‘De Toet’ regulates the rhythm of life in the village

The daily rhythm of the 500 inhabitants of the small town of Kesselt was determined by the factory siren for decades. The sharp and piercing sound of the factory bell – in Kesselt, they call it ‘De Toet’ – reverberated throughout the village at three fixed times during the day.

Households in the village largely aligned their schedules with the siren during the day. “It regulated life in the village,” says Marino Keulen, who, as a former neighbour of the brickworks, remembers the siren lyrically and with some nostalgia. Families tuned their clocks at home to Nelissen’s factory siren.

The daily rhythm

‘De Toet’ went off for the first time at a quarter to eight in the morning. “It was the time when the day shift went to work in the factory,” he says. “That was also the time for parents to wake up their children or call them. After this, the kids went to the nursery or primary school in the village.” The siren sounded a second time at noon. It marked lunchtime for the factory’s employees. For the children, it meant that classes paused and they could go home to eat,” he continues. ‘De Toet’ was sounded a third and final time to signal that the day shift’s work was done. It was also the time when school let out and the children went home. According to Mayor Keulen, the siren regulated the time when the villagers got up, when they ate, and when they went to bed for many consecutive years.

Romping around

Children from the immediate vicinity of the brickworks and further afield were able to have fun on the factory premises. Apart from hitting a ball in the street in a meadow in summer or sliding on an ice-skating chair in winter, they also got up to mischief on and between brick hedges. The brickworks was an ideal playground for many children. Their peers from surrounding villages were quite jealous of the kids from Kesselt. “It was a magical place to romp around under the canopy above the baked bricks that had to cool and harden,” explains Marino Keulen.


“We were resourceful. At regular intervals, we could form a sphere from waste clay. We made a hollow in the clay until the ball had the shape of an ashtray. And without the workers or supervisors noticing, we hid the clay ashtrays between the bricks in the oven. They never stood out. Once fired, they were varnished. They were small and beautifully painted works of art that we took home with us,” Marino Keulen confides. He is convinced that a lot of the households in Kesselt still have such ashtrays today. “They are souvenirs for life, and a beautiful memento of our childhood at the brickworks.” 
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