By Mike Milstein
You probably have seen the bust of Eelco Boswijk, Nelson icon, on Trafalgar, just north of Selwyn Place. Eelco arrived here in 1960 after working in Auckland as a truck driver, an American style hamburger joint called High Diddle Griddle and a restaurant called “The Gourmet.” He came to Nelson because a friend encouraged him “to have a look at it.” He worked at the Nelson wharf as a “seagull” (casual worker) and at Buxton’s Department Store before setting out to realize his dream of opening a coffee house.
He feels that he was fortunate to find a site across the street from the old City Council offices on Trafalgar that is owned by the Nelson Women’s Club. His coffee was made in glass pots, the old fashioned way and Eelco listened to his customers’ feedback to make improvements and expand on the menu. He met his wife, Christine, at Chez Eelco and she became very helpful in developing the menu.
In short order Chez Eelco became the place to be. Eelco thought it was all “quite an adventure. It was fun. Every day I met new people. We always tried to make a party out of it.” He is justifiably proud of what he created at Chez Eelco.
But that was then and this is now. Chez Eelco is history and Eelco is 78. How does he fill his time with no coffee house to run? He says “my new profession for some years is to be a social ‘flutterby.’ Usually I’m somewhere in the evening. Lots of lovely friends and I meet people. I make life a party. I have house gatherings with friends who share time together. We have happy times.” Eelco doesn’t give much thought to ageing. “I’ve never had time to think about it. I just keep going, but now I’m suddenly slowing down a bit. It’s frustrating sometimes.”
How does he deal with it? “Shake yourself out of making yourself unhappy. If you have some aching toes or something, blame yourself if you think about them. These are normal things that come with ageing.” But he does admit to the fact that “I have an extra hour of sleep during the day, “
Eelco stays active and connected. “I keep up with the papers. I try to get out the door. I meet friends. I visit old people here and there who may be a bit slower than I am. I socialize with them, which is very important. My life is very simple. I just get out and meet people. The town is full of coffee shops and there are always people to talk to.”
Eelco says “to be honest, I’ve never thought about ageing. I just play the days as they come. Make fun out of the day and enjoy things.” To Eelco living well means to “motivate yourself. Be positive about whatever you do. Don’t moan with people about this and that. There is no time to moan. You have to be positive and absolutely enjoy what you do. Ask people to help you enjoy doing it.”
If there is one thing he recommends most of all, it is to dance. “If you want to dance you need somebody to dance with you. It is special and it is social. It is close contact with somebody and you laugh!”
So, get out the door, socialize, dance and laugh!
Note: This article was published in The Leader, Nelson, NZ. It summarizes an interview aired on Nelson’s Fresh FM that was conducted by Annie Henry for the Conscious Ageing Network (CAN), which is sponsored by Age Concern, Nelson. If you want to share your thoughts with CAN or wish to know when interviews will be aired, send an email to email@example.com.