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Memories of Harry van Oudenaren

September 10, 2023

Drikus (Harry) in Trade School Drafting Room, 1938

With his children Nicolette and Pieter

Hendrikus “Drikus” (Harry) van Oudenaren was born on November 4, 1924 at his family’s home in Haarlemmermeer, a municipality in Northern Holland.  They were a working-class family and his mother was a widow.  Her husband had died in 1918.  Drikus was the youngest in the family and was born out of wedlock.  He had a brother, Gilles, who was 20 years older as well as three sisters.  His mother had died when Drikus was 2 ½ years old so he was raised by his brother Gilles and his wife.

When Drikus was growing up, Gilles painted boats at a shipyard to support the family, and they ‘got by’ by growing their own potatoes and vegetables while keeping a goat for milk. The family grew flowers for the market. Though they had electricity and running water, the family had just one tap and used an outhouse. Wastewater from their basin would be released into a sewer that ran between their house and their neighbours. In those days, most household essentials were delivered—groceries once per week, a baker with bread twice a week, the local milkman with a horse drawn wagon and also a vegetable man. Each Christmas, the family would have a Christmas tree with real candles. On December 5th, they celebrated Sinterklass—attending a party where each would receive a little present.

Being raised by his older siblings, Harry was practically an orphan. He was often teased as a child, “It was like the whole town knew who his father was, but he didn’t know,” Nicolette explains. Up to the age of 12, Drikus (Harry) had gone by the surname of Heijstek (belonging to his mother’s husband) to conceal the fact that he had been born out of wedlock. But when the time came for him to move on from the local school, his brother Gilles told him that his name was not Heijstek, but van Oudenaren which was his mother’s maiden name, and that his mother’s husband was not in fact his father. Gilles explained that his identity could not be kept secret anymore and that he would have to register under his actual name. To that point he still did not know who his biological father was. Drikus dreamed of becoming a pilot or an airplane mechanic. Gilles told him that that would be too expensive and that he should instead enrol to be an automotive mechanic. But when he arrived at a trade school in Amsterdam, they did not have a course to become an automotive mechanic so he instead learned to be a machinist. He rode his bicycle to school—a one-hour journey each way.

Years later, Harry would recall a startling awakening that happened when he was fifteen years old: “On the morning of May 4th, 1940 at 4:00 am, we awoke to the sound of airplanes flying low overhead and bombs falling. The planes were black with a white cross on them and we did not know what was going on until we heard over the radio that the Germans were bombing the Schipol Airport. People were fleeing, so Gilles said that we should go to our oom [uncle] Piet’s house as he lived far away from the airport. Gilles loaded the goat in our bakfiets (Dutch cargo bike) and we were all on our bikes to oom Piet in Vijfhuizen. We stayed with him for 2 days and then went back home.”

As the German army captured the airport, they closed off many of the roads and Harry had to take more circuitous routes to get to Amsterdam, but this would pale in comparison of the ordeal that was to come. Harry would recall “The first years of the war were full of challenges. We were not supposed to have a radio, so we hid ours under the couch. If we had any copper in the house, we had to bring it to a gathering place. All food was rationed. This was the first time I would drink cow’s milk. Before that, all we drank was goat’s milk but now we were getting tickets for cow’s milk, which was actually skim milk. This was quite different from the rich, strong taste of goat’s milk. We would only cook with the skim milk. Despite all the rationing, we were never short of food as we still had our vegetable garden. House lights were not to be seen outside, so we had black paper drapes in the living room. Coal for heating was scarce, so trees along the road had to be cut down.” They baked bread from home-ground wheat. His brother-in-law made a seed press that allowed them to press rapeseed to make cooking oil, a precious commodity they could sell, but that had to be hidden from the Germans.

One day Drikus (Harry) and Gilles went to a flea market in the Jewish Corner of Amsterdam, when suddenly, everyone started running in one direction. Harry later recalled, “I crossed one of the bridges just as a group of German soldiers were closing it off. Hundreds of people were stuck on the other side of the bridge. I looked around and noticed that I had lost sight of Gilles and could not find him. I waited and watched the Germans slowly letting people off the bridge, one at a time. Everyone’s identity papers were checked carefully and it was a slow process. If someone was Jewish, they were taken out of the group, lined up against the side of a little building and made to put their hands up against a wall. I later learned they were sent to Germany and likely never returned. … 75% of the Jews who lived in Holland did not survive the war.” Gilles eventually got through the check point. 

When Drikus (Harry) was 18, he received notice that he would have to go to a compulsory work camp—mandatory for all 18-year-old boys. To escape meant going underground. He later recalled “There were 200 boys in my camp—all the same age. There were strict rules, and we were drilled to march like the German S.S., except we did not carry guns, we were issued spades. We worked 5 days a week reclaiming useless land for agriculture and learned how to dig tank traps and trenches. The day would start with breakfast at 6:00 or 7:00 am and by 7:30 we would be marching about 30 minutes to work. We would work until 11:00 and then a cart would come with some soup. We would work till 2:30 pm and then march back to the camp. There were always 12 men in each room. The opzichters (headmasters) could always find the most miserable punishments for the least mistakes you made… They would tell us about the German’s point of view and the purpose of the war going on. After the first 6 weeks you had no will power left. … For the first six weeks we stayed in the camp. After that we could go home once a month from Saturday morning ‘til Sunday night. We had free transportation on buses or trains as long as we were in uniform. During the rest of my stay, the only time we were allowed to leave the camp was on Sunday morning and we would all be marched to the church in Hoogeveen.”

When Harry had completed his time in the camp, he was informed that he was being transferred to Koblenz, in the Ruhr Valley. At the time, the allies were intensively bombing the Ruhr and his family feared that Drikus (Harry) would not have much chance to come home alive. So, his brother went to talk to General Friedrich Christiansen (German Airforce Commander in Holland), who was having a yacht built at the shipyard where Gilles worked. With the influence of General Christiansen, rather than being moved to the Koblenz, Harry was transferred to build boats for the German navy and received wages that were higher than what he had received in Holland.  Sadly, one year after he arrived in the camp, the mail stopped and he would not hear anything else from home until the war was over. 

Harry recalled being hungry and that they would supplement their inadequate rations by sneaking out at night to steal potatoes and carrots from neighbouring farmers. One of the bomb shelters in the camp was used to store potatoes.  The captive workers would turn the ventilation off and lower someone down on a rope. When the Germans found out, they put a guard on duty and the enterprising labourer was sent to the Gestapo. They slept on sacks stuffed with straw, in a camp infested with cockroaches—sometimes when they were eating their soup, bugs would fall off the ceiling into their meal. They were shown propaganda movies, for instance, about how nice it would be to join the Waffen SS. The residents of camp were often finding a way to barter for food. Bread was a currency and one girl worked as a prostitute in exchange for a certain number of loaves of bread. One night they heard that a horse had been killed at the railroad and they went down to fill their pans with horse meat.  At first they found the smell unbearable, however, they learned that by frying it, the meat was edible.

Drikus (Harry) survived having his camp bombed by the United States Eighth Air Force, which reduced the camp of 3,000 to 150 able-bodied men. Then one day as he was working, Russian fighter planes flew over and started firing on them. He threw himself on a pile of loose hay, the bullets coming within a foot of hitting him. Finally, on April 29, 1945, the residents of the work camp were told to be at the railway by 8 pm, because the Russians would soon be capturing the camp. As they were stopped at the station across the bridge, they heard the bridge blow up behind them. Abandoned by their German superiors, they made a feast of the provisions in the warehouse, then set out on their own for home. However, they were intercepted by the Russians and were made to help position their artillery pieces. As they continued on their way home, they came across naked survivors of a German concentration camp.

Later on in their journey, Drikus (Harry) and his companions were stopped by Russian soldiers, who sent them to a Dutch prisoner of war camp, where he worked in the kitchen peeling potatoes. Though they had meat to eat, which had been scarce for the two years he spent in the German camp, he later remembered, “this was about the lowest time in my life. I had already spent two years in the work camp, I had no idea how my family had fared in Holland, over 700 kilometres away. Life under the Germans had been hard, but I had felt like they ruled with a sense of order and control. Now, I did not know if I would make it through the day. The Russian soldiers would not hesitate to kill someone. We came across a small lake and the whole corner was full of floating bodies. These were the women who had drowned themselves to avoid falling in the hand of the Russian soldiers. When the Russians invaded a town, they would search through it for women and liquor. After a day or two of this kind of rampage, they would be rounded up by their armed superiors and shipped on to the next place. I would thank the Lord every night that I had made it through another day.”

Harry continued, “Sometimes we would walk outside the camp, but we had to be careful in case we met up with some Russian soldiers. They were always looking for valuables: watches, rings, or anything they fancied. If you did not hand it over, they would kill you and take it. The 5 weeks we spent with the Russians were like hell on earth. There were dead bodies lying on the side of the road; men, women, cows, horses and they were just left there. It was May and warm, the smell was horrible. Every night I would thank God that I had survived another day.”  In June, Drikus (Harry) was loaded on a rail car, allowed to go into the Western sector in the occupation of Germany, transferred to the Red Cross, hitched a ride with a truck driver and walked the last 2 kilometres to finally return home. His family was still alive, though his brother Gilles had been wounded by a German grenade. 

Drikus’ (Harry) war experience had convinced him to leave Europe.  He later said “I had made a commitment to myself that if there was ever another war, I would be on the opposite side of the world.” His neighbour, Jaap Peetoom, had become a farm labourer near Bobcaygeon.  Jaap told Cecil Pogue, who owned an automobile repair business in Bobcaygeon, that his friend Drikus was a machinist, who could do acetylene and arc welding and had experience on a metal lathe. Drikus’ (Harry) received a letter from Canadian immigration saying, “Mr. Cecil Pogue of Bobcaygeon requires your services,” and so he moved to Bobcaygeon.

When Drikus (Harry) arrived in Bobcaygeon on Thanksgiving Day, 1950, he carried with him an English phrase book and only knew one line, “Good day sir, nice to meet you.” When he arrived, Jaap said that Canadians would have a hard time pronouncing his name, Hendrikus.   Being eager to fit in, from that day on he was known as ‘Harry.’ He boarded with Jaap and his family at Fred Taylor’s farm. When Jaap moved to British Columbia after his year of required labour ended, Harry went to board with Mildred, Jesse and (daughter) Gloria Jean Lee on Mansfield Street, where he would stay until he got married.

After he arrived in Bobcaygeon, he wrote to a friend, Johanna, whom he had met when they both were being treated for pleurisy. When he knew her in Holland, Drikus (Harry) was an ordinary workman and she was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer. He felt this difference in class and did not have the nerve to ask her on a date. But after they became friends and wrote to each other, he told her how wonderful Canada was.   He then proposed they get married. Johanna had been engaged to marry a young student minister but he had died in an automobile accident. Harry returned to Holland and visited her.  Johanna agreed to come to Canada and marry him when her term at school was over. “It was a bold step for her to leave her family, when they had only dated on weekends for three months,” Pieter notes. 

As Johanna (Joop) was finishing her schooling, Harry returned to Bobcaygeon to continue to work for Cecil Pogue. He was a valued employee. In those days, replacement auto parts were not readily available, and as a machinist and welder, Harry had a lot of skill in repairing or fabricating the parts that were needed to get the car back on the road. He was very industrious. Before he was married, he spent practically his whole waking life working—after spending the week at Pogue’s Garage, he would head over to Gordon Boat Works to help out on the weekend.

Though he knew little English at first, Harry learned quickly and soon felt at home in Bobcaygeon. Even after he was married, he spoke English at home and became fully fluent in the language, though his neighbours could not help but notice his Dutch accent. Nicolette explains, “Bobcaygeon residents were curious about this foreign boy. A lot of people would just come and talk to him. He said he had more friends in that first year than he did in the Netherlands. People were much more open about talking to him than they would have been with their long-time neighbours.”

Having worked in Canada for five years, Harry could apply for citizenship. To become a Canadian citizen, he would be tested by a judge at the courthouse in Lindsay. As he was waiting his turn, an elderly American man who had worked in the woods near Haliburton for many years was examined before him. He could not correctly answer what the capital of Quebec was, nor the current Prime Minister, and had his application denied. When Harry’s turn came, he was asked to explain to the judge where he was from and to answer questions on the provincial capitals which he did correctly—he always loved geography. The judge asked what languages he spoke and Harry replied Dutch, English, French, German and a little Russian. The judge then replied, “Are there any more like you coming? Citizenship granted. Welcome to Canada.”

For Johanna to come to Canada, the young couple had to sign an immigration document agreeing to get married within a month or she would have to return to Holland. On August 15, Harry worked the morning shift at the garage, was married at 3 pm and attended a reception at the Lee family’s house.   Then they set out on a one-week honeymoon to Niagara Falls. 

Johanna and Harry were warmly welcomed by the congregation of Trinity United Church and became lifelong members. They had six children:  Pieter, Dirk, Henry, Adriana, Nicolette and Marieke. Johanna would not contradict Harry, but their relationship was “loving, healthy and respectful,” Nicolette says. “Father would bring her flowers and vegetables from the garden and they liked to travel together. Because she did not drive, when she was out, she always wanted to take the long way home and when she was home, she was home.” 

Johanna and Harry bought a lot from surveyor Bruce Stinson for $750 (at the time Harry was making $45 a week) and designed their own house. He borrowed $4,500 from a friend to have the foundation erected and structure framed. Their young family moved into the unfinished house. Harry did what he could after work to finish it. He would recall working until 11 pm every evening.  To afford a home, they had to make a strict budget, spending just $12 on household expenses and, at that time, Harry quit smoking to help make ends meet—he kept Scotch mints at his garage instead. Whenever he had a little bit of money, he would buy the supplies he needed to finish the house. He would later explain, “The kitchen sink started out sitting on sawhorses and 2x4s on top, with a tap coming up from the floor. The cupboards would come later. Johanna was proud to have a house of her own. She would always be glad to show people the house even though it was hardly finished and we had to walk around on plywood.”

As Harry and Johanna were raising their young family, they were still working on putting their house together, paying off the cost of setting up the garage and putting together a life in Canada. But from the time he was a boy, Harry had been resourceful, and lived by making the best of what he had. “I don’t remember them buying new toys for us,” Pieter explains. “It would be a swing set someone else got rid of. He would find used skis and paint them or would make his own skis.”  He was ready to work hard to provide for his children.

Harry was someone who would say and do what he thought was right. He was very straightforward and honest with people, which often caught others off guard. “A lot of my friends said they were afraid of him because he was strict. That was just the way we were raised. If my parents said no, no meant no. It was not until I was married that I had my own opinion.” Pieter continues, “we were raised strictly, but we were always taken care of. We always felt loved.”  Having grown up in circumstances when he did not always have enough, he taught his kids, ‘if you can’t afford it, you don’t buy it.’ Harry never owned a new car, being a mechanic he knew how to fix a used one. 

Johanna was a God-trusting woman. Though she had been born into more comfortable circumstances than Harry, she showed a selfless devotion in caring for her children and neighbours, always taking the time to go and visit. “She would bring home ladies from the nursing home so they could get out for tea,” Nicolette recalls. She had high expectations for her children—not academically, but in terms of manners and their personal character. 

Johanna was never comfortable driving so would walk or bike around town. Harry remembered, “On Friday, I would take the grocery list that Johanna had written up and get the groceries with the car. If she ran out of anything through the week, she would send one of the children to go get it, or hop on her bike and pick it up herself. The dairy had a truck that came by a couple of mornings a week. Johanna put a little cup between the front doors with a list of what she wanted and some money. The milkman would take her list back to his truck, fill her order and put the items between the doors and leave the change in her little cup. When we got up for breakfast, there were the dairy items between the doors. The bread man came once a week, stopping by with his truck through the day. We bought eggs from Mr. Nicholls, and later from Innes Ingram. Every fall we bought a load of potatoes from Mr. Harrison. I had built a cold closet in the basement and we would keep the potatoes in a bin there. The potatoes would keep all winter in there, but towards spring, the eyes grew long sprouts. I had a vegetable garden that we would eat from all summer.”

After suffering three heart attacks, his employer Cecil Pogue decided to retire. He offered to sell Harry the business and inventory (but not the building) for $12,000. The Shea Family bought the garage structure for $22,000, so they could demolish it and expand their IGA grocery store. Johanna thought he should consider becoming a school teacher, but he was talked out of it by teacher Bud McCardle. He did not have the money to buy the garage, but his neighbour Dorothe Comber borrowed the money herself from the bank and Harry paid her back at the same rate of interest she got from the bank, 6%. Trusting Harry, she did not want a lawyer involved in the loan and instead kept track of it in a book. Harry was able to pay off the loan in 2 years. A few years earlier, Harry had bought the old Rokeby schoolhouse, which was across the road from his home on North Street. It was then owned by the Plymouth Brethren. After renting the former Pogue garage for three months, he would move his business to the old school, which was then still in the process of being converted into a garage. 

“In those days, you fixed it with a screw driver, hammer and 7/16 wrench,” Pieter explains. “You didn’t go get parts. He was a trained machinist so he could make parts on the lathe and was a welder. If anyone could fix it, Harry could fix it.” He repaired cars, boats and farm equipment. Though his business was popular, the thrifty ways that he learned as a youth would stick with him. He often went to auction sales to buy materials that he would store in the stock room attached to the garage.

Working across the road from his house allowed Harry and Johanna to see each other in the course of the work day. “His schedule was very regimented,” Nicolette observes. Harry started work at 8 am and would have milk, coffee and a cookie with Johanna at 10:30. He closed for lunch at noon, as he and Johanna had open-faced sandwiches with their kids. At 3 pm, Harry and Johanna would have tea together, then the garage closed at 5pm. In the evening, Harry would be hard at work in the garden—he did not work after hours at the garage. Despite having what was stereotypically considered to be a dirty job, Harry did his best to wash up after work. Johanna helped keep the business accounts and later on would be a secretary for Bobcaygeon Public School. After graduation from high school, Pieter would apprentice with his father and become a mechanic. 

Harry was lifelong friends with his neighbour Dorothe Comber—the two shared a birthday, twenty years apart.  She called him “my twin less twenty.” Dorothe’s father, Walter Comber was the Oxford-trained educator brought over from England to tutor the Boyd children, and would later open Hillcroft, a private school. Dorothe taught home economics at a high school in Wingham, returning to Bobcaygeon in summer. She took a deep interest in her community and wrote a history book. Harry shared her interest in Bobcaygeon and over the years she taught him a lot about the village. When Harry retired in 1981, she gifted him a plot of land where he would spend countless hours gardening. 

Every Sunday after church, Dorothe would visit the van Oudenaren family. She ensured that the children were treated to ice cream, took them to see the Nutcracker so they could be cultured and also to Ste. Marie Among the Hurons. In turn, they help to care for her as she aged. For a family that did not have any relatives in town, she became like an aunt. In turn, the van Oudenaren children brought the joy of youth to this single woman. “Dorothe saw Harry as a hard worker, a man with values, a very good neighbour who took his children to church each Sunday,” Nicolette observes. 

As Harry retired from the garage, he was determined to remain active and would say that he was busier than when he was working. But when he was retired, he had the freedom to pursue his interests. He would often say, “I get up in the morning, and then I think about what needs to be done and I think about what I want to do.” For many years, he had gone to auction sales to look for parts or machinery for the garage. In his retirement, he started buying old furniture to refinish and then started making his own furniture. He built an impressive collection of old tools, some of which are exhibited at Kawartha Settlers Village. He became quite interested in collecting stamps, competing at the Peterborough Stamp Club—and winning their trophy for best exhibit year after year. 

Harry also took an interest in getting to know everyone in Bobcaygeon. He remembered, “a lot of the local families were large, and I would ask a lot of questions, just trying to keep track of who was related to whom! People who grew up in town just automatically knew who they were related to and who everyone else was and they never bothered to write it down or ask any more questions about it. Because I was an outsider, people would give me a longer explanation of their family history and connections than they might tell their own children.” 

In 1975, he was asked to go look at a collection of postcards in Fenelon Falls.  He was initially interested because of the stamps rather than the postcards themselves. He bought the box of postcards and, as he was looking through the stamps, he came across two old images of Bobcaygeon. He decided to start collecting Bobcaygeon postcards and he proved to be a great collector, purchasing them every which way. Harry was a very organized man, “Everything had its place and he could tell you where every screw was in the basement,” Nicolette explains. He was just as meticulous in building an exhaustive collection of Bobcaygeon images. 

Within a year he had collected enough postcards that he was able to offer a slide show presentation at Trinity United Church during the village’s centennial celebration. As he made his presentations, local residents would come up afterwards and tell him about the images he had presented. Then when Dorothe Comber passed away, he inherited her collection of old photographs.

Whereas there were other people in Bobcaygeon who had impressive collections of old images, Harry strongly believed in sharing with his community. “He did not believe that it was his to hang on to,” Nicolette explains. He was very generous in taking the time to show all the photographs and postcards to anyone who was interested. He spent many hours sharing the stories he had heard to anyone who wanted to learn about the history of Bobcaygeon. He would often say, “if no one wants to look at your collection, it must not be very good.”

Once Harry had a reputation for collecting old photos, many locals were interested in contributing, and within a few years, he had collected hundreds of photographs of the village. “He would go around to families, as they were cleaning out their parents’ house,” Pieter explains. “He would say, ‘don’t throw the photographs out. Let me have them or make a copy of them.’” He continued to improve his slide presentation and, as he shared this history, he was often told he should publish a book. 

With all of this encouragement to put a book together, “he got the concept from a book that was published about his hometown in the Netherlands,” Pieter explains. “He enjoyed looking at the school photos in it.” Harry spent countless Saturday evenings working with his photographs and postcards. Having been interested in photography since he was a boy, he was intent on having ideal lighting conditions as he photographed each of the images for inclusion in the book. When he had it all put together, Harry released Bobcaygeon: A Picture Book of Memories in 1992—investing $32,000 to have 2,500 copies printed. It took many years, but he would sell every copy. 

Many local residents came to think of Harry as ‘Mr. Bobcaygeon.’ Though he did not grow up in the community, having come of age during the Second World War in Europe and having survived Nazi labour camps, he treasured his opportunity to live in Bobcaygeon in a way that many people who grew up in the community never would. Harry served one term on council (he considered it his civic duty), was Scoutmaster for 2 years, President of the Horticultural Society, Sunday School Superintendent, was named the Kinsmen Club’s Citizen of the Year in 1984 and received a lifetime achievement award from the Ontario Heritage Trust. 

Harry learned how to swim in his 70s. As a youth, he would never have taken the time to go to the ocean for an outing. After he moved to Bobcaygeon, he nearly drowned after capsizing in a canoe, when he was out with Bill Gordon. Not knowing how to swim, he sank, but crawled along the bottom of the river to reach shore. But when he was vacationing in Florida, he learned how to swim from an older gentleman.  He so enjoyed it that when he returned home, he built himself a pool.   “It was designed so the water would be up to his chin, so if at any time he could not swim, he could stand up,” Pieter explains. 

Even as an older man, Harry did not miss Holland, “he brought what he loved from Holland here,” Nicolette explains. He enjoyed Johanna’s Dutch cooking and, to the end of his life, he would not eat raw vegetables. His family would celebrate New Year’s Eve with Oliebollen. These traditional donuts are very much like Dutchies in Canada, but were made by dropping a spoonful of batter into boiling oil. He enjoyed pickled herring and music:  classical or traditional Dutch music, though he would not go to the trouble or expense of attending a concert. 

Harry enjoyed the time he got to spend with his grandkids. Nicolette explains. “When I returned to Bobcaygeon with my husband and new baby, he would look after my son while I was working at the restaurant on Sunday afternoon. I would drop him off at lunch time and come back after supper.  Father would still be sitting in exactly the same place because he would not move when Joshua was sleeping.” Harry was the sort of person for whom it was very important to do what he believed was right even if it was not convenient for him. In addition, he was an excellent chess player “and he would not let you win!” laughs Nicolette.

To the end of his life, Harry continued to exhibit the determination and industrious spirit that had carried him through all the adversity that he had faced over the years. He continued to work all day in the garden.  He lost his driver’s license due to poor vision but he continued to bicycle to get around town.  Nicolette was shocked to see him on a ladder, in just his old crocs, cleaning out the eavestrough with a hose. “I don’t think he felt old.” 

He had never lived on his own until Johanna, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, passed away in 1997. Having always lived with others, it was an adjustment to be on his own but, in his own practical way, he learned to look after himself. He watched cooking shows where he picked up the ability to prepare his own meals. True to his structured ways of going about things, he came up with a weekly schedule that he would follow. Though his children would try to help, he never wanted them to do it for him. For 23 years, he did his own cooking and laundry, hanging up his clothes on the line or the basement in the winter. Up to his last year, he would cut and split his own firewood with an axe, as he heated his house with wood. Much of the wood he would scrounge from the side of the road. He lived independently until his last month at the age of 95. The practical, economical, hard-working lifestyle that he had known since a child would stick with him to the end of his life.

For decades, Harry van Oudenaren developed a reputation as the man who did more than anyone else to keep the history of Bobcaygeon alive. Because of Harry’s countless hours of labour, the community has a significant pictorial record. He would say, “people thank me for the work I have done to preserve the town’s history, but it is the least I can do to repay the friendliness that I have received from all the people when I first came here.”

“Harry was a man who left the Netherlands for an adventure,” Pieter explains. “He tried everything he encountered along the way. He purchased an organ and took lessons. He enjoyed woodworking, it started out as a necessity, having only a shell of a house, he spent 10 or 15 years finishing the interior. In later years, after he sold the garage, he went headlong into woodworking. He tried wine making, took art lessons, tried bee keeping and loved gardening.” His journey brought him to Bobcaygeon, where he found a home and a special place in new community. He spent seven decades in this village.   He grew up overseas but Harry van Oudenaren knew Bobcaygeon better than most anyone else. 

Italicized quotes from Harry (Drikus) are from his memoir written and published for his family.

This story is a memory and nobody’s memory is perfect. Sometimes details get a little mixed up, things get forgotten or overlooked, and the perspective is inevitably subjective. If you notice something that not right, have something you would like to tell us, or a memory to share the museum would be happy to hear from you:

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