The Hague Students’ Union

A few months ago I wrote an article about the family firm Zondag, wine and spirit merchants and distillery at Westeinde in The Hague. Not long after, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Fred Andrioli. He told me that in the sixties Zondag had been an important supplier of the Haagsche Studenten Vereeniging – The Students’ Union of The Hague. More precisely, for quite some years this firm was the only supplier that was willing to do business with this Union because the organisation was constantly in debt.

Fred Andrioli
Fred Andrioli

Andrioli’s email aroused my curiosity about this Haagsche Studenten Vereeniging (HSV) and he agreed to meet me. He told me about the HSV’s history and about his time as a board member.

The Hague Students Union

‘There was no university in The Hague in the 1920s, but there were a lot of students living in The Hague and going to university in Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam. They went to classes by train or tram and were therefore called “rail students”. But the timetable of public transport didn’t do much to facilitate active participation in student life. The last train left too early and the first train left rather late after a night in the pub. 

In 1928 a group of students who had been travelling by tram to Leiden every day decided that it would be more convenient to have a students’ union in The Hague. So on February 2, 1929 they founded the HSV with 50 members – males only – in the first year. They met 1 night a week (later 2 nights a week) and also engaged in activities like playing tennis and amateur theatricals’

HSV Logo
HSV Logo

Second World War

‘During the Second World War all unions and associations were ordered by the Germans to join the “Kultur Kammer”. This of course meant that they had to abide by certain rules. The HSV didn’t want to do this and so on November 14, 1941 the general meeting voted to disband the union.

However, the HSV’s social life was not over. Its members still met “underground”, for instance in the Municipal Museum’s pavilion – now known as Brasserie Berlage. The parents of one of our members, Maarten Pulle, owned a big house at Zwarteweg and the union held several parties there. 

HSV Party at the Pulle residence - 1944
HSV Party at the Pulle residence - 1944

Sadly, several HSV-members were killed during WWII, in German and Japanese concentrations camps.’

Euclides – Socrates - Megara

‘As rail students the HSV-founders felt a relationship with Euclides of Megara (450 -380 BC). This philosopher lived in Megara, a small town in Attica (a historical region in Greece), and travelled regularly to Athens to meet with his tutor Socrates. That’s why this Euclides was considered to be the first commuter amongst students. So it was logical to name the union’s magazine after him.

Student Union The Hague Euclides
The union’s magazine Euclides

And the clubhouse – currently at Burgemeester Karnebeeklaan 3 – is called Megara. At each lustrum (a union celebration that takes place every five years), Socrates takes the trouble to visit Euclides. Over the years he has used many different means of transport.’

HSV Arrival Sokrates at Scheveningen harbour 1976
Arrival Sokrates at Scheveningen harbour 1976

Fred Andrioli’s time with the HSV

Fred Andrioli says that he became a HSV member in 1963. ‘After I finished my higher professional education I went to study Architecture at the Technical University in Delft. I was not a real rail student, because I went by bike most of the time, although during the harsh winter of 1963 that was quite a challenge. From the start I became an active member of the amateur theatrical union – Haagsch Studenten Toneel (HST) and the shooting club – Haags Studenten Schutters Korps ‘Pro Libertate’. These were sub-unions of the HSV. I also joined the board – the senate – first as treasurer, later as chairman.’

‘As treasurer I felt the obligation to pay off within a year the debt of 3000 guilders the HSV owed the Zondag firm. I succeeded because I approached many members that owed the union their membership dues. I sent them – and if necessary their parents – registered letters. I made three bicycle trips to Westeinde, each time with a 1000 guilder banknote in my pocket. Mr Zondag gave me a very warm welcome and poured me something to drink.’

HSV 7th lustrum
HSV 7th lustrum - design by Fred Andrioli

(Lustrum )parties

‘There were many occasions to dress up and have a party. New members were welcomed at an inauguration dinner. There was a grand ball every year, the so-called Diesball, and every five years we had another party.

HSV Inauguration Dinner 1965
HSV Inauguration Dinner 1965

If you were in a relationship with a girl, you took her to the ball; those who didn’t have a girlfriend still had to bring a date. These girls had to dress for the occasion and we were supposed to buy them a corsage. I remember buying my tails at Peek & Cloppenburg.

HSV Diesball 1965
HSV Diesball 1965

Amateur theatricals

‘In the amateur theatrical union we were quite avant garde by choosing plays by playwrights like Eugène Ionesco and Arthur Adamov. In 1968 we presented ‘The Memorandum’ by Václav Havel, then not yet so well known. 

HSV Amateur Theatrical Union

When I was staying in München for my studies, I travelled to Czechoslovakia because I wanted to meet with Havel. I came as far as the village where he was believed to be staying in a summer house when the Soviet tanks entered Prague. I had to return and it took some time and trouble to get back to The Netherlands.’

Royal Family

‘Being on the HSV board landed me in very special company. The wedding of Princess Beatrix was to take place in March 1966 and a National Gift was to be presented to mark the occasion. A fundraising committee was needed. The Hague wanted to break with the tradition of engaging older, posh gentlemen for this task, so they looked for a woman, a trade union member and a younger person. During the sixties many younger people were considered to be long- haired, work-avoiding scum and of course that was not the type of person the authorities were looking for. 

So they turned to the HSV to look for a decent young man and that young man turned out to be me. This aroused opposition from the republican faction within the HSV that didn’t want to be represented, so I became a committee member in a private capacity. At the end of the committee’s activities I was invited to attend a special theatre performance on the day the Princess and her future husband had their banns read.’

Reading the bans Beatrix & Claus
Reading the bans Beatrix & Claus

‘Apparently my name stayed on the notice list of royal occasions, because a year later I received an invitation to the church ceremony for the wedding of Princess Margriet. I needed a morning coat for this occasion and decided to buy one rather than go to a rental firm. 

Marriage Margriet & Pieter
Marriage Margriet & Pieter

In those days you had to wear a morning coat at your graduation and I expected to get wed some day or be a best man at someone else’s wedding.So I calculated that it was worthwhile to invest in a morning coat of my own, be it a second-hand one. I was a bit disappointed when the event proved to be a church ceremony only — without any food and drinks. ‘

The HSV today

‘‘Of course the union is different from what it was in my days. The Haagsche Studenten Vereeniging has kept up with the times. Since 1969 women have been able to become members, and in the early ’90’s the union also welcomed students from the institutes of higher professional education (HBO). At first their number were restricted to 20% of the total number of members, but in 1994 this restriction was lifted. Of the sub unions only the HSSK – the shooting club – still exists, although no longer associated with HSV.
After WWII the tradition of a yearly reunion dinner was born. In 1996 I was one of the organizers and by doing a lot of research we were able to invite around 600 former members. There is now an Alumni Union of the HSV, organizing yearly events and keeping the contact alive between alumni and the Haagsche Studentenvereening of today.’

All pictures are kept in  Fred Andrioli’s personal archive. The photos are made by members of the HSV.

If you want to learn more about these interesting details of the history of The Hague, then book a City Walk with me!

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