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.
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.
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.
The coincidence was that a Shell manager called Bloemgarten came to his home town Heerlen and asked Papa 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.
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) came accompanied the 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.
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.
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.
See also the albums Resistance Laundry and Schunck-Cremers