thu 11 dec 2008 04:43:57 witte de withstraat
cafe eijlders and its origins
i've been going to cafe eijlders more often lately.
so what is it about that place anyway?
i know that john (johan) eijlders was born in 1899 and grew up in de pijp. but i can't find much biographical info about him online. i need to go hunt down his autobiography from 1971. he is mentioned a few times in "de borrel is schaarsch en kaal geworden", a book about cafe life during the war.
in 1940 eijlders was a board member of a union for workers in the hospitality business (waiters and bartenders etc). but early during the nazi occupation he was being driven out of that position. i'm not entirely clear why, but it seems to be due to policy disputes and personality conflicts with the national socialists. for one thing, he opposed hanging signs in cafes saying "voor joden verboden" (forbidden for jews), at least until such was required by law. some writers simply refer to eijlders as a "communist".
anyway, early in 1941 he left the union and started his own cafe just off leidseplein, at korte leidsedwarsstraat 47. it would be interesting to know what was there at that address before eijlders came. i'm always curious about that kind of stuff.
during the nazi occupation, artists were obliged to register with the official "chamber of culture", which basically made sure that only acceptable artists were visible. eijlders responded to this by encouraging artists to exhibit in his cafe. this still goes on, there's a new showing every month i think. they have an interesting way to hang artwork. there's a long track with movable eyehooks at the top of each wall, so that the hangers can slide left and right to accomodate different pieces at different times without constantly having to add nails in the wall.
cafe eijlders got a reputation as being kind of an anti-nazi hangout. in 1943 the "no jews" sign was required by law, so eijlders complied by hanging the sign on a suction cup above the heater. that way it would accidentally fall down behind the kachel and nobody was the wiser.
apparently some resistance actions were organized out of there as well. eijlders himself spent some time in prison when the authorities found weapons hidden in the cafe (under the benches?).
during and long after the war, the cafe was popular with writers and poets. i guess it still is. and sometimes i see certain really old men wandering about the place looking bit dazed. they must be poets from the 1950s stranded in a time warp. nowadays eijlders still holds a poetry afternoon every third sunday of the month, but i haven't been to one of those yet. on some wednesday evenings there's a little jazz ensemble playing in the front.
in 1952 john eijlders and his wife got out of the business and went to start a hotel in provence. there's been a whole chain of different owners since then, the latest starting last year. but somehow they don't seem to have ruined the spirit of the place. it's elegant but not oppressively so. still has kind of an artist-friendly vibe. and to me it still looks like a bar from 1941.
one thing that appeals to me is that after the rookverbod, eijlders glassed over their teras area and turned it into a smoking zoo. so people are still allowed to smoke there in the front by the street. i say "zoo" because when you sit in there, it feels like a mini habitat glassed in so observers can watch you from two sides. and vice versa. but most of the people i go there with are nonsmokers, so i usually smoke outside in the street.
next door to eijlders there's an indian restaurant, whose doorman is from bulgaria and his name is maxim. i get talking to him sometimes while i'm having a sjekkie. he met marina and micky once and thinks they are bad girls. apparently the indian restaurant used to be a russian one; on the side of the entryway there's still russian signage that nobody bothered to remove yet. maybe i'll try having dinner there sometime.