Local Identities

Harry Scheutjens (1922 – 1999)

Written by Harry Scheutjens’ daughter, Anny-Maria Gardiner, from material gathered by his grandson Jason Scheutjens.

Hendrikus Peter Scheutjens was born in 1922 in a farming district in southern Holland to Martinus, a council worker, and Johanna Scheutjens (nee Van Hoof).

After Mass every morning Harry attended a public boys’ school run by brothers (monks). He left school at 14 and by the age of 15 worked as a weaver at a woollen textile factory, a job he had for a total of eleven years. In 1942 while he was working at the factory army authorities from Germany chose Harry and 22 other workers against the boss’s wishes to be sent as slave labour to Germany to work in a Junker aeroplane factory. In 1943 he was given the job of sandblasting engine parts, from which he developed diphtheria. The Germans put a tag on his clothing and put him out on the streets to make his own way to hospital. After three months in hospital the authorities tried to put Harry to work again but he was so weak that he was sent back to Holland to recuperate for six weeks. Two weeks into his return, his future brother-in-law sought the help of the Dutch resistance movement and Harry was hidden by members of that fraternity until August 1944.

After the war, Holland suffered severe financial depression. In July 1946 Harry married Bertha De Ruijter, also of Geldrop. They had four children under four years of age and Harry was working one week in three at the textile factory. Depressed conditions and bad war memories led Harry to seek migration to Canada. Canada did not require his skills so he was given the choice of South Africa or Australia.

In November 1952, Harry, Bertha and their four children, Martin, Tony, Christina and Johannna boarded the ship Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt in Amsterdam, destined for the Bonegilla Camp in Melbourne. The ship had 2000 people on board all migrating to Australia. They arrived in Fremantle on 7 December 1952 and were requested to disembark because the Bonegilla Camp was full. Harry’s first impression of Australia was ‘very dry and millions of flies everywhere’.

The family first moved to Northam and lived in an old Army holding camp, where Harry worked on the railways. After about a year Harry thought he would try to find a house for his family so he moved to Toodyay, where he worked on a sheep farm for sixteen months before going to work on a dairy farm in Burekup for a Mr Reading for a year. From there he went to Roelands and laid bricks for Mr Rosema then on to Collie and worked with Peter Krikke, all the while looking for a comfortable residence for his family.

The family moved to Tallanalla and Harry worked for the Forestry Department for two years. Some neighbours and friends of the late 1950s that the Scheutjens family remember were – Uncle Ned Leahy, his brother Joe and his son Gerry, Mr & Mrs Chitty, Nan & Pop Stewart, the Len Miller family and son Keith, Alf Bates and Terry, Bert Meyers – store shed supervisor and truck driver, Bill Hancock and family, Les, Betty, Pam & Jean Kirchener, Johannes & Gerarda Strik and their children, Adrian, Elly, Lenneke (Helen), Gerarda, Maria, Jenny & Henry, Millie Hutchinson, Jack & Beverley Marshall and son Mickey, Charlie who cooked them spaghetti, Wally Bols – the grader driver, Arthur & Jo Holland, the Catchpole family, Barnie & Helen Quicke, Mr & Mrs Bill Edwards, Mr & Mrs Joe Ottober, Herb & June Guthrie, Jack & Mary Coghlan, Bernie Kelly and Sam Zeeman.

Harry remembered the day when Mr Strik and Adrian were taking him and Martin to church in Harvey when the Dodge ute (Registration H 396) rolled over on Clarke Road while Martin and Adrian were on the back. Harry was in the front and when the vehicle rolled over it pinned his hand under the ute, so Martin and Adrian ran back to Tallanalla for help. The news was printed in the CALM newsletter that week. The family moved on to Treesville for seven months, then Hoffman Mill which closed down three weeks later.

In 1958 the family moved to Third Street in Harvey where they remained for 21 years. Harry had a job working as a dairy-hand/gardener for Chris and Pina Lethridge, and with the job came the house they all grew to love. During this time, Harry helped Father Kenny with the building of the new Catholic Church in Hester Street. Harry was a strict Catholic and the priest was often at the dinner table on Sundays.

Harry, Bertha and the four oldest children were naturalised as Australian citizens in 1962.

After the death of his youngest son Johnny in 1979, Harry felt that his work had no meaning so he threw in his job, sold the household furniture and lived with his children. Harry found employment at Harvey Beef in the freezer department until he retired a year later. His last job was as the green-keeper at the Harvey Bowling Club and he enjoyed his work so much that the Harvey bowling greens became the best in the state.

He died in the Bunbury Nursing Home in 1999 and is buried with Johnny in Harvey.