s mother (1959) and youngest brother (1961) also migrated to Tasmania.
Corrie was diagnosed with breast cancer, but treated very promptly, and had good health for five years. The cancer recurred and again it was treated. After another four and a half years she was found to have lung cancer, and treatment did little good. Two weeks after a biopsy, she died.
Chapter 9: Christian community undertakings At Corrie’s suggestion, their first house was used for community benefit. It supported several missions before becoming Jireh House, a refuge centre for all women.
On a whim Reg looked at some land in Margate and negotiated with the owner, the Kingborough Council and the Calvin School Board. The land was purchased in July 1987, personal intervention overcame the obstacles raised by the Council Engineer re water, sewerage, and footpaths. Improvements to Council infrastructure were paid by Reg which allowed construction of the school to commence in September. With help from his friend Murk van Driezum, and working bees every Saturday, the school was ready at the beginning of the 1988 school year.
The site proved to be so salubrious that Reg and Jane built a house next to the school. It took two years for the paperwork of the subdivision to be sorted, at which point the school paid for their portion. Reg donated the same amount back to the school on the following day. (The first headmaster recalls the sequence of events but a very different number than mentioned in this book. As it was a zero sum event the exact amount is irrelevant).
Reg was heavily involved in all the milestones achieved by the Association for Christian Parent-controlled Schools. These included building the secondary school, establishment of Emmanuel at Rokeby, member of a steering committee to establish Channel.
In the 1980s there were a lot of people out of work. Under the auspices of the Scripture Union, and with Christian businessmen from other Kingston churches, a program call “His Master’s Workforce” was established to give work to young people. In practice, this meant finding (small) jobs, usually unskilled, for the people they took on, and to pay them a regular wage whether work was found or not. (The office of the hardware store was used for meetings, which always began and ended with prayer, and the administration was done in that office too.)
Other organisations Reg became involved with included a period working with young boys / early teens in a Reformed Church sponsored Cadet program similar to Boy Scouts, assisting with refugee settlement, Association for Christian Homes for the Aged and Fusion Radio.
In this chapter Reg also discusses his Christian faith, the blessings he received, the motivation for helping Christian organisations, the sadness when Corrie died, his understanding of salvation and his hope for the life to come.
One telling item is not recorded in this book, and concerns congregational meetings. Sometimes there would be a lull in proceedings, or some other spare time, and the members would be asked to nominate a hymn for all to sing. Invariably a call for number 408 would be made, and always by Reg. If the refrain is sung after each verse, this hymn is effectively six verses long, not too long for Reg, but the congregation normally only sang all the verses and then the refrain once to finish off. Number 408 is a hymn of praise to an eternal, faithful God actively involved in the lives of His children. The hymn is called “Great is thy Faithfulness”.
Chapter 10: Family life Sundays were family days, in church (twice each Sunday), long walks to Boronia Reserve, visiting or receiving friends. Strong memories which have made strong bonds. Camping holidays at Snug and Orford. Holidays traveling by ferry to the mainland. The problems that can befall the youngest child of seven. Grooming Richard to take over the contracting business (he qualified as an electrician but became an abalone diver). Never locking the house, even when they were away for weeks at a time. Holidays in the shack on Bruny Island. Sharing the shack with other families. Fishing, walking, swimming, skiing, friends in other shacks, relaxing together as a family. (Bringing the minister in the speedboat from Tinderbox to lead Sunday services for all the church members holidaying in Dennes Point, using the little Anglican Church building). The story of the swimming pool amply demonstrates the enthusiasm of children.
Chapter 11: Our family This chapter relates the stories, travels and achievements of all the children. How an abalone license led to the establishment of a fish farm at Russel Falls (technically Mt Field National Park, initially trout), the very beginnings of that industry in Tasmania.
Chapter 12: Second marriage How Reg met Jane, and initial impressions. Jane’s story, from emigrating to the USA from the Netherlands as a twelve year old, eventually settling in Vancouver, to getting married and migrating to Australia with six children, the nursery business she built up with her husband in Gosford, and his death from lung cancer.
Reg and Jane married in Gosford in 1987. The combined families presented many skits about their parents, which made for a very funny celebratory evening. The entertainment was typical of Dutch weddings with everybody joining in. Several coincidences from their pre-emigration days were also discovered.
One of Jane’s daughters designed the house in Margate to which they retired. (It was built on the western shore of North West Bay, opposite the first house in Howden where Reg and Corrie lived when they first arrived in Tasmania in 1950.)
Jane now feels lucky to have lived in four countries, and long enough in each to be at home, blessed to be a citizen of the world. Reg and Jane travelled often, especially to see Jane’s family in Canada. They also bought a holiday house in Grindelwald. This was the location for celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. The entire family were together – three generations, 54 people.
Church life now focuses on Outreach Programs, sharing the Gospel and worshiping with new Christians.
In his last days, Reg needed some medical attention. Concerned that the medication might be confusing him, the nurse asked him “Who is sitting next to you?” He responded “That’s Jane”. The nurse continued, “And who is Jane to you?” Without any hesitation he answered, “She’s my precious wife!”
Reg summed up his life very simply “To God be the Glory.”
Appendixes A, B & C
Appendix A is the translation of an article written by Corrie. It was originally published in the Dutch Australian Weekly, 19 December 1952.
The story tells of picking raspberries to earn a little spare money, and reflecting on the differences between her old country and Australia in 1952. The problems of adapting, of homesickness, of coping in a new country without all the props she had left behind.
Appendix B is a poem written in Dutch, with an English translation beside it. It was written for Corrie by her mother reflecting on her mother. It focuses on the blessing a child can be, and the promise given them by the Lord, that they will eventually be together amongst the blessed throng.
Appendix C is a poem written by Frances about her mother.
Family tree There are some small errors on this page that are obvious to this editor, and there may be others which the editor does not have the resources to check. Wieringa is a common surname in the Netherlands. In this instance, the spelling should be Wierenga. The two names are similar but have nothing else in common. Johuisman should read Jo Huisman. (She and Willem were married “by the glove” in August 1950. The ceremony is described in “Letters from Tasmania” by Kusha Bolt. It was thought at the time that a wedding ring gave a woman travelling alone some protection from unwanted attention from men. Six Dutchmen, newly arrived in Tasmania, and performing a wedding ceremony for one of their number. )