Part 2: A laced corset

Written by Bert Plomp

My maternal grandparents inhabited a large, stately, white house on the corner of Nicolaasdwarsstreet and Wijde Doelen. It was always very enjoyable to drop by on weekends. You could talk to them about anything and everything, and there was always a bowl of soup to be had.
Every Saturday, it was exciting to see what Grandpa Heijgen had managed to gather at the railway auction this time. This auction took place every Friday in a large building somewhere near the New Canal.

He would neatly display all the items he had acquired on the big table in the dining room. Items he had obtained for a bargain.
Throughout the day, several family members would drop by to see if there was anything they liked. It involved various goods left behind by train passengers who hadn’t picked them up. Not just umbrellas and suitcases; you could also find books, cameras, glasses, hearing aids, clothing, shoes, and the like at the auction.
On Grandpa’s dining table, you could potentially find anything. Those who arrived first on Saturday morning had the widest selection. Especially glasses were in high demand. Without any eye measurement beforehand, a prospective buyer would simply put on one of the frames and find to their satisfaction that their vision had improved. That sealed the deal.
I once picked up a pair of so-called health insurance glasses from the offerings. A model similar to John Lennon’s glasses. I replaced the lenses with sunglasses. On a previous occasion, I had already acquired a ladies’ fur coat. Nice and warm and ideal for riding the moped. Another time, I obtained the black waistcoat that I wore regularly, along with a matching pocket watch.

Among the offerings, I once saw a laced corset. Apparently, a lady had found the lacing of her corset too tight during a train journey. In Joost-knows-what circumstances, she must have taken off the garment.
Speaking of Joost-knows-what, I prefer to avoid that name as much as possible. My daughter’s husband is named Joost. Constantly referring to his knowledge could make him conceited. And, in this spicy case of a laced corset, it could lead to trouble between him and my daughter. I wish him that in the very last place. Moreover, within this context, the name Joost also refers to the devil. Extreme caution is therefore required.
On Grandpa’s table, I also occasionally saw a complete set of dentures. I witnessed one of my uncles, without hesitation, grabbing such false teeth and immediately sticking them in his mouth. He then walked away with a big smile. So, on Saturdays, there was something for everyone to find on Nicolaasdwarsstreet.

In a very large family like that of my grandparents, it was naturally impossible to give equal attention and love to all offspring. Moreover, the age difference between the oldest and youngest child must have been almost 20 years. Therefore, older, almost adult children had to help younger children.
As soon as possible, they were assigned a fixed task in the household. There were, of course, various tasks to be done in the house. Activities such as cooking, doing laundry, mending clothes, and polishing shoes were all handled in-house.
After leaving the parental home, the three brothers and thirteen sisters maintained a very strong bond with each other. My parents spent many free hours with the family, especially in Nicolaasdwarsstreet, opposite the Central Museum. I don’t know how things turned out for all the descendants of the 16, as there are simply too many to keep track of. However, I do know that most of them, like me, are very stubborn. Moreover, they have an opinion about everyone and everything. They are very persistent, and if, as a spouse, you hold a different opinion, the whole family will come down on you.

Grandpa Heijgen lived to almost 77 years, and Grandma reached over 82 years. Grandma’s funeral was a notable event for Tolsteeg and the surrounding area. The family had decided to invest grandma’s entire financial legacy in her funeral.
As a result, all children, grandchildren, and in-laws could be transported to the General Cemetery in the suburb Bunnik in large black limousines. A funeral procession that seemed to have no end set course for Bunnik around noon on a summer day in June 1975. Via the roundabout at Tolsteeg, over Goosestreet, and along Kingsstreet, heading towards grandma’s final resting place.
The funeral procession must have been so long that, while the hearse was already entering the cemetery, the last hearse left Utrecht. That same evening, I spoke to a friend. He told me that he had experienced a crazy event that day. That he was held up around noon at Tolsteeg by an almost endless funeral procession. He claimed that he had to wait almost half an hour before the procession passed, and the roundabout was released again.


For all episodes, click on: A waistcoat and black Clarks

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