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Between December 7th, 1973 and January 14th, 1974, Gerda and Pierre Schunck-Cremers made a trip to Curaçao and Bonaire. It was not the first time.

On Bonaire 1948

In 1948, Pierre Schunck first went alone to the Dutch Caribbean island Bonaire to found a clothing factory. It should produce work clothes, especially for the oil industry of Curaçao, Aruba and Venezuela.

The regional press wrote:

1948 A Pioneer on Bonaire

A man from Heerlen carries out pioneering work in the Caribbean
P. Schunck founds a workwear factory

Pierre Schunck wrote in “Starting in Bonaire” among other things:

In 1947 the company A. Schunck was converted to an N.V. (roughly equivalent to public limited company)
Papa always had been engaged in involving me in his lifework. He came to Valkenburg to animate Gerda and me, to leave everything, to put a final stroke under the past and to take a management function in this N.V.
After consultation with Gerda I agreed, under the condition not to get any function in the commercial area. Papa suggested Human Resources.

Schunck Clothing Bonaire LTD

In “Begin Bonaire”, Pierre Schunck continues:

The coincidence was that a Shell manager called Bloemgarten came to his home town Heerlen and asked Papa (Peter J. Schunck) about a Jewish coreligionist Salm (Papa bought the factory building Molen from him). So they started talking about the Mill and me. Bloemgarten brought Papa to the idea of founding a company in the Caribbean.

Kralendijk from above

That was Playa, the capital of Bonaire. Compare this picture with today’s Kralendijk! Click on the link

Later his wife and children followed. At first there they did not intend to stay there in the long term, because Pierre hoped for a place in the managment team of the company A. Schunck in Heerlen. It came to nothing. Furthermore he had to return to Bonaire several times. At one of these stays, he was accompanied a second time by his wife and children. But not all children could come along this time, because there was no secondary school at that time. The four older ones stayed in the Netherlands at Uncle Joseph’s, while the younger (meanwhile 4) accompanied our parents to Bonaire. When on June 30, 1954 one more child had to be brought to the secondary school in the Netherlands, Pierre J.A. Schunck was staying on the island with the three youngest ones. On 15 January 1955 the family was reunited in the port of Amsterdam.

Gerda seeing her mum again, January 15, 1955

From the economic point of view, the chapter Bonaire was not successful. That is to say: for the family Schunck. For the island it has been very profitable. After the war many men were missing, including 34 soldiers from Bonaire (more than from the other islands of the then Netherlands West Indies).
Because of the lack of jobs on the island itself, many men from Bonaire always used to go to sea. During the war, German submarines tried to eliminate the shipping around the refineries of Aruba and Curaçao, in order to destroy the fuel production for the allied aircrafts. During these battles also ships were involved, which had a crew from Bonaire.
There was some shipbuilding where the traditional wooden load sailers were built, and a little intensive salt production.

So it was a great solution that a company came to Bonaire, which would provide work for women and train them themselves. A consequence of this company foundation was also that the power supply was significantly improved. Pierre Schunck wrote:

The only handicaps for our new establishment there were: the lack of a suitable building and power supply by day. There was a power plant, operated by a private company.
Technically, this power plant was able to supply us with electricity, but it could not work profitably for only one company. Through personal intervention by his Exellency Gouvernor Dr. P. Kasteel, the government promised to give a deficit guaranty to this power plant for the electricity supply in the daytime, because of the economic benefits for Bonaire, implied by the founding of small industries. This commitment was made in a supplement to the budget in 1948 via the so-called Gebiedsdeel Curaçao.

The “Black Van” (Ford), beginning 1954

Gerda Schunck with her four youngest children
This car was, of course, the factory’s work horse. But on Sundays it was our transport to these wonderful places, which Bonaire is so famous for: Lake Goto and Pekelmeer with their flamingos, the salt marshes, Lagoon, but above all the headland Cai at Lac bay with its shallow, warm water and mangrove bushes. In the driver’s cab sat the parents and the little sister, on the loading area the three older children. From there we looked over the driver’s cab to the then still mostly unpaved and (behind us) dusty roads.

DC3 on the airport of Bonaire, 1954

On June 30, 1954 Gerda Schunck-Cremers and her fifth child took this plane to Curaçao, from where the ship Rangitoto brought them to Holland, because also this child had to go to the secundary school. Thus the four elders could come home again. The three youngest children remained with their daddy on Bonaire. For dinner they went to the couple Brandl from this day on. She was a Dutchwoman and he was a former prisoner of war who had been interned on Bonaire. Meanwhile he was the mechanic of the factory and they had a chickens farm.

End Dry Season 1953 in the Cunucu

In Papiamento the area outside the built-up area is called “Cunucu”. In slavery time, it was plantation land, but now it is mostly fallow land. A part is still used for private purposes. Vegetable gardens, chickens, goats and the like.

Lac bay, Bonaire, August 1954

There, at the tip of the Cai peninsula, we could be found almost every Sunday. On the way there, just before we arrived, we saw the large heaps of big shells from the karkó snails. Nowadays it is no longer allowed to catch or eat them.
Lac is a large, shallow bay surrounded by mangroves. Because it is so shallow, the water is as warm as in a bathtub.


Factory 25 Years 1

Visit to Bonaire
during a travel to Curaçao between Dec. 7th, 1973 and Jan. 14th, 1974
25th anniversary of the factory, celebrated with ex-staff (barbecue offered by them)

Arrival at the airport, reception committee of the staff

Their travels around the turn of the year 1973-1974 and in February 1984 to Bonaire have shown that these two pioneers are not forgotten. This is also evident from the album below.
Meanwhile, the island had completely changed. Tourism brought prosperity. But they still knew exactly who had given the first cautious approach to this prosperity.

Many more pictures: Bonaire
See also the albums Resistance, Laundry and Schunck-Cremers