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Alumni

Bernard Witholt on Growing Up in Brazil

 

Way back in my Brazilian days my father who had once had some horses, a gun, and a snake to protect him at night, and dreamed of canooing up the Amazon into Peru, all this from 1935 to 1940, before he went back to Holland to marry my mother (talk about shitty timing; they married two whole weeks after the Germans walked in and took charge), and then took his family, now with 4 kids, back to Brazil in 1949, to run a dairy factory set up by some of his former buddies. Having sold everything left over post-war in Holland, using the proceeds to pay the ship fares, his reserves definitely less than fantastic, and hearing his friends explain that he now being the new Director of the company, they saw no need for a salary since he was a co-owner… we ate a lot of bananas, rice and maybe an occasional chicken, and when after 4 or 5 years he started selling the Encyclopaedia Britannica (English in Brazil??? guys with names like Eduardo Barreto liked them, probably because of the 24 volumes, in their own bookcase…, carefully done in Moroccan Leather, embossed with a golden EB), and to find these and other clients, lots of mail needed sending out, so we too kneeled on the floor and stuffed envelopes, licked them (or was it a little sponge?), sorted and sent… And then waited for him to come home to find out whether he had sold any, two maybe???  One day he had sold 5, and we kids, fully aware of the beauties of selling on commission only, immediately had visions of bikes and maybe more… can’t even remember what else we were able to imagine in those days.