Sunday, 30 September 2012
Story, September 1977: Dutch kindergarten teacher discovered ABBA's Björn
23 years ago, a blonde little boy with a timid face stepped into May Borghols' private kindergarten class in the Van Eeghenstreet in Amsterdam at the hand of his mother. He desperately longed to run back to the car with driver, that brought him here and that was now waiting for his mother outside. He himself would have to stay with all these foreign children, who all spoke such a weird language. A couple of days earlier, he had arrived in Holland from his home country Sweden for a stay of approximately one year. His father, who was working in the paper industry in Sweden, wanted to check out the working methods at the company Van Gelder in Velsen. His mother decided it would be the best thing for young Björn to go to school in this foreign country, more particularly to the kindergarten class of singing teacher May Borghols, where more children of different nationalities were accomodated.
All of a sudden, the entrance of little Björn springs to the mind of Mrs. Henny Otten-Hobby from Almere-Haven - at the time the assistant of May Borghols - when the group appears on the television screen when she is watching the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976 with her family. "I know that one!" she exclaims. Her husband starts laughing. "But you have never even been to Sweden," he remarks.
"No," she says. "I've never been to Sweden, but that one ABBA member has been to Holland in the past! He was in my kindergarten class and his name was..." She thinks for a while and then she remembers: "Björn!"
The man on the screen turns into that little boy again, who was having such a rough time those first days at school, because no one could understand him. She even remembers a photograph with Björn on it. Industriously, she starts looking, but the photograph doesn't surface until she moves to a new home.
"Björn was a quick learner," she tells Story later on. "Mrs. Borghols and I paid extra attention to him those first few days. We pointed to all kinds of objects and told him what they were called. Soon he started talking a little and after a few months he spoke Dutch nearly as well as his Dutch friends. But he was a very modest little boy: maybe even too modest."
After she had seen ABBA win successfully with 'Waterloo', even more memories surfaced with Mrs. Otten. She saw little Björn playing in the Vondel park again, that was adjacent to the garden of the kindergarten class. And she remembered again how the blonde little boy ate his sandwiches at school during lunch time, because this was convenient to his parents.
"But my fondest memory is the St. Nicholas party," says Mrs. Otten. Quite some time before the party, we started teaching the children St. Nicholas songs. Since Björn didn't know who that important man was who would come over on his birthday and bring presents, we showed him some pictures and drawings of St. Nicholas. He was great at learning these songs. We were astonished how well he could remember all these (to him) unknown melodies and how well he could sing in tune. When St. Nicholas finally arrived, Björn was allowed to sing a song for him on his own. He was beaming with pride and so were we, because he did a great job. Who could have guessed at that very moment that he would become one of ABBA's B's and would make such beautiful songs himself?