How I first heard about the Callenbach Family.
Youthful memories.

On 1st July 1936 my father, Jan de Bruijn, took up his position as principal of the Christian school in Nijkerkerveen.¹ He continued in that function for exactly 30 years, until he retired.
I was born six months after my parents and their two daughters arrived in town. So I am really a native.
When I was still very young my parents would tell me that “our school” was very special. The school was started in 1847. In those days it was quite exceptional that such a little poor village as Nijkerkerveen would have any school let alone a Christian one.  There was a minister, who lived in Nijkerk, who, with other rich people, had organised for a school for all of the children of Nijkerkerveen. The relatives of that minister always came to celebrate Christmas with the children.

That is what I heard as a little girl. Now I know that this referred to the Ref CC Callenbach, the Hon. Lady HD van de Burgh van Spierenshoek and Mrs FAS Gevers. They got behind the formation of the second Christian school in the Netherlands and that is how Nijkerkerveen got a school for the whole village.

Christmas celebrations with the members of the Callenbach family were always special because we got a present. Before my father arrived at the school the poorer children got a pair of woollen stockings, children from slightly better situated families got a children’s book from the Callenbach publishing firm. My father thought it was important that all children should get a book and before the Christmas of 1936 he had agreed with the Callenbach family that the tradition of the stockings remained but all the children would receive a book. So the children could agree with the slogan of the Callenbach business; “This is where the Christmas books come from.”²

I remember clearly that the guests would come to our house after school for a cup of tea. They were usually Callenbach ladies, e.g. the sisters Heleen and Diek³, who lived in Hoogstraat and Mrs Callenbach (5.1.1*) from the Veenestraat. Of course we would address them properly as Madam.
Not withstanding the fact that Mr GF Callenbach (5.1.1) retired from the school council in 1939 and so there was no direct link anymore between the school and the family of the founder, the social contact remained. For how long the presents remained the same I don’t know, but even after the war the children still got a book. On top of that the girls in the highest grade got some material. During the sewing classes we made a dress from that material. An excursion was organised towards the end of year six and all the girls wore those dresses made from the material donated by the Callenbach family. I can still see myself in my blue and white check dress. How proud I was.

Historically there were also ties with the van Esveld family. Mr MM van Esveld was for many years the treasurer of the school, until 1939. The van Esveld family owned a cloth and clothes business in Nijkerk. They supplied the material for the frocks. There were also representatives from this family at the Christmas celebrations at our school.

The centenary was celebrated in 1947, when I was 10 years old. Particularly in the year we school children were told a lot about the exceptional beginnings of our school in Nijkerkerveen. Nearly all the children in the village attended this school although I do remember three children who went to the Catholic school in Nijkerk. Otherwise all the children went, for many generations to the same school, thanks to the Callenbach family.

In 1955 I started courting, as we called it in those days, a young man called Nico Hanna ( and later we married. I was amazed to hear later that the Callenbach ladies and gentlemen, whom I had got to know as the relatives of the founder of “the school of my father”, turned out to be related to him. I still think it rather special that his "gran" was a Callenbach.

Manna Hana – de Bruijn (*)

¹ A little village close to Nijkerk. The “veen” part of the name refers to the peat that was found in the area.
² It was customary that children who attended Sunday school would get a little children’s book, which would have some religious overtones, at Christmas. The slogan “This is where the Christmas books come from” was displayed in huge letters on the roof of the book binding factory. It was clearly visible from a long way away and very obvious to all the passengers in the passing trains.
³ HJG Callenbach (5.1.2) and DRC Callenbach (5.1.3) two spinsters who lived together.

Note: The * with the genealogy number denotes “partner of”

(This article was previously published in the family magazine “The Prophet of the Velue” No 71 early 2005.)