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
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.
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).
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
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.
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!
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.
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).
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:
Picture showing what De Spin of Kobus van Dam looks like nowadays, as exploited by
the son of J. (Sjaak) Laan.The caravan/goods trailer and at its right the bonnet of the GMC of
Kobus van Dam at a fair in Vinkeveen, 1956
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).
De Spin at a fair in Zaandam (left) and a fair in Amsterdam (right)..
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..
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!
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
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.
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
De Spin at the annual fair in Castricum (courtesy of
Henk and Alex Vallentgoed).
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.
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
A 'still' from the movie 'Kockyn, een Kermiskroniek'
featuring De Spin at the fair of Hypolytushoef at the background.
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).
movie with appropriate
A 'still' from the movie 'Kermis in Vinkeveen' made
by Cees Berkelaar.
sinds/since 7 Jan 2005
gewijzigd/revised 31 Jan 2016