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Interview with Tim Kooima (1)

MHH: It is March 2, 2009, and I am about to interview Mr. Tim Kooima from the Hull Protestant Reformed Church in Hull, IA.  Mr. Kooima, where and when were you born?

TK:  October 26, 1932.  I was born at the home of my mother’s parents, in Iowa, with a Hudson, SD address, which caused me some problems later on (laughter).

MHH:  What were those problems?

TK:  Well, the first time we were going to leave the United States, we had to have a passport.  So we have to have a birth certificate.  After inquiring in Pierre, SD and Orange City, IA, there was no record of my birth. We had to have three records of proof of birth in the United States.  I had my service records, which I had listed as Hudson, SD, so I thought we better go with that.

Getting my baptism records would be another.  So I went to Peter Kooima, who was the last clerk in the Rock Valley Protestant Reformed Church, the one that disbanded in ’61.  He had the record book.  So, I thought, now I’m on the right trail.  But there was a problem with the geboren, and the gedopt, and I don’t know what the next column was, ontreken or something.  Maybe you got better at Dutch than I am.

MHH:  Maybe reference to confession of faith?

TK:  I think leaving, probably, the congregation.

MHH:  Oh, ontreken would be “traveling on.”

TK:  I think that’s what it was.  Date of birth was there, but my baptism date was not in the book.  But my mother was living yet, so she could give an affidavit.

The clerk, Peter Kooima, was living then yet, and he came to the lawyer’s office and gave an affidavit that he witnessed my baptism.  That went through, so now I have a delayed birth certificate from Pierre, SD.

MHH:  Wow.  That’s amazing that there was no record.  Maybe that was because you were born at home, rather than in a hospital?

TK:  I suppose.  There was a hospital in Hudson, but they had destroyed their records just a few years before that.  So that was quite an ordeal to get that straightened out (laughter).

Incidentally, that record book of the old PR church in Rock Valley is currently in the safe in our Doon PR church.  I looked up information from that book three or four years ago when one of the Byker daughters of the family who were formerly members in Rock Valley during the depression years was writing her life history.  She contacted Pastor Key, and Pastor Key gave me the information and said, “You’d better look into this because you have more knowledge of what happened in Rock Valley.”  So I did that.  But they wanted the baptism records.  So this time I knew where to go (laughter).  I went to the clerk of the Doon consistory and he got them for me.  I copied them out of that book, and sent the record to a Rev. John Byker, who was a nephew of the lady who is writing the history.  And I didn’t know until I e-mailed back and forth that he was a CR minister.  But he did let me know (laughter) after a month or two. I gave him all the information I had:  pictures of the church and the baptism records.  It was interesting because that Byker family was extremely poor, as most people were during the depression.  They had moved to Presho , SD for four or five years, but they came back to Rock Valley and joined the PR church there for the first time, I think.

Anyway, in the baptism records, four children were baptized on one Sunday that were born when they were in South Dakota. It shows in that record, and they were pretty happy to get that.

MHH:  I imagine they were.

TK:  So that’s the story behind those baptism papers.

MHH:  But at least you now have a legal existence.

TK:  Didn’t have any problem getting Social Security.  I had that all straightened out.

MHH:  That was probably helpful.  Where did you grow up?  Tell me a little bit about your childhood and your youth.

TK:  The first four or five years you don’t remember much of.  But from 1932 to 1939 (1932 I was born), we had Rev. A. Cammenga for our first pastor.  I remember that because I remember going to catechism with some of the Vanden Top boys from Doon, whose dad (Jake VandenTop) was a member of Rock Valley.  So I do recollect that a little bit.  We lived pretty much between the Doon/Hull/Rock Valley area most of my younger life.  I started out in the country school—the first and second grade. Things were pretty hard on the farm.  Nobody really had much money in those days after the depression.  So my dad decided that he would try town life, and we moved to Hull.  From 1939 to 1943 we lived in Hull.  That was during the beginning of World War II.  My father almost moved to California to work in the shipyard, but he came back because that didn’t look good to him.

But then it was back to the farm for my dad again.  Couldn’t get that out of his blood, I guess.  Then until we were married, we lived within a couple miles of the same place—south of Doon pretty much on the blacktop there.

MHH:  And during this time, then where was your church membership?

TK:  Well, up to ’39 it was in Rock Valley.  Then for four years the folks were members in Hull.  When we moved back to the farm we joined the Rock Valley church again.  Then Rev. P. Vis was there. After that, Rev. S. Cammenga was there, who married us.

I should say that through twelve of years of education, I was in six different schools:  two different country schools, two different Christian schools, and two different high schools.  That shows you how much farmers moved around in those days.

MHH:  So, was your father successful in his farming endeavors then when he left Hull and went back to the farm?

TK:  Let’s see.  1943, the war was another year or two.  But things looked up quite a bit after that.  And they got much better.  Things became quite profitable for him.  He was a hard worker, did a lot of custom work for other farmers, which I got involved in quite a bit.  But they were much different years than what they were from ’36–’39.  Everybody knows that in ’36 there was no crop here.

MHH:  It was the time of the dust-bowl?

TK:  Yah.

MHH:  Do you remember that?  Or anything about it?  Or were you too young?

TK:  Well, ’36 was really the bad year of the dust bowl, but then I was only 4 years old.  But that was the year we moved from west of Rock Valley to east of Rock Valley.  There was also a lot of snow then.  So I vaguely remember that.  But not the dust bowl part.  I don’t remember the skies being dark with dust, no.

MHH:  But then for most of your younger life, you were member of Rock Valley and probably catechized, and so on, in Rock Valley?

TK:  Most, except for the four years we were here.

MHH:  And you got married when?

TK:  August 25, 1953.

MHH:  And how old were you at the time?

TK:  Not quite 21.

I mention that Rev. S. Cammenga married us. I have a question mark behind that.  We all know what was going on in 1953, in August.  My wife’s parents weren’t a bit happy, didn’t want the prospect of Rev. DeJong to marry us.  Rev. S. Cammenga wasn’t quite as vocal, I guess, at that time.  I think he kind of was on the fence for awhile first.  So we asked him to marry us in the Hull PR church.  So that’s how that came about.

MHH:  Now, what was your wife’s background?

TK:  Well, let’s see.  You came to the Protestant Reformed church in what year about?

CK: [Tim’s wife Clarine enters the conversation here]  I was about 13, I’d say.

TK:  So she was a member in Hull  when we were married in 1953.

CK:  Before that we went to a Christian Reformed church in Middleburg. My father’s brother had left the church to go to the PR church and I can remember my father talking about it that he wasn’t satisfied anymore with the Christian Reformed Church.  So then we had our papers transferred to Hull Protestant Reformed.

MHH:  So you obviously got married at the height of the internal problems in the PR church.  I’d like to explore that subject just a little bit.  I would like to know anything that you have to tell me about the time leading up to the schism and including the schism and following the schism.  So that’s a large subject, and maybe we can take them one at a time.  But I would be interested in knowing your thoughts and your recollections starting with the time prior to the split.

TK:  I thought some about that, but I don’t really recall that as a young person I really got involved much in the events that led up to it.  At the time [of the split] we were surely involved.  But prior to that I really wasn’t aware that much of what was developing.  I heard complaints. I really heard more controversy as far as the Hull congregation than what was going on in Rock Valley.  Rock Valley was pretty much followers of the DeWolf group except for a few families at that time.  They were pretty solid behind the DeWolf group.  That was much different here in Hull where the congregation about split down the middle.  So I think I heard more with my association with the Hull congregation in the years prior to our marriage then in Rock Valley.

It was interesting for me.  The minute books from Rock Valley ended up with Peter Kooima, who was the last clerk.  He forwarded them to Ben Huisken, who was a son of the Huiskens in Edgerton.  Then he passed everything he had on to me, and then they got forwarded through Classis West to the archives.  So that is where the minute books are.

I kind of tried to look through that history a little bit around ’53 in those books.  The trouble is, most of it is written in Dutch (laughter), and most of it was my grandfather’s handwriting.  He was a charter member of Rock Valley.  He was also Tim Kooima.  But I made out some things out of there.  It seemed to me that Classis West was asked to ratify the Declaration of Principles.  I think it went to the consistories, at least to express their feelings on it. There was a vote on it, and the minister, Rev. S. Cammenga, was the only one that voted against rejecting it.  And he had his negative vote recorded.  He thought that it should have more study, rather than go ahead abruptly and just say we don’t want anything to do with it.  That kind of surprised me.  So he was stronger, I think, than his consistory was as far as his feelings toward the Declaration.  At least he didn’t just say we don’t need it, or it’s wrong, or anything like that.

MHH:  And which way did his consistory vote?

TK:  They voted to reject it.

MHH:  OK.

TK:  The consistory voted to reject it, and he had his negative vote registered.  He didn’t want to take that step at that point.

Other than that, I was in the public high school in Rock Valley. That’s another story, but I don’t know if we should get into that.

MHH:  If it’s pertinent, please do.

TK:  Well, I’d like to say that my grandparents and their family were a strong covenant  family.  My grandfather valued Christian education immensely.  In fact, all the children went to the Christian school in Rock Valley. They were always on the farm, and the transportation was really primitive. But he passed up country schools on the way to town.  He saw to it that they were instructed in Rock Valley in a Christian school.  He was good friends of the principal.  I imagine he had served on the board.  That was about the time when Western Academy failed.  The first time it started up here in Hull, but they went bankrupt.  Mr. Bennink, who was the principal in Rock Valley, had all his life savings here.  That was gone, of course.  Calvin College ended up buying the building here.  And they started up later.  But that was so…my grandpa could not get over that.  As strong as he was for Christian education, I think three of his children went to high school, but they went to Rock Valley public.  And my father told me that was the reason.  And that still carried over unto my dad so that I was the first, oldest one in the family, so I got sent to Rock Valley public.

MHH:  Do you think that they were resentful or they just more or less gave up on Christian education?

TK:  No, I don’t think they were resentful.  I think they were just resentful because that old Bennink wasn’t taken care of.  And he later had to work as a janitor to fill out his years because there was no Social Security.  That bothered my grandpa so much that he just couldn’t follow up here at Western.

CK:  The rest of your family did go…

TK:  Yes, I was the only one that went to the public high school and the rest of the family went here [to Western Christian High School].  So that’s how I ended up in the public high school, which was spiritually not really a good experience but I have to say that the Lord, in his providence, led me to Hull.  As far as young people’s activities and association with young people, we didn’t have much in Rock Valley.

MHH:  Why was that?

TK:  It was small,  We weren’t very faithful as far as attending.  But there just didn’t seem like there was much enthusiasm, and Hull had a thriving society.  And a lot of attractive girls…(much laughter).

MHH:  That was an honest answer.

So in a sense, your loyalty or allegiance was shifting a little bit, perhaps.

TK:  I didn’t realize what I missed so much until Clarine’s  first class reunion at Western.   It was just an altogether different atmosphere.

MHH:  During those years prior to ’53, you say your recollections are somewhat vague or scarce, but were you aware at all what the issues involved concerned?  That there was a sharp doctrinal difference developing or…?

TK:  Really at that age I didn’t really realize that so much until about the time we were married, because then I became involved in Hull.  Those were tough things.  My whole family stayed over there [on the side of those who left the PR church] and my grandfather, who had been in the Protestant Reformed Church since it started there said:  “At my age, I just can’t fight any more.”  He just kind of gave up, the way it seemed, and the family kind of followed. He would have been about 73, I think, at the time of the split.  At one time they called it the Kooima church in Rock Valley because there were two families that were charter members and they both had big families.

MHH:  So that brings us to the time of your marriage and to the actual division in the churches.  Can you talk about that a little bit—as  far as what happened, how it happened, what the consequences were—whatever you recall.

TK:  Well, I got the bulletins that were sent out, and the notifications that came to Rock Valley that the DeWolf group was going to be speaking in Hull in the community building.  That was on Rock Valley’s bulletin. I have the Hull  bulletin, that your grandfather was going to be speaking here in Hull.  And I recall that night.  We were there.  I don’t think we went to the DeWolf one, though, did we?  I remember the night in the community building, though.

CK:  It was different in Hull.  I think the dividing line was definitely there.  There were many discussions and heated arguments leading up to ’53 between  relatives and other members of the church.

TK:  We didn’t really have that in Rock Valley because there was only a few families, you see.  Ed VanGinkel went to Doon.

MHH:  Had he been in Rock Valley?

TK:  Yes, his daughter was baptized in, August of ’53, I think,  they were members  in Rock Valley.  I’ve got that bulletin too—the last time they met and what they decided as far as the property and so forth.

MHH:  So the ones who did not go along with the DeWolf group in Rock Valley went to other congregations, such as yourself and VanGinkel? So you came to Hull at that point?

TK:  yes, after we were married I had my papers transferred to Hull.

MHH:  Then you were definitely a minority in your own family?

TK:  Yes, I was the only one.

MHH:  OK.  What are any other recollections that you might have of that specific time period, and perhaps the aftermath of the actual schism itself.  By now you’re in Hull, and I’m interested in any recollections you may have of that time.

TK:  There was some contact, though, between us, like at the Oskaloosa Convention.  I think that was ’49. I was sixteen, I think.  Most families only had one car, so I don’t know if parents would have allowed us to take the car at that age anyway (laughter).  So we wanted to go to the Convention.  So it was myself and John Van Holland  from Rock Valley, and Art Doctor from Edgerton.  And we ended up going to Oskaloosa with your father [H. C. Hoeksema] (laughter).  At sixteen years old, we thought he was a pretty fast driver.

MHH:  You weren’t far off, because he was (laughter).

RBH [Ruthellen Bol Hoeksema enters the conversation at this point]:  Did he give you a thrill ride?

TK:  Another little incident on the way. We stopped for lunch—three young guys—in a restaurant.  I don’t know what we had—a hamburger or something.  We started to eat. I’ll never forget that.  Your father said, “What are you guys?  A bunch of hogs?  You go to the trough and just start eating?”   (much laughter).

Anyway, we went with him up and back to Oskaloosa. I wonder how many kids will do that today—ride to the convention with a neighboring minister?  (Laughter)  We had a good time.

MHH:  It sounds like it.

TK:  Yeah, we had a good time, and after that we paused to pray when we ate too (laughter).  He got that point across.

MHH:  That’s interesting.  In the Hull congregation, was there considerable animosity between factions?  How did all of this stuff shake out?

CK:  There was a lot of factions and we no longer felt as one.

TK:  I heard of arguments outside of church afterwards, after the service.  The 13th of September was the last time that we met together in the Hull church here—those two groups.  On the 20th of September, we met in Western [Christian High School] with one deposed deacon—Henry Hoksbergen.  He had been deposed by their consistory.  I didn’t realize that until I got hold of some other information.

MHH:  So all the other officebearers in the Hull congregation went with the DeWolf?

TK:  Correct.

MHH:  Really?

TK:  Yes, Henry Hoksbergen was the only one.  At that first meeting in Western, he’s the one that walked in with Rev. Schipper, who was the first one to preach for us.

MHH:  And who was the minister in Hull at the time for the DeWolf group?

TK:  Rev. DeJong.  He came in 1950—after Rev. A. Cammenga had left.  And I know that my father-in-law was opposed to giving him the call because they were more aware of what was going on in Hull than what we were in Rock Valley.

I have a letter of  request from Henry Hoksbergen and the committee asking us to come to meet in Western that Sunday.  I even remember Rev. Schipper’s sermon topic: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, as God worketh in us to will and to do his good pleasure.”

We didn’t stay in Western very long.  Then we went to the basement of the community building.

MHH:  What kind of a percentage, if you can recall that, stayed and left?

TK:  I think it was less than half, but not so much under half, I don’t think.  I think we had about 25–30 families.  It just seems to me that they had 60 or 70.  So it was less than half.

MHH:  So, then you met in the community building.

TK:  For eleven years.

MHH:  Eleven years!

TK:  Yes.

MHH:  Why was that?

TK:  Well, there was a property dispute going on all this time. We had Rev. Heys first.  There was a strong emotional tie to the old church in Hull, even though we were in the community building.  We felt on our whole side of the denomination that we were the rightfully the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull and were entitled to the property.  But we spent quite a bit of money.  We made a lot of trips to the lawyer in Sheldon.

That was an ongoing thing for quite a while.  There was no progress made until Edgerton won their court case and got their church back.  Then the whole situation changed. There were two Protestant Reformed Churches in Hull until the year 1962 when the De Wolf group joined the CRC.  So when Edgerton won, they were more open to discussion as far as making a settlement.  I was involved in that as a novice elder, I’ll tell you!  I was young.  I got involved in that along with Rev. Kortering,  whose first charge was here in Hull.  Those were some rough years.  We had a lot of financial problems.  We didn’t have a church, and there were still strong emotional ties to that old building. I think the younger ones of the congregation probably would have moved in the direction of just going off on our own: but others wanted the church back.  So that’s what we pursued.

I remember one meeting, I don’t know how it came about, but I think the Classis of the CR Church got involved, advising them to sell, because at this time they were in the process of maybe moving to the CRC.  I think that was in the works then.  So we were called, as a consistory, to Dordt [College] for a meeting. The only one representing—I think his job was as an arbitrator—was B.J. Haan, who was president of Dordt.  You probably recall Rev. B.J. Haan.

MHH:  I know the name.

TK:  He was a good public relations man.  I think he was trying to tell us to make a settlement.

MHH:  And who all was present at this meeting?

TK:  Our whole consistory. We met as elders and deacons at that time together.

MHH:  But the other side was not represented?

TK:  No. In the course of the meeting, B.J. Haan was pretty diplomatic, but he made the mistake of calling us the Hoeksema group.  Old Pete Hoekstra, who was quite a mild-mannered man wasn’t going to take that.  He said, “I’ll have you know that we’re the Protestant Reformed Church, one of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America.  And we don’t follow a man” (laughter). I think Rev. Haan realized he made a slip there, and he soothed that all over and got things on the right track.  But when the meeting ended, he stood up and put his hands out.  He said, “Send your students to Dordt.”  That was his last word (laughter).  But anyway, that came to pass, and for $18,000 we got the church back.

MHH:  And that was in what year?

TK:  1964.

MHH:  I was quite frankly not aware of the fact that it took that long, because that’s a fairly lengthy time after the split.  I thought that perhaps they had gone back to the Christian Reformed Church before that, but apparently not. Then, what happened to the DeWolf group when you made that settlement?  You got the church back, what about them?

TK:  They built what’s called the Hope Christian Reformed Church in 1964.   Most of the churches went back to the CRC in 1961 or 1962.

MHH:  Did Rock Valley go back in the early ‘60s, then?

TK:  1961.

MHH:  Which obviously effectively ended the existence of that congregation as a unit and as a former Protestant Reformed Church.

TK:  Yes.  Most of them went to the two Christian Reformed Churches that were in Rock Valley at that time.    Pretty much a similar situation, I think, in Sioux Center and Orange City.   In 1952 the young people’s convention was in Hull.    It was jointly sponsored by Hull, Rock Valley, Sioux Center and Doon.  I remember working with the young people.  I’m wondering if your father was in Doon then?

MHH:  My father was in Doon from 1949–1955.  If my knowledge is correct, he came in the fall of 1949.

TK: That must have been when I rode with him to the convention.  He just must have got there, I guess.