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Antoon Mortelmans


° 10.11.1869 Antwerpen - † 10.10.1957 Berchem
  - printer
  - father of Franck Mortelmans
  - Antoon had taken over the business of his parents, and owned a shop and a small printing office in the Klapdorp street in Antwerp



Antoon had two famous elder brothers, namely the flower painter Frans Mortelmans (1865-1936) and the composer Lodewijk Mortelmans (1868-1957). He was also artistically minded, followed the lessons at the academy and also ventured into some drawing.
Antoon Mortelmans was involved in the initial phase of the art group 'De Scalden'.
He was a great port and nature lover and regularly went out with his children to explore the surroundings in the port and the polders.
   Franck and Antoon in the polders - Antoon at work in the printing office


Falconrui 40      From texts drawn up by Antoon Mortelmans

In nr. 40 of the Falconrui, a "house with a stepped gable", there was also a café, there was a sign "au Courrier" and next to it in nr. 38 "Au facteur". It was at the time of full glory, that there were complete infantry regiments in the Falcon caserne in garrison. After seven or eight hours in the evening the soldiers were allowed to go out, few of them took the trouble to venture further into the city and filled the shady cafes of the Falconstraat including the Huikstraat. Besides the two mentioned of the Falconstraat there was a singing room "Café Belge" and in the Huikstraat "du Fontaine", both "café Chantant". You can guess that it went bravely there of song singers, in each of the cafes were also some 'waitresses' who served the pints to the clients. Most of all we can talk about was the café chantant "Au Courrier".
This cafe with his back facade on the back facade of our house in the Klapdorp 121. Open back courtyards admitted to cast our gaze along the open door of the "De Courrier". This café was run by the widow De Laet, remarried to a certain Janssens. The woman's head was hanging due to paralysis of the neck muscles, on one side of her shoulder, so she was known all around as "the crooked neck". This woman also had a son of our age approx., called Aloïs. On Sundays and Mondays there was a dance opportunity from 6 to 12 o'clock on a barrel organ, with new year and carnival, all night long.
The three of us, Frans, Lode and Antoon, slept in the back room on the first floor of the Klapdorp house. When it was time to go to sleep, there was no way to sleep, always these dance tunes mixed at times by the cries of women's voices, during a well-known tune. Believe it or not, these rumours and melodies of this barrel organ, I still know them by heart, from beginning to end, when the roll was finished. There was also a "gallop", if we heard it, it was proof that the dancing for that day was over. They were not always peaceful dance parties. For reasons unknown to us, a fight broke out during a dance, so the organ player had to keep playing his instrument, to hide the noise caused by the fight and the screaming of the waiters who shouted and raged when their lover was hit, and if the fight lasted too long to the owner's taste, he forced the fighters towards the back door and crushed them against the separation wall, where they then found themselves against the buckets and brushes, and who fell to the ground with a loud noise, between the feet of the fighters, who were fighting each other, and the organ kept playing waltzes and polkas so that the police, if they had to pass, could not hear any noise from the fighters.
You can imagine how we lay in our bed trembling with fright. Then there was also when one of the waitresses got the 'mother's disease' due to an overstrain, with the last judgement there can be no more shouting and entertainment. Then there was also when our night light started to flicker for lack of oil, then we shouted murder and fire, until someone came from the household to comfort us. After having had such an affair again, after years and years of bullying, our father spoke about it to the police commissioner with the following result; As soon as the organ starts to turn, the window and the door opening on the courtyard of the dance hall must be closed and locked and no consumers may enter the courtyard under no pretext under penalty of closing the bar. That was already much relief and lasted until those old people died and the pub passed into other people hands and by circumstances was bought by me (Antoon) to turn it into a workshop.
Every day was gala-time in the cafe-chantant "Courrier". Street singers and consumers, who thought they should let hear their voices, introduced themselves and the holder of the piano was none other than the son of the madame - Aloïs. The would-be singer sang some tones of his song, Aloïs played some notes on the piano and the song started as good as bad it went. If the song fell into the taste of the audience, a thunderous applause arose, especially when one of the waitresses sang a soldier'song. Then they broke down the interior and the ladysinger had a lot of kisses to give. At 10 o'clock sharp retreat: everyone outside and inside the caserne and the cafes fell silent and "the lights" went out.


Drawings of Antoon Mortelmans