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Depression ended Dutch import venture for Arnhem-born couple

The Van der Horsts worked Ontario fairs

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

TORONTO, Ontario / FRESNO, California - One of the earlier Dutch import store owners at work in Canada (between 1928-1932) always regretted having been forced to return to the Netherlands for lack of customers during the Depression. The children of Arnhem-born Hendrik B. van der Horst and his wife Jaantje van der Spiegel were raised on stories about the couple's Canadian adventures. Dressed in traditional Zeeland costumes, the Van der Horsts sold Dutch products at fairs in the area, including the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). They had a store on (1234) King St. West.

Their two Canadian-born daughters and a younger brother at the occasion of the eldest's 70th birthday, traveled from California to Toronto last year to rediscover their family roots. They, together with daughter Dorothy's husband Jan Noordberg, located the addresses - all close to downtown - at which the Van der Horst's had lived and worked. With 70-year-old pictures in hand, they traveled down an emotional memory lane and made many comparative snapshots. The daughters - one resides in the Netherlands as does the brother - had never been back to Toronto since the early 1930s.

Van der Horst who acted as a manufacturer's agent, sold food and confectionary lines such as Van Melle, Van Dungen, Droste and Bussink. After the collapse of the economy, the entrepreneurial family was forced to live of its unsaleable inventory. Long soup lines during a severe winter capped the family's Canadian experience.

When the postwar emigration process started, Van der Horst, who since has died, was hired to teach conversational English to aspiring emigrants in Arnhem, Apeldoorn and other places in the region. Dorothy Van der Horst Noordberg often has wondered if anyone still remembers the man who helped them prepare for their lives ‘in de vreemde...’ She can be reached by email at: '

Windmill Archives is collecting material on Dutch import peddlers and stores, and welcomes price lists and catalogues published by the Dutch import trade. Old pictures and documents of door-to-door peddlers of Dutch import goods especially are welcomed and can be send to the address of this publication.