More from Otto's autobiography.
A brief note. Otto often understates reality. He was the kind of man that would say, "Its only a scratch," although it would need more that a few stitches. The time he fell through the rafters, breaking seven ribs before landing on his back, was the only time I remember him showing that he really was in pain. I know from the stories I could squeeze out of him over the years that the war was really awful, not as nonchalant as he sometimes comes across. He could always make the best of a bad situation.
Soon after the German Occupation, I joined "Barden" a men's choir. The conductor was my old friend Evald Nord. My dear friend Arne Thorsen also sang bass. One of the tenors was Nick Jensen, who worked in a tobacco store in Strandgaten. He kept me well supplied with cigarettes and tobacco through the war years. Some of us from the choir Nick Jensen, Evald Nord, Frode Damm, Alf Hellebø and myself rented a little cabin at Hanevik on Askøy and spent a lot of weekends there. Later we were joined by Anton Andersen who was the laboratorian at the Elephant Apothecary in Bergen. He was our main source of "booze", getting 20 liters of pure alcohol each month for medicines, but most went to himself, his friends and the black market. Tobacco and booze were the two biggest problems, the third was the Germans.
My best friend in all these years was Brynjulv Totland. He also lived in Laksevaag. He was engaged to Randi Sterner. Her mother was a pianist and voice instructor. So I took lessons from her in voice. Sang a lot of Grieg, Sinding, and a lot of German Lieder. I became quite attached to the family. I still keep up a good correspondence with Randi. Brynjulv died in 1979 or thereabouts in his early sixties.
Food and Fuel
In the early years of the war food was plentiful. The Government had bought a lot. Then the Germans came and I suppose sent a lot to Germany. Everything disappeared slowly and rationing became stricter. After a while if you could get what was on your cards and could get a meal a day, that amounted to 1200 calories a day.
Fortunately my father working on the dock was able to get some coal or coke from the ships so we managed to keep fairly warm.
With respect to food that was a lot more difficult. My father and Audun managed to get a classification that entitled them to 1/2 lb. of meat per week. So on Sunday we had stew.
The 1941 harvest was a disaster and potatoes were gone by Christmastime. So through the spring we lived on carrots, rutabagas and turnips if you could get them.
About May-June my friend Andreassen who was a salesmen at Fleischer's told me that he had 50kg of potatoes for me. Later he got another 100 kg. When I told my mother she just sat down and cried. We were the only ones in the neighborhood who had potatoes.
The black market flourished. You needed something to trade with or a lot of money. Since the store were empty most people had money. Fortunately at the lab we had many things we could make and trade with. It was all worth something, especially denatured alcohol. We learned to purify it and it was worth gold. Some of the dentists in town would send their stuff up to us, we would purify it and keep one half of it.
We were probably hungry sometimes, but we survived. Despite the lack of food health was remarkably good.
When somebody got hold of some food (meat mostly) they would invite all their friends and they would have a great feast. And we would sing, like this one. "Brothers and far away across the salty wasters, there raises America with its glorious beaches, Oh how it is wonderful, oh how it is beautiful. Such a shame America shall be so far away."
My Mother was not well, started ailing early 1940*. In 1942 we went to Dale in Sunnfjord for summer vacation. Stayed with old friends of mother's. They had nothing, not even potatoes. "Why didn't you tell us?" mother asked. " We didn't think you should bring anything". So we called Audun who was still in town and hesent us some potatoes. My Father and Kaare were also there with us. After we came back to town Mother went to the hospital and died very shortly thereafter. The date was about August 15th. Was buried at Nygaard Cemetary.
The Floating Dry Dock
In the summer of 1944, the cruiser "Konigsberg" which had been sunk in the Bergen harbour on April 10th, 1940 had been surfaced and was ready to be put in the dock. Bestefar (father) was on vacation, but some young engineer, Arne Martinus Arnesen, would dock her. That engineer was later killed during the bomb attack on the submarine base that fall. The ship was almost dry when she tipped over and there she lay, she and the dock at about a thirty degree angle. Bestefar came to town and got her out of there, but much damage had been done to the dock.
While they were repairing the dock, a call came to my father from the front guard house. "We have a couple of bags of firewood. If you want it come and get it". So Bestefar went and while he was away, the dock blew up. If he had been on the dock he would most probably have perished. About twenty persons went down with her.
I was at work. My friend Brynjulv who worked close by called me. "Are you aware of the situation? The floating dock just went down." I borrowed a bike and went out to the shipyard. Audun came a little later. We were looking for our father. They told us he had not been there. Soon after he came, all excited. The German Guard stopped him, but my father pushed him away.* " I am going down to my dock," he said, but by that time the dock was resting on the bottom of the fjord.
*Note: Mother (Klara) had tuberculosis. She had been doing pretty well, but the lack of food, stress from the war, etc. was more than she could take.
*Note: This kind of behavior often resulted in a severe beating, but Otto doesn't talk about that here.