Saturday, March 14, 2015

Summertime in Norway

    From the time we were born, mother took us to the country, Lonevaag on Osterøy (an island), where we spent the summers. First we stayed at Magne Grønaas, he was a butcher and also had a small farm. His wife Brita was mother's aunt. When I was about five, we stayed with the Natlands at Ramburgstølen. The place, Lonevaag, was where my grandfather Mons Andersen grew up. Apparently, he was born at Mele, a little further to the south also on the island. His fatherbought a small farm in Lonevaag on a place called Fossen, and he was called Anders paa (on) Fossen. At Rambergstølen, there was a farmer Mr. Natland, his wife Emte and their three children: Asbjørn, Karl and Alma. We had a small room on the second floor, one bed for mother and tante Ovidia who would come every weekend and for her vacation. Audun and I would sleep on a straw mattress on the floor. They were good summers. After we got a little older we would go with Asbjørn to feed the pigs and Alma who made a corn meal for the chickens.

                                 Otto and Audun on the boar with Alma standing by, circa 1926.

   Most of the cows were in the pasture and Emte would go to milk them every morning and evening. One or two would be up in the mountains. Audun and I would go with Asbjørn to pick them up. Asbjørn had to talk to everybody on the way, and we didn't think we would ever get there. One time we had to go to find a cow who had just calved. Beautiful weather in the morning when we left. Found the cow, but no calf which she had hidden. It started to rain and we took shelter in the cellar of one of the saeter (chalet) huts and had our lunch. When we came back out, there was the cow feeding her newborn. Then back to the farm. The "baby" only a few days old did fine, Asbjørn carried her down some of the rough paths. We were soaked to the bone, but mother dried us up, put us in bed and treated us to fish balls and boiled potatoes with white gravy. That is one of the meals I'll always remember.

    As little kids, we had several chores. One was going with the "hesjestreng". We had to carry the wire to make his "hesje", that is long rows where you hang the hay so it would dry.

One other job was to pack down the dry hay on the wagon. Old "Lydia" (the fjord horse)then carried it up to the barn where we also had to distribute it and pack it down.
Another job was to turn the "slipestein" (the grinding stone) every evening for the boys to sharpen their scythes.

    Dinner time, called "nons" was the main meal of the day, 12 o'clock noon. The main dish would be stew or fish with potatoes, and almost always rhubarb soup for dessert. On Sunday it was usually beef with gravy.  In the late afternoon we had coffee and bread with syrup often eaten out in the field.

    Both of our grandfathers were dead. Our father's father Anders Olsen Algerøy was shipwrecked with his crew off the coast of north Iceland in 1898. Mons Andersen, mother's father  died from TB about 1915. So we had no grandfather, except Audun. He adopted Mr. Natlund, and went to see him on the farm the winter before he started school, all by himself.

    Around 7 o'clock in the evening the steamer would come from town. My mother's uncle Johan was the one who took care of the goods. "No kjeme dampen" (steam monster) he would say walking down to the pier. He was quite a guy having been on the big sailships when he was young. Would tell us stories: "then we sailed from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil". Somebody would get ice from the ice house. The ice had been cut off the lake in the winter and covered with dirt in the ice house where it lasted all summer. It was taken to the dairy to keep the milk cold till the morning when it went back to town on the steamer. One fascinating item was the milk coming from the valley west of us. They had rigged up a cable lift from the top of their mountain down to Lonevaag. It was fascinating for us to watch the milk containers moving down the cable.


    In the afternoon we would go swimming with the other kids, Audun and I were the only city boys. We learned to swim here. We would also go fishing when we got older, either from a row boat or fishing off the rocks using a long bamboo pole. For bait we used worms or mussels. We would also fish with my mother's cousin Bjarne Kalleklev. He fished with lines or nets in the fjord. He would catch some nice fish. As of this writing there are no fish left, except for perhaps some trout and salmon. The Lone was in those days a fine river for the sportsfishers, and it was rented to the sportsfishers from Bergen. Bjarne, he was at least a little crooked. When I was about 13 we would set the nets in the fjord, never caught much. But late in summer when it was dark for 4-5 hourshe would take nets up the river. We would climb up the hill above the fishermen and set nets across the river where it was calm. An accomplice would be on the other side and Bjarne would throw him a line and he would pull the net across. Then we would set a few more.In a few hours we would have about 20 fine salmon about 8-12 pounds each. We carried our loot back, making sure nobody saw us. Then a few hours sleep and out  in the fjord to fish the nets. He gave me a few and we would have a delicious Sunday dinner. He would put the salmon on ice and send it to town to be sold there. I think that he finally got caught.  (NOTE: setting nets in the river was illegal, but in the fjord was okay.)

    When we got back from the country at the end of summer the circus was in town.The kids who had spent the summer in town were bringing us up on all that had transpired during the summer. We went back of the circus and there was a little shack with the letters "PISSOIR". We called it "pissaren".  One year the Hagen-beck circus came from Germany. That was a great circus, brought a whole zoo with them. Remember going to see the animals with our class at school.

    The circus was only two blocks from our home and the people at the circus all lived in our neighborhood. Two of the girls lived in our apartment house and I remember waking up early Sunday morning to beautiful music. The whole orchestra was there serenading them.

    In 1928 we had the big country fair in Bergen. That was a great place to visit. We just walked around, having no money to spend on rides, etc., but we picked up a lot of circulars. Our father was home this summer, must have been home in the spring as well, since Kaare was born the next winter. He had a job there and was able to get me in for free. Uncle Johan came to visit from Lonevaag. He was on the roller coaster when he lost his cap. "Det bar saa snøgt ut føre" (It went so fast downhill). Cost him one krone to get his cap back. You can read more about the fair in the Bergen book: "Bergen i Mellomkrigstiden". 

-From Otto's autobiography.



  1. As a newcomer to your blog, I don't know who Otto is. Your father, I'm guessing?

  2. Debra She Who Seeks, Yes, he was my father. 1-5-20 to 7-30-06. He wrote an autobiography for my brother and me that he finished in 1992. This was just a short excerpt.

  3. How fascinating. Thank you (and your father) so much for a glimpse into a world I will never see.

  4. my jaw is interesting..thanks so much for this..

  5. Wow - that was some story! Some of the things I've never heard of, much less a photo to look at! Thank you for sharing this. (smile)

  6. Great story and very cool pictures! Hagenbeck is still a famous zoo in Hamburg today.

    Fish balls...that must be the Norwegian equivalent to the Swedish lutefisk. :-)

  7. What amazing memories from your father! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Oops, looks like Google ate my comment - it vanished without a trace so I'll try again. Sorry if this is a duplicate.

    You're so lucky your dad took the time to do that for you both! It makes fascinating reading for me, too, spotting the similarities and differences between your dad's account and the autobiographical audiotapes my dad made for me. I'd never heard of hanging hay - I guess maybe the summer climate was dryer on the prairies where my dad grew up.

  9. Fascinating look at a different time and place, and so much detail crammed in. You're lucky to have this. Thanks for letting us in, too.

  10. Wonderful post. Such memories. Love the pictures. I am sharing this on FB as I have many Norwegian friends. Maybe I can get you some new followers

  11. I loved reading that.....and the first photo is priceless

  12. Jono, this is fascinating. Your dad's stories are wonderful. He must have had a great memory. They have such fun details. Did he tell these stories to you as you were growing up, or were these new to you in his autobiography? My dad wrote of some of his childhood as well. He was just writing it as it came to him, and planned to edit it later. Unfortunately, he didn't have a chance before he died. It is one of my long-term projects to try to put it together in a readable form. I wish I had photos to go along with it. Yours are great!

  13. Elephant's Child,Thanks, it's not a world any of us will ever see again. I also thank you for "embiggen."

    JACKIESUE,it was only a generation before us.

    Dixie@dcrelief, it was probably a fairly average life in a different place at a different time. I am always grateful that Otto wrote it down for my brother and me.

    PP, I am glad some things like Hagenbeck survive for so long. Unfortunately Lutefisk tastes the same in Norway as Sweden.

    Ol'Buzzard, Thanks, you Ol'Buzzard!

    Donna, Thanks, I will probably share some more in the future.

    Diane,Google does that. They were part of the "greatest generation" so they had some commonality. I have put up hay like that a couple of times. It is extremely labor intensive.

    jenny_o,I do feel lucky about it, indeed.

    Blog Fodder, I thought a country boy like you might enjoy it.

    John Gray, Thanks, it its one of my very favorites. I keep a copy on my dresser.

    aitbr Carol, Some of the stories he had told me and others were new. When I was little he used to tell me bedtime stories about two young lads, Per and Odd. I think he mostly improvised. Photos of the early years are rare. Most were destroyed along with the house during an allied bombing in WW2.

  14. I had no idea that they hung hay out to dry. What a rich and fascinating history! And what a priceless gift from your father!

    On a side note, I have a few Anders in my ancestry, but they were from Sweden.

  15. Agi T, It is a moist climate and it works better than leaving it on the ground and hoping it doesn't rain. Anders is my middle name and I forgive your ancestors for being Swedish. :)

  16. Wow, what a cool look into the past. Like Debra, I didn't quite know who you were referring to, so I had to read it again after you clarified this being from your dad. Man, times were hard then, weren't they? I mean... soup for dessert? I would have never survived.

    Kidding aside, this is a great excerpt, and I hope we see more.

  17. ABFTS, Yeah, the old man had quite a life, but they thought they had it pretty good at the time. The War years were seriously tough. Soup?, Yeah, but it was rhubarb! Usually we have it in pie now!

  18. I'm touched by the fact that your father wrote an autobio for you and your brother. That's a priceless gift, and the photos make me smile. I love the first one of the boys on a pig. Keep sharing these snippets, Jono.

  19. Fascinating, Jono. Thanks for sharing this personal history. An excellent life, it sounds like.

  20. Jono--Your father had a life rich with experiences. Thanks for sharing a part of him.

  21. Fascinating! You had so many neat experiences on the farmstead.

  22. Robyn, He typed (yes, on a typewriter) it off and on over a number of years until about 1992. Not too many fathers do that for their kids. We are very lucky.

    Should Fish More, Like any life, it had its ups and downs, but he carried on.

    Sioux, Thanks and you are welcome, indeed.

    Ahab, I got to visit that farm in the mountains back in 1966. The lady of the farm was 83 years old at the time and still pitching hay to dry. I have never complained about hard work since.

  23. When we hear or read stories our parents and grandparents had to tell we are taken into a long gone world. How different everything is now.

    I wouldn’t consider former times idyllic exactly, but there were good times and bad times in every age.

    I would love to have my grandfathers’ stories still, they never wrote anything down.

  24. A wonderful story and great series of photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

  25. Friko, I was lucky to have a thoughtful father with enough ambition to write so much. So much has changed and so much has not.

    Linda, Thanks for stopping by!

  26. Wonderful story telling. You are fortunate indeed to have these memories from your father's childhood and early years. What a treasure.