The Acapulco was a traditional sailing ship, once used for training Mexican naval officers, now, completely renovated, used as a cruise ship, with 65 crew and 75 passengers. During my time as the head chef on this beautiful ship, the Acapulco sailed the seven seas, and we had several trips from Mexico to Alaska, along the American and Canadian west coast, from Ireland to Crete, visiting all the main ports in the Mediterranean, from Amsterdam to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and from Bombay to Jakarta.
I was able to save a considerable amount of money, which I used to buy a house in the Gelderse Kade, in the Red Light District. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. The prostitution business was slow, and Megan owned a whore house in the Gelderse Kade, of which she only used the flats (and the windows) on the ground floor and the lower ground floor. The upper three floors had been empty for years, so she decided to sell this part of the building, but very few people were interested in it, because of the prostitution downstairs.
I didn’t mind though, so eventually I got the house for a bargain. I only used the first floor and didn’t really know what to do with the second and the third floor.
One evening, as I was enjoying a pint in my local, the Valhalla, in the Zeedijk, I saw a young woman coming in. She was dressed like a prostitute. Her face was bruised and her two front teeth were missing. She seemed to be distressed. I offered her a drink.
She told me her name was Molly. She used to work as a prostitute in Utrecht, and when her pimp found out she didn’t have any clients that day, he hit her again and again. As soon as he was gone, she decided to flee to Amsterdam. So now she was severely hurt, she didn’t have any money, and she needed a place to stay. I offered her a room in my place.
“But I can’t pay you,” she said.
“Don’t worry about the money,” I replied. “You can pay me later. Right now you have to recover.”
Molly proved to be an alcoholic. She was arrested when she, for the fourth or fifth time, had stolen a crate with empty bottles from the back of a mobile shop, to collect the deposit from the driver in front and buy beer with it. Bold as brass she was, but not extremely intelligent. Also Megan came complaining to me that Molly, without my knowledge or consent, was using the window in my front door to attract clients, whom she took upstairs to her room, through my quarters. Megan didn’t like the competition and I didn’t want strangers in my house. It was time for a plan.
She didn’t have any other skills than being a prostitute, and with her two front teeth missing she didn’t look very attractive. So I decided to lend her the money for a set of false teeth, after which she could find her own window. The usual rent was 75 guilders for a morning, an afternoon, an evening, or a night. The letters of these windows (and the rooms that came with it) tried to exploit their rooms for 24 hours a day, so prostitutes came in shifts. If you weren’t able to pay your rent, your prostitute days in Amsterdam were over. All letters knew each other, so if you had debts with one of them, you couldn’t simply go to another one, because he would know about it and refuse to let you a window.
To make things easier for Molly, I lent her the rent for one shift, and she found a window near the Oude Kerk (Old Church), the cradle of Amsterdam prostitution. While she had to wait for her false teeth to be ready, she made good use of her missing teeth. She dressed like a school girl and had two tails in her hair. I was amazed when I found out how much money she made. Some men are so sick.
In the following weeks and months, Molly told me the story of her life. She had five sisters and two brothers. Her father was a florist, with a stand in front of the station. He was an alcoholic. Her mother came from a middle class family, who renounced her when she was pregnant of Molly’s oldest sister, father unknown. As a result Molly’s mother led a wild life, prostituted herself to German soldiers during the war, until she met Molly’s father.
They lived in one of the many slums of a city in the North. With seven children and a drinking father, who often spent all his money on drink, life wasn’t easy, and occasionally Molly’s mum prostituted herself to be able to buy the essentials.
It didn’t take long before social services knocked on their door.
Social services weren’t very popular in this neighbourhood, so one Sunday morning, at 6am, when everyone was asleep, social services, accompanied by the police, came to take the children away.
They had to work fast, before the neighbours were alarmed, because otherwise they had a revolution on their hands.
Molly remembers how she was picked up by a woman from social services, how she resisted, how she was crying for her mummy, how she heard her brothers and sisters crying for their mummy. It was an extremely traumatic event.
All the children were transported to a Christian children’s home called Martha Foundation, 200 miles from the city, to make it more difficult for the parents to visit their children. Molly’s parents didn’t have a car, and public transport was expensive. Moreover, it took them a day to get there.
The children found it very hard to get used to their new home. They were split-up, and were all placed in different groups. They only saw each other in school, which was on the premises. They had to pray before meals and before going to sleep. They had to learn the books of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, etc.
After a couple of years Molly’s parents found a way to move to Utrecht, which was only 20 miles from the Martha Foundation, so they could visit their children more often. Once the children reached the age of 14, they were allowed to visit their parents once a month, in the weekend. But Molly’s father started to drink more and more, and finally her parents separated. Molly’s mother kept the council house, Molly’s father went to a homeless shelter, where he died two years later.
Molly’s older sister Heather had found a boy friend in the Martha Foundation: Sebastian. He was a nice chap who ended up in the children’s home because his father died and his mother was ill. But slowly she got better and it wouldn’t take long before Sebastian would be able to go home for good. Sebastian wanted to be an accountant and he studied hard for it. Heather saw a side of the world she had never experienced before: nice people who are seriously working for their future. Although she kept in touch with her brothers and sisters, Heather decided she didn’t want to see her mother any more, once she moved in with Sebastian’s mother.
Molly’s other older sisters, Sally and Dinah, remembered how her mother prostituted herself, by taking strange men home, and they also knew that she picked up the trade again after their father was forced to leave. Both Sally and Dinah knew how to make use of their looks and sexuality, and when they were 16 and able to leave the Martha Foundation, it only took them three months before they ended up in the Red Light District of Utrecht. They lived with their mother, who in the mean time got pregnant by a fishmonger, and mummy demanded 80% of their income. The same applied to Molly’s older brother Bruce, who, as soon as he was 16 and able to leave the Martha Foundation, also came to live with his mother, and proved to be a skilled thief. He walked into the staff entrance of a department store, put on an overall of the maintenance department, found himself a trolley, went to the white goods and TV department, took whatever he needed, explained to the department staff that the goods needed to be replaced, and disappeared with the goods.
With her three older sisters and her older brother gone, Molly was now the oldest sibling in the Martha Foundation, and she started to rebel. She escaped, visited her sisters in Utrecht’s Red Light District, saw how easy it was to make a fast buck, but was caught by the police and brought to a girls’ prison in Arnhem, called Welcome. That’s where she learned the trade from other girls.
When she was 18, she was released. It took her less than an hour to reach the Red Light District. The same day she met a good looking young man who wanted to “help” her out. A week later she had her own window and her own pimp. Mummy, who was known as “the biggest pimp in town”, still wanted her 80%, but Molly’s “lover boy” told her to go fuck herself, and he and Molly started to live in the room where she worked, on a barge in a long row of barges, designed for prostitution, on the outskirts of Utrecht’s city centre.
One day Molly had a client who died of a heart attack when he was on top of her. She was very upset, but her pimp forced her to get on with her work, right after the ambulance people had removed the body from her room. That’s when she started drinking. Like a fish.
Molly’s younger sister Mabel married a second hand car dealer, who later got arrested for smuggling stolen Mercedeses to Germany. Her younger brother George wanted to become a professional body builder, but became a mover. It kept him fit. Once he tried to beat up Molly’s pimp, but the pimp shot him in the leg and he had to back off. Molly’s youngest sister Winny adored her prostituting sisters. She was blinded by the easy way to make money, and at 17 she was on her way to become a prostitute herself, until she got pregnant and married a builder who loved her, warts and all.
And now Molly was in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, and I wondered how long it would take her to find a new pimp. But she didn’t. She quite enjoyed her new freedom, and after a year or two she told me that she was going to live in the country, to become a farmer of biological veggies. After two severe collapses (she suffered from epilepsy, but only when she was drinking) she gave up drinking alcohol, and then she was ready to leave this city full of temptations.
Ten years later she moved back to the city, started drinking again, and started prostituting herself again. In 2006 she died of an overdose of alcohol and drugs. In the end she wasn’t able to let go of her family, her social environment, the gangland.
In the age of Facebook it’s not too difficult to find out what happened to Molly’s sisters and brothers, and to their children. Some of them managed to free themselves from the milieu, but others weren’t. Also, it was good to see that some of the children who grew up in a criminal environment, managed to break free from it and become respectable citizens. But then again, others didn’t. Sally, who died young, when she was still a prostitute, had three children: two daughters and a son. The oldest daughter is the spitting image of her mother, and dresses the way her mother would dress while she was working. The son was a junkie for many years and suffers from severe mental health problems. But the other daughter was taken in by Sally’s sister Heather, and stayed far away from her original social environment.
The “black sheep” of the family are still very close, as I was able to witness on Facebook. They never bothered, or had the opportunity, to move up. Molly’s youngest sister Winny had a daughter that was conceived before she met her builder, and this woman calls herself “gangsta woman”. In turn, she had two daughters and a son, although she never got married. Both these daughters had a son when they were very young. It seems that one way or another they are proud of what they are and where they came from.