FULTON, Ill. — “We Walk on Common Ground” is the theme for the vintage wooden shoe exhibit now on display at de Immigrant windmill in Fulton.

For Ed Vander Meulen of Morrison, Ill., Ken Fanderclai of Fulton and Douwe and Robert Van Der Meulen in Eenrum, Groningen, the Netherlands, common ancestry is their common ground

From 1,000 pairs of wooden shoes, the volunteers at the Wooden Shoe Museum in Eelde, Drenthe, the Netherlands, selected 40 pairs to be sent to Fulton. They picked from a variety of styles, decorations and craftsmen. A delightful surprise in Fulton is that two pairs of shoes selected for the display were made by a Dutch family with family connections to people in Fulton and Morrison.

Ed Vander Meulen of Morrison, Fanderclai and Douwe Van Der Meulen of Eenrum share the same great grandparents, Jetse and Baukje Van Der Meulen, Jetse, a baker by trade and his family lived in Moddergat/Paessens. In 1883, a storm took the lives of all the fishermen in the village except one who was found three days after the storm. The tragedy ended the economics of the town. Jetse, Baukje and their four children roamed the province of Groningen doing any jobs they could find. The children were hired out to farmers. Jetse peddled bread, and Baukje worked for farm families. In 1899 at the age of 19, Dora (Ken’s grandmother) and her sister Jacoba, immigrated to the U.S. and two years later Engbeth (Ed’s grandfather) immigrated. Soon their parents Jetse and Baukje followed them first to a Chicago suburb and eventually to East Clinton, Ill., south of Fulton. Douwe stayed in the Netherlands.

Around 1900, Douwe learned the wooden shoemaking trade and that skill continues with the current Douwe and his son, Robert, who produced about 2,000 pairs of wooden shoes a year. Their customer base for the shoes is primarily from the people in their region, the northwest part of the province of Groningen. Tourists account for only 10 percent of the sales. Willow and poplar provide the best raw material for these popular garden shoes of Europe. Robert particularly enjoys the artwork involved with decorating the shoes. He began working with his father at the age of 14. Robert’s son, Douwe, is 8, still a bit too young to work in the wood shop.

Forty pairs of vintage wooden shoes from nine countries and nine provinces of the Netherlands are on display in de Immigrant windmill in Fulton. Styles range from wedding shoes to bog boots and come from Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Lithuania and the Netherlands. In addition three pairs of artist designed “soft shoes” were sent from a current exhibition in the Eelde Wooden Shoe Museum. Created by Irma Bruggenwirth, the wood is decorated with fur and cowhide.

The Wooden Shoe Museum in Eelde is noted for its archival preservation and record keeping for the 1,000 pairs of vintage shoes in their possession. In 2008 they will feature a special exhibition of Asian wooden shoes.

Admission to the Fulton exhibit is free. The mill is open seven days a week through September. KLM cargo, the Fulton Volunteer Millers, Friends of the Windmill and the Fulton Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring the exhibit, which will remain in Fulton until Fulton’s Fall Festival on Oct. 14.

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