The second life of GMC's

In search of the two GMC's of 'De Spin'


1962

My addiction to GMC's started at the fair ground in the village of Castricum, The Netherlands. As a five year old I was completely flabbergasted by two trucks of an unknown brand, possibly Ford's as suggested by a logo on Ford logo De Spin vanuit de lucht their brushguards. They transported a merry-go-round with metal sheet rockets / planes, called 'De Spin' ('The Spider'). Many years later I found out that these trucks were definitely GMC CCKW's of which the original engines had apparently been substituted by Ford diesels (much later I heard that the owners had started attaching the Ford logo without ever substituting the original '270 type' engine'). Anyhow, brush guard logo's referring to the origin of the diesel engine were quite common on post-war used GMC's.

2001-2005

In January 2001, almost 40 years later, I published a paper on GMC trucks in the NAMAC journal ‘Auto in Miniatuur’. I ended this paper with a call for pictures of these two legendary GMC fair ground trucks. Even after 4 years Willem Kruijer, fair ground collector, remembered this call and shared a copied picture of a fair in Amsterdam (early 60s) with me. On this picture a small but unquestionable part of De Spin is visible. By then, the present GMC site had been launched by me, but similar calls for pictures of the associated trucks initially remained unanswered.

Pictures of the merry-go-round called 'De Spin' at Palmgracht fair in Amsterdamse (left: Palmgracht 46, corner Driehoekstraat, right: Palmgracht 51-53, corner Palmdwarsstraat).
Palmgracht Palmgracht

2005

In August 2005 the internet took me to the Stichting Kermiscultuur (www.kermiscultuur.nl, Association for Fair Culture). They had published a series of booklets, one focussing on transport (sold out now, although an updated and strongly improved version saw the daylight in 2014: http://www.historisch-kermistransport.nl/boek.html ). The booklet contains pictures of GMC's but not of the ones I was looking for. Chairman Karel Loeff suggested that the Laan family from Venhuizen could be the owner of De Spin. My letter to them remained unanswered, however. In that same year I contacted the city council archives of Amsterdam, Alkmaar en Castricum, trying to find so-called fair allocation lists. In this way I hoped to link De Spin to a family name and their whereabouts. However, the archives were destroyed, lost or inaccessible. In November 2005 I put another call for pictures on the fair collectors forum www.ditiskermis.nl, without any result.

Left: De Spin at the Palmgracht fair in Amsterdam; Right: poster announcing the annual fair on the Palmgracht.
Palmgracht poster Palmgrachtkermis

2006

In April 2006 I published another paper in ‘Auto in Miniatuur’, dealing with fair transport. I included another call for pictures of the GMC´s of De Spin. In response to that, Willem Kruijer suggested that the Veen-Vallentgoed family from Edam could have been the owners. My email to them remained unanswered, though. Having read my paper, Adriaan de Koeier advocated to contact the two Dutch unions for fair owners, the BOVAK and the NKB. My letter to the NKB remained unanswered. All of a sudden, things started to move. On August 2006 I received a phone call from Frans Gigengack, member of a famous fair owners family. In addtion to a picture of the two GMC´s his family had been using (and meanwhile included in this site), he insisted to contact the other union, the BOVAK, too. So I did and their friendly director B. Donks recommended to get in touch with Bram Vader from Kolhorn. Bram Vader, a retired fair owner, was told to know anyone involved in fairs in the 60s around Amsterdam. The BOVAK director had been right. Bram Vader provided the phone number of Cock van Dam, son of the alleged owner of the De Spin and its GMC´s. I called Cock van Dam and he confirmed my description of the two GMC´s and De Spin with the metal sheet rockets. He also remembered to have visited the fair ground in my parental village Castricum, together with his father and De Spin. He told me that there were pictures of the two GMC´s indeed, but that all of them had been handed to the archives of the NKB union. So, I contacted the NKB once more. They confirmed to have received a set of pictures of the Van Dam family. Access to these pictures was not allowed, however, awaiting their publication in a future book or web site. The NKB advised me to contact them again after a year or so. I had never been so close to my ultimate goal!

2007

Almost one year later, on May 12 2007, I gave it another try. The NKB, however, responded similarly, to my great disappointment. This was not the complete end of this quest, though. That same month I was called by Leo Limburg from Ursem. He said to have assisted the Van Dam family as a school boy. Leo helped me to remember all kind of nice details of the GMC´s and De Spin. As a matter of fact, he told me, there had been two merry-go-rounds in the Van Dam family, both called De Spin. One of them is owned now by the Laan family as earlier implied by Karel Loeff. In July 2007 I heard Jacques Laan in a radio interview, telling listeners that during WWII even seven similar merry-go-rounds, all called De Spin, had been built. The Laan family owns a De Spin with seats below sort of umbrellas, whereas the seats of my De Spin were situated in metal sheet planes/rockets, as shown on the above pictures. De Spin Based on all these bits and pieces, I arrive at the following reconstruction. Based on a design of Adam van der Veen, Jan van der Linden from Purmerend constructed a merry-go-round in 1942 by the name ´De Spin´. This mill had ´seats under umbrellas´ at the ends of its eight booms. Initially, Van der Veen exploited the merry-go-round himself, but after a while he sold it to Mr Dirk Johannes Van Dam, whose son Kobus exploited it. After a few years Dirk Johannes van Dam had another merry-go-round built, possibly again in cooperation with Adam van der Veen. The second mill was called De Spin as well, but it had kind of 'planes' ('rockets' as we called them at home) instead of 'seats under umbrellas'. The metal sheet planes/rockets were welded by the Hemrica firm, also located in Purmerend, as was Van der Linden's construction firm. This second De Spin was exploited by Dries, the brother of Kobus van Dam. De Spin of Kobus was transported by one GMC and a trailer and was eventually sold to the Vallentgoed family, as earlier implied by Willem Kruijer. The Vallentgoed family sold it in turn to the Laan family who owned it ever since. This merry-go-round can still be seen at work on nostalgic fairs (www.kermisparadiso.nl) although traveling is no longer carried out with its GMC.

Pictures showing the GMC by which Kobus van Dam transported his Spin (the one with the umbrella-covered seats) (courtesy of Ton Coljée and Jaap Buijs).
Spin van Kobus van Dam Spin van Kobus van Dam

Picture (left) of De Spin owned by Kobus van Dam, shorly after its construction (source: www.vermeulenjaap.nl ) and a detailed picture of the seats with at the background the caravan/goods trailer at a fair in Schagen (source: www.zijpermuseum.nl/niestadt/bbank.html  ).
Spin van Kobus van Dam Spin van Kobus van Dam

Picture showing what De Spin of Kobus van Dam looks like nowadays, as exploited by the son of J. (Sjaak) Laan.
Spin van Kobus van Dam

The caravan/goods trailer and at its right the bonnet of the GMC of Kobus van Dam at a fair in Vinkeveen, 1956
Ford logo
De Spin with the planes / rockets, the one built for Dries, was transported with two GMC CCKW's, as confirmed by his son Cock. This is the pair of GMC trucks I fell in love with. One of them conveyed the turn table. The other GMC contained fences, floor panels, wedges, et cetera. The first one towed the caravan, the second one a trailer with the planes / rockets, booms and, from a certain year on, even an electric power station. Somewhere between 1960 and 1966 De Spin underwent a reconstruction. The central wooden housing was then replaced by plastic sheets (as was temporarily the case with the Spin of Sjaak Laan, formerly Kobus van Dam). Besides, photographs from the different eras give the impression that the turntable was put to a somewhat higher level. Probably this coincided with the alleged substitution of the initial central tower by a tower originating from an existing merry-go-round formerly belonging to Jan Wanningen from Rotterdam. The reconstruction allowed to lower all the booms simultaneously instead of having the passengers step in and out one by one, as with the Kobus' mill. Dries van Dam had five sons, among which Cock, and two daughters, among which Rina. She and her husband Joop (van der) Schaaf continued to travel with De Spin until at least 1973. Soon after that year De Spin probably ended its life at a scrapyard and so did the trucks, I guess. I was told by Henri van der Caay that Rina and her husband exploited another merry-go-round 'Tahiti Express' from 1977 to 1980 which was transported by two DAF's 2600. Probably this was the direct follower of De Spin. By the way, the Van Dam's are still in business. The son of Dries, Cock (who himself passed away in 2009), has a son called John. He runs his enterprise from Bergen op Zoom. Another brother of Dries, Dirk, had a son who was called Dirk too. The son of this Dirk is called John as well, just like his cousin (are you still with me?). The latter John runs his enterprise (Number One Autoscooter) from Winkel, The Netherlands, together with his wife Miranda. In summary, photographs do exist but they are not accessible so far. Nevertheless, the history behind them has become much clearer and vivid to me. I'm grateful to all the people who helped me with this quest. I will keep you posted when pictures become available one day. Any help is welcome to bring this story too to a happy end.

Left picture: One of the two GMC's by which Dries van Dam, and later on his daughter Rina (van der) Schaaf-Van Dam transported their Spin (the one with the rockets), built around 2000 and based on my memories. Once I got hold of pictures, I realized that the construction must have been slightly different. That is why I decided to build a better version in 2014 (right picture).
Miniatuur GMCs van Dam Miniatuur GMCs van Dam

De Spin at a fair in Zaandam (left) and a fair in Amsterdam (right)..
Spin van Dries van Dam Spin van Dries van Dam

De Spin at a fair in Volendam (left) and a fair in Huisduinen (right); these pictures show that the wooden panels around the central tower had by then been replaced by plastic sheet and so were the cloth tarpaulins of the rockets themselves..
Spin van Dries van Dam Spin van Dries van Dam



2008

Going through the Dutch National Archives (search terms: Jordaanfestival, Palmgracht, Fair ground) I discovered the two pictures below. Left one: Palmgracht 1968 (this fair in Amsterdam was indeed frequented by Dries van Dam), a GMC with floor panels, and at the back behind the truck the contoures of a merry-go-round under construction that looks exactly like the one owned by the Van Dam's! Is the GMC in front of it, finally, one of the trucks owned by Dries van Dam? On the one hand, I cannot remember ´my´ GMC's to have had these post-war 'modern' vertical panels welded to their front fenders. On the other, how likely is it that the Swing Mill, being erected in the foreground, needs that many floor panels. The ten fences on top of the GMC platform look exactly like the ones used by De Spin in later years (as a replacement of the initial wooden ones). Another piece of circumstantial evidence: just in front of this GMC and behind the truck with closed panels, another truck is visible. This one has two remarkable holders (picture in the middle) at the end of its platform which may have held the tower of De Spin during unloading. Another hint that this tiny bit of truck may be one of the two GMC's of Van Dam, are the tandem axles. The picture at the right shows another GMC at the annual fair on the Palmgracht (1967), but until 2013 I believed that this GMC is one of the two owned by Dries van Dam neither, by the look of the unfamiliar load platform above the cabin. I cannot remember such a platform. So, the quest has not yet ended..... '.

Palmgracht fair: the upper picture (photographer Eric Koch) shows a ticket trailier, the unfinished central tower of De Spin owned by Dries van Dam and a GMC truck. In 2013 it was confirmed to me that this was indeed one of the GMC's of De Spin of Dries van Dam!
GMC Dries van Dam


GMC Dries van Dam GMC Dries van Dam

2009

From hearsay I know that Rina van der Schaaf (born Van Dam), once owner of De Spin, lives in a trailer park in Amsterdam. One of the trailer parks in Amsterdam is located on a road called 'Vredenhofweg'. A search on the internet with terms 'Vredenhofweg' and 'Schaaf' indeed yields a link to an article in the Dutch newspaper  dated  23 August 1994. That article refers to a Mrs Schaaf, at that moment 66 years old,  who lives in a trailer on the 'Vredenhofweg'. More recent telephone books confirm name and adress. Although I have to admit that M(arina?) Schaaf,  by now 81 years old,  is not exactly the same as Rina van der Schaaf,  I sent a letter to Amsterdam. But yes, in a conversation that Rina Schaaf had with Bram Vader she confirmed that she had received my letter, either or not via relatives. She also indicated that she has no longer any pictures of the GMC's that once belonged to her firm.
This disappointment was somewhat compensated by a discovery of Willem Kruijer. On YouTuibe he found a video clip from 1973 in which the former Dutch pop group KayaK sings a song while turning around in............De Spin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_Yy4ufxJwk


2010

Spin op Palmgracht

The generation that could be of help in my search for pictures of the GMC's van Van Dam, is gradually getting smaller and smaller. In March 2010 I received the sad news that Bram Vader had passed away. Bram has always received me with great hospitality and done his utmost best to find the bits and pieces of the story behind the trucks.
My optimism rised as soon as I found out that the firm that once built De Spin (Van der Linden in Purmerend) still exists. On my request they have searched in their archives for old pictures. Unfortunately, nothing has been recovered.


2011

De planes / rockets of De Spin have been built by Eelke Hemrica (1908-1979) in Purmerend. In December 2011 I have written lettres to his daughter Janke and the wife of his son Sijtze (1940-1999), asking them about memories or even pictures of the moment that Eelke must have handed over the fruits of his work to Dries van Dam. Both indicated that they could not be of any help to me.


De Spin at the annual fair in Castricum (courtesy of Henk and Alex Vallentgoed). GMC Dries van Dam

2013

Leo Limburg advised me to visit a Fair Ground Organ meeting on January 6, organized by Ruud Vader (son of Bram Vader) in Barsingerhorn, The Netherlands. Accompanied by the beautiful melodies of well-restored organs, I had the opportunity to talk to Frans van Dam, brother of Rina van Dam. When I showed him a couple of pictures made by Eric Koch in the 60-ties (above), Frans confirmed that the GMC next to his own Para Trooper was indeed one of the GMC's of his sister Rina Schaaf-Van Dam. The platform above the cab (in my memories absent on the GMC's of De Spin) had been added in later years, according to Frans. The pictures show that the front of the GMC on the right picture belongs to the backside of it at the left picture. Notice the two bearings holding the tower of De Spin during transport and (un)unloading. The left picture shows that the bonnet held a (slightly twisted) post-war GMC logo. Besides, one of the booms of De Spin is visible at the left side of this photo, including a frame to which one of the rockets is to be linked.


Left picure: front side of one of the GMC's of Van Dam; right picture: back side of the same GMC, showing bearings probably holding the tower of De Spin during unloading.

GMC Dries van Dam GMC Dries van Dam

2014

In addition to the clip featuring pop group KayaK sitting and playing from within De Spin (consult 2009 above), there is another movie picture in which De Spin plays a role. In the movie 'Kockyn afair ground chronicle' actor Hugo Metsers passes De Spin (after first passing another Merry-Go-Round) at the fair of Hippolytushoef (on the former island Wieringen) in 1966 (thank you Rob Holtjer for bringing this movie to my attention).


A 'still' from the movie 'Kockyn, een Kermiskroniek' featuring De Spin at the fair of Hypolytushoef at the background.

GMC Dries van Dam

2015

Another few bits of footage of a turning 'De Spin' found on the internet. It starts with a full-color piece (recorded by Cees Berkelaar) of the  fairground in Vinkeveen back in 1955, followed by a piece of black & white fairground (unknown creator) taken in Wormerveer at the end of the 1950s. Note the performance of the excentric axis fascilitating the rise and fall of the booms, one by one (i.e. prior to the later conversion).


Start the movie with appropriate music!

A 'still' from the movie 'Kermis in Vinkeveen' made by Cees Berkelaar.

GMC Dries van Dam

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