Saturday, December 15, 2018

This was the week that was, wasn't it?

It was an interesting week here in the North Country. I got a notion over last weekend to go across the border into Canada to catch HeatherRankin at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium.  She rarely comes this far west, being a Cape Breton girl, but doing a holiday themed show is an old family tradition.

I left work at a little after 1pm on Monday, washed the car for the first time in a while as it was just above freezing, and headed home to pack for the overnight stay in a foreign country. Don’t worry, I speak the language. I left about 2:30 and headed toward the border. The weather was nice, the trip was uneventful, the border patrol didn’t question my motives, and I arrived at my hotel about two hours later. The auditorium was about four blocks from my hotel and it was a nice night to walk. It was about 15F (-9C) with a slight breeze, so it was a brisk walk. My seat was about 8 rows back from the stage so I had a good view of the performers. 

When Heather and the band came out on stage the first thing she did was to take off these shoes

 and do the first set barefoot. Just that little thing made it all seem homier. She did songs that she had done with her family years ago as well as some of her solo tunes and a mix of holiday songs. It was a nice blend to lift everyone’s spirits! When she came out for the second set she was wearing fuzzy white slippers! She was very engaging as the well seasoned performer she is and came out into the lobby afterward to sign autographs, CDs and talk to her fans. Of course I had to get an autographed CD and a chance to talk to her for a few moments. After being a fan for thirty years I figured it was about time. One of the things I love about Canada is that people are so accessible and friendly. I had a nice visit with the guy sitting next to me during intermission which added to the whole experience. 

I left before dawn because I had a three hour drive to the dentist before coming back up the shore. I punched in to work at noon. I felt like I packed a lot into 23 hours.

In other news there is a comet in the sky. I went out to look for it last night before bed as it was clear and relatively warm, just a little below freezing, which is unusual for this time of year. I didn’t see the comet, but as it is the Geminid Meteor Shower I saw about 4 meteors in just a few minutes! When I got up this morning at about 5 am, I went out again and there it was! In the southeast sky just below Pleiades was a bright blue green glow that was the brightest thing in the sky! I couldn’t make out a tail, but was too lazy to get binoculars to try. It was a very interesting thing to see! 
If you have clear dark skies it would be worth going out and looking for.
P.S. Not my pictures this time.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Coming to America, Otto's saga

Mosby and Høie Fabrikker

Started working in the middle of February. It was cold and a lot of snow on the ground. Went skiing a couple of times. We first got a one room apartment with kitchen. I took the bus into Kristiansand to buy some kitchen and cooking utensils. In the basement there was a shower, but you had to heat the water. We used it every Friday night. After a month or so we got a bigger apartment. We made good friends in the neighborhood and Jacquie joined a sewing club. 

Mosby is a little village. Everybody worked at the mill. There was a small grocery store, but you had to go to Kristiansand for greater things such as hardware, restaurants, movies, library, dentist, doctor, barber, hairdresser.

The mill was family owned. The old man, Oscar Jebsen, was a fine old gentleman. My father knew him from the old neighborhood in Bergen. Two sons at the mill, one in the office, the other, technical, had spent some time in the U.S.A> He was a first class SOB, and was a significant factor for me wanting to go back to the States. He wanted me t stay longer. “You know we can’t get another man like you”. Although I only worked there for a little more than 10 months, they gave me a month’s salary (bonus) when I left.

There was nothing to do in Mosby. The only social affair was the “badehus” (prayer house). We, the engineers and upper office workers, belonged t a group that was called “the upper fifth”. Everybody knew your business, even my salary which was 25% more than Norman Anderson got. He was the head dyer before me. He was 58 and had worked in the dye house since he was 13.
Our best friends were the Hvattums, Ole Jakob and Ellen. Mike’s [my brother] middle name is after their oldest son Ivar.

Jon was conceived here on October 26, 1950 on Ellingson’s sofa. One of the pieces of furniture we had given to us.  [Note: this is the beginning of the legend that is me! ]

All in all it was not a bad time, thanks to the many friends we made there.

Bergen to New York, January 1951
It was an unimaginable feeling going on board the Oslofjord. All Norwegian was behind me: taxes, military service (I was in the Guard). My cousin Henry, who was in the police department, was a tremendous help getting through all the red tape.

When leaving port we play the Norwegian and American National Anthems. Edith Hausvik and friends were at the dock. Her brother in law was in charge of the linen department on the ship.

It was a rough passage. Smooth the first day as we passed the Faroes, but then storm and bad weather hit us. That was probably more the Shetlands or the Orkneys. The bad weather continued almost until we hit New York. I was the only one at our table for about 5-6 days. We docked in the harbor Monday morning and cleared customs, no problems. Nana and Grandpa John [Jacquie’s mother and step father] were there to meet us. We checked the old steamer trunk to Baltimore, but all of the rest of the stuff, including our skis, we loaded on to Grandpa John’s old Pontiac convertible. Stopped on the way to eat and it was great to be back in the good old USA. Remember crossing the Delaware at Chester, and in the evening we were in Baltimore.  

To be continued again…

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.


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…

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Rachels and Bhangra dancing!

What to do with all that leftover turkey. I didn’t want to be more stuffed than the bird itself, so I quit eating before I needed to be transported by truck. That meant that there would be leftovers from our traditional Thanksgiving meal. I have cooked for a living on occasion and haven’t totally forgotten everything I ever knew, not like with some things. I was mostly just a grille cook, so nothing fancy, but often tasty.
A Rachel sandwich is just a Reuben sandwich with turkey substituted for corned beef. Nothing to it.  A hot grille, a little marble rye bread, mayo, sauerkraut, turkey, Swiss cheese, and a little thousand Island dressing for tanginess and there you have it. Or as they say up north (and throughout the commonwealth), “Bob’s your uncle!” The big benefit is that I’ve used up some of the turkey, not that it would last very long, anyway.

Bahngra dancing! What the hell is that, you may ask. Well, I know little of it, but found it when I was checking out our northern neighbors, the Maritime Provinces in particular, a couple of years ago. It is a folk dance of India, specifically the Punjab region and is quite lively and celebratory. I hadn’t needed to watch it for a while, but I went to look it up again, what with the short days and gloomy weather. It is the kind of thing that makes it difficult to not smile and feel better about just about everything. It is athletic, colorful, and it seems to be spreading. It may be compared to Zumba or some of that, but its origins are hundreds of years old and it was designed for celebration, not just exercise. That said, I don’t think I could do it. It’s just too athletic for an old geezer like me! Not that I might not try it when no one is looking, though! Here is the first one I ever saw:
I only found a few out there at the time with this sort of thing, but there are a lot more now. There are even Bhangra flash mobs! 
Her is one from a halftime show at an NBA game. I suspect the audience is on life support, but the dancers are amazing!


The energy and smiles say it all. It makes Western pop videos look pretty lame to me. They have a group in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and in one of my excursions down there I would like to see it in person. Just do an internet search if you want more. Apparently it has a growing interest and deservedly so!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Early winter update

Winter is setting in now and the temperatures are staying below freezing most of the time. There is a rumor that El Nino will be contributing to a warmer winter for us which is a mixed blessing. The brutal cold tends to be less often, but it sometimes warms up enough to rain which is awful. The ground is frozen and so are the roads and when you put water on them you get a lovely sheet of ice that tends to stay until spring. No one is making a long term prediction for snow.

 The alpine ski hills in Minnesota are open as it has been cold enough to make snow so they are already up and running or will be for Thanksgiving in a few days. We do have a flat trail or two for Nordic skiing up here that are open. Those have to wait for natural snow as they are more about distance than elevation. I hope to get out soon if we get a little more snow without extreme cold. I have turned into a fair weather skier in my later years and don’t like going out when the temperatures are much colder than about 15F, or about -10C for you all in the rest of the entire planet. Since I usually go alone I need to be a little more careful.

Here are a few pics of life. A ship on the lake. Click to embiggen.

Here are some deer at midday on the second Saturday of deer season. Some people say there aren’t enough deer because the wolves ate them all. I beg to differ.

A little more snow as of today.

Those of you wanting to know about Vinny the cat will be pleased to see that he has adapted well to domestic life.

Here is one from a few days ago while he was on my lap. He is sleeping next to me as I write this and keeping one part of my leg warm.  It  shows better why I named him after Mr. Van Gogh.