Joint Archives Contributes to Film “Chasing the Moon”

Chasing the Moon poster image

We are over the moon knowing that the Joint Archives of Holland contributed archival materials to a new three-part, six hour film that will debut on local PBS stations July 8, 2019. Last February we were contacted for information about astronaut Col. Frank Borman’s visit to Hope College on February 19, 1970 to present at a special convocation presentation where he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree. “Chasing the Moon,” a film by Robert Stone, reimagines the race to the moon for a new generation, upending much of the conventional mythology surrounding the effort. The series recasts the Space Age as a fascinating stew of scientific innovation, political calculation, media spectacle, visionary impulses and personal drama. Utilizing a visual feast of previously overlooked and lost archival material — much of which has never before been seen by the public — the film features a diverse cast of characters who played key roles in these historic events. Among those included are astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Frank Borman and Bill Anders; Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet premier and a leading Soviet rocket engineer; Poppy Northcutt, a 25-year old “mathematics whiz” who gained worldwide attention as the first woman to serve in the all-male bastion of NASA’s Mission Control; and Ed Dwight, the Air Force pilot selected by the Kennedy administration to train as America’s first black astronaut.

Chris-Craft Boats and the D-Day Landings

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces clamored over the sides of large troop ships into 4126 landing craft, many of those LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel), and prepared to storm several beaches of northern France in Operation Overlord, better known as D-Day. Preparation for this day started in the early 1942 as companies throughout the United States converted their factories from peacetime to wartime production. In Michigan, all three Chris-Craft Corporation plants quickly converted from pleasure boat building to building boats for the war effort full time. Together, the three plants would become part of the America’s arsenal of democracy from 1941-1945 producing more than 12,000 landing craft for D-Day and other invasions.

Learn more about the Chris-Craft Corporation’s role in winning the war in the July/August 2019 Michigan History magazine available in many Michigan bookstores and from The Historical Society of Michigan.

Lives of Early Christian Reformed Church Wives

The Holland Area Historical Society will host a program titled “For Better, For Worse: Stories of the Wives of Early Pastors of the Christian Reformed Church” on Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. The presentation will be held in the Maas Auditorium, Maas Conference Center, Hope College, Holland, Michigan. Maas Auditorium is located at 264 Columbia Avenue on the Hope College campus. The public is invited, and admission is free.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America was founded in 1857 and the lives of its pastors have been well documented, while the stories of their wives have been sadly ignored. Join historian Janet Sjaarda Sheeres as she brings the challenges of these important women to light for the first time.

Big Red Lighthouse: Aid to Navigation to Local Icon


HOLLAND — The Holland Area Historical Society will host a program titled “Big Red Lighthouse: Aid to Navigation to Local Icon” on Tuesday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Big Red lighthouse hasn’t always been big or red. Join local historians John Gronberg and Valerie van Heest as we learn more about this local icon over time and its importance to Lake Michigan navigation and Holland history.

The presentation will be held in the Maas Auditorium, Maas Conference Center, Hope College, Holland, Michigan. Maas Auditorium is located at 264 Columbia Avenue on the Hope College campus. The public is invited, and admission is free.


History of Design at Herman Miller Program

A program titled “History of Design at Herman Miller” will be hosted by the Holland Area Historical Society on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 , at 7:30 p.m., at the Maas Center Auditorium, Hope College, 264 Columbia Avenue, Holland. This program is free to the public.

The Herman Miller furniture line began in 1923 when an ambitious Dirk Jan De Pree found himself at the helm of a new furniture company in Zeeland, Michigan. Join Amy Auscherman, corporate archivist for Herman Miller, as she presents the history of the company’s product design and the influence it has had in the furniture history overall.

How Much Dutch: The Linguistic Landscape of Holland, Michigan



The Holland Area Historical Society will host a program titled “How Much Dutch: The Linguistic Landscape of Holland, Michigan” on Tuesday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m. The presentation will be held in the Maas Auditorium, Maas Conference Center, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

Maas Auditorium is located at 264 Columbia Avenue on the Hope College campus. The public is invited, and admission is free.

Dutch language and culture have been part of Holland since early settlers came in 1847 and play an important part in the local economy. Join Dr. Kathryn Remlinger as she presents her findings on how language use and cultural objects communicate meanings that reimagine Holland as a “Dutch” city.

World War I Soldier’s Journal, November 11-12, 1918

Today we read about Thomas Vander Veen’s military activities in France and thoughts on the end of The Great War from November 11-12, 1918 along with Natalie Fulk’s comments and a summary of his life after the war.

Monday, Nov. 11:
● “We finally found our organization back again…in the woods in German barracks somewhere between St. Mihiel and Metn. We left Vertusey… at about 7:30 AM and were on the way hiking all day and it was getting dark when we got here. We marched slow this time and so it was not so very hard but our pack was getting pretty heavy on our back and shoulders. We were lucky we did not have our Lt. Col. to set the pace. We heard many rumors about the armistice being signed and the Frenchman we met all said too “le Guerre finis” but we could hardly believe it yet as we could hear the big guns still pounding away but we then were told they were to stop at 11 A.M. so we watched for it to stop at that time and they ceased firing too at two minutes to eleven we heard afterwards and the guns sure raised hell proper the last few minutes the barrage was the heaviest at the last moment when they all suddenly ceased. I did not have a watch myself going and the watches some of the other fellows had must have been a little fast as it was past eleven already and we still heard the barrage going worse than ever so we were still a little in doubt at first but we soon met more Americans telling us the fighting had ended. It sure made us feel good. Smiles on everybody’s face, the French not the least. This made our pack feel lighter too….after dark many bonfires and lots of cheering going on. Everybody happy in spite of being tired from hiking and more hiking to come probably at anytime too. But it may be quite a while yet before the final peace agreements are settled and we may have to go to the front yet or take positions at German forts and strongholds.
● Comments: Vander Veen and his companions from the leave found their company again and set out from the main division camp. The men had heard that the armistice was supposed to signed, but were confused by the fact that the barrages continued up until the last possible minute. However, after hearing that the war was actually over, everyone was happy. Vander Veen noted that the French soldiers were especially happy, which is understandable as they had been fighting for much longer than the American soldiers and were fighting in their own country. Even though the war was over, Vander Veen was realistic with his expectations of what the next step would be, because his predictions that they would have to go to the front or take positions were very possible.

Tuesday, Nov. 12:
● “Today the official formal conditions of the armistice were received in our Co. and posted up. Our Co. has been moving around back and forth, hiking most of the time while we were on pass. Am not a bit sorry I missed it. Lt. Flynn made Capt. of our Co. Capt. Chase back too and in charge of A Co. Lt. McKinley now Capt. of B Co. Capt. George in charge of Co. D.”
● Comments: Vander Veen’s company officially received the armistice and its conditions on this day. This was Vander Veen’s last entry in his diary. Vander Veen’s account of the last months of the war are an insight into what a soldier on the front was doing, thinking, and feeling on a daily basis and provide a personal story for readers to connect with in trying to understand what World War I was like.

After the War

When the war ended, Vander Veen decided to visit his parents and siblings in the Netherlands. He had not gotten permission for a military leave, but he thought, since the war had ended, he would go regardless. He got caught at the Belgium border. This could have been a Court Marshall offense, but since the war had ended and because of his accomplishments as a messenger during his tour of duty, they let the matter pass.
He came back to the America after the war and worked as a common laborer for farmers. He would often travel across the country by train, traveling with the hobos because it didn’t cost anything. He would always search out and end up in Dutch communities. His brother Gus, a brother who had joined him prior to the war, returned to the Netherlands when the war broke out, served in the Dutch Army, married, had two small children and immigrated to the America in 1921. They settled in the small town of Thomson, Ill. along the Mississippi River near the city of Fulton, Ill. They farmed there for a number of years and they worked together.
Between the late l920s and early 1930s little is known about Vander Veen. By 1934 he was living in the Delavan, Wisconsin area where both he and Gus were living. He owned a couple of small farms in that area of Wisconsin where he raised onions and potatoes, cucumbers, and sweet corn.                                            In the 1950’s, he married for the first time in his life and sold both farms and moved to Marissa, Illinois. There his wife Elsa passed away about 1956.
He remained in Marrisa, Illinois till the late 1970s making frequent trips to the Delavan, Wisconsin area to visit relatives until passing away on May 29, 1980. He is interred in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Delavan, Wisconsin next to family.