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Coletteke rijstpap (=rice pudding)
by Jef GEBOERS
Coletteke rijstpap (rice pudding) was one of the most famous village figures of Leopoldsburg. In Café Colette she sold delicious rice pudding that was very popular. Her real name was Maria Coletta Reynders. She was born in Paal in the district of Tervant on September 27, 1872 and died in Korspel – Beverlo on August 8, 1937, she spent her childhood in Paal. Her parents were farmers and purebred ‘Palenaars’ (habitants of Palen). Father Joseph Reynders was born in Paal on 14 January 1849 and died in Korspel – Beverlo on December 13,1937. He was married to Angelina Helsen, also born in Paal on 22 July 1846 and died in Beverlo on November 28, 1927. They were in married Paal in 1871. The farmer’s family had 8 children, 3 girls and 5 boys. Around the turn of the century, the family moved to Korspel. In 1925, Mr. Moeyersoon had a farm built on the ‘Dumondsheide’ and rented it to the Reynders family. This was not yet a military domain and was located on the territory of Korspel – Beverlo. It was in a beautiful setting, quiet and in the middle of the woods. The building was built with Beerse stone. The roof was covered with Pottelberg pans from Kortrijk. An inn was set up in the front room. The new home with a stable and a shed will soon be named “FERME COLETTE” (farm Collette) because at that time the language of instruction in the army was still French. One could drink a tasty pint of beer, enjoy the natural environment, but especially taste the tasty rice pudding. Coletteke had a very contemporary recipe and she was known for hours for the “best and special” rice pudding. The soldiers, who were in Leopoldsburg, usually went on Sunday to Coletteke to enjoy the tasty rice pudding or a fresh pint. After the great bombardment by the British Air Force on May 28, 1944 at Leopoldsburg, the German occupiers claimed Ferme Colette and established it as an emergency hospital. The residents had to seek shelter elsewhere. Their departure will be final.
Prior to World War II, Leopoldsburg was a busy military barracks with firing range, training ground and large bivouac sites. 40,000 troops could be stationed. In that period there were more puns and inns in Leopoldsburg than during the year, and they were all crowded. Café Colette was one of those crowded inns. From the soldiers’ blocks on the Hechtelsesteenweg (named Carrés, because they were put in squares, which in French is pronounced carré) one could go to Coletteke via a sandy 2 km road. First they had to pass pub ‘Het Fortje’ (the little fortress), ‘La Redoute’ (the detached forticifaction) and ‘Den IJzer’ (The Yser), but Coletteke had the best rice pudding and the most beautiful environment and therefore the most success. The men from the cavalry camp near the railway, the horse people, were able to go over the ‘Grote Beek’ (Big Stream) to Coletteke via the ‘Korteketenbrug’ (=name of a bridge). The French-speaking were not able to pronounce the name of that bridge so they gave her the name ‘Contrequette’, a place name that has been preserved. On Sunday afternoon the soldiers went in group to ‘Ferme Colette’, they drunk a lot and tasted lots opf the homemade rice pudding.
‘Ferme Colette’, as this house is still called in the military circles, is located in the wooded area of Korspel, on the ‘Boskant’ (Woodside = a hamlet of Leopoldsburg), on the ‘Dumondsheide’ (Dumondsheather) between the Grote beek (Big stream) and the Zwarte beek (Black stream). Ferme Colette only has forests as neighbors and is close to the ‘Staleikerheide’ (Stalikerheather) and the ‘Hemelbrug’ (Heaven bridge). After World War II, the Staleikerheide, the Dumondsheide and Ferme Colette were purchased by the Ministry of National Defense and the building was located in the military domain of Leopoldsburg (on Beverlo territory). Ferme Colette is now a military official residence. The new residents will from then on be a soldier with his family. The residents were given a security assignment to report irregularities to the military authorities. The building is for many soldiers an important landmark on the staff cards. During the holiday season this place is the meeting point of youth movements that store their tents here to camp. The current resident, a soldier at rest, Frans Ponnet has lived here with his family for 14 years. His predecessor was Adjudant Vossen. According to the current residents, they may stay there for the rest of their lives, then the building will be demolished because the maintenance costs are too high. The most nearby hooves on the military domain have already been demolished.
Young Coletteke was a very beautiful and pretty girl. Time will change that and make her a distinguished and firm pub owner, the accompanying pictures do not lie. Coletteke was never married. Whether she had ever really been in love with a soldier, we could not figure out. Conversely! She had many worshipers, one of whom was certainly preferred. From this short relationship a child was born that got the name Maria Reynders.
Daughter of Coletteke
Maria was born in Beverlo on February 28, 1897 and died in Korspel on February 6, 1943. She married Rene Dubois, soldier and architect of military buildings. He died in 1944, During WW II, in captivity in Mauthausen (Germany) Maria and Rene had three daughters († Gilberte, † Renilde and † Maria) and three sons (Robert, Paul and Leon). Coletteke was assisted by her sister Hortence, her youngest brother Theodor, his wife Charlotte and children who all lived at Ferme Colette. Even without guests it was very busy here. Coletta Reynders became 65 years old, she died four months before her father. She well earned her living thanks to the soldiers, at 2 Km outside the barracks.
On the wedding photo of the daughter of Coletteke (Maria) we see at the right of Coletteke, her son-in-law René Dubois and her daughter Maria. At the top right, we see Theodor Reynders, brother of Coletteke and his wife Maria Ducé. Hortence Reynders, sister of Coletteke, stands between Maria Reynders and Maria Ducé. Theodor was forester of Mr. Moeyersoon; owner of the domain and later Minister of National Defense. Between the two gentlemen is another sister of Coletteke, Rosalie Reynders.
In the dining room of the museum M.K.O.K. (military K blocks and Oscar chapel) at Leopoldsburg is a special photo report dedicated to ‘Coletteke Rijstpap’. There is still rice pudding with brown sugar on the menu for the visitors.
According to stories of Marie Thérèse Morren granddaughter of Carolus Reynders (brother of Coletteke) and Leon Dubois (grandson of Coletteke). We found documentation and visual material at Sylvain Weuts, curator of the Museum Kamp of Beverlo.