Saturday, August 27, 2011

The 1947 wedding of Tineke, my Mother-in-law.

Saturday, August 27, 2011
A few weeks ago, I was looking at a jewellery tool that I have used every day since I set up my business in 1998. It was given to me by Tineke, my Dutch Mother-in-law who was also a jeweller. It got me thinking about memories and how objects and photos can tell a story.

Tineke is one of the most inspiring women I know, apart from my own wonderful Mum. At the age of eighty six, she has boundless energy for life, even though her limbs are physically slowing her down a bit now! I thought you might like to hear some stories about her life in Amsterdam, both during and after the Second World War, before she moved to Ireland in 1956 with her husband Cor. I'm glad she did, or I would never have met my husband Ben!

I am going to write two posts - this one is about Tineke and Cor's wedding. The second will be about how they both previously met in Art College - Tineke studying jewellery and Cor, commercial art or Graphic Design.

Tineke, thanks for taking the time to chat about your wedding day! Can I ask you first about what it was like living in Holland in 1947?

Amsterdam Street scene, 1947, courtesy Chiesavecchia Collection via Flickr
"Amsterdam in 1947 was very much working on getting the city in good shape. After the war there was much rebuilding to undertake; for five years nothing had been built and bombed places needed to be repaired. In Amsterdam there was not as much damage as in Rotterdam, where the Germans bombed the centre of the city to rubble."
WWII Ration card, Netherlands, 1944
"In 1947 we had still coupons on certain things especially for clothing and bedlinen, blankets etc. For our wedding we got special coupons for those things, such as the material for the wedding outfit."
Detail of wedding invitation designed by Cor

I have always loved your wedding outfit - tell us about it?
"Yes, it was in three pieces. The blouse was parachute silk but thinking about it, it must have been the first nylon. We didn't know in the war about nylon. You had a sort of silk that wasn't real but it was not a nylon - it was something in between. And after the Arnhem raid, somehow my sister-in-law got hold of a piece of what we thought was white silk. My mother-in-law had a piece of black velvet and on the coupons I got two metres of another heavier fabric to make the skirt in blue. That was a colour that I loved and then at the bottom there was a band that looked like fine embroidery. Somehow somebody had a piece of that. It was an idea of a farewell to my maiden name Margadant, which is originally a Swiss name. [The bodice] was velvet and was even lined with something black... and no, I don't think it came to Ireland."
Cor and Tineke on their wedding day, July 1947

I asked Tineke about how the wedding was planned in those days. She laughed and said that they were so eager to get married that they were married within a month of registering their intent. They went to the marriage registrar on 24th June 1947 and asked what was the next available date.
"...and they said, the 30th July is free, early in the morning, or 8th August - [and we said] 'No, no, no, we want July, What time? They said it was half past nine in the morning and we said OK. We didn't think any further. We came home to my mother-in-law, and she said 'What?!, half past nine in the morning? [for a] wedding? How do I get ready, how do I do this and that?' She was up in arms about it! 'Stupid you, why did you pick so early?' We were so eager to get married that we didn't think about it. She accepted it then - that was the time we were going to get married!"
Wedding dinner at Cor's parent's house

The wedding party consisted of a gathering at her husband's parents' house. Only a few close family and relatives were invited for a meal and celebration. There were no official speeches or dancing, "...everyone just chatting away".
"The next morning, [there was] a ring on the bell and Cor's father came and he had the little booklet you get when you get married, [in Holland]. We were planning to go to Paris and he said 'you might need it, you know, if people ask you; you look so young'".
Proof of being married?! So the rings weren't enough?
"No, probably not, he didn't think about it. And the rings, you give them to each other when you get engaged... When you are engaged, you wear it on your left hand and when you get married you wear it on your right hand.

I made the rings; I had to go around the family to get gold because shortly after the war you couldn't just go into a shop to buy gold - it was impossible to buy a strip. I got a ring from my step-mother and Cor's mother had a gold ring that she gave and I think a few other people gave something but I had enough then for the two rings. We got them inscribed; the engagement date - my twenty-first birthday and the name [of the other person] and then when we got married, the wedding date as well."
So you went to Paris on your honeymoon?
"Yes! We didn't get up so early as we had planned. We put on our rather heavy rucksacks and went by tram to the spot were all hitch-hiking started. Because transport was still so primitive and expensive, so many young people wanted to travel in Europe. During the war we could not leave Holland. We were amazed that the long bridges over the Rhine and Meuse were still lying in broken pieces in the river, but parts connected with Bailey bridges.

In Paris we had to go to the youth hostel, because, we had no money for a hotel. We took the Metro for the first time and with the help of the map we found where we had to go, Metro to Porte d'Orleans and a long walk to Ville de Malakoff, where we found the youth hostel. We met many people from other countries, even Americans. This was so nice in the evenings.

We took the Metro back into the city and went to all the city landmarks over the next few days. A fantastic view was when we went to Palais de Chaillot and entered the plaza between the two arms of the Palace and you see the Seine, Eiffel Tower and in the distance d'Ecole de Militaire. All on such a large scale, you realize you are in a world city. Another place we liked very much was Montmartre, high on the hill the Sacre Coeur and the Place du Tertre, where many artists were painting or drawing the tourists, not just making sketches, but the sitters had to pose. We saw the Louvre, but didn't go in at that time, [we] left it for the many times we went back.

After ten days we went to friends in Le Havre. We passed the town of Rouen and were so sad to see it in ruins. The cathedral and other ancient building were very badly damaged. Of course it had been damaged during the Allied landings in 1944 and so was Le Havre. Even in the landscape you could see war damage. From Paris we headed North via Luxembourg and the Ardennes and then home to Amsterdam. Paris was all we expected and more!"
A recent photo of Tineke taken by her daughter Emma

Tineke, it's been so interesting listening to your stories and looking at your photographs - thanks for sharing them with me and my readers.

Keep an eye out for my second post about Tineke's time in Art college studying jewellery design - young designers in love, listening to illegal American jazz and studying the subversive social ideas of the Bauhaus movement!


Kismet said...

Thank you for sharing this lovely story- things were so different back then werent they and the people were made of different stuff...Her wedding outfit was gorgeous and sad it didn't come to Ireland!!

Can't wait for the second part of this wonderful story..

Unknown said...

Thanks Kismet -

It's been so interesting chatting to Tineke about this period of her life. Times were hard and money was scarce after the war and yet these two were totally happy and in love!

Lisa O'Dwyer said...

Love that story Aisling! It would make for a great book. Love how she says she "even met Americans in Paris"! So cute! It's so interesting how different weddings were in the 40s around the world. My grandparents got married in Illinois and she had a white lace dress and the 1940s rolled hairstyle.

Unknown said...

Thanks Lisa - it must be lovely for you knowing that your photos will be ooh'd and ahh'd at for generations to come!