Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

As the snow falls and the wind blows another Thanksgiving is in the works. I am probably thankful for a lot more things than I realize, besides a warm house and enough food on the table. There are many millions on this planet without those things.

The native inhabitants of this continent were decimated by disease brought over by the Europeans in the 1500's, but in (what was to become) Plymouth, Massachusetts the locals helped and made peace with some refugees. It lasted for about 50 years. It was probably about the longest stretch of peace this "country" would ever know. Maybe welcoming more refugees in at this time would give us another stretch. I can dream, can't I?

Here, myself, Otto, and my brother are sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal in the early 1960's. Things have certainly changed in the last half century, but life is still good. I hope all of you have a happy and stress free Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Family Trip To Norway 1966

From Otto's autobiography:

It was now time to think of a trip for the four of us (my father Otto, my stepmother, Betty, my brother Mike, and I). Sons of Norway, District 3, had charter flights to Norway. That was perhaps the main reason for me joining the Order.

We saved and borrowed some money. Fortunately, in those days, things were very reasonable in Norway. Before we left the States, I had written the family in Bergen to arrange for a trip for us from Trondheim down the fjords to Bergen. It was a four week trip leaving New York on a Friday and returning four weeks later Sunday evening.

It was an exciting time. Bought suitcases, some if not all, on Green Stamps.

The day of departure arrived. Can't remember the date, but it was early July. Pop Linthicum came to the house and drove us to the RR station. 
                                                   Pop Linthicum, my stepmother's father.

Arrived in New York early afternoon. Got a taxi to Kennedy International Airport. Fare $13.00. We got there early, but after a while it was time to board the plane, a DC-8. Members of Sons of Norway District 3 were there to wish us bon voyage.
That's my brother, stepmom, and me(with light khakis) in the center looking at the camera. 

After we were in the air, there there were cocktails and a (late) supper. We had some kids in the seats behind us, kicking and moving. Didn't get much rest. Some things never change. Being a charter flight, there were two bars open all night. No charge. A lot of happy Norwegians.

Landed early Saturday morning at Fornebu (Oslo). It was just great to see Norway and all the red roofs of houses and cottages. At this time I think Mom was happy to be with us.

After landing, we had a few hours before leaving for Bergen. Bought a few postcards and sent one to Pop Linthicum. He got it the next week. Uncle George (Betty's brother in law) said he sat and looked at it for a long time. I don't think he ever expected to see us again (Pop was a skeptic and never believed men landed on the moon).  

Then on to Bergen. A small two prop plane. It was cloudy over the mountains. Couldn't see a thing but clouds against the windows. Some people got sick. After a while the clouds cleared and we saw the skerries and little islands around Flesland airport. 

The whole family was there to greet us: Bestefar (Otto's father), tante (aunt) Ovidia, and Audun (Otto's younger brother) and the kids (Erik, Giske, and Knut). Drove home to Laksevaag. Got a big kick out of the signs at the Esso gas stations: "Put en tiger paa tanken" (Put a tiger in your tank). At Laksevaag the Norwegian flag was flying in the wind. 

Had a big dinner in Andy's (Audun's) kitchen, Giske waiting on the table. After a while we got tired. It had been a long day and night. Karla )(Audun's wife, my tante) had bought new sheets for our bed. By this time it had cleared up and we could see the lights across the bay and Mom said, "Thank you Far for bringing me here."

The next week or so we spent in Bergen: the Fish Market, The cable car to Ulrikken, a tour of the fjords on the "White Lady", and the funicular to Fløyen. Kaare (Otto's youngest brother) was in town and he lent us his car and we drove up to Kvamskogen where Karla was with the kids. Had a nice day there. The boys and their cousins rented a boat and rowed around the lake. Some kids were swimming in the ice water. "It is nice," they said with their blue noses. Karla wanted us to stay, but we went back to town. Fed some goats on the way, they loved American cigarettes (Betty still smoked).  

The next day we went with Kaare to Lonevaag. Drove to Garnes, then the ferry to Haus on Osterøy. Drove up the valley and the church at Gjerstad. Then down to Lonevaag. Bought some rolls and some Coke and had lunch there next to the pier.

This was the place I was conceived during Easter vacation in 1919, up at "Lemmen" in Johan and Thea Kalleklev's house. My grandfather, Mons Andersen, grew up here. The farm was up the hill, it was called Fossen (meaning waterfall). The foundation of the houses were still there when we spent our summers there from about 1925 to 1934. 

We visited Olaf Hatland and family and Asbjørn Natland and his wife Brita. It was at the Natland farm we we stayed the sumers as kids. Asbjørn's mother Emte was turning the hay, Kaare helping her. She was in her eighties at the time. They made us some sandwiches with fenalaar (cured leg of lamb).  Tasted good to an old Norwegian.


From there we drove back to Valestrand (Ole Bull had a house there). Ferry to Breistein and back to Bergen. In those days with little car traffic, Kaare's car was the only one on the ferry. We had a delicious dinner at cafe Ulrikken. Two pork chops, potatoes, and vegetables and gravy for about $1.00 each. Inflation hadn't really started yet.

More to come...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

40 Years Ago

40 years ago I was just  a young guy working as a nursing assistant at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and had just moved in with my girlfriend. National unemployment was at least 8% as the economy was coming off a recession and any job was a good one at that point. While there was a lot going on in my little life I remember hearing about a large ship sinking in a storm on Lake Superior. I knew where it was, but had never seen the lake as of then. I don't think I could have imagined living near it in the future as I was too busy living in the now.

Fast forward two years. I had moved to Minneapolis, got a better job, and the girlfriend was gone. I was living with a bunch of guys I had gone to school with and their good friends. We were single, adventurous guys with a few extra bucks to go and play. We often went backpacking and camping and regularly to the North Shore of Lake Superior which I thought was a rugged and beautiful place. Well it is. However, the seasonal changes bring with them some impressive shows of force from Mother Nature.

Back on November 9th of 1975 the Edmund Fitzgerald left the Port of Superior which is right next to the Port of Duluth at the Westernmost point of Lake Superior. If it had been heading for the Atlantic Ocean it would be a trip of 2340 miles (3770km), but it was only headed to Zug Island in the Detroit River. When built the ship it was the largest on the Great Lakes at 729 feet. I believe there are about 13 "thousand footers" now plying the lakes.

There was a nasty storm brewing up the day the Fitz sank, the 10th of November. They were listing and had both radars broken and while the storm was bad there was an additional squall that kicked up at the wrong time. The record winds on this lake are 81 knots and record wave height is 51 feet. It may have been approaching those numbers during the squall that hit the ship, but no one will ever know. She now lies in 535 feet of water in two pieces. The stern half is lying upside down and the bow half right side up nearby.

The best guess is this from The Great Lakes Shipping Museum:
Conflicting theories about the cause of the tragedy remain active today. GLSHS' three expeditions to the wreck revealed that it is likely she "submarined" bow first into an enormous sea, as damage forward is indicative of a powerful, quick force to the superstructure. But what caused the ship to take on water, enough to lose buoyancy and dive to the bottom so quickly, without a single cry for help, cannot be determined.

The Edmund Fitzgerald sank with all 29 crew. They are added to the known 350 shipwrecks and 1000 lives lost on this lake. Those are just the known and recorded ones from more recent history. And that is just this lake. The losses on all the lakes are estimated in the thousands over the course of history.  
What were YOU doing 40 years ago?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Septober, Octember, Nowonder

After three days of wind, rain, and 40 degrees (5C) there is no doubt that summer is over. A little snow mixed in left no doubt. Then there are the days you can go out and walk around the farm and take in all those big and little changes that happen every year about this time. Sometimes the cooler air is so clear you can see all the way across Lake Superior which from here is about 70 miles. If you look due South and real closely at the horizon you will see the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It's not much more than a shadow at this distance and we and they are high enough in elevation to get over the curvature of the planet issue.  Click the pic to embiggen.
   Then there are those frosty mornings coming with some regularity at this point. The roof of my car had the mark of the Frost Giants. Maybe the spirit of Ymir himself survived slaying by Odin and left this to remind me. Coming all the way from Jötunheimr just to say "Hei!" Imagine!

I think I'll take a walk in the woods and see what happens.

After a bear did this to my apple tree a few weeks ago I am tempted to find him and wear his hide as would a Berserker would when going into battle. At least I would have threatened him if I had caught him in the act. Unless he was really big and mean, course.
And I know where the hidden people, dwarves, elves, and trolls all live around here, too. In places like this.
They make it look natural so that no one suspects, but I know different. I know where they get their water.
And I know what they will do if you don't appease them. It's not pretty and I dare not take them into consideration when I do things here at the edge of their realm.
I know the dwarves made Freya's necklace and when the time comes I hope she, the leader of the Valkyries, will carry me to Valhalla in her chariot pulled by some very serious cats.
Then I emerge from the forest to the clear air and my mind settles down to the reality of the modern world. I have to ease out of my forest world gently.

I see that my own house is not made of sod and will keep me warm in the coming months. Built from the bounty of the forest, mostly, it will protect me from the elephants and the elements.
Maybe I will inscribe all of this on my very own runestone which is acting like a weather rock now. I can see that it is not winter. Yet.