Tuesday 20 September 2016

Dutch Immigrant Doris Fagendam

"People used to do all their travelling on ice.  They had horses and sleighs.  Merchandise would go by sleigh, by canals.  And they had tens all along the way, where they sold hot chocolate." 
(Doris Fagendam)

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Doris Fagendam was born in raised in Friesland, a province of Holland.  She and her many siblings grew up in a brick row house.  Their father was a dairy farmer, their mother a homemaker.  She used to make a delicious soup with buttermilk and barley.  In winter time, Doris and her siblings used to skate on the frozen canal.  When they came home, their mother would have a piece of cake waiting for each of them.  Peddlers used to come up the side streets from the canals peddling their wares.  The Dutch, known for their cleanliness, used to scrub the streets, each neighbour taking a section.

Christmas was celebrated on December 6, St. Nicholas Day.  Doris remembers going to church where they had little footstool warmers, "a square box with hot coal in it."  Her mother used to give her and her siblings peppermints to keep them quiet during the church service.

Doris's family was not poor.  They had food in their tummies and a roof over their heads.  However, her father saw more opportunities in the New World.  Her left for America when Doris was five years old.  

Doris and her family joined her father in 1908, sailing overseas on the Rotterdam.  The journey only took nine days, a quick trip for those days.  While Doris doesn't remember seeing the Statue of Liberty she does remember her experience at Ellis Island.  They were detained because her sister, who suffered from polio, wore leg braces.  Even though her mother made her dress a little longer, the officials still took notice.  However, Doris father was able to convince the immigration officials that she would not be a "burden".  Shortly after settling into their new home, a nurse came to their house and arranged an operation for Doris' sister.  She never wore braces again.

Doris thought that the best part of coming to America was seeing her father again.  He explained:  "Compared to America were sort of a slow nation.  You can't dawdle her.  You have to step on it a little bit."  The family settled in Briarcliff Manor, New York where the father worked at a dairy.  What a treat for Doris, who was used to the flatness of Holland, to be treated to a view of the mountains!  While Doris arrived in America wearing wooden shoes, she soon became accustomed to American fashion.  When she started school, she spoke only Friesian but it was not long before she "conquered the English language beautifully."  She would speak English at school and Friesian at home, her mother never having mastered a second language.  Doris considered herself very fortunate to have come to America.

Boat arrives at Ellis Island courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/explore/ellis-island/

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