Halloween – When it Began and Today -October 31, 2017

Ever wonder how Halloween got started…Ghost, Goblins, Devils, Witches, Spirits…Me too so I googled it and the History Channel came back with a pretty interesting article on it.

Halloween is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic (pagan) festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to disguise themselves and ward off spirits of the dead or ghosts. In Celtic tradition, this day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter.  Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. It was on the night that they celebrated Samhain, that the Celts believed that ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory.  In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

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ALL SAINTS DAY

On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1 around 1000 AD.  It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related church-sanctioned holiday, All Saints Day.  In England, All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, the last day of October, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.

The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion and All Souls Day in England, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

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HALLOWEEN COMES TO AMERICA

Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies.

As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.

Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country. In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.

TRICK-OR-TREAT

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The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.

The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry.

On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. In an effort to keep ghosts away from their houses, the English people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Borrowing from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes.

Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

HALLOWEEN PARTIES

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Halloween Party – 1920

By the 1920’s and 1930’s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism once again began to plague some celebrations in many communities during this time.

By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young children. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated.

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Halloween – 1948

And in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

BLACK CATS

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Shadow and Midnight – 2008

Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats.

We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred (it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe). And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

Modern Day Halloween

Fifteen years ago, Greg and I began taking our popup camper to Door County, Wisconsin for Columbus Holiday Weekend (first Weekend in October) to go camping for our final trip of the season. We went there annually for about ten years, Egg Harbor had a large pumpkin festival and the local campground took advantage of the weekend by having it’s own Halloween festival. They had hayrides, pumpkin carving events, campsite decorating contests and Trick or Treating! We would haul our Halloween decorations and fix the campsite into a Haunted cemetery. It was so fun. We looked forward to our last camping event. It was often really cold and sometimes we even had flurries! It was probably the only time we ever used the heater in the camper.

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Door County, Wisconsin – 2004

We did not camp for a few years in the fall until we moved to Harbor Beach and decided to camp at our local campground and invite the Grandsons to come join in on the fun. We start our Halloween season this year the last weekend of September. Christa and the boys came up to camp with us. It is fun to build special memories with the boys that revolve around Halloween and camping!

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North Park, Harbor Beach – 2017

My husband goes to great lengths to decorate for Halloween at our home too. Most of his decorations are of the blow up balloon variety…with the exception of a few other props that we have collected through the years. My brother-in-law is very creative and he makes very real looking witches and scary figure. He made one for me and she sits proudly on my porch guarding the house.

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My husband found the witch from the Wizard of Oz or Wicked online so he added her to our collection….so she stands guard too.

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It is fun to see the reaction of all the kids as they come up on the porch in search of a treat. We are lucky to be living in a small town where kids can still safely go from house to house. We added black cat eyes to honor our black cats, “Midnight and Shadow” who used to love their own special holiday!

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I hope that you have enjoyed this blog about Halloween. I learned quite a lot about the holiday and since we have Irish roots, I think it is appropriate that we are carrying on old traditions!

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Halloween – 2014

Happy Halloween!

Jan

 

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Sad Story of the Dr John Mason Carpenter Family.

Recently while writing a blog for Tombstone Tuesday, I stumbled unto a family story that I thought I just had to investigate further…It is the tragic story of a doctor in Kansas who committed suicide. His name was Dr. John Mason Carpenter. I had to ask myself “WHY”? Of all people, a doctor, a person who preserves life, not takes it. This is the obituary on Findagrave.com.

“Death of Dr. John M. Carpenter – The entire county was pained at the startling intelligence Wednesday morning of the death of Dr. J. M. Carpenter. The Doctor had been in ill health for some time, brought on by over-work in attempting to attend to the duties devolving upon him from his immense practice, and had sought rest and recreation by travel and sojourn in the East, North and Northwest. He returned about six weeks ago from a long stay in Minnesota and Dakota, where he had been seeking to recuperate his worn and overstrained physique. He appeared much better than when he went away, and his friends and family fondly hoped he would soon be as stout and hearty as ever, but in a week or two he seemed to relapse into his condition before going away, and became sad and melancholy. The day before his death he was missed about the home some time, and the family, becoming uneasy, instituted a search and found him lying in the barn apparently helpless. They had him taken to the house and sent for Drs. Haldeman and Hoover, who found him melancholy and unwilling to talk, but beyond this could find nothing unusual about him. Dr. Haldeman thought he had rather a strange expression about his eyes, but beyond this noted nothing unusual except melancholy and sadness. About 11 o’clock Tuesday night Dr. Carpenter raised up in bed and started to get out. His wife caught hold of him and he turned and slapped her, from which she fainted. He then ran out of the house. Mrs. Carpenter called for help as soon as she became conscious, and friends and neighbors came in. They immediately searched for the Doctor, and after some time found him lying in a field adjacent to the house with his throat cut from ear to ear, and grasping in his hand a razor. The Doctor’s brother-in-law wrenched the razor from his hand, where the grasp was so strong that it was necessary to break the handle off the razor in order to extricate it. He could not speak, and by the time they conveyed him to the house he was dead. Thus died one of the ablest, best and most influential citizens of Miami-co., and of him it may be said: “A truer, trustier, nobler heart – more loving or more loyal, never beat within a human breast.” “

John Mason took his own life on August 8, 1882. One of the first things that I found was that in June of 1879, he was the attending physician to his father-in-law when he died of chronic nephritis. His father-in-law was Sardis M. Lewis.  After reading through his probate papers and his will, I discovered that his wife Mary Adeline Lewis Carpenter died in October of 1882. Before her husband’s estate was settled. I have not been able to find a cause of death or an obituary for Mary A. Carpenter. Five children have become orphaned in the space of a few months.

John’s father was Joseph Carpenter and his mother was Cynthia Rogers. They came from Lancaster, Erie County, New York through Michigan and on to Kansas sometime between the 1850 and 1860 Federal Census according to the 1865 Kansas State Census. John’s parents were married on July 4, 1837 in New York.

John’s wife, Mary Adeline Lewis and her family came to Kansas in the same time period. Mary’s Grandmother Mary is found living with the Carpenters at the age of eighty Nine years in the 1875 Kansas Census. Information in the Kansas Census states that the Lewis family came to Kansas from Ohio.

Reading thru the will and probate papers for Dr. John Carpenter reveals that he was a very successful physician and farmer. Ten thousand dollars was given to Mary Adeline soon after her husband’s death. Ten Thousand dollars in 1882 is the equivalent to Two Hundred Twenty thousand dollars today.  The inventory of goods sold by the estate of Mary after her death was several thousand dollars also.

Guardians were appointed for each underage child by 1883. George Lewis was appointed as the guardian for Cynthia Belle Carpenter.  D. B. (could not determine the given name) and Harriet (Lewis) Cooper were appointed guardian of Frank C. Carpenter. Columbus C. Proctor was the guardian for Albert.   S. R. Smith was the guardian for Carrie Carpenter. Geo B. Hanna was appointed guardian for John B Carpenter.

Arthur C. Carpenter was of age when his parents died. He is living with James Requa for a time after his parents died . The James Requa family lived close to and seemed to know the Lewis family and most likely the Carpenters. James Requa was referred to in the probate and guardian papers. In 1888, Arthur married Lucy Nunnlly in Fontana, Miami County, Kansas. In 1891, Arthur marries a second time, this time to Ettie F. Tracy. I find Arthur and his wife Ettie in Federal Census records in later years

In the 1885 Kansas State Census, John and Mary’s fifteen year old daughter Belle, is living with her Uncle and Aunt, George Lewis and his wife, Mary. Belle marries Thomas Crites in 1891.

Frank C Carpenter is seventeen in the 1885 Kansas State Census and he is found with the D. B. Cooper family in Osage, Kansas. Harriet Lewis Cooper is a half sister to Mary and Aunt to Frank C. Frank C Carpenter died in 1888 at the age of 20 years old. His occupation was listed as Farmer. I can not determine the cause of death at this time. He is buried with his parents and his estate papers helped me to verify who the guardians of each of the Carpenter children were since the court was distributing his share of his inheritance from his parents.

Carrie Carpenter’s guardian was S.R. Smith. On November 17. 1896, Carrie Carpenter married Charles T. Wheeler on May 31, 1894 in Miami Kansas. They lived in Pueblo, Colorado at the time of the 1900 Federal Census but returned to Paola, Kansas to raise their family by the 1905 Kansas State Census.

John B. Carpenter’s guardian was Geo B. Hanna. In 1901, John enlisted into the Army where he served for two years. He was discharged on March 3, 1903 at Fort Logan, Colorado. In the 1915 Kansas Census, I am able to find John B Carpenter with his wife Clara and a daughter Ruth.

Albert C Carpenter lived with the Columbus C. Proctor family. Columbus Proctor became his guardian in February, 1883. Columbus Proctor died on February 20, 1894 and his wife Nancy was appointed guardian Albert in April of 1894.

I did discover that all of the guardian of the Carpenter Children who were not family members were veteran of the Civil War. I can not help but wonder if they served with John Mason Carpenter or Sardis Lewis.

I wish I knew how Mary died such a short time after her husband. And I also wish I could find out about Frank. It is a sad story about a family which was torn apart over the course of a few months.

Happy Hunting,

Jan

Norway Bucket List – Part Four

After leaving the Tjome Church, Inger took us to the Historical Society which was just a few minutes away. In 2011, I wrote a chapter for their bi-annual book on Tjome. They were looking for a story about someone from Tjome who immigrated, and when Inger and I connected, they found their story. This red cottage was relocated to this land which is owned by the historical society.

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This building is full of historical information about sailing, fishing and how the people of Tjome made a living on the Oslo Fjord. It was very interesting and a huge part of our family story.  For as far back as I can track the records of our family on Tjome, they all worked at something which involved the sea.  They were fisherman, they were deck hands, seaman or captains.  They took people from one place to another or moved goods from one place or another.  They all sailed.  Hans was a sailor and so too were his sons, our Grandfather, Andres and his brother, Hagbart.  Hagbart died at sea near the Cape Horn when he was twenty on a sailing ship bound for Australia in March of 1909. This building with it’s special displays dedicated to the sailors of Tjome, was a special treat.

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They have several houses and a barn on the property. This is a typical Norwegain home at the turn of the century on Tjome.

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As we entered the front door, we could not miss the tapestry hanging on the wall.  A beautiful family crest of a proud Norwegian family above a large sailors trunk.  Notice the musical instrument hanging on the wall and the large farm bell! It was all a warm welcome to this wonderful home.

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The home had a small sitting room, the green sofa is a piece that has been handed down through Inger’s Family which she donated to the Historical Society.

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Typical Norwegian dining room. Today, families throughout the Scandinavian countries, still all sit at the table for dinner every night.  Most families have candles on the dinner table which are lite for every meal. It is a wonderful tradition which has been lost in America with the rushed life that we live. We have a hard time finding all of our children much less time to all sit at a table for a meal…and set the table with real dishes, silverware and napkins. We need to bring our families back to the dinner table.

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A beautiful old sideboard used to store dishes, silver and linen for the dining room.

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And a sunny Kitchen with a small table which was probably used to have tea or coffee, a snacks for the children after school and to prepare meals on. You could just imagine the children sitting at the table telling Mom how their day went at school.

It is a great compact home full of warmth left behind by the family who lived within the walls….

From the Historical Society, we returned to Inger and Eva home for lunch. …well, it was really more like an early dinner by then but we enjoyed a traditional Norwegian meal made for us by Eva, bless her heart while we trouped around Tjome with Inger.

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Inger called it “Storm Soup”. It was wonderful and warmed us up nicely inside.  As I savored those first few bites of soup, I thought this would be a great recipe to get so that once we arrived home I could make it.  It would help use to remember this wonderful day!  So I asked for the recipe and she smiled. Inger knew I would ask for it. I do it all the time through email when we talk about our gardens and what we are growing and eating! She smiled…and replied “ Sailors would make this soup on board a ship when a storm was coming” They would throw everything that had in a big pot and put it over the fire or stove to simmer. “It was always a BIG pot because they never knew how long the storm would last or when they would get to cook again.” She told us. “If the storm was short, they would eat it until they were sick of it but if the sea raged and the storm kept up, the sailors were thankful for a hardy soup which warmed them from the inside out and gave them strength to keep manning the ship.” “Sailors would often use fish or beans and all the vegetables they had on hand. Today we have beef, tomorrow it could be pork or chicken!” , she laughed as she told us the story about the soup.

So the recipe is just like what we would make when a winter storm hits. At a time when you can not go to the store to buy specific ingredients so you search through your cupboards and make soup with what ever you have! I will think of Storm Soup every time I make it!  It was the end of a wonderful day on Tjome and time for us to say our …. “till next time!” to Eva and Inger, knowing that we will return again.

Next time we want it to be summer.  Next time …we want our stay to be for several days or a week so we can really explore this island that our family called home for many generations. Next time, I want to sail in the Fjord like my ancestors did!

Till next time…Happy Hunting,

Jan

Norway Bucket List – Part 3

It’s a cool, gray day in Michigan today. One of those days where you think it’s gonna rain anytime so you don’t water the garden….and then it doesn’t so maybe you should have. Even though the calendar says June 6, 2017, it feels more like April. The gardening can wait for a warmer day later in the week.

I really need to get my Norway Bucket List – Part 3 post written and published. I had planned to have it done long before now but life has gotten in the way. In the last few weeks, the sun has risen on the horizon and the days are longer. The ground is warming and the weeds in the garden and the flower beds have woke up. The yard has come alive with activity and that means work for me. I’ll take this opportunity today try to get this done…

So let’s go back to where we left off in late February, with our visit to Tjome. After leaving the house of our Great-Grandfather, Hans Andersen, Inger’s plan was to escorted us to the Tjome Kirke (Church) where all of our ancestors were baptized and buried. On our way to the church, she decided to take a brief stop at a small house. This house was of special interest to our cousin Rita because it was the house her Grandmother was born in and spent her childhood in. Rita’s Grandmother was Anna Charlotte Skafjeld Andersen.  This was the Skafjeld home.

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As we exited our car, there it is… the front door of the house. There was not enough room to park the car safely on the side of the road so Zach pulled up a little ways until he could get the rental car off the road.

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Anna’s childhood home

It was a cute house but today it sits right on a two lane highway. As you can see from the picture there is no more than a few feet between the front door and the two lane street. “It is for sale”, Inger tells Rita. Rita laughs and says she doesn’t want to live in the road. Times have changed, I am quite sure that in Anna’s time it was a quiet little lane and a wonderful place to grow up.

When my parents visited Norway in 1973, Anna brought them to Tjome and gave them a tour of the island. Anna was the last living relative from my Grandfather’s generation when Mom and Dad visited. It has been fun to look at Mom and Dad’s photos of Tjome and compare them to our photos.

Anna’s son Bjarne, Rita’s father is the last living relative from my Mother’s generation which was what made this trip so important. Important to see him, important to meet our cousins from our generation while he is still with us and important to introduce the next generation of our family in America to our Norwegian family in Norway. All of these things we did that day!

From there we went to the Church and the cemetery.

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Tjome Church

From the early 1600’s through nine generations of our family, the Tjome Church has been apart of our family. In the record books kept by the clergy of this church, you see the family as it has grown through the births, baptisms, weddings, and eventually through the deaths and burials. Most all of these family members are buried in this cemetery. Many of the men were sailors. Some were lost at sea or were buried at sea but the event was recorded here. It is an amazing building. Our families climbed the stairs and opened the doors and worshiped within the walls. I wish we could have gone inside. Next time we will be there on Sunday, so we can. As we walked the grounds, we could feel the presence of all the people who were there before us.

When Mom and Dad were here in 1973. The church looked much the same but the cemetery looked different. It was, of course, a different season, summer rather than winter. They were able to enter the church. Their visit was at a time when you could leave a church unlocked and people could enter the house of God when they wanted or needed.  Today it is locked unless it is in use just as the churches in America are.

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Cemetery in 1973 with Mom, Anna, Tormod and Auslag searching for Han’s grave.

I wish I knew if they were standing in front of Han’s grave. I did not have this photo with me when we were there. Not that it matters because we still would not know for sure if this was the exact site of his grave. Luckily, they did take a photo of his tombstone when they found it.

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The Tjome Church from the back of the cemetery in February 2017

We searched for tombstones just as they did. We searched and searched for it, but it is gone. It is the custom in Norway that family graves are only persevered if there is money to maintain them. If the family stops paying to maintain them then the stones are removed and the grave site recycled…(that is so hard to say) We, American found this to be a very difficult reality.  In this space, in this ground, we have nine generations of family member’s remains, the cemetery is not that large so what else could they have done. It is a small island of rock and with a little dirt and sand. Here in this place, it is literally ashes to ashes…

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Zach searching for Hans tombstone

In the back of the cemetery there is a row of stones which have been removed from graves and we searched through those too, in hopes of finding Hans’s tombstone. The physical evidence that he was here. We did not find it.

It was a peaceful place where we all felt that we belonged. We lingered as long as we could. The sun sank in the western afternoon sky and the cold air began to creep into our bones. Eventually, we knew it was time to leave. We will come again in the summer, when its warmer and next time I’ll bring the 1973 picture. Not that it will matter because as you stand there you feel them all around you. You know they are there and they know that you are too!

Part 4 coming soon…they day is not yet over.

Love,  Jan

 

 

Norway Bucket List – Part 2

Bucket List Item # 6 – Find Great Grandpa Hans house

Our next stop was just up the road, it was the house that our Grandfather lived in. It has changed thru the years. Here it is in an old post card sent to my Grandfather from his Grandmother for his birthday in 1908. His house was the two story house directly behind the first white house on the left side of the photo.

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This photo is taken from about the same spot in 2010 by Inger for me. What a difference 112 years makes! The yellow house with the orange tile roof just before the tree line is the same house shown in the 1908 photo.

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Inger share another photo of Great Grandpa Han’s house taken from a different spot looking west. It is from 1903 and the arrow is pointing to Hans’s home. If you look real close you will notice a fence line.

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Red arrow is Hans’s house in this 1903 photo. Would have been taken at about the time that Anders left for America.

We have had a photo of Hans, Matilde (on the left)and Haakon (on the right) taken in the lane in front of the house for many years. The picture is not the best but we always thought that it was probably the home. The photo from Inger helped us confirmed it.

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The lane in front of Hans’s house

This is another of Grandpa Andrew’s photos of his father, our Great Grandfather, Hans Henrik, and his second wife, Matilde sitting outside of the home on a summer evening.

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Hans and second wife Matilde

I am so grateful that Grandpa Andrew save all these photos and post cards for me to find all these years later. This is the only photo that we have of our Great Grandmother, Ingeborg Helene Jacobsen Lansrudattra, she died on September 18, 1894 when our Grandfather was eleven years old.

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Ingeborg and Hans Andersen Wedding photo in 1882

Hans’s house has changed through the years since he died in June of 1946. It has had some additions and an especially large addition to the north side of the house.  The current owner modernized the inside to make it a comfortable year round home. Many of the home in Grimestad are summer cottage which have been owned by the same families for several generations.

While going through the photos that my Father took while he and Mom visited Norway in the summer of 1973, I found several photos of Hans’s home.

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Bucket List Item # 6 – Seeing the home that Hans and his sons, Anders, Hagbart and Haakon live in.

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Han’s house – 2017

The Great Grandpa Hans might not recognize his house today.

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This part of the home is the addition

We were welcomed inside by the current owner, Kristi Kinsarvik and her husband, Oystein Johnsen. Our excitement was a mixture of many emotions; ecstatic, disbelief, appreciative, endearing, love. The Norwegian people are the most friendly and loving people in the world. We saw it every where we went.  Inger had told Kristi all about our visit and she was so glad to open up her home to us. She wanted to give us time to feel the spirit of the people that we loved who had lived within these walls so many years before. And feel it we did!

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Kristi, Oystein, Inger and I standing in the original part of the house. Kristi is an author and playwright. Oystein is a musician. He excused himself and went up stairs to watch the finals of downhill skiing which is the most important sport to the Norwegians.

As I write this the goosebumps and chills come in waves….the exterior walls are rough hewn oak walls which have been painted green. We all felt the need to touch them knowing that they provided security for several generations of our family.

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Sharon and Rita feeling the energy in the walls.

Our hosts were very gracious and we can not thanks them enough.

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Inger’s friend, Ole, Kristi (the owner of the home) and Inger Zeiner

Inger invited Ole to join us for our visit since he knew Hans when he was a young boy.  We sat around the table and talked about how and why we had come to Tjome that day. With a grin on his face, he shared some of his childhood memories with us.

The German occupation of Norway began on April 9, 1940 after German Forces invaded this neutral country. The resistance held on until June 10, 1940 when it finally succumbed to the German Forces. Matilde, Hans wife, died on June 19, 1940, just nine days later. The Norwegian King and the acting government of Norway had escaped and were in exile in England attempting to govern Norway from there.

Ole was a small boy then but he has vivid memories of Tjome at the time. The German soldiers only visited Tjome occasionally. Unlike cities on the mainland where the occupation caused great fear, anger and the total disruptions of their lives, life was not so different on Tjome. It was just a small island which the Germans thought was of no use to anyone. For the people on Tjome, the German occupation was really just a bit more of an inconvenience. There was rationing and food shortages but Hans could still fish and grow vegetables. Sometimes they went without some of the basics like bread, sugar, flour and even gas.

“Kari Zeiner is with me now” Hans writes to Anders on December 15, 1940 in a Christmas letter. He tells him of the death of his wife, Anders’s stepmom, Matilde. He tell Anders that she had not been well for sometime but was still preparing food for them until the day before she died. The Christmas letter was opened by the Nazis and read before it was allowed to be sent to the United States. He said nothing about the occupation or the war to his son. Hans knew better.

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The envelope from the Christmas Letter Han’s sent to his son stamped by the Germans which indicated that it had been checked for sensitive information.

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The front of the letter.  My mother loved it when her father received a letter from Norway because he would always cut the stamp off for her to have. So every letter/ envelope that we have has the stamp cut or ripped off.  The writing in the lower left corner of the envelope was marking that the Germans added.

Ole told us that Hans had befriended the Germans in an effort to keep his radio. He loved to listen to music and his radio helped to keep him from becoming so lonely. He discover that if the Germans trusted him and liked him, they would let him keep it. So he set out to make friends with them and was allowed to keep his radio. It was the only radio on the whole island.

At first this angered some of the locals. They wondered why on earth would he want to be friends with the Germans. Eventually the locals found out that his radio had not been confiscated. SO in the evening the men would go to Hans house and listen to the BBC to see what was happening in the War efforts. Ole remembered being in Hans’s house as a child with his father. He said that sometimes Hans was coaxed with liquor in order to let the locals hear the latest news. Eventually word got out that the men of the Grimestad were using the radio to listen to the BBC and it was confiscated. By that time though Hans had become quite the local hero!

As we sat around the table listen to the stories, Hans took on the role of hero for us too. It took a lot of courage to do the things that he did. He sailed his whole life in the Atlantic and the North Sea in wooden sailing ships.  Then after retiring he settled back in his hometown of Grimestad and the country get taken over by the Germans. We, the Great Grandchildren of Hans, are not surprised one bit. He passed that courage down to his sons. It took a lot of courage for Anders to get on a ship and sail to America at the age of 21. It took a lot of courage for Hagbart to sail to Australia at the age of 20. He unfortunately died aboard the ship when he became ill near the Cape of Horn. It took a lot of courage for Haakon to become a Christian missionary and work in China ( a non-christian country) only to have the Red Army take over the country and have to be smuggled out to Japan (another non- christian country). Haakon could not get back to his family thru all of WWII because of the Nazi Occupation. All of Hans’s sons were gone, when he had the courage to befriend the Germans. So as you can see we are not surprised, after all what did he have to lose accept his radio?

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Rita, Zach, Ole, Jan, Sharon, Inger at the table in Hans’ house enjoying coffee, tea and traditional Norwegian cake and stories of Hans.

So sitting in Hans’s house was a thrill. I would love to say that it was on my Bucket list but it was not. I never could have expected Kristi to invite us in! Thanks so much for your kindness and Hospitality, Kristi!

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Sharon, Zach, Rita and Jan – one last picture in the yard

We asked Inger to take a picture of the “cousins” standing in front of our Great Grandfather’s home. The emotions that we were feeling at the time are indescribable. Way beyond words and even still today all these weeks later. The energy in the house was electric. Hans was so glad we were there!

Part three coming soon.

Love, Jan

Items Checked Off my Bucket List – A Visit to Tjome

If you had asked me six months ago, I never would have guess that we would get to visit Denmark and Norway this year…much less this winter. My sister Sharon just had this nagging thought that just would not let go. She felt that “we” needed in the worse way to get to Denmark to see Bjarne. Bjarne is the last remaining Norwegian cousin from my Mother’s generation. He has had several strokes and we just don’t know how much time we have left with him. She saw that airfares thru an Iceland airline were well under $500.00 per ticket so…the hunt was on.  After a bit of investigation, we determined that the Icelandic flights were only out of New York, Boston, DC and Atlanta…all places that we would have to get to one way or another so the cost of the ticket began to rise. Eventually she started to focus on Chicago because we could take the train in the early morning from Lapeer to Chicago at an affordable fare and be there in time for an afternoon/ evening flight. Chicago had direct flights daily to Copenhagen.  She found flights and before we knew it we were headed to Denmark.  Along the way, we picked up another traveler, Zach, Sharon’s son wanted to come too.

It did not take me long to decided at the price we paid for tickets to Denmark, we would be able to visit Norway too. I have a bucket list of things I need to do there! When we first started looking at flights to Norway, the tickets were running about $150.00 per ticket round trip but before we bought the tickets we needed to make sure that Rita (our Cousin who is our age) was able to spend time with us too. We were hoping to be able to stay with her but would find accommodations either way. We played a bit of email / Facebook tag with her so by the time we booked our flights the fares to Norway were now $200 but still within budget. My bucket list items are now within reach.

Bucket list Item # 1 – See Grandpa Anders birthplace

The plan was to go to Tjome, the birthplace of our Grandfather, Andrew (Andres) Anderson. For over 7 years now I have been in contact with a woman from the Tjome Historical Society. Her name is Inger Zeiner. In 2011, I wrote and article about our Grandfather and his life in America after leaving Tjome for the Historical Society’s Bi-Annual Tjume Publication. She is the Great Niece of our Great Grandfather’s second wife.  Our plan was to spend the day with her in Tjome so she could show us around.

Bucket list Item # 2 – Meet Inger Zeiner

We arrived in Oslo on February 28. We took the Express train from the airport to downtown Oslo for the afternoon because Rita was working. We grabbed a beer and a burger at the newly renovated old train station. It was a cold rainy day but we were so happy to be in Oslo it really did not dampen our spirits. We spent the afternoon sightseeing.

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Express train to Oslo

We tried to watch the changing of the Guard at the palace but the process took too long and it began to rain huge raindrops so we ducked into the closest place we could find to get out of the rain. It was Hard Rock Cafe Oslo. It turned out to be a place we would return to! People were nice and the beverages were too!

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Royal Palace in Oslo

Bucket list Item # 3 – Nurture our relationship with our Norwegian cousins from our generation – Rita and her family

Our plan was to rent a car for two days so we could make the two hour drive to Tjome on Wednesday,  March 1 and go to the Viking Ship Museum on Thursday before returning the car. SO we got back on the Express Train and headed to the Airport to get our car so we could make our way to Rita’s house after she got out of work. We had a great evening with our cousin. We spent the evening laughing and trying to learn Norwegian….lets just say we failed but Rita learned a couple of good American slang phrases that she used a lot!

The next morning we were off to Tjome. We were like 4 excited kids on Christmas morning ready for this new adventure. It was very easy to drive from Rita’s home to Tjome.  Norway has a really efficient roads.  They have tunnel systems in place which routes the most thru traffic under Oslo and keeps traffic moving pretty effectively. Many of the downtown streets are pedestrian only streets. We saw almost no parking so people use mass transit when visiting downtown Oslo.

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It took about two hours and was a really nice drive. It was mostly freeway. We went thru a lot of tunnels.  Eventually we made our way to towards Highway 308 which was our exit for Tonsberg.  Tonsberg is the nearest medium size city to Tjome and where we will eventually cross the bridge to the island of Tjome.  Next time, I want more time to explore Tonsberg. It is a quaint fishing village and is the oldest city in all of the Scandinavian countries. It is referenced in print as early as 900 BC at about the time of the Vikings.

Bucket List Item #4 – Visit and explore Tonsberg

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Tonsberg – by Karl Ragnar Gjertsen on Wikipedia

We made great use of GPS technology on this trip and were able to drive directly to Inger Zeiner’s home with the address that I had for her.  I have never driven in a foreign country, my nephew Zach helped us with that this trip but it was easy enough that I would not hesitate to drive myself next time.

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Inger Zeiner and Rita Ingwardo

By now we are shivering, not from the cold but from the sheer joy and excitement that this long awaited day had finally arrived. Up to this point, we could only imagine what it would feel like to be here, but now we know. It was just so hard to believe that this place was Grandpa Andres’s hometown, thousands of miles and an ocean away from the home that we knew was his. We were now in his neighborhood!  Inger and Rita were getting acquainted and planning our next move in Norwegian so we can not understand them but it gives us a few moments for the reality of it all to sink in.

Bucket list Item # 5 – Grandpa Hans’s Cove

Our first stop would be the cove that Great Grandfather Hans had lived on as a child and the place where he fished nearly every day of his life. I am sure that Grandpa Andres and his brothers spent a great deal of time here too.

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This is a postcard photo sent to Andres in around 1920

Hans’s Cove today….as it looks today….

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This is taken from a pier which was not there in Great Grandpa Hans’s time. Inger remembers a story that her Mother use to tell her about Hans.  Hans would loaded up an old wheel barrow with his traps and his poles everyday and walked to the shore to fish.  The wheel barrow squeaked and groaned like an old man as he pushed it first to the shore and then in the afternoon as he returned to his home.  They knew when to look up to see him as the noise of the wheel barrow got louder and then softer as he passed by and continued to his home.

The house of Olava

This is a photo that Inger shared with me of Han’s Mother, Olava’s house.  It is the white house on the left of the photo. The path that you see by the house was the path that Han’s walked everyday to get to the cove.  The sail boat shown in the photo was about where the new pier is that we were taking photos from. Olava’s house is no longer there.

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This home is where Olava’s house once stood

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Hans owned a sailboat much like this one that he used to give tours to tourist in the summer after his sailing days were done.

Standing on this pier and feeling the presence of the three generations who made this place their home was the first of many goose bump moments for the day.

Part 2…coming soon…

Jan