Java

31  Semarang (2)

1948-1954

Gezellig samenzijn van Loes met haar broer en zusjes
Here we're sitting on the front deck. Loes and I are in the background, surrounded bij her two sisters and younger brother.
As already mentioned, I always stayed with my aunt (my father's younger sister) in the Jalan Gundih. From my aunt’s place, if you turned right onto the street, you came upon a block of homes perpendicular to the street. Here lived a widow with a number of children, including a daughter; I wasn’t really in love with her as such, but I was sufficiently interested in her and had serious intentions to want to remove her from the rather poor environment. Nothing came of it in the end, as she also had a boyfriend in Surabaya. I didn’t stay in touch with her afterwards. Only many years later, after our repatriation when we were living in Amsterdam West, I found out she had indeed married her boyfriend and had two sons together; incidentally, they had named their two sons the same names as Loes and I had named our sons by then… But now I am running ahead of things again.

Loes, my wife

1954, Loes and me - how beautiful and young we were
4 Aug. 1954. How beautiful and young we were on our wedding day
It must have been in 1952 when I was staying at my aunt’s in Semarang more and more often and things were starting to get pretty serious between her stepdaughter, Loes, and I. Together we had planned that I would ask her father, who was quite strict and concerned where his children were involved, for her hand in marriage during my holiday in Semarang in 1953. But I had the disadvantage - I thought – that she was only 18 then, while I was almost ten years older, so I had grave doubts about whether things would indeed work out. When the time came that I asked him for her hand, I found out I actually stood high in his favour and so I married Loes in Semarang in 1954, exactly on her 19th birthday. A couple of days later, we left together for my home in Jakarta.

A part of our
A part of our "gang" in Jakarta. I'm the third from right
Upon my return to Jakarta after my holiday in Semarang in 1953, I told my friends, a group of people with whom we organised dance nights at one of our places just about every weekend, that I was going to get married in Semarang the following year. Being the eldest of the group, they always believed me when I had something to say, but in this case nobody believed me! It was only when I showed the wedding announcement to my ‘gang’ in July 1954, a week before I was due to leave for Semarang, that they were forced to believe me after all.

And believe me they did, but not without making remarks such as “Why would you travel so far to find a bride when we have plenty of lovely, good looking girls in our own club?” Really, that’s what they said, despite the fact that I’d never turned up to any of our parties accompanied by a girl, yet always took care of the garden lights and records with dance music.

Glenn meets his grandfather at the very last moment

Loes and Glenn
Loes and Glenn
Almost a year later, my aunt and father-in-law and all of their children repatriated to the Netherlands via Jakarta. They were staying in Jakarta, as that’s where they would board the ship to the Netherlands. At the time, Loes had been admitted to the Sint Carolus hospital in Jakarta to give birth to our first child. The day before their departure, we visited the hospital in the morning, where my father-in-law said goodbye to his daughter. The doctor on duty informed him that unfortunately, due to his imminent departure, he wouldn’t be around when his grandchild was born. Imagine our surprise when we were informed by the hospital later that same day of the birth of our child, a boy! And as such, my father-in-law could meet his first born grandchild after all, literally at the last moment!

Abels’ Family Tree

Semarang is also the city which, fifty years later, played an important role in my search to complete my father's family tree. During my holidays in Semarang I had to walk from the Jalan Lampersarie, where my mother’s eldest brother lived, via the rather steep Jalan Gergaji to get to my aunt’s home a couple of streets away.

Loes and my cousin Astrid Abels
Loes and my cousin Astrid Abels
My father’s youngest brother, Alfred, lived on this Jalan Gergaji, with his wife Reeltje and their three young children - two girls and a boy. Many times I visited my father’s youngest brother and my aunt on the way. I saw them again probably in 1956 in the Netherlands, at my aunt’s place in Limburg. In the early seventies, I started researching the Abels’ family tree and in order to complete it I needed their details. I began a long search for them, but somehow this just didn’t succeed. My many inquiries did lead me to rumours that their father might have passed away. Later I learned their mother had passed away as well. Much later again, I heard that their son had died of some disease, but I still had no luck finding the addresses of my two remaining cousins. (There was yet another sister, but I was unaware of this at the time). So I started researching the Abels clan’s family tree only at a later stage. After searching for many years, I had just about given up all hope to get the details completed. However, I kept in touch with my aunts’ and uncles' children, all of whom had married and had children by then. They were all descendents of an older sister of my father and of another aunt, and were living in Duiven and Doesburg, respectively.

Ini-Dia in Duiven
Ini-Dia, the catering of my nephew Ron and his wife A'an Yzelman in Duiven
My nephew in Duiven, who owned a catering service in Indonesian meals named “Ini dia”, had several close friends who knew that his family tree was part of the Abels’ clan. One day, one of his friends approached him with the information that he’d come across an English website of a woman named Abels and he wondered if she was a relative. My nephew didn’t have a clue of course, but since he knew that I was working on my father’s family tree, he forwarded me those details via email so I could look into it. And this proved to be the missing link, with which I could complete my father’s family tree!

Alfred en Aurelia Abels-Hes Wedding photo of my Uncle Freddie (youngest brother of my father) and Auntie Reeltje (Alfred and Aurelia Abels-Hes), Semarang 1939
A very sad situation, as father Alfred died young, at the age of 49. Mother Aurelia was admitted into hospital shortly after, seriously ill. By then, their 5-year-old daughter was already living with an uncle, but the remaining three children, ranging in age from 9 to 14 years, carried on living at home by themselves for quite a while until they were placed into various foster homes. Unfortunately their mother also died at a young age, just like Andrew (the eldest, he was our page at our wedding) and Els (the youngest). Both were in their early forties and they each had two children. Hanny, the second child, lives in Deventer with her two children and five grandchildren. The third child, Astrid, the one who was discovered through her website, also has two children and nowadays she lives with her second husband Michael in Sheffield, England.

Both girls regretted having next to no contact with any relatives of their father's family. When I made contact with my cousin in England via email, she was very pleased to find out that a real relative, a first cousin, had been trying to trace them down for years. I didn’t waste time and asked my cousin in Duiven if he could organise a family reunion at his catering business, which he did. He closed the business to his customers on the day of the kumpulan and had everything prepared for our large gathering. I had invited both cousins with their families to come over and had drummed up many other close relatives. Naturally, this day saw a number of very emotional moments for both of my cousins. To be meeting and talking with so many close relatives from the past, and also with new additions to the family, all in the one day was something they could never have dreamed would happen. A weird and wonderful happening which neither of my cousins has stopped talking about since. And even less so when, because of my actions, they received emails next from several cousins who hadn’t been able to attend the kumpulan in Duiven. This “Happy Ending” was my reward, plus of course the fact that I now finally had all details of my Abels' family tree complete. This just shows where things can lead to when a website from someone called Abels in England was passed on to my cousin in Duiven by someone whom I don’t even know. The Semarang chapter can now really be closed, with ‘happy endings’ in every way.

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