No.4 Van Hulthemstraat

This was the address where I spent my student days from September 1974 to July 1979. My room was one of the two rooms on the ground floor, overlooking the inner courtyard where the bicycles and rubbish bins were kept. It was owned by someone who worked as an engineer in Sidmar, although we didn’t see all that much of him. There was this lifelong “student” who got a good deal on the rent of his room provided he looked after the shop for the owner.

No.4 and no.6 Van Hulthemstraat

If I remember correctly there were twelve people in the house, one in the cellar, two on the ground floor, and three each on the first, second and third floor. Likewise for the house next door, with whom we shared a common kitchen through which you could move from one house to the other and vice versa.

My room had a bed, a desk, a chair, a bookcase and a sink. There was a shower in the cellar and one toilet on the first and the second floor each. There also was a small cooking facility in the back on the ground floor, in what must have been the kitchen before the house was converted into student accommodation. You could mix in as much or as little with the others as you wished, and in general the atmosphere was pretty relaxed, maybe in part because the owner kept things at arm’s length.

I think one person had a telly, and I still remember when several people crammed together in his room to watch the Muppet Show. The house was convenient as it was quite close to both the main engineering block with its main entrance on the Plateaustraat, and the two metallurgical labs of profs. Van Peteghem and Dilewijns in the Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat. Maybe less so for when courses took place in the Sterre campus, or in the labs beyond the motorway in Zwijnaarde.

During the first year I used to have a bicycle, so that helped in getting to places like the Sterre, but unfortunately it got stolen during my second year, and from then on I had to walk or try and find a lift. At least I had the advantage from my third year onwards that Charles Gheenen, who was the only other person studying metallurgy in my year, did have a car, so scrounging a lift wasn’t too big a deal.

At one point a few years ago, on a visit to Ghent, I was trying to find a place to park my car, and thought I’d have a look in the area where I used to live. The houses still looked exactly like I’d known them nearly 40 years ago, but what was different was the number of cars parked everywhere in the student quarters. In my days students with a car were the exception, presumably nowadays the majority have one.

I obviously have no way of knowing whether the house where I had my room still looks the same from the inside, but somehow I’d like to think that it wouldn’t be too different. I’ not too fussed trying to find out – sometimes you have to keep your memories intact and in the past.


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