I was born in 1910 in 's Graveland, the Netherlands, the third son of Sjoerd Koopmans and Wijtske van der Zee. Both my parents had been trained as schoolteachers and my father was principal of the (Protestant) "School with the Bible". Our house was squeezed between the two sections of that school. The row of these three buildings was, as almost all houses in the village, sandwiched between one long street and a parallel, straight and narrow canal, marking one of the village's boundaries. Across the street were large wooded estates, each with meadows and a large mansion. The occupants of the mansions kept aloof from the life of the village except for the employment of coachmen, gardeners, servants and contractors. Across the canal was a path for horses and an unpaved, more sparsely-settled road belonging to another village. Small freight boats traveling between Amsterdam and Hilversum were not allowed to use their motors in 's Graveland because the buildings abutting on the canal might be damaged by the waves so generated. Instead, men called "jagers" specialized in making their horses pull the boats for the length of the village.
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