Skating in Amsterdam in the 1930s

Photo: My Dad on the left with an (unknown to me) race opponent. Great skating outfits! (Photo: Bert Buurman)

I grew up in the Dutch village of Ankeveen. In winter this still is one of the the ‘go to’ place for skating in The Netherlands. They’ve organised marathon races in the past, all on natural ice. It is absolutely gorgeous to skate there.

Back in the 1920s and 1930s my dad however, had to make due with ice rinks in Amsterdam. Unfortunately I can not make out where these photos were taken. It could have been the Olympiaplein, near the Olympic stadium (the Amsterdam olympic summer games were held in 1928). The Museumplein was also a place for ice skating until 1937. But there was also a skating rink in the Linnaeusstraat. The Apollohal was a skating rink in the 1950s (I think that is were my mum and dad first met!) and in 1961 the Jaap Edenbaan opened. For more history on skating in Amsterdam check out this short history (in Dutch).

Frans Vaal (left) in Amsterdamse ijshockeyclub shirt competing on hockey skates in Amsterdam, early 1930s. (Photo: Bert Buurman)

Number 13 was my Dad’s lucky number. Not so lucky in this race, looks like he’s losing… (Photo: Bert Buurman)

I sure wish I could have seen him skate. I only found his gear; skates, stick and gloves in the attic when I was little. A few clippings remain, a medal, a mention in a hockey history book. I heard there is still some game footage in the filmarchives in Hilversum. I sure need to find that some day soon.

Ice hockey in Holland late 1930s

Photo: The Amsterdam hockey team, with my father Frans Vaal on the outer left.

This is one of the topics in my family history that I know way too little about: my father and his love for hockey (or ice hockey as we say in Dutch (field hockey is what we call ‘hockey’)). Fortunately I have a few photos, undated unfortunately, and I don’t know who else is on them. A little research brought me to The Hockey Pages and IJshockey Nederland so I can reconstruct just a little bit of the story.

Just three players of the Amsterdam hockey team with Frans Vaal on the left. The others are unknown to me.

I think my father started out playing for the A.IJ.H.C. and then shifted to the Amsterdamse IJsvogels. I don’t know the exact year, but I do know he started out playing with them. The IJshockey Nederland page mentions that the A.IJ.H.C. had some Nazi affinity and therefore the Amsterdam IJsvogels were founded. Well this is an interesting photo to accompany that assumption:

This must be the A.IJ.H.C. on the road to an international game and getting held up by German soldiers. Frans Vaal on the right next to a soldier looking away from the camera.

This must have been in the beginning of the war, everybody still friendly and all smiles. Except for my father. He doesn’t look too happy. He wasn’ very fond about the Nazi’s from the beginning. His contempt for the regime was some time later fed by the fact that some of his Jewish friends ‘went missing’ (=had been sent to concentration camps). Later, when the Arbeitseinsatz came, my father fled to northern Netherlands and went into hiding. I recognize his uncomfortable face while standing next to a German officer :-/

Later in life he didn’t hold a grudge against the Germans, in general. But I do remember him getting very angry at a German in the late 70s. The man attempted telling my father how to run his business in an ‘ordering’ kind of way… That didn’t go down well…

If anyone can identify the players on the pictures, please drop me line!

School photography in Amsterdam 1930s

Photo’s (C) Beeldtype: top: Louise De Rooij, bottom: Franciscus Vaal, official schoolphotography 1930s

In the 1930s these kind of official photographs were taken in schools in The Netherlands. Pen in hand, appearing to be writing something down in a notebook. My mom’s photo was taken in the 4th grade so that means she was 10 years old. It must have been taken in 1939, just before WWII. I am guessing that my father is maybe 14 to 16 years old. His photo was taken probably around 1936-1938.

For families who didn’t earn a lot of money, let alone own a camera, these pictures were the only ones of their children growing up. My dad’s family was that kind of family and photos of him are limited to one small album. My mother has a few albums however, but only one other photo taken in school:

My mother and her schoolteacher, mid 1930’s

I still have one school book that my mother must have used in high school. It is a history book, with lots of illustrations and it ends with a section about the first World War. My mother probably started high school in 1940/1941. WWII was already on its way. That is so hard to fathom: she was experiencing that era and I was taught extensively about WWII in primary and high school.

I also realised that my parents, well maybe just my father, had to learn a new way of spelling in 1934. A lot changed in writing the Dutch language with the Marchant spelling. ‘Groote’ became ‘grote’ and the words ending with -sch, were simplified: ‘Mensch’ became ‘Mens’. Must have been hard on my father who was 12 at the time and already knew how to write. He had to re-learn…

Have a look at the lovely illustrations of the ‘Groote Platen-Atlas’ (edition 1925, Sijthoff’s Uitgeversmaatschappij) my mother used at Het Amsterdams Lyceum:

The last pages of the history book about WWI with cartoons that were published in ‘De Amsterdammer'(1877-1925) , the Chicago Daily News and the Sun (Pittsburgh)

I must end this blog with a link to a page with school photography ‘gone wrong’…. just for the fun of it. Here it is.

Family portraits in the early 1930s

(Photo (c) Beeldtype: Wilhelmina Vaal- de Ridder and Franciscus en Wilhelmina Vaal, taken in Atelier Z.D. Fraenkel, Ceintuurbaan 123, Amsterdam)

It’s fun to dress up for a vintage photo taken in an old fashioned studio. But nothing beats the real old photographs made in the studios back in the day. The look on their faces is almost solemn.
On this photo my father, Franciscus Vaal is about eight years old. Funny to see him with his bare knees and socks. In my life I have never seen him in shorts. My aunt, Wilhelmina Vaal (1928-2009), must be around two in this picture. For me it’s hard to recognize her face in this two year old girl. She changed a lot over the years. My father didn’t.

How adorable are the pompons on her coat and the gaiters covering her tiny shoes?

Hats and barets were all the fashion back then. As in this photo:

Frans en Wil Vaal holding hands while strolling on a city street
Frans and Wil holding hands, my grandparents in the background, probably in Amsterdam

My aunt smiling. She’s holding my father’s hand. She simply adored him.

In her seventies she told me that her father, my grandfather, told her to always cherish her good and cheerful heart. It was a gift, he said. I remember her as being almost always cheerful.

It’s also one of the few photographs with my grandfather on it. Here’s the other one:

Familie Frans Vaal out in nature in 1929
My grandparents and their children out for a walk in their Sunday best

It must have been on a sunday. He was a plumber and probably worked six days a week to care for his family.
It is obvious that they are all wearing their ‘Sunday best’. The proof of that is in this picture, probably taken on a regular day, with my grandmother in a simpler dress:

Wilhelmina Vaal-De Ridde with her children Frans and Wil in 1929.
The Vaal family on a stroll with their dog, 1929

This huge pram is fantastic! My father not wearing socks….. 😀 As far as I remember he hated not wearing socks…

The tricyclist in Amsterdam 1920s

PHOTO: (C) Beeldtype : My father on his tricycle on a street in Amsterdam in 1926.

Almost 94 years ago was this picture taken of my father, Franciscus Vaal (1922-1984), then aproximately 4 years old. I find the sailor-like suit he’s wearing simply adorable. I remember my father to always wear a suit and tie. Well, except maybe on holidays. He would lose the tie then. But still wear a shirt and nice pants.

Another funny thing is that I have never seen my dad riding a bike. In many countries this is quite normal, but not in The Netherlands. Everybody owns a bike, but he didn’t in my lifetime. So seeing him on this tiny bike is quite endearing.

My father riding is tricycle, accompanied by my grandmother Wilhelmina Vaal- de Ridder (R), her mother (c) (my great-grandmother) and probably a great-aunt of mine (L).

This long ago, people would not wear the casual clothing we wear today. They would always be decently clad when going out. Maybe not when you couldn’t afford it, but still, women would wear dresses and men a suit. Have a look at children’s cloths from this era here.

My grandmother, Wilhelmina Maria Johanna de Ridder (1891-1978) was a seamstress. And my guess is that she would design and produce the clothes for my father. On this picture my father must be at least year or more older than on the first picture, but again he is wearing a sailor suit:

My father playing croquet, probably in the garden in front of his house in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid ca. 1928

I spent quite a few hours trying to locate where the photo’s were taken. Not quite easy, I must say. I could find a birth card of my father’s sister , Wilhelmina Vaal, which stated that her address was Cornelis Trooststraat 71. Looking at the street the way it is now, doesn’t compare at all to these pictures. Although the 90 degree left turn in the street could be matched with a turn in the street today.

A lot has changed in that area of the city. A lot of new appartment buildings were built due to a vast housing shortage and because of the Olympics, held in 1928. Across from the former mentioned address a school/monastery was built in the 1930s (now a brewery).

In the background of the first photo is a a cigar shop. In the window it says: sigarenmagazijn … zuid. The … could be ‘oud’. It’s hard to read. The sign above the door reads: ‘Ten Hove’s sigaren’; a Dutch cigar brand from Kampen. I could not find this shop in any online archive.

So that’s all I have. The pictures and a lot of ‘if’s’ and ‘maybe’s’. If anyone knows if this really was the Cornelis Trooststraat, please let me know.

Classy hiking fashion in the 1930s

Picture (c) Beeldtype: My mother, grandmother and her sister on a hiking trip in the German Harz area / Schierke, 1938)

In my last blogs I wrote about the skiing and bathing fashion of the 1930’s. If there’s one word to attach to the photos I posted, it must be ‘classy’. I really do enjoy looking at the elegant way of dressing. Too bad the photos are black and white, because I keep wondering: ”What colour were these dresses?” I am so curious about the colour of the dress my great-aunt Willemien Burgers is wearing. My guess is ‘green’ with yellow flowers…but I’ll never know.

I shiver when looking at the shoes! Especially the shoes my grandmother (on the right) is wearing. These can’t be comfortable, can they? My feet hurt by just looking at them! Compare these to the sturdy big boots I wear, when hiking :-/

And then there’s the purse that my grandmother, Greet de Rooij-Burgers, is holding. No big backpacks to take water or camera’s or whatever hikers take with them these days. My bet is that this tiny purse just contained 4711, handkerchiefs and cigarettes and a lighter. When I was young I remember that my grandmother smoked a brand called St. Moritz. I am not sure whether she smoked these in the 30s. In my search trying to find out what she could have been smoking, I came upon this creepy fact about selling a cigarette brand in the 30s and 40s.

Back to fashion. Here’s a nice piece of history about hiking fashion in the 1930s and how it was influenced by what actors and actresses wore in the movies. (I read that as: glitter and glamour before comfort :-D). In my opinion could nobody have been comfortable wearing these clothes while out on a hiking trip… but they didn’t know what else was possible. Although I do know that my grandmother and her sister really liked glamorous clothes. My grandmother was a big Dior fan.

Here’s another photo of the two sisters. Have a look at the shoes my great-aunt is wearing. Aren’t they gorgeous!!! Not really the right shoes to cross a stream with…

And another one of the three graces, my mother and grandmother wearing comfortable shoes this time…

Woollen swimwear in the 1930s

PHOTO (C) Beeldtype: My grandmother, her sister and my very young mother wearing woollen swimwear in 1938 and of course Daisy, the Scottish terrier.

Summer is over and our bathing suits can be tucked away. I was thinking about how quickly the modern bathing suits dry. Some even faster than others. I decided to take a look at what my mother and grandparents wore on the beach.

But when I looked at the picture above, I immediately started to laugh. They are wearing woollen bathing suits! Wool! Did they know what happens to wool when it gets wet? A sheep is not equipped for swimming and that is because wool gets heavy (and saggy) !

I guess that back in the 30’s people wore natural fabrics like cotton, wool or silk. When I look in my closet today I see a lot of synthetic fibers. Unfortunately, because I really like the feel of organic fabrics. But synthetics are cheaper and more readily available. And in the case of swimwear: more comfortable.

What bothers me is that I can’t believe people didn’t care in the 30’s about the sagginess of the bathing suits. Did they just cope? Or did it have to be wool, because cotton might reveal too much of the body? So many questions…

Here’s an interesting website that answered my questions about woollen swimwear:

Spoiler alert: the answer was Lastex, yarn covered in rubber. Rubber… can you believe that? I like that we have evolved beyond that 🙂

I really like this bathing suit my grandmother is wearing. Isn’t she a diva? (The photo was not developed well, one side is lighter)

My grandmother wearing a polka dot swim suit in 1938 on the beach, probably The Hague.

I really like the lining of my grandmother’s bathing suit. I am almost certain that she would have said that it actually mader her look fat 😦

My mother and grandmother getting their feet wet in 1938. I do not know what the black thing on the right is… a rope?

My grandfather seems to wear a onepiece swimsuit with open sides:

My mother cuddling with my grandfather on the beach in 1938.

Ski fashion in the late 1930s

Photo: (c) Beeldtype : My grandmother Margarethe de Rooij-Burgers in her ski outfit in Radstädter Tauern, 1937

While browsing through the old family photos I look for things that have changed tremendously through time. Fashion for one. I really like this ladylike ensemble and the cap my grandmother is wearing. It’s hard to make the material out, but my guess is that it is wool. After a little googling I found a blog with advertisements of winter clothing in the 1930s. I was right, ski clothing was mainly wool, or ‘fleecy wool’ as they called it. Nowadays skiers are clad in polyester and nylon, from top to bottom and aren’t nearly as stylish as my grandmother 🙂

Have a look at my grandfather teaching my mother a ski move:

My grandfather teaching my mother the right ski moves.

Note the pants and socks! I think he’s wearing knee-length socks with his pants tucked in and another pair of socks that are folded over the shoes. Quite stylish 🙂 Again all wool. Love the short jacket too!

And here’s a group of my grandparents friends:

ski friends posing in nice weather in Gargellen, 1938, my grandmother standing in the checkered vest.

Note the lady on the left and especially her gaiters covering her shoes. I think she’s wearing pants, but it looks like a skirt. I wonder how warm these woollen garments were. One thing is for sure: a fall in the snow would mean continuing with wet pants :-/ That’s when nylon entered the scene…

Skiing in Austria in uncertain times

(Photo (C) Beeldtype: 1936: Exterior of hotel Fluchthorn in Galtur, Austria, my mother waving at the photographer and my grandmother sitting in a sun chair next to her)

When I was in primary school I was one of the few in my class who went skiing with my family. It was (and still is) quite expensive. While looking at these old photos it surprised met that in 1936 my grandparents were wealthy enough to go skiing in Austria.

I googled the hotel and it is still in business. Alpenresort Fluchthorn it is called nowadays. At the moment of writing this blog they are reconstructing the hotel. They must have done so in the past after 1936, because the wooden balconies are different and I can’t find the half round glass door entrance anywhere on the present day photographs.

My mother and grandmother having breakfast at the hotel Fluchthorn in 1936

Funnily enough, the seating in the breakfastroom is still the same; bench on the window side, chairs on the other side of the tables. On this photo my mother is looking out the window. It could have been snowing. Or she might have seen this dog:

My mother was kind of a dog whisperer. No matter what breed, size or agressiveness, my mother would only have to talk to them and they would ease up.
Dogs of any size would listen to my mum. This photo was probably developed later than the others in this series: there is no deckled edge to this one.


Note the vintage snow goggles. I find them quite horrifying, but they might have been all the fashion back in 1934. And when googling vintage snow goggles, you will find that they are still being made in this fashion.

My mother used to say: ‘Always wear goggles when skiing.’ I hated these things because they always seem to fog up. I had them tied around my arm most of the time. But she always reminded me of her getting snow blindness or photokeratitis. This eye damage resulted in her having to spend many days in a dark room after a skiing holiday. As long as I can remember my mother always had trouble with bright light. She owned all kinds of shades, for any type of weather.

THE YEAR 1936:

My grandmother’s captions do not state in which month these photos were taken. It might have been in februari when the Olympic Wintergames were opened by Hitler in Garmisch Partenkirchen. Fascists are gaining ground throughout Europe in 1936. In Greece the parliament is sent home and dictator Metaxas settles himself as the new head of state. In july the Spanish civil war starts and dictator Franco reigns. On the other side of the Atlantic Franklin Delano Roosevelt fortunately gets elected as president of the United States.

It scares me to compare those times with the world we now live in. I am glad my mother didn’t have to witness what we are going through now.

The old tin bathtub in Blankenheim

PHOTOS (C) Beeldtype : August, 1934 – Old houses at Blankenheim, Eiffel, Germany.

Going through the photo album I come across funny captions (see my last blog) written by my grandmother. These photos made in the 1930s are small and sometimes I need a magnifying glass to check out what is actually in the picture.

What caught my attention this time was the old photo of old houses in the German town of Blankenheim. My grandmother stated where it was and in brackets she wrote ‘Look at the bathtub’. Indeed, when you take a closer look you can see a bathtub standing upright against a wall. My first question: why is it upright? Then: why is it outside? And: What kind of bath is it anyway?

By the looks of it, it is probably a tin bath that had to be filled with hot water by hand. In those days it was not very common to bathe everyday. This bathtub was probably used once a week, since it was a lot of work to heat water and fill it. So someone had to make a fire (hot water was probably not yet readily available in this small town), heat the water (probably pumped up at a well) walk with a bucket of hot water to the tub over and over to fill up the bath. Quite a production. And I guess one had to bathe outside and if it was in that particular spot, everybody could see :-/ . This confronts me with how much I love my daily warm private shower!

On the top left corner a piece of a church tower can be seen. I think the same church is still there now.

On this picture you can see the castle of Blankenheim and its elevation from the town below. The house with the bath is in the lower left corner (compare the chimney):


Click here to look at an arial view of Blankenheim today. You can figure out where the house with the tub used to be: between the castle and the church.

For more information about this town:,_North_Rhine-Westphalia Check out the photo of where the river Ahr has its source!

Click here for more history about bathing.

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