This is a video impression of the Dutch/Belgian Pijprokers Forum meeting in Heukelum, October 2019. Sorry about the shaky contents, I made the clips with my mobile phone. If you have any tips about recording and editing videos (I just started learning Adobe Premiere), please let me know!
Some years ago I did an interview with stone-cutter extraordinaire Martin Romijn, who makes pipe-accessories out of stone. Throughout the years we kept in touch and saw each other at meetings. It was at the end of 2016, beginning of 2017 that I learned that he also was making pipes. This piqued my interest because I know that Martin has a feeling and eye for lines and shapes. Something one can not learn. With his first pipes I had to laugh a bit, he treated the wood like stone but his style was undeniably unique. A bit further along the way his talent really began to show and his pipes became more refined. Always trying to show off the beautiful patterns of the briar just like he did with the fossils in the stone. Now I consider him one of the best if not the best pipe-maker in The Netherlands.
So last month I paid him a visit. Martin still lives in the city of Leerdam and behind his house he has a shed where the magic happens. I have been at the work places of several pipe makers and where some are pure unadulterated chaos Martin absolutely has one of the tidiest. Everything is neatly and orderly arranged and the machinery looks reasonably clean. Talking about equipment, Martin has a wood turning lathe in stead of a metal turning one. It was a gift from his parents when they saw his pipe-making talent. Besides that he thinks he has more freedom shaping pipes on it. Also he has a sanding disc and a slack belt sander, which he took over from another pipe-maker (Vandaahl) who had stopped. Further you can find in his workplace a bandsaw, dremel, some hand work tools (files etc.) and a polishing machine. Last but not least on one of the shelves stands a laptop that powers a loudspeaker which blurts out non-stop music of the great Johnny Cash, one of Martin’s heroes.
Egg shaped pipe
When I asked how and where he did learn to carve and shape briar wood he answered that he is mainly a self taught pipe-maker. In previous years he refurbished quite a lot of estate pipes. Also because of his stonecutting day-job (and all the tampers, ash-trays, stands etc. he made) Martin has 25 years experience of shaping and modelling. At one point he started experimenting with some briar blocks and when it turned out he did pretty well it became more serious. Nowadays Martin uses briar from Italy and in the future he wants to try his hand at olive wood. His mouthpieces are made from ebonite and acryl and some have the craziest colours and patterns. But Martin makes sure that visually the stem goes together with the bowl.
Martin has a pretty unique way of making pipes. Other pipe-makers decide what shape they want to make and begin. If a sandpit surfaces, well too bad, next one! But not Martin, this is what he has to say about his method: “I start with watching, studying, “reading” the briar. Every block has its own story. How does the grain go, what can you expect when you cut it in a certain angle etc. It can be that I have had the briar piece in my hands dozens of times before I know which pipe it hides. And even then, sometimes the wood has its own plan. When I come across a sandpit or another irregularity I have to adjust my plan to fit the briar. In such a case I always say that the briar speaks to me and that I should listen. This way you often get the most surprising and beautiful results.” I have to agree with Martin. All his pipes are showcases for the stunning grains they possess. Because of this he does not make shapes on request. It would be a waste of a piece of briar to make a pipe out of it which does not agree with the grain. When asked what is the most favourite pipe he ever made Martin hesitates. “That is a tricky one.. They are all my favourite. The process of making a pipe takes up lots of hours of hard labour. When you work that long on a piece you get attached to it. It is your design, your creation, born from your creative thoughts and moulded by your hands into something tangible. But if I really have to pick one it would be the Twisted Pickaxe. Recently made, beautiful organic shapes, stunning grain, a pickaxe but with a twist. My twist.”
Martin, when did you start smoking pipes? “30 years ago I began smoking pipes. My first one was a Tattoo pipe, made by Dutch pipe maker Gubbels/Big Ben. I saw it at someone and decided to also give it a try. I liked it and soon I bought a regular pipe to go with it, and another one, and another.. Well, you know how it goes.. Of course then also began the search for the finest tobaccos. A journey which never ends but which I enjoy to the max.” Ok, so what is your favourite tobacco? “Ehrrr… Can I name two? Esoterica Stonehaven and GL Pease Embarcadero. Oh! And Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader and hmmm.. Damn, there are so many delicious blends, hard to pick out one.”
What are your favourite pipes and why? “My collection is rather large, about 75 pipes. They all have something special, that can be their smoking qualities but also some have their own story that makes them special. I especially like to smoke Winslow pipes. Good smokers, nicely shaped, good open draw and handmade by a pipe-maker I admire very much. In 2018 I got to meet Poul Winslow himself at his home and saw how he worked in his workplace. Very special and informative! What an experience, I watched with growing admiration how he creates a stunning pipe with breakneck speed. Since then I like these wonderful pipes even more.”
Do you have any famous last words for the readers? “I hope to make pipes for many, many years. I hope my creations will find their way to the people who love them. That they will find owners who will experience delightful moments of relaxation and pleasure thanks to good tobacco and a pipe I worked on with love and dedication.” With that our conversation was over for the time being. Martin began working on one of his new creations while I sat back sipping a good whisky, smoking a pipe, listening to the soul-wrenching voice of Mr. Cash and watching the magic hands do their job on the immortal briar.
As every year the annual meeting in Heukelum of the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum marks the beginning of dark and rainy autumn. At least, that is what the weather-forecast said. And when I looked outside the window on Sunday 29 October I believed it. Oh well.. Like always I picked up Mark at the Deventer train station and together we drove to the carpool place where Ed would be waiting or us. Normally Johnny would also be there but he had to finish some work first and came later. So the three of us rode to Heukelum and to my surprise the weather cleared up; blue skies, sunshine. Very un-Dutch-like. When we arrived at ‘T Kuipertje owner/brewer Henk had made a tent at the front of brewery with most sides closed. As the inevitable rain began to fall we were glad about Henk’s foresight.
Martin’s new self-made pipe
Inside I almost immediately walked to stone-cutting tamper-maker extraordinaire Martin, who like every year organised the meeting, to get my name-badge and drinking coupons. Yup, for the money (€27,50) you get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes, the rent of the brewery is included and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label made by myself! Since this year Martin is also active in the field of pipe making. And like with stone also wood seems to have no secrets for his hands. He had brought his latest creation with him and I immediately loved it. A perfect mixture between a classic and organic shape.
Like always there was also a little business to be done. The week before I had mailed Rudi, the tobacconist who always comes to our meetings, if he could bring with him a tin of the new Danpipe Fred the Frog, which I already smoked at the Inter Tabac fair in Dortmund. €10 for 50 gr., not bad for this fine blend! Friend and mentor Klaas had offered some vintage tobaccos for sale a couple of weeks before the meeting. I mostly was interested in a couple of older Robert McConnell Pure Latakia tins with in them perhaps some Syrian dark leaf so I bought 3 of them. When I met Klaas he immediately apologised. “Hello Arno, I am sorry, I made a mistake. I thought I had more Pure Latakia but I only had 1 left for you. So you know what, I am going to give you 2 De Graaff Latakia tins.” Wowwww!!! Very generous! Once upon a time De Graaff in The Hague was one of the best tobacconists in The Netherlands and they had their own range of house-blends. They were made by a company in London but exactly which one De Graaff always kept a secret. Nowadays the blends are sadly discontinued. Klaas still has quite some tins under which the pure latakia. And that is not some regular pure latakia, no, it is the Syrian Mountain Blue dark leaf made famous by the legendary Balkan Sobranie 759. Soon I am going to do some home-blending and these tins will come in very handy!
For Frisian pipe-maker Meindert I also had something. Weeks before Heukelum I was looking on ebay when I suddenly saw a beautiful Dunhill. Most of the times it is an auction and in the end the price is way too high for this cheap Dutchman. This one had a Buy It Now price of €100. Hmm.. There must be something wrong with it, I thought. So I took a better look and to my surprise the Dunhill dated from 1943, a patent era wartime pipe, pretty rare! Only thing I could discover was that the rim was very slightly damaged but that was it. So I bought it. When I received the pipe in the mail and unwrapped the package it even looked better than on the pictures, it even still had the inner tube. But still the Dunhill needed some work with the rim and stem. So I handed over the pipe into the skilled hands of Meindert.
I had to laugh when I saw the entrance of forum member Kees (nickname Kiske). For a while he was absent from the forum due to ehm.. differences of opinion with the administrators and moderators of the forum but now he was back. For some time he had been (jokingly) saying that our usual name badges were no good and that we all should wear tiaras instead. Of course you should never say that aloud on the forum because someone made an actual tiara for him. Luckily it was no problem for Kees to actually wear it, it suited him!
Erik Stokkebye and me with the pipe I won
Thinking back the weeks before the meeting the Pipe God really was smiling upon me. On a Wednesday afternoon I had a meeting with other pipe-smokers and forum members at tobacconist Willem Schimmel in Zutphen. Erik Stokkebye, blender and son of the very well known Peter Stokkebye, was there to promote his 4th Generation tobacco range. We had a fun evening, it truly was a delight to speak to the very knowledgeable Erik, which culminated in a contest in which you could win a 4th Generation pipe made by Neerup Pipes. Several questions were asked and the one who had everything right in the end would win. I can’t remember all the questions but the last one was where the 4th Generation tobaccos were made. So I blurted out “In the Orlik factory!” Well, not entirely correct… “In the Orlik factory of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group!” Which was the right answer, I had won the pipe! Back home I quickly noticed that it was a rather large pipe, I mean, my thumb fully fitted in the bowl. Too big for my taste. So I decided to put up a lottery on the forum which was won by Frans. In Heukelum I gave him the pipe, I hope he gets many enjoyable smoking hours from it.
Last year I bought some pipes for the father of a friend of mine, Ton. At that time he was visiting The Netherlands because he lived abroad. Since a month he moved back to our wet, cold and flat country so I invited him to the meeting. Since he is living alone some company is always welcome, so he accepted my offer. Afterwards he told me he stared his eyes out. Ton is an old-fashioned smoker, preferably he smokes the same blend in the same pipe over and over. “What a pleasant gathering of people and what a lot of pipes they did bring with them! And so many bent ones!” Ton only smokes straight billiards and thinks everyone smokes those because they smoke the best. Well, ehmm.. Ehrrr… Guess I have to teach an old fox some new tricks. Later I was approached by Jos, “Arno, I have something for you, do you want it now or later?” Ehmm, now? He presented me a wrapped package, so I unwrapped it and saw a bottle of Huppelolie (hopping oil)! Yummie! Huppelolie is a tasty “kruidenbitter” (no translation), sometimes my stomach pains me and a small glass of Huppelolie does wonders. But why the bottle? I asked Jos. Because years ago I gave him some tips about buying tobacco overseas. So kind of him!
I also was glad Shaun was there all the way from Belgium and of course all the others of the Fuming Four. For months they have been pestering me that I should go with hem next year to Scotland again. Not only to the beginning of the Highlands this time but all the way to the utmost North point at Kearvaig, where the home-bothy stands of the Kearvaig Pipe Club. An almost spiritual journey. But I still don’t know if I want to go.. I mean, beautiful country, Scotland, but a big chance of bad weather, cold, midgets ehrrr.. midges, mediocre food (although Matron’s curry was excellent!) and the worst of all, no comfort! The bothy has no shower, no soft bed and no toilet which means digging a hole outside if you have to take a dump.. I admit that throughout the years I turned somewhat into a sissy boy, I just like a little bit of luxury mmkay? But who knows, I like organizing such trips so perhaps while doing that I fully decide to go. The other guys of the Fuming Four had a request for me. I am a bit different from them as I don’t have a beard and I don’t have tattoos. Now they wanted me to design the latter. And I also should get it. Ehmm.. I have a virgin skin and I like to keep it that way. But in Shaun’s eyes I already could see his evil plan: Get Arno piss-drunk and then…… *evil laugh*
The rest of the afternoon and evening in Heukelum was very pleasant as usual. So many people, so many conversations, so little time. Around 5 o’clock Henk told us that the BBQ was ready and we could eat. I don’t know what it is but when someone says something like that no one wants to be the first one. But when Arno is hungry Arno is hungry you know? So I began putting tasty meat on my plate and the rest soon followed. A bit earlier then expected the majority of the forum members began to pack and went home. So not long after that Ed, Mark and I also decided to leave. When I got home Ellen was snoring on the couch and woke up when I entered the room. “Did you have a good meeting?” “Yes darling, it was another great day.”
I would like to thank Martin for organizing the meeting! All pictures were made by Klaas, Dirk, Martin and myself.
I really hate autumn. There, I said it. Yeah I know, lots of people like it, the falling leaves, the smells, the colours etc. Well, for me autumn is made out of dark, grey, rainy and cold days which suck the joy out of my life.. Blagh… I prefer summer with the warmth and comfort of the sun. Luckily not all is bad in these dark days, there is even some light. Light coming from a small brewery located in the tiny Dutch village of Heukelum. There one of the annual meetings of the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum is held. People from all layers of society sitting together, chatting away, drinking, eating, in general just having a good time. As it is supposed to be. Like the previous years stone-cutting tamper-maker extraordinaire Martin organised it. The price remained the same as last year so we all got excellent value for money. I mean, you get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes, the rent of the brewery is included and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label made by myself!
Dre and some of his wares
Like always I picked up Mark at the Deventer train station and together we drove to the carpool place where Johnny and Ed would be waiting or us. When we got there it turned out to be quite busy with cars so I had to park mine beside the road. Suddenly a pissed-off guy approached me that I had to park my car elsewhere. It turned out to be the owner of the ice-cream van who stood there, he was afraid his clients did not have space to manoeuvre with my car there. Bullshit of course but since the guy is a total nut-case (he was in the news because he conned customers) I opted to park elsewhere. To my amazement and joy the weather actually was nice when we arrived at ‘T Kuipertje. A bit of sunshine, hardly any wind and a decent temperature made it feel like a very late summers day. One of the first things I did was fetch my ordered PRF shirts and sweaters. Peter did an excellent job ordering, handling and packing all the fine quality PRF textiles. Thanks mate, now I have some decent clothes to wear this winter and coming summer. Second I approached Dre, who refurbishes estate pipes as a hobby. I mailed him earlier that week with a request.
The father of a good friend of mine
As I told in my Humble Beginnings part 1 blogpost one of my influences to start pipe-smoking is the father of a long time friend of mine. Well, he is in The Netherlands right now because of his bad health. Ok, bad health is a bit too exaggerated, he has some physical issues which are better addressed here (better hospitals) than in Brazil, where he lives. He brought some pipes with him and when I took a good look at them tears welled up in my eyes.. He is an old fashioned smoker, and by that I mean he likes to smoke the same blend over and over again (he took a liking to my Phoenix Graveyard Mixture (basically all my natural tobacco leftovers mixed together) in just a couple of pipes which are hardly cleaned. One of his pipes has the mouthpiece of some other pipe which is duct-taped more or less to the shank and the underside of another one bubbles up because it is almost burned through. Time for some “new” pipes I thought, so I approached Dre and asked him if he had any straight pipes (preferably billiards) for sale. “Just wait, I will bring some pipes with me”, he mailed back. And indeed, Dre showed me a billiard and some canadians which looked just fine. “I’ll take them all!” I happily said. Dre asked a very friendly price and even threw in another pipe for free! Thanks very much Dre! The father of my friend is a happy man now.
Me, Robbin and Ed
Time for a drink! The previous years the beers of ‘T Kuipertje were good although sometimes a bit on the watery side. However, this year I was surprised by full, round tasting brew! With a smile I walked to Robbin, some weeks before the meeting I bought a straight Dunhill patent era prince from him for a very good price. He once bought the pipe from a man who turned out to be a swindler and that turned him off so much that he never smoked it. I have no such problem with that pipe so Robbin brought it with him. Happily I filled my new acquisition with some tobacco and went outside. I put the pipe in my mouth, brought the flame from the lighter to the bowl and *crack!* bit through the mouthpiece.. While silently cursing I took the pipe out of my mouth and inspected the damage, a piece of the lip had broken off. The mouthpiece was already very thin by decades of buffing and my strong teeth did the rest. Just bad luck, not any one’s fault. Frisian pipe maker Meindert saw me inspecting the damage and carefully took the pipe from my hands. “Just give it to me, I will make a new mouthpiece for it, everything will be ok.” So to be continued..
Then it was time for me to ask for everyone’s attention. For some time I am busy with a new PRF forum tobacco called “Flatlander Flake” made by Samuel Gawith and imported by (Elbert) Gubbels. Just a couple of days before the meeting I received 2 sample tins from Elbert so the forum members could try the blend. I wanted to give a longer speech in which I explained and told about the new forum tobacco journey but sadly my throat (I still was having a nasty cold..) protested heavily. So I decided to give a shorter version and let the tobacco speak for itself. During the rest of the day I (luckily) got nothing but positive response about Flatlander Flake, mission accomplished!
Finger tapping the sh*t out of that ukelele Van Halen style. NOT!
Suddenly when I was talking to some folks I heard a strange monotone noise coming from outside. It turned out to be Sander who was gearing up his hurdy-gurdy. Such a strange instrument but Sander proved to be surprisingly skilful in playing it. The folk melodies coming from it brought me visions of merry drinking and eating people. Hmm, pretty much the group I was looking at! Rob (one of the many Robs on the forum) also brought instruments with him; his self made (from used cigar- and pipe tobacco boxes) ukeleles. They look really great! He also brought a regular ukelele which I could not resist playing. I painfully discovered that having experience in playing guitar and bass does not mean one can play an ukelele..
I was saved by the announcement of brewery-owner Henk that the BBQ’s were ready. Time to eat! Henk gets his meat from a local butcher and you really can taste that, premium quality! Normally I would not notice that so much, but because I am more or less on a diet I took no (fat and sugar-rich) sauces with my meat. Some weeks ago I had a BBQ with my brother-in-law and he had meat from the supermarket. Well, it was not nearly as good as what Henk had to offer. So I sinned and filled up my plate 3 times before I contently sat down with a full belly. Needless to say the gym awaited me the next day..
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chatting away with all the present folks. Because of the heat coming from the BBQ’s we could sit outside for a long time. Talking about heat, on a table stood a small bottle with some red sauce in it. It belonged to hurdy-gurdy player Sander and on the label was an ominous name that indicated the contents were very hot. But according to Sander that was not really the case, he used large amounts of it on his meat. Curiosity got the better of me, I put some sauce on the top of my finger and licked it off. At first nothing happened. I proclaimed “Hah, this stuff is not as ho….” when suddenly my mouth started to burn, my eyes began to water and I got hiccups. Holy damned sh*t, this stuff is HOT! The whole table laughed at my attempts to control the effects of the hellish sauce. In the end I fled inside and asked Henk for a glass of milk, the best liquid you can get if you have eaten something hot. Unfortunately he did not have that but the glass of water he offered disappeared in my mouth within the blink of an eye.
Around 8 o’clock it was time to go home. We said goodbye to each other and stepped in the car. The ride home was pretty quiet, obviously everyone still had the fantastic day in their minds. Until Mark asked if Ed could stop the car, he needed to take a shit badly. Not so funny because he suffers from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrom). So we halted at a gas-station where Mark quickly went to the toilet. Which took him quite a while. At one point some men where waiting in front of the toilet. Funny were the faces of disgust they pulled at the sounds and smells so to say. But I felt pity for poor Mark, luckily he was feeling pretty relieved when he joined us again in the car.
I want to thank Henk and Martin for organizing yet another great meeting and all who attended for the interesting conversations, the laughter and camaraderie. All pictures were made by Jan(neman), Klaas, Nick and Roelof.
This story began a couple of years ago when Martin gave me an old looking pack of tobacco at one of the Zutphen meetings. He had it in his possession for a long time but figured it was in better hands with me. The name on the pack was “Alleman’s Tabak” (Every man’s tobacco) with a nice looking picture on it of people from all races dancing around a smoking pipe. But what mostly caught my eye was where it was made: The Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale (Diepenveen Tobacco Centre) in Deventer. Hmmm, Deventer is the nearest city to Olst, where I live (about 10 km. away) and the village of Diepenveen lies in between those. Ellen and I sometimes cycle to Diepenveen in summertime because of the beautiful nature along the way. At home I began to search for the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale (DTC) on internet and soon stumbled upon a small book about the subject written by Jan Jansen (a former tobacconist) and Ben Droste. It was already out of print but I managed to snatch up a copy (thanks to PRF member Carro) at De Oude Leeuw tobacconist. So here is the tale of the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale.
Perhaps this SS-officer was smoking some Dutch tobacco..
When the Netherlands were invaded by the Germans in May 1940 it soon became clear that many ships loaded with foreign tobacco were not going to make it to our harbours. It was estimated that the current stock at the time would last for 3 years. This was thanks to the cigar-industry which kept a multiple-year supply in order to be able to blend a good melange in years of a disappointing harvest. So there was enough smoking leaf stocked in the warehouses and everyone assumed we were going to keep that supply. That we would be stuck 3 years or more with our undesirable Eastern neighbours seemed like a ridiculous idea at the time. But before the Germans occupied our small country they were one of the biggest buyers of our cigars and other tobacco products. In other words, they knew what we had and with haste they registered our tobacco stock and transferred 60% of it to Germany. Then it was estimated that the Dutch tobacco industry had supplies to keep producing until the middle of 1941… Whoops…
Spring 1942. The war was raging for almost 2 years and even the most desperate smoker understood that the ships loaded with tobacco, coming for example from our former colony of Indonesia, were not arriving. However, tobacco products were not rationed yet but especially foreign brands were terribly expensive due to scarcity. For the common man rationing did not seem too bad, at least everything would be divided equally then. And indeed, on 17 May 1942 tobacco and candy were rationed. First every man got 50 gram per week (women got less…) but in 1943 that was reduced to a mere 20 grams.
Amateur tobacco grower
At the end of the first war-year it was reported in the press that in that year about 22 hectares of tobacco were grown, almost half of it by private citizens. Many amateurs had risen. They had seen the coming storm and bought some seeds or plants. They were not nine-day wonders, they plodded on with this tricky crop and gained more and morefollowers. Soon the government informed the amateur tobacco growers that they could get their harvest fermented and cut at Rijksbureau voor Tabak en Tabaksproducten (National Bureau of Tobacco and Tobacco Products) recognized companies. Upon delivery to the customer excise duty and sales tax had to be paid. The companies could not ask more than fixed prices. Especially the very important fermentation of the tobacco leaves was difficult for the amateur grower. Growing the tobacco-plant, harvesting the leaves and drying them was doable with a proper instruction. But it was not for nothing that the government forbade the amateur grower to ferment his own tobacco. That was a job for a professional and it was a shame to waste valuable ground to tobacco that had gone bad due to a clumsy fermentation process.
DTC founders Van Santen, Keurhorst and Weverling
The founders of the DTC choose a good moment to launch their plan. After 2 years of war the need was great with the smokers. The main founder was horticulturist Keurhorst. He was not just any horticulturist, his letters were crooked but he could read and write with plants and flowers which earned him many prizes and certificates. Without doubt he examined the experiences of growing tobacco on Dutch soil very thoroughly when he saw opportunities in the tobacco-market at the break-out of war. There was money to be made with being a Rijksbureau voor Tabak en Tabaksproducten recognized company. He also wanted to grow tobacco plants and process those into chewing and pipe tobacco, cigarettes and cigars but realized he lacked the knowledge for this. So he approached a man called Weverling. Weverling was destined by his parents to be a teacher but he “escaped” to Indonesia. After a few jobs, while travelling through the islands, he ended up managing work at tobacco plantations. in 1936 he returned to The Netherlands and went to live in Diepenveen where he first met his wife. It was easy to get Weverling excited for Keurhorst his plan. After his return he wanted to live from the trade in (mostly Indonesian) stocks but due to the war that went pretty wrong. Besides, Weverling was not a man who liked to do nothing and this brought him some work. The most important task assigned to him was the fermentation of the tobacco.
The third and final founder was Van Santen. His duty was to start up and manage the administration of the starting company, get all the permits etc. The aim of the German occupier to control all processes in our society led to a large and often untransparent bureaucracy. The ruleswere plentiful andmeticulous. Keurhorst did not have to worry any more about the fermentation of the tobacco. However, cutting it.. For that he choose a company in Deventer with a long history: Harm’s ten Harmsen with Van Nieuwland as director (together with his father), founded in 1758. From the start it was a”mixed” business. It traded in tobacco and tobacco products but it also processed the leaf into snuff and pipe tobacco and cigars.
The 3 men must have done an enormous amount of work in their first year. In fact everything they did at the starting corporation was new for them. Besides the time pressure was huge. Everything had to be ready so customers could send in their home-grown tobacco to let it ferment and cut. They very wisely decided to limit them selves to the service to the amateur grower in stead of immediately trying to grow tobacco of their own. The tension must have been great. Do the permits come in time? How much tobacco is going to come in? Will the new company be able to deliver an acceptable product? Will the tropic experience of Weverling hold up in the Dutch climate? Will they be able to manage the complicated administration? Oh, about the administration, it turned out that Van Santen did not do a good job. So after a heated argument he left the company and Van Nieuwland took over his work. The whole administration was even moved to the address of Harm’s ten Harmsen.
Horst & Maas factory
On 16 March 1943 the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale was registered at the Trade Register. Soon they encountered a problem; there were not not enough available free spaces for the drying and fermentation of the tobacco in Diepenveen (poor on industry). However, in Deventer stood the factory of Horst & Maas (where amongst others cigar brand Nederlandsche Munt was made) and because of the war activity here had become minimal. The DTC got 18.000 m3 available for their activities. The representative building also accommodated a large scale demonstration of the fermentation process for amateur growers on 7 November 1943.
So how did the exact process go when amateur growers wanted to send in their home-grown tobacco to be fermented and cut by the DTC?
1. You had to register at the DTC.
2. The costs of registering had to be paid.
3. You got a card from the DTC on which you had to write how much tobacco you were going to send.
4. You got a message from the DTC in which was asked if you wanted shag, pipe or chewing tobacco. Then you could send the tobacco.
5. After the fermentation and cutting the tobacco would be send home. Costs had to be paid upon receiving the package
Important to know was that it was not possible to get back the same tobacco one send in due to technical reasons. The melange would not be tasty with tobacco coming from just one package. Besides, fermenting and cutting very small batches of tobacco was not doable. Upon receiving a package the DTC checked the quality of it. So when someone send in an A-quality batch of tobacco he got an A-quality batch back.
DTC founders and some employees
It is clear that for all this work the DTC needed a lot of hands. But getting employees was a perilous undertakingin the war. Already in the first years of the war the Germans were recruiting workers in the occupied areas who had to take the places of the men in the German industry who had to fight in the front lines. In the beginning the appearance of voluntariness was upheld. The tactic then was: make them unemployed and offer them work elsewhere (read: Germany). They could not reasonably refuse that and if they did that was a good excuse to arrest them. To escape that employment in Germany a cat and mouse game went on in the tobacco sector in which the Centraal Distributie Kantoor (Central Distribution Office) and the Rijksbureau voor Tabak en Tabaksproducten often secretly sided with the mouse. They must have known that the fields with meters high tobacco plants were ideal hiding places for a couple of months per year for people who had to hide. In Diepenveen it was secretly known that persons in hiding worked at the DTC. Those people were called “volunteers” because you did not have to name volunteers in the administration books. So for an important part the company relied on “illegal” employees.
De Brink in Deventer with in the background the truck of Ten Have
Sadly on 17 October 1944 father Van Nieuwland died because of a heart-attack. To make things worse his son got buried under the debris of his own company building during an allied bombing on 15 December of that same year. So in a short time the DTC lost their business partner and a large part of the administration. And then, suddenly, like a lifesaver, there was C.G. Bloemink. In more quiet times he had been a tobacco-broker but when the war held up the trade he hired out himself as a civil servant and ended up in Deventer. At the end of 1944 he was an eye-witness when Harm’s ten Harmsen was bombed. One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, this was the chance for Bloemink to work in the tobacco business again. On 17 January 1945 he was registered as a partner, got the title of managing director and became the face of the DTC. After the bombardment where Van Nieuwland died his mother passed on the company Harm’s ten Harmsen to one Frederik Koster. Bloemink took advantage of the opportunity to abruptly end the partnership and choose to work with the company Ten Have. The administration (what was left of it) moved to De Brink 32 in Deventer, beside his new partner.
On 24 June 1946 it was noted in the Trade Register that Weverling and Keurhorst had left the DTC on 1 March of that year and that a new partnership was founded with C.G. Bloemink as its sole owner. The exact reason for their departure is not known. During the liberation of Diepenveen the greenhouses of the DTC with new tobacco plants meant for further processing and sale were destroyed, which was a big setback. Or perhaps they saw the end coming of inland grown tobacco now the war was ended. Keurhorst stayed being a horticulturist and tried (successfully) to develop better tobacco seeds and plants. Weverling got an offer to set up a plantation in Java which he gladly took, he had always longed back to the tropics.
Bloemink must have fought like a lion to keep the business running. Probably against his better judgement, because he was not a stupid man and the end of inland grown tobacco was easy to predict. Whether he liked it or not, our Dutch tobacco would always be of inferior quality as opposed to what America, Indonesia and other countries had to offer. In 1950 the location at De Brink was left and Bloemink made his office at home. In 1959 the Trade Register mentions a new address and name: Tabakscentrale. With that the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale became history. The adventure began near Deventer and found its end in the city itself.
So why did you not wrote this story several years ago you lazy bastard! One could think.. Well, because the book also mentioned there was a film made during the war called “Toeback” in which the DTC played a large role. This movie about the growing of tobacco was made by Deventer photographer and film producer Alex Roosdorp. The filming began as a hobby but soon it became a full-time job for him and his wife Marie. Together they travelled across the country recording nature for commercial and educational purposes. It should be no surprise that Roosdorp, who liked to explore the nature around Deventer on bike, stopped at the tobacco plantation of Keurhorst. Probably the idea to make a film there was born at that occasion. The educational movie shows the growing and processing of tobacco and was premièred in November 1943. Sadly after the war the film got lost and forgotten.
But when Jan Jansen was doing his research he stumbled upon the original tapes of Toeback. It turned out to be a silent movie but in colour! Very rare for that time. With money from the Nederlandse Vereniging van de Sigarenindustrie, the Vereniging Nederlandse Kerftabakindustrie and the Stichting Sigaretten Industrie the film was restored by the EYE Film Institute, put on DVD and given to the Stichting Nederlandse Tabaks Historie, run by Louis Bracco Gartner. Now and then the DVD was shown upon request but that was it. When I heard about the existence of Toeback I thought that it would be awesome if it was available for anyone to see. Because it is an unique document for the Netherlands and perhaps for the world. So after some searching I found out Louis had the film, but he could not just rip the DVD and put it on internet. He had to ask permission from the EYE Film Institute. That process almost took 2 years and a lot of e-mails from my side (and probably also from Louis) but lo and behold, a short while ago I got a message from a happy Louis with the link of the movie! The EYE Film Institute had finally uploaded it on YouTube. So sit back, pour yourself a glass a good whisky, put on some relaxing music, light up a pipe and enjoy Toeback.
Luckily in these dark days there is also some light. Light coming from a small brewery located in the tiny Dutch village of Heukelum. There one of the annual meetings of the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum is held. People from all layers of society sitting together, chatting away, drinking, eating, in general just having a good time. As it is supposed to be. Like the previous years stone-cutting tamper-maker extraordinaire Martin organised it. Unfortunately the entrance price went up a little bit, but eejj, everything is getting more expensive. Despite that it still is excellent value for money. I mean, you get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes, the rent of the brewery is included and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label designed by myself!
Louis looking at the wares
With every meeting there is a lively trade going on between the forum members. Pipes and tobaccos are being sold or exchanged to such an extent that the members have to write down whole lists on the forum in order to keep track. I also had to do that.. To start with I had a pouch of the dreaded Clan (by Theodorus Niemeyer) for Louis. The good man must have taste-buds of solid steel! And how did you get that damned pouch huh? One might think. Well, it was given to me by a friend, for my birthday. Needless to say he is no longer a friend. For some hilarious reviews of Clan please go the blog of the Demented Dutchman. For Freek I had some Jurewicz Neumarkt Special Mixture No. 99, Peter Heinrichs Dark Strong and Boswell Northwoods. All blends I did not really enjoy so I only asked a couple of drinks in return for them. Freek came up with something better, a bottle of one of the best beers in the world: Westvleteren blond. Woww!! That stuff is even harder to get than the new Balkan Sobranie! Normally I am not really a lover of blond beers but this one.. Whoah.. Something special!
On the left 2 loudmouths: Jorg and Kees
Loud-mouth Jorg had a 2004 tin of the divine Abingdon by GL Pease for me. In exchange he only asked for 100 gram of Peter Heinrichs Curly Block plus a sample of the delicious Motzek Strang. A fair trade in my opinion, Curly block is ok but no more than that. The Motzek Strang is way better. Because my pipe-cabinet is getting a bit crowded I decided to sell off some pipes for a friendly price: a Talbert Ligne Bretagne and an olive-wood mix between a prince and a bulldog made by Meindert. Reason? Both fine smoking pipes but I did not have a connection with the Talbert and the Meindert was too little for my taste. Just a few minutes after I put them on the forum I got a message from Willem, he wanted to buy them both! Talking about Meindert, the poor man got loads of defunct pipes at the meeting for him to repair. I also had one, a Dunhill with a broken shank from another Rob (we have loads of Robs at the forum). Last but not least I had some snuff tobaccos from the Kralingse Snuifmolens for organiser Martin. I hope he liked them.
Martin and Henry
Then I finally could grab a beer, one of the few that day. With earlier editions I had the advantage that my good friend Ed picked me up and drove all the way and back. Only, due to some private stuff he moved away from his old town near me to a location pretty far away. So now I had to first pick Mark up at the train station in Deventer and drive to a parking lot somewhere beside the highway. There Ed waited for us together with Johnny and we all got into his car. I really would not miss these rides, they are fun! At the meeting I was talking to Henry who just got into the wondrous world of latakia. He was raving about Samuel Gawith’s Squadron Leader and I suddenly remembered that I brought a tin with me of the excellent, spicy Charing Cross by GL Pease. I let him smell it and, the dick that I am, I totally forgot to offer him a sample.. I made it up later by sending him some through the mail.
Peter receives the forum-pipe
Suddenly we were all asked to be quiet and we gathered around one of the forum moderators: Peter, forum name”Eliminator”. A tough name for a tough looking man, big and lots of tattoos, but with a heart of pure gold. Peter does a lot of work for the forum, he keeps it organized, keeps discussions in check with reason and sensibility and in general makes everyone feel welcome and at home. It was time to put him in the limelight and thank him for his continuing effort. This was done by giving him 2 tins of tobacco: his favourite Peter Heinrichs Dark Strong and Peter Heinrichs Golden Sliced. On top of that he was gifted the new forum-pipe made by Briarworks with an inscription of his forum-name and a tamper made by Martin. Neat and well deserved!
Around the BBQ, the one with the chef’s hat is Jos
Around 5 o’clock Henk, the brewer, said that we could begin with the BBQ. He already prepared the coals so that we could instantly scorch the excellent meat, which comes from an actual butcher! Well, a lot of folks eat supermarket flesh.. But you can taste the difference! There even were some vegan products to roast for our veggie-man Robbin. During dinner I accidentally thought that the beer glass of Jos was my glass. So when he asked for it I said it was mine. But when I turned around I saw my own glass standing on another table.. Doh! Rapidly I brought Jos’ glass to him but he already had ordered a new one. Fortunately Jos made no fuzz about it and even gave me the beer he just ordered! So Jos, you are going to get a beer from me at the next meeting in Wuustwezel!
When everyone had their dinner darkness had almost fallen outside and inside everyone was sitting content smoking and chatting away at the tables in the atmospheric, dimly lighted room. I stood at the side with Ed and overlooked the whole. I am not an emotional man but that perfect moment got to me, seeing all the forum members peacefully and content together. I was so glad that we after all these years still were a part of it. Ed saw it and said with a smile, “Want a hug?” So we hugged. When I stood at the bar drinking a non-alcoholic beverage (boohh…) I got into a conversation with Philip. He is a doctor and he even gave a round of drinks to all. Earlier he got a patient with tuberculosis and he feared he was infected. If that was not the case, drinks for everyone! So you can guess the outcome. Philip also writes an excellent blog: The Tall Tales of an Urban Beardsman. He (amongst others) loves Castello and Peterson pipes so I asked if he could make an article about the latter for my blog as a guest-writer. And he was willing, so stay tuned!
At 8 o’clock the fun was over, Henk called it a day. He was surprised everyone politely thanked him personally for his good care. Not more than normal! The way home was fun! Ed had some radio-station playing in the car with all kinds of rock-classics. So I sang along with Deep Purple’s Child in Time and Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. Even Johnny had tears in his (strangely panic-stricken) eyes, probably from the sound of my beautiful voice.. Anyway, I want to thank Martin for once again organising a wonderful meeting, the men in the car for all the fun on the road and all the forum members for the great day! All pictures were made by Martin, Klaas, Stanley and Dirk.
October 12th it was time for the annual “mother” of all the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers forum meetings. The one in a town in the Dutch province of Gelderland called Heukelum, inside brewery “‘t Kuipertje” and organized by Martin: the Heukelum meeting! For weeks the forum was buzzing with anticipation and whole check-lists of what to take with you were made so nobody would forget anything. Meanwhile Martin was busy collecting the entrance money: €26.50 (± $33). A bargain if you ask me because for that sum you not only gain access, you also get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label designed by myself! Whoehoe!
Unfortunately for some the entrance money still was too much. Recently forum-moderator and respected member Johnny went through some tough times (private stuff) which left a hole in his finances. My good friend Ed, Mark and I said that he could drive together with us to Heukelum but Johnny was not sure if he was able to manage it money-wise. We were all bummed out because after a tough time there is nothing better for a pipe-smoker than a cosy, relaxing pipe-smoking meeting. Suddenly we got a mail from a happy Johhny, he was going! Apparently he got a message from Martin which said that all his expenses already were paid for. And that is the true heart-warming spirit of the forum.
Shrewd judge Jos
So on the day itself Ed first picked me up, then we went to the Deventer train station to get Mark and somewhere along the way Johnny joined us. When we arrived in Heukelum we clearly were not the first. Lines of cars we neatly parked beside each other under which the gracious Volvo Amazon owned by Jos. He was one of the first I looked up because I had something for him and he had something for me. In my “Zestful Zutphen 2014” blogpost I wrote that Jos had bought a “smoking area” sign for me on a Amsterdam market. He had brought it with him and as a “thank you” I had not one but two presents for Jos. For a living he does something with laws so every time I smoke Orlik Golden Sliced and see the “shrewd judge” illustration on the tin I have to think of him. Jos often comes across like a person with some loose screws but beware, he is very, very “shrewd”. So I gave him a tin of Orlik Golden Sliced and a wrapped package. Jos had to laugh hard when he saw the contents of the package: a judge wig. He immediately put it on his head and looked amazingly shrewd to my delight. This week I mounted the sign on the door of my tobacco closet in my working-room.
Paul also had something for me. As some of you perhaps know he does whisky nosing & tastings under the name of Whisky Info Plus. On the latest Inter Tabac in Dortmund he had met a company who could print tables. “Hmm, precisely what I need for my nosing & tasting” Paul thought. “A nice bistro table with a picture of whisky-barrels and my logo”. Only, he once made his logo in Word and it was not suited for printing. So he asked me if I could re-make the logo as a proper illustration file. Of course I could, but for a price. “Some tobacco or whisky?” Paul asked. Since I was making it for a nosing & tasting of whisky I choose that. Paul gave me a round box with on it “Ardmore Traditional“. He explained a bit about it and it really sounded yummie in my ears. And it also tastes yummie, actually, I am having a glass of it right now while I am typing this. Thanks Paul!
I also had to see Martin, but not for anything smoking related. A week before the meeting I got a mail from him asking if I wanted buy a Dragon-clock from him. At first I said no, it had no room for it but then I looked to my pipe-cabinet. Hmm.. That clock would look nice on top of it.. So I asked Martin what he wanted for it. According to him it was pretty expensive new but perhaps some tobacco would suffice? As it happened I just had laid my hands on a bag of Esoterica Stonehaven, perhaps that was ok as a payment? Eagerly (I know he loves the stuff) Martin said yes so now the clock graces my pipe-cabinet.
Robert-Jan checking out the wares
A while ago forum member Robert-Jan visited me but he forgot to take with him a tin of Hajenius My Own Blend. I kept it for him until I had the chance to give it back. I also smoked some of it (I was allowed to) but mwah.. I did not like it, I was a bit under the impression that cheap tobaccos were used. So I was glad I could give back the tin at the meeting. Oh!! I silently cursed.. Robert-Jan had asked if I could bring a sample of Esoterica Penzance with me for him. And I had totally forgotten about it.. Of course I made up for it later.
Dre unveiling the new forum year-pipe
Some time later we were all asked to gather around. The time had come for the unveiling of the 2015 PRF forum year-pipe! Normally Shaun arranges the whole project but sadly he had been very ill this year (luckily he feels a lot better now).. Despite his sickness he managed to reach out for help and Dre answered his call. Dre (Andre) has very good connections with the Gubbels family from the Big Ben pipe factory and regularly visits the place. So he asked if they could mean anything for the PRF pipe project. Unfortunately Big Ben only fire up their machines for a minimum of 500 pipes and the forum can never reach that number. BUT they had an alternative solution. Throughout the years Gubbels kept Barbados shape pipe-bowls behind with an exceptional grain and we could have those! Plus they added a metal ring on top of the bowl which makes the pipe look even better. When Shaun and Dre told this and showed the pipe they got a very well deserved applause.
On the left me and Franz
After some chatting with a lot of forum members it was time to eat! As I told last year the meat provided is of excellent quality and comes from a nearby biological butcher. Just as I expected the beef was gone first, I also have to thank myself for that.. After dinner I sat down beside Franz. I am a bit of a Dunhill collector (if I can get them cheap) but he collects all kinds of English non-Dunhill pipes like Sasieni and Charatan. He has a stunning Sasieni prince and.. Wait, just a moment.. Sorry, every time I think of that pipe I have to wipe off my drool. I can’t stop admiring that one. Franz also had brought with him some Germain Rich Dark Flake which I never had smoked and was very curious about. Luckily I was allowed to take a sample with me so now I can finally compare it to its famous brother: Esoterica Stonehaven.
Gradually darkness fell all around us, the lights went on and I just had to think of the atmosphere Dutch painter and graphical artist Anton Pieck summons in his creations. Slowly one by one people were going home until just a few were left. I bought some more bottles of the tasty forum-beer (which was a bock-beer this year!) and we all helped owner Henk a bit with putting back some tables and chairs. Then we said goodbye to each other and thanked Martin and Henk for the wonderful day. Johnny was a bit quiet. Apparently upon entering the brewery he had received a stash of consumption-coins from Martin so he had free drinks all day long. But he also had gotten a small bag, a gift from our forum-Sint, Rob. I opened it and literally my jaw dropped, eyes went a bit wet and I immediately understood why Johhny was so quiet. The contents were a Winslow and two Dunhills under which a gorgeous gold-band shell briar. And that is also the true heart-warming spirit of the forum and I am proud to be a member of it.
Heukelum 2014 group
Henk and Martin, thank you for the organization of the meeting! Ed, Johnny and Mark, thank you for the pleasant rides! The rest of the members, thank you for a great day! All pictures were made by Klaas, Janneman and myself.