René Luijkenaar

About René Luijkenaar
Schooling & Stuff

I was born on the Pelsrijkenstraat in Arnhem, Netherlands in 1951. I was an army brat so as a child we moved more than the usual Dutch do. My first memory is from Germany where my father was stationed in Westfalen. After a year or two we moved back to Arnhem.

My first school was kindergarten in the woods outside the city , where I lived on the Roëlstraat. Grade school in Arnhem was "de Sterrenberg". I walked to school, my brothers were in the higher grades, four and five years ahead of me. While in grade four my family moved to downtown Arnhem to take up residence in a flat on the Trans. This was close to the Eusebius Church which was being restored from damage incurred during the war. The market was held ob the square next to the church several days a week. One area was produce of all kinds and there was a other location, in foront of the townhall with the carillon where a flea market was held. This square was also used for Taptoe. I played in the empty stalls of the market and looked for change under the Taptoe stands. I played along the Rhine and explored its banks.

Katwijk aan de Zee

We moved to Maastricht in 1960-61 when my father transferred there, we lived in a rowhouse on Plenkershoven just below the big hill that we refer to as a mountain: the St. Pietersberg (just over a hundred meters above sea level). I caught little lizards (Lacerta Viviparis) along the Meuse. I also found slowworms (Anguis Fragilis) and hoped to come upon fire salamanders (Salamandra Salamandra) and climbing lizards (Lacerta Muralis) rumoured to live on the ancient city walls but never found any of either. Herpetology would be a hobby for me troughout my youth. I explored caves in the St. Pietersberg and the border with Belgium. I discovered that the slime of the big "escargot" or vineyard snails cooled the burn of stinging nettles. I visited the Natural History museum to look at the contents of the many pickle jars on display.

My father retired from the military to accept a position at the Hogere Hotelschool originally on the Assendelftstraat in the Hague but just then moving into its new quarters on the Badhuisweg in Scheveningen. We first lived on the Brugse straat, and later just across the lane behind the school on the Yperse straat. Through his work I got to sit at long boring but stylish dinners every Sunday, when the Maître d'hotel of the week would demonstrate his or her capabilities.

On completion of primary school, things went awry for me. I was sent, ambitiously, to the Haagsch Gymnasium a six-year stream of high school which included Latin in the first year and Greek in the years after that. I did not know how to study and after a month or two I was sent to a year of assessment at a Determineerschool. The Beatles were the main music played at parties and all these songs took on special meaning.

In the Netherlands we do not count on the grades after six, but start over. So after my assessment year I was placed in the first grade of the Vrijzinnig Christelijk Lyceum, a five year stream of high school refered to as a Hogere Burgerschool (HBS). After school I had tutoring with my homework. I failed my year by a hair. My parents did not wish me to continue there and I was moved again to in the second grade at the Haagsch Genootschap a four year stream of secondary education, also refered to as MULO. This seemed to better match my capabilities and three years later I would graduate cum laude.

My last year in the Netherlands, after graduating form MULO, I moved back to an HBS five year stream but in grade 3, this school being "het Johan de Witt Lyceum". I passed that year barely but also goofed off quite a bit. A doctor's note (asthma) got me out of gym/phys-ed for most of the year. The physics teacher told us he did not care who came to his class and so I shot myself in the foot by not going there either. We chewed garlic chives before class to irritate our teachers. With one teacher we basically jumped out of the class window when we felt like it. My favourite teacher , who taught German but was a philosophy afficionado as well, I was often able to side-track from the curriculum by asking questions about Nietsche, Schopenhauer or Kant.

For summer holidays during those years I went to a Nederlands Hervormd church camp in the Pfalz, Germany on several occasions, other years our family went to Southern France, the Black Forest in Germany or to Salszkammergut or Tyrol in Austria, I mostly used those holidays to collect more reptiles and amphibians.

In 1969 I emigrated with my family to Canada to live, first in Ottawa, in an apartment building on Charlotte street - first in a basement apartment with my brother and his wife, then on the fourth floor with my mother and sister and a little later my father too. I attended Lisgar Collegiate, a high school who aside from me attending there for one semester, has Lorne Greene, Rich Little and Paul Anka as alumni. I had some language problems, it took me some time to recognise that the math teacher was not saying "dismal" but "decimal". I had to ask someone to find out that the strange accent of the geography teacher was "Ottawa Valley", and when a girl asked me for gum I handed her an eraser.

January 1970 found my family in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I now attended Halifax West High and lived with my parents and my younger sister in an apartment in Clayton Park. That summer I worked graveyard shift in the CN hotel Nova Scotian. My biggest delight in Halifax was the area around St. Vincent. It is snake country. Once I found four species of snake under one rock: garter snake, brown snake, ringneck snake and smooth green snake. I wa not keeping animals any more so I left them where they were.

I had applied to Algonquin college in Ottawa for a one-year commercial art course and was accepted. I moved in with my brother again, still on Charlotte Street for a few weeks until he moved to Saskatchewan. Then I lived in a rather seedy rooming house on Somerset East until finding a place across from the college on Woodroffe Avenue. From there I moved to a house on Norton Avenue on the corner with Carling Avenue­decades later this house would be featured as "Eyesore of the week" in the Ottawa Citizen.

I met and first talked with my future wife and classmate Bonnie while going to Shopper's City next to the college for a carton of milk. She was waiting for her father to pick her up for the drive home. After college, I had my first stint as a commercial artist. I lasted a month. Thanks to Bonnie's father I got a job with a moving company. After that I worked as shipper for a clothing store for a while. We got married in the Salvation Army church on Woodroffe Avenue, Ottawa on October 8, 1971. I had quit the clothing store three days before.

We moved into our first domicile, an apartment on MacLaren Street which cost us 125 dollars a month. I had no job, Bonnie worked for the government and earned $4,600 per year.We spent the first year in bed, eating Chinese food every night. There was always 500 dollars in the bank. Those were the days.

After a few years of spotty work such as a job in a department store warehouse, volunteering with a printshop and an art studio and some retraining courstesy of the government, I obtained solid employment., first as a drafting clerk with Bell Canda and then as a technical illustrator with Bell-Northern Research. This was followed by my career in the Federal Public Service as a graphic artist, initially on contract and as a term, but finally as a permanent employee with Transport Canada in various departments: Training Institute, Coast Guard, Aviation and Public Affairs. Bonnie and I left the goverment in the mid nineties. We then ran our own company, Graphiti for a while. Most recently we both worked for unions.

We lived on two other addresses in Ottawa, I learned to drive, we bought our first car, a huge four-door Mercury, and then bought our first house across the Ottawa river in Aylmer, Québec. Gardening became a major pastime for me. After a decade of marriage, Bonnie and I decided on parenthood. Our first son was born in 1983 and our second in 1987.

We moved back across the river, had a few interesting years in Vanier, formerly a separate city but now part of the amalgamated Ottawa. Presently we live in Old Ottawa South, or Granola Ville, as I prefer to think of it. Our sons still live with us, and I can never find any socks.

René Luijkenaar

May 2006, Ottawa, Canada