Han van der Horst
REVIEW – As a kid I loved wandering the alleys and slums of downtown Schiedam. Behind Dam Square and Hoogstrats stretched a maze of small lanes, places and alleys. The pattern was so intricate that an outsider might get lost in it. I didn’t want to skip Sint Janssteeg between Breedstraat and Verbrande Erven. It was an alley with low houses on two sides, but the entrance to Burnt Erven was a corridor fit for an adult. The place it most closely resembles now is Korte Havensteeg, but this is actually a wide road compared to the last part of Sint Janssteeg.
This is gone. Everyone is gone. In the 1960s and first half of the 1970s, the municipality did short work of what officials considered degrading slums. Then I sympathized with squatters and activists who believed that old neighborhoods should not be demolished but renovated. Without avail. We retreated. The result is now clear to anyone who crosses the road from Broersveld via Zwaansteeg to Hoogstraat.
All of these memories are evoked by the 2021 edition of Schiedam’s historical yearbook, which was on display last Friday at the Jennifer Museum. This happened in front of an audience that still mostly knows the Old Town from their own perspective, complete with canals brimming around 1950. I even met someone who sang the praises of my uncle Harry Hersbach, who drove half of the Schiedam to the town hall and cemetery. Not only was he a perfect driver, but he was also a master with four in his hand. Uncle Harry worked at the illustrious Beijersbergen stop on the corner of Vlaardingerstraat and Vellevest, where Hermes’ chests once recovered from their sporting intrusions. Beijersbergen was demolished in the 1960’s or so, and so was the corresponding double mansion at the head of Nieuwe Haven.
Yes, the yearbook is a feast of appreciation for gray-headed people like me. At the same time, it depicts a city completely alien to the youth of Schiedam. This will become immediately apparent when they look at the many beautiful images in this edition. It shows the demolished slums and the people who lived there. I say “slums,” because that’s what we called the slums and alleys within the city. By living with grandparents on Lidwinastraat, my parents felt superior to those who lived behind Dam Square and Hoogstraat. You don’t come from a hallway! ¨, my mother used to yell when I would again say a bad word or leave her in company. However, the old quarters in the center attracted me like a magnet.
Now Caroline Newendyk fills me with a report of a careful investigation into the conditions in which the inhabitants of Schiedam lived there: with whole families in a ten-square-meter room and an attic above it. Using a cold water faucet and a stool box, often in a tube house outside. Gas and electric lights were not installed in these homes until the 1930s. Before that, people had to be content with oil lamps and kerosene stoves. Or they cook on the stovetop. Hot water for washing or weekly cleaning of dirt from a water distiller was bought for a penny or so, buckets at a time. Caroline quotes an old lady who remembered that there was a real latrine in Willemshofje. After that, the rent went up by fifty cents a week.
More information about those sinister old days can be found in the latest edition of Schiedams Yearbook. Meryl Blok and Jan van Campenhout recall the strike of lamp wicks, the girls who worked at the Apollo Candle Factory in Voorhaven, near New Maas. In July 1896 they left the job because they wanted the same pay as the men. This is unprecedented in the Netherlands. However, these brave women of the Dutch feminist movement did not receive the honors they deserved. The names of the strike leaders are known: Dina Vermeulen, Tretje Bardekober, Lintege Friedenbrecht, Dorje van Leith, Tontje van Dijk, Linjee Tilly, Maria Polderdyk, Anna de Zanger, M. Willems, first name unknown. The Street Names Committee must be inspired. After all, director Ari Prinze, who is also a brilliant literary man, was given a beautiful place in the West.
Blok and Van Kampenhout take the opportunity to paint a comprehensive picture of the situation in this company, which has kept low-paid employees under the influence of witchcraft, among other things through an ingenious form of forced shopping. The wicked genius in all this was Ludwig’s chief supervisor Willem Engelsey, who is said to have bitten a worker: If the lords want to give you a bonus, I’ll make sure you don’t get it.’ A street in our city should not be named after him.
The strikes on Apollo were not really successful. The same applies to attempts to organize the workforce into unions. By the way, it is remarkable that public opinion certainly supported the workers of Apollo. Even the conservative liberal Algemeen Handelsblad, then a luxury newspaper in Amsterdam and Het Goewe, wrote sympathetically about the attackers.
The Apollo Candle Factory was merged with Gouda Kaarsen, after which production in Schiedam ceased at the beginning of the 1930s.
The yearbook contains more about the Schiedam people at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The archive has selected a series of illustrated postcards published by bookseller Henri Rebers under the title “Langs de Straat”. They do not show pictures of the city, but rather ordinary people in their daily activities.
This is not exactly the subject of Paul Basant, who received his Ph.D. a few months ago through his thesis Volksvermaak in Zuwart Nazareth, because the book is about the way workers enjoy their spare time. outside their usual activities. And how the upper classes – full of civilized model and moral ideal often associated with it – tried to steer this in the desired direction. Basant explains that they succeeded only partially. Henk Bade explains this in a comprehensive review that gives an impression of this rich book.
These people had gone through hard times and also had to endure the arrogant treatment of wealthy people. This was the main source of inspiration for the socialist teacher Henri Hartog. He wrote influential sketches on this topic, which were included in Sjofelen’s collection after his early death. Jan van Bergen en Henegouwen depicts Hartog, in many ways a man who has been plagued by many. Not only was he ill, but he also had to work under J.C. Sander, a man with little to no social awareness. Hartog describes him as a “clumsy manager”. Van Bergen Heenguen digs up a fascinating truth. The popular Tearjerker Het Broekie van Jantje is based on a true Schiedam drama known by Henri Hartog. And Rotterdam-based comedian and lyricist told Cuse Spinhof. The rest is history.
This does not apply to the Schiedams Yearbook. The Present Also Discussed Henk Bade outlines the new policy of the Stedelijk Museum which will henceforth equate art nouveau with history. It will certainly make us happy with the diorama of Schiedam’s history which will become one of the fixed points after the opening on May 14th.
The Jennifer Museum is also well covered. Peter de Lange paints a portrait of passionate group manager Henk Hettinga, who, as a twelve-year-old boy, found a colorful gin poster in front of the doorstep of Daniel Visser in Zunnen. With that, his life took a final turn. Peter de Lange knows how to write this with love and precision. He was right in his alley too. In his career as a writer and journalist, he loves to photograph people who passionately believe in something and then make a living from it.
The first article in the yearbook is about the Nieuwe Waterweg pits, whose 150th birthday is celebrated these months. Author Hans van der Sloot explains that there may not be much reason to commemorate this year. True, in 1872 a tugboat with a few fishing boats sailed to the new entrance, but then more than a decade of misery and strife continued as the Nieuwe Waterweg continued to gather in the silt.
It is sometimes said that Schiedam officials did not grasp the opportunities created at the time. To their apologies, it seemed for years as if millions had been wasted on a hopeless project. The tipping point didn’t come until about 1880. By then Peter Kaland, chief engineer and hub of the project, had long since walked away angry because he otherwise would have been turned away.
World War II is discussed with a summary of Merrill Block’s report on the way Schiedam handled Jewish home ownership. Looking back at the Ketelfactory’s special projects, this Winny Teschmacher-designed special gallery at the top of the Hoofdstraat, which has recently closed, is a completely different arrangement.
Synopsis: Laurens Priester and Hans van der Sloot, editors of the Schiedam Historical Yearbook, put together another excellent episode with a wide range of authors, all of whom know their stuff in their own field. Buy this yearbook. Do it at the Schiedam Library.