Gallons of coffee and tea at book presentation of 'our' Majoor

At aunt Jan’s birthday I sang psalms in a community center in the area, and then, after performing at Christmas for former Salvation Army soldiers in the Anne Frankstraat, the telephone was ringing…
by Riny Reiken


On the phone was Major Bosshardt, who asked me to sing for the Salvation Army. I felt flattered and sang out loud for the Army: songs, psalms and chants. Then the Major asked me if I could do more for them. I always felt touched by their work, and do respect people who dedicate their lives to a mission to serve the less fortunate. Maybe I was too young and inexperienced when I thanked her and replied that I didn't dare to take this task; I was not seeking a spiritual career in the Army. Although I thought I had offended the Major, she kept visiting me. Luckily, she always appreciated my honesty.

At first, the communication between Bas and the Major was a bit strained. When they first met, the Major walked to the bar, looked at him with a stern face, and inquired loudly: ‘Will you take good care of her?’ It was dead quiet in the café, how would Bas react? I looked at him, then at her. Bas was flabbergasted, but he knew my background like no other. ‘You should know by now’, he answered in Brabant dialect.

The Major became a welcome guest in our tasting house. She was indeed a very particular person. On my birthday, she managed to visit for a cup of tea 5 minutes before midnight. While the narrow alley got filled with honking cars that were struck behind her parked car, she first drank her tea and then drove away in her car at 12.05.

The Major once called us for a personal request: ‘Can I have my book presentation in your place?’ Her book, Mijn hart en ziel (My heart and soul) indeed was presented In de Olofspoort; we never have served so much coffee and tea! A wonderful moment. After the presentation, the Major sat in the back room, a bit lost.

Due to the renovation in the Warmoesstraat, she was not able to reach her car. When Bas offered to take her home, she took the offer gratefully. But when he picked up his car at the Oudekerksplein, she said: ‘You can bring me home, sit next to me. I can still drive very well, young man, and God is always with us so I will drive myself!’ We were laughing, of course, and our guests waved them goodbye at the front door. When Bas managed to take all her flowers home, she showed him her house. Taking a look at the bathroom was very special; the Major was very proud of it because she never had a real one before. The canal house at the O.Z. Voorburgwal, where she lived before, was as simple as her, with a sink and a toilet.

We were lucky to get to know the Major pretty well. She supported me support during difficult times. We often went together for walks. I have lovely memories of eating snack kroketjes she was fond of (and always a prayer before eating them!)

After the Major and Aafje Heynis got to know each other, many visits followed to Aafje's home city Blaricum, and appointments in Amsterdam.

On the Major's 90's birthday we were her guests and were standing under an umbrella with a happy Jos Brink (actor, TV personality, also a preacher). The Major loved Jos; they were very dear friends. Now they are resting in the graveyard the Nieuwe Ooster, their graves not far away from each other. Of course we were at her funeral, and I often think back of her memorial service. In the midst of singing, I looked at the Army soldiers who sang, full of commitment, with happiness on their faces. The Major was promoted and has passed to our Father in heaven where there are no places of honor.

After the burial, a lot of guests were standing in front of a closed ‘Olofspoort’. We gave our condolence to each other, ‘our’ mighty Major’s death. A warm and heartfelt evening, everyone was touched. We looked at photos and at the piano we sang a special repertoire for the occasion with friends, a lot of guests, and neighbors. We knew that the Major had gone to where she was supposed to be and asked ourselves: would Willem, the body painter, convert her or would it go the other way around in heaven? Because these two could mutter about one another, an attempt of disguising the fact that they liked each other as well. ‘I love you indeed, but not in a physical sense’, Willem once said to her. And the Major firmly answered: ‘Likewise, young man!’


Willem van Oranje

Everything changed for my parents when they got a taste of this beautiful city that they often visited. With family or friends, walking across Mokum is always fascinating.
By Riny Reiken

For outsiders, it is always exciting to stroll past the red lights. That’s why uncle Ginus could not sleep after he had almost been lured with his wife Trijntje into a 'sex palace'. He had seen a bunch of colorful lights inside and did not understand what the doorkeeper outside meant when he said: ‘It’s also for couples, Sir’. Meanwhile, my mother and aunt were standing outside, laughing. Their legs crossed, they were not able to move forward or backwards any more. Passerby's made pictures, it was hilarious.

My niece Marije, still a toddler, happily was hopping and singing her latest own song ‘everywhere chocolate letters, big and small!’ on the sidewalk of the sex shops. With the whole family we had visited the Christmas circus and were walking past erotic windows with enormous colorful artificial objects, along the Lange Niezel towards our lovely tasting house in the Nieuwebrugsteeg for a nightcap. We hoped that our nephew Bart would not be distracted, but soon we understood that we could not fool him when he screamed out loud ‘Aunt Riny, we have to turn right before that statue of an artificial penis, right?’ ‘Yes, young man, you are perfectly right!’
Mama and Papa, alias grandma Jantje and grandpa Willem, liked to sit on their preferred seats in the café, watching the tourists and people from the neighborhood walking past outside. Various nationalities walked back and forth in all kinds of outfits and colors.
The Warmoesstraat/Zeedijk are very attractive to travelers from all over the world. At times you see endless groups of people walking together. ‘Oh, oh, look at that, so many people, 'Jantje', Dad would say. After a couple of advocaat liquors, I heard Mom once talking in the local dialect of her origin ‘Oh my God, you have to see this, Willem!’ Then one of them would say: ‘Let’s go for a stroll!’ (In Dutch, strolling means kuieren). In this way, Mom and Dad visited all the museums. They liked to go to the Concertgebouw, to the theatre, to the Stopera or to Carré. They also enjoyed sailing in the ‘Just us’ boat on the canals, the Amstel.

Papa Willem, who was born in the village of Oranje (Orange) in the province of Drenthe, received his own ‘Willem van Oranje’ liquor bottle In de Olofspoort.

Together, we have seen so many things. Together, we had so much fun.