|Visit the Welkom Bar/For the Young and Old|
Kathy van der Pas, the current owner of the building that Harry and Jean once owned, was kind enough to write me. She shared her knowledge about this history of her art gallery. She wrote:
We bought the house in 1981. At that moment there were two levels, the 'shop' downstairs and the house upstairs, separated. We made one of it. In 1990 we started our gallery.
From neighbors we have heard the history of the house. It was build in 1912. in the 30s it was a water distiller where you could buy a bucket of hot water.
About two years ago a sister and brother visted our gallery and the man said, when I opened the door: I was born here in 1944. The sister was born before in another house, but lived there too. Their memory about the 'shop' was not clear.
Now the story of our neighbors. They lived here since they were married and died years ago, over 80 years old. It was a bar with a tall black woman and there came sailors. When they made problems between each other she threw them out.
Later it was a bar for homosexual men and that has to be the Welcome bar. They told us that it was set on fire to get insurance money. When we painted the wood around our windows we saw that on different places the wood was burned and they put pain over it.
After that [the house fire] the house was bought by a man who was selling wood for renovating. He also renovated the house because he was living there with his wife and children. Unforuntately the only thing he was good at: using big nails.
Afterward his daughter bought the house and when they had two children they wanted to live outside Rotteram. We bought it from them. In the 'shop' there were photographs from the Dutch champion bodybuilding. She had trained there.
|Welkom Bar in Ruins|
Jet Schneider was kind enough to translate a Dutch newspaper article from May 22, 1969.
|Harry Rietra and Jean Marie Knockaert|
Bar Gutted By Fire.
In the initial report police stated that there was no reason to suspect foul play. Despite this conclusion, experts of the police- and fire department began investigations this morning.
Gay couple Harry Rietra and Jean-Marie Knockaert was told by a cab driver that the Welcome Bar was gutted by fire.
Two Homes Severely Damaged.
(From one of our correspondents)
During the night, a fierce blaze completely gutted the Welcome Bar on Watergeus street. The bar was one of approximately ten gay meeting places in Rotterdam. Damages are estimated at f 60,000 [60,000 guilders].
Besides the bar, two homes, one behind and one above the bar, sustained heavy damage. Levert Kruithof, a 53-year-old dockworker who lived in the home above the bar, escaped the fire. A cat and several birds were not as lucky and died in the flames.
Harry Rietra, owner of the Welcome Bar, was not on the premises when the fire started. When he arrived at the bar with Jean-Marie Knockaert around 3:30 am, only the walls of the bar remained.
The cause of the fire remains unknown. According to police “no one is to blame”, but an investigation has begun nonetheless.
Two policemen making their rounds discovered the fire around 1:50 am. The fire department dispatched numerous fire trucks; fire chief Gaanderse was in charge of the effort to combat the flames. It was not until 4:10 am when the last fire truck left.
Two scorched cars and a partially stripped tree were indications of the enormous heat of the fire that gutted the bar on the street corner.
People in neighboring homes, who had been asked to leave by the police, have been allowed to return.
Harry Rietra and Jean-Marie Knockaert are a gay couple who were in the news in 1967, when they were “wedded” by a Catholic priest in the chapel of the seminary on Marconi square. (“Broederschool = litt. ‘School for Christian Brothers’)
When the Roman Catholic Diocese indicated it felt tricked by Rietra (27) and Knockaert (26), both men threatened to sue. Later they joined the Eastern-Orthodox Church, which acknowledges friendship ceremonies.
During the evening Rietra and Knockaert had been at a birthday party, when they called a cab. The cab driver told them that their bar was gutted by fire.
|Weklom Bar in Ruins|