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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Back to Otto's story


 I have been telling the story of my Norwegian immigrant father taken directly from his autobiography. It has been a while since I posted any part of it, so I am overdue. I have left it intact and the only note is that these brackets,[ ], are mine and everything else is original, including sentence structure and other typos.  Remember, English was not his first (or second) language.
We pick up after graduate school at N.C. State in textile chemistry and it is late in 1948.

Time to go back to Norway.

During the summer of 1948, Olaf Torgerson got married to Wenche Falkenberg. She had been a student in San Diego. Her Father, Otto, was the DuPont representative in Norway. In the Spring of 1949, Otto Falkenberg and his wife came to Raliegh and he offered me a job in his company in Norway. Attached to that job was a training course at DuPont’s Technical Laboratory at Deepwater, New Jersey, just across from Delaware. So after Graduating I came up to Wilmington.

I lived at the YMCA. Paid about $25 a month for my room with all membership priveleges. Long days, left the Y at 6:15 in the morning on the bus for the ferry that took us across the river. Got back to the Y the same way about 5:30. The training course was super, hot as hell in the lab, but I learned a lot. 

We had a nice group at the Y, several of us in training at the Tech Lab, many “foreigners”. We played volleyball almost every evening after work. There was a Cosmopolitan Club, and we went to shows, camping, and ball games. That’s where I met Jacquie. It was a short courtship and we got married on the 7th of October, 1949.

Honeymoon

I had bought a car, a Chevrolet, which I was supposed to bring back to Norway to be used by Falkenberg. After getting married, we drove up to Connecticut. In those days you had to drive 35 MPH for the first 1000 miles. Thought we would never get there. The next day we drove up to Andy and Karla [Otto’s brother and sister in law] in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Stayed around until the next Friday when we left for New York to catch the S.S. Media for Liverpool. When in Cambridge [Andy was in grad school at MIT] we went to a party at the MIT Graduate House. Met a young Mr. Guinness (of the beer/ale family).  He was a frequent visitor at Andy and Karla’s, “I just dropped by for a cup of tea”.  We also visited Dr. Baker and his family. He was Dean of students at MIT and a good friend of Andy’s who had lived in their house when studying in Cleveland [Case Western Reserve]. Jacquie went back to Wilmington and soon thereafter quit her job with DuPont.  

Going back home and back to the U.S.A.

The S/S Media was a small combined passenger/cargo ship. Accommodations for 300 passengers. We were only 100, all first class, and everything was 1st class.  Landed in Liverpool a week later. Took the train to Manchester. Stayed at the inn close by. I was to get familiar with a company (petrochemicals) that Falkenberg was to represent in Norway. Stayed there a few days, then on to London for another few days. Left London early Saturday morning on the train for New Castle and “Venus” back to Bergen. The North Sea was very quiet. Called my father from the ship and he was at the pier when I arrived.

After a few days I went to Oslo to work for Falkenberg. Stayed with Olaf Torgerson, my old friend from N.C. State. He rigged up a bed in his father’s old Dentist’s office, which was empty following his father’s recent death. Stayed in Oslo a few weeks. We also went down to Fredrikstad where I was to work part time for “Unger Fabrikker”.  Business was very slow, and I went back to work for Odd Waardal, who had a factory outside Bergen and who was making pigments and dyestuffs. Worked there a short while, and then for my father in his electrical business.

Since Dr. Falkenberg was not able to employ me he released me, and I got a job as Head Dyer at Høie Fabrikker at Mosby near Kristiansand.

In the meantime, Jacquie had come from the States in early December. So we went to Mosby. Got a nice apartment in one of the houses the factory owned. Kitchen, large hallway and three rooms all for $6.00/ month. I did well at work, was able to apply many things I had learned in the States. We made some good friends, but we wanted to get back to the States. 

So I applied for a Visa. Got that in the fall. With all the papers, affidavits, proof of being a good boy during the war (the Big One, Mike), Health certificate, chest X-ray etc.,etc., it took about 6 months to to get all papers together. Went to the embassy in Oslo to give my oath and the Visa came in the mail a few days later. Had a difficult time getting tickets for the passage back to the States, but all went well. We left Krisiansand a few days before Christmas, train to Stavanger and the “night” boat to Bergen. Left Bergen on the “Oslofjord” on January 7th, 1951, my 31st birthday.  

To be continued…

18 comments:

  1. $6/month for an apartment!!!!! I believe the dupont factory is still there in NJ. but no more ferries.

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    1. $6 won't even buy a beer in Norway anymore. I suppose the Delaware Memorial Bridge put an end t the ferry services.

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  2. Autobiographies are ALWAYS on my preferrred reading list. Snapshots of very different perspectives and times.
    And yes, $6 a month for an apartment sounds amazing. I wonder what it would translate to in todays dollars.

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    1. I don't know how much that would be now, but $1000 per month will get a decent apartment these days.

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  3. You're very lucky to have this account of your dad's life. I only know about my dad and his family from my childhood onwards, nothing about his life as a young man.
    When you dad wrote this, how long had he been speaking English?

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    1. He wasn't that comfortable with English when he arrived for graduate school in 1947, but he was a quick learner. He wrote these accounts off and on for about 15 years at least. I think he started in the 1980s.

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  4. What a wonderful post . You are very lucky to have this. Make a copy, what little family history I had was destroyed in a California wildfire.

    cheers, parsnip and badger

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    1. I am truly sorry for your loss. My brother has one and my cousins in Norway have one. Since their fathers lived a lot of the same years until after WW2 they have heard some of the same stories of the early years.

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  5. So much in our lives was determined by those who came before us. Imagine if your father hadn't come to the States? Or if, having left, he didn't return? So much of your life would have been different. So much hinged on single decisions, and on the accumulation of them.

    Wonderful to have your father's own words to read. I wish someone in either of my parents' families had had the urge to write!

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    1. I often wondered these things and was able to get satisfactory answers out of him for most of them. The one that took longest for me to understand was why he didin't go back to Norway after Jacquie died in 1954. Eventually I understood.

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  6. Six bucks a month for an apartment!!!!

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    1. It is all relative isn't it? Our nice 3 bedroom, 2-1/2 bath suburban home was $18,500 in 1956. It was at least 12 or 15 times that when I last looked.

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  7. I enjoy your father's writings - talk about being a master of understatement. There's so much to read between the lines...

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    1. He had that typical Scandinavian stoicism . Sort of a "suck it up and carry on" kind of attitude, but his kindness and generosity would also strike without warning.

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  8. On my bucket list: take a trip across the Atlantic by sea, just to get a taste of what it was like for our forebears.

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    1. I think you can do it on something more realistic than a Princess Line party boat. I have never done it myself other than an overnight ferry in Europe. A week at sea would be quite interesting!

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  9. Late to the party, but I am happy you continued to tell us your father’s story. Emigration and trying to get a job in a new country is never easy, and your father is quite resilient in his story that does contain a lot of untold burdens. Keep it coming!

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    1. His younger brothers both got much of their education here, but went back as their career choices could be pursued at or from home. Andy (Audun) worked for UNESCO, later the World Bank, and Kaare was involved in nuclear energy research near Oslo. He also responded to the Chernobyl disaster.

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