One of my tasks for KLM is to search for suitable historical images, on request and within the scope of other endeavours – such as for this blog. In my quest, I sometimes run into photos I can’t immediately place. What do they actually depict? Or, at a second glance, are they perhaps quite remarkable? Either way, I end up doing a ‘double take’. I’ve included a couple of them for you in this blog.
Take a look at this one: a man removing a painting from a crate in which it is being transported. At least, that’s what the photo shows. The photographer must have asked: “Hey you, let’s have a look at that painting, it would make a great shot.” And the man was so kind as to do just that. Open the crate and take the shot. However, if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s done by a very famous artist – none other than Vincent van Gogh. People travel to the Netherlands from far and wide to admire his works. Two venues are ideal: the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller Müller Museum in Otterlo. The painting in the photo comes from the latter collection and was evidently lent out in 1947. But can you just imagine doing so nowadays: you’re transporting priceless art and you let a photographer have a look at it for a minute. Without gloves! Not that anything happened to it, though. It’s still hanging on the wall in Otterlo. But just the thought of it…
Playing the piano
Back in the day, ‘Rippen’ was a renowned Dutch piano manufacturer and many a Dutch household would have owned one of them. With its compact dimensions and beautiful sound, the Rippen is an ideal instrument for any Dutch living room, but how does it perform in an aircraft? Isn’t it fantastic that a stewardess volunteered to display her skills on this instrument; certainly something different for a change. But, I digress. The photo dates back to 1961 and can only be assumed to have served as a form of inflight entertainment. That, I’m afraid, is untrue, although certainly plausible. The real reason was that the Rippen establishment had opened a new factory in the Irish town of Shannon and a sizeable group was flying with KLM to this new location to admire it in the flesh. And what could be more fitting than to take along a good example of your product to demonstrate its beauty during the journey. And that’s not the last time a musical instrument was played in an aircraft.
A piece of chalk
I guess the young man in this photograph would be around 15 years old. He is fashionably dressed for 1931, plus-fours and all. His shoes are dazzling. Here he keeps track of which aircraft depart when and for where, whether there is cargo on board and who the pilot is – with but a piece of chalk. The first detail recorded is the destination, not the departure time. That’s because they’re mixed up. The flight to Batavia leaves at 07:00 hours. The legendary KLM pilot Parmentier also had a flight: the one to Paris, departing at 14:15 hours. The closer you look, the more flight details you see. For example, the number of passengers bound for where and once the flight had departed, there was a diagonal line through the left field. Basically just a picture, but one that tells a resonating story about a day of flight at Schiphol in 1931.
Pots and pans
My mother once owned a cookbook that belonged with the first stove that stood in our kitchen. She didn’t like the cookbook; filled with irritation, she once remarked that the woman on the cover of the book was stirring empty pots and pans. And this was true, so it could never have been a good cookbook. She didn’t want to be taken for a fool. This photo also calls such an association to mind. It dates back to 1947 and was taken at Schiphol when it was located in the barracks. As were the KLM kitchens. Meals were prepared there for passengers, as well as for other establishments in Amsterdam that received meals from the KLM kitchens. In my opinion though, they don’t seem to be too busy cooking when this shot was taken. The pots and pans are shiny and everyone seems to be posing with vigour for the photographer. Yes, it’s true, steam is rising from some of the pots. And while the young man on the right appears to be doing something with a skimmer, his purpose is still somewhat obscure. It’s simply difficult to make posed photos look ‘natural’. But the speckled enamel of the robust AGA stove is certainly great to see.
Undoubtedly, these are not the only remarkable photos in KLM’s extensive historic archives. Once I’ve found a few more, and have worked out what’s on them, I’ll share the gems.