The Cross and the Ballot. Politics and Religion in Doel during the 1950's.

After the Second World War, the secularization of Belgian society continued at an accelerated pace. We travel to the village of Doel in the 1950's and show you, from the perspective of the former residents, the political and religious life in this period.

Photograph of church service in polder village Doel (2021-04-30) by Photographer unknownGemeente Beveren

The Catholic Party

After the Second World War, the Catholic Party changed its name and image and became the new Christian Social Party (CVP). Henceforth the CVP also wanted to attract non (-practicing) believers. The party presented itself as a wide based Christian Democratic party.

Election poster of the Christian people's party (CVP) by UnknownGemeente Beveren

Influence
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Influence

The catholic church however remained pursuing a strong influence and so the party kept its conservative position. Priests consequently preached in favour of the party. 

Photograph of a priest in Doel by unknownGemeente Beveren

Priests
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Priests

Priests were a vital part within the local community.  They had a large amount of authority and influence in the village. Depending on who you ask, this was experienced either positive or negative.

Photograph of nuns in the church of Doel (2021-04-30) by unknownGemeente Beveren

Religion
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Religion

Religion and living religious were ubiquitous in Doel. Nuns for example were a common sight and the singing of the vespers was done frequently.

Poster of a socialist party (2021-04-30) by unknownGemeente Beveren

BSP

The CVP was not the only political party active in Doel. The Belgian Socialist Party (BSP) presented its first electoral list in Doel on the local elections of 1952. The list however remained a clear minority.

Photograph of a fanfare in Doel (2021-04-30) by unknownGemeente Beveren

Fanfare
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Fanfare

Within the CVP in Doel there were two Catholic factions who competed for influence and popularity. This political rupture caused a split in cultural life by the establishment of two music bands, linked firmly to one of these two factions (Francis de Sales and Saint Cecilia).

Photograph of a fanfare in Doel (2021-04-30) by unknownGemeente Beveren

Two catholic factions

These two factions both participated in the local elections which where held once every six years. Even though these two groups faced each other, they where both part of the CVP.

Photograph of mayor Jonckheere who wishes musicians good luck by unknownGemeente Beveren

Mayor of the village

The catholic electoral list connected with the music band Francis de Sales was led by Edmond Jonckheere, a local celebrity as he was mayor of the village from 1933 until his death in 1958.  

Picture postcard of fishing farm 'Groote Gat'Gemeente Beveren

Social hierarchy
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Social hierarchy

After World War II, the old class system still ruled  Doel. The most important opponent of mayor Jonkheere, was dike warden Henri Weemaes, the leading man of the polder board.  Definitely, there was a distinct social hierarchy within the village community.

Painting of Alidor,hopeful that the schoolpact breack the wall between free and official education (2021-04-30) by unknownGemeente Beveren

School war
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School war

Nonetheless, the inhabitants of Doel where no mere passive actors in local political issues. One of the main debating issues was the so called Second School War of the 1950’s which was a fundamental debate concerning the public funding of public/municipal schools and free (catholic) schools.

Postcard of the Pastorijstreet in Doel (2021-04-30) by unknownGemeente Beveren

local school war
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Local school war

Doel fought its own local school war. Due to the declining population, either the municipal or either the catholic school should close. After a fierce campaign, the municipal school won the plea.

Photograph of the election in Doel (2021-04-30) by unknownGemeente Beveren

Election

Election day was heyday in Doel. It lasted from dawn until dusk. In the preceding weeks campaigners went from door to door to persuade the people of Doel to vote for “the right guys”.

Photograph of the town hall of Doel by unknownGemeente Beveren

Special way of announcing the results
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Special way of announcing the results

The village used a special way of announcing the results of the election. Every time the CVP won a seat an empty beer bottle was placed upon the windowsill so everyone would know.

Photograph of the mayor Jozef Herman and the members of the college of aldermen by unknownGemeente Beveren

Election of 1958

In 1958 a unified CVP list was formed to counterbalance the election campaign of the socialist BSP. The CVP list was led by Jozef Herman, former principal of the municipal school.

Lyrics of the election poll (2021-04-30) by unknownGemeente Beveren

The election result

The CVP won election day overwhelmingly with 860 against 74 votes. The expected catholic victory ensured Jozef Herman to be mayor for six years.

Image of the pavilion at the mill by unknownGemeente Beveren

Friendly atmosphere
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Friendly atmosphere

Despite the competing factions, important political issues and the strict social hierarchy, the atmosphere in Doel remained friendly.  They all sat and drank together in the local pubs in the village. 

Credits: Story

This story is the result of an educational program of the University of Antwerp (UA), the Community Service Learning (CSL), in collaboration with the municipality of Beveren. This story was elaborated by history student Ranko Ansoms. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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