Editor/Daughter’s Note: My dad wrote up several journals of his memories. This story is from Langeland, Denmark where he was born in 1921. An interesting feature of Langeland is that there is at least one thousand Hat Hills formed by the glaciers 10 to 12 thousand years ago. They can be more than 150 feet high. In the month of May I remember the Maypole dances and huge bonfires all around the hills.
I tend to remember nature best but what comes to mind are the first years in school, a one-room kindergarten school and then a grade-type school with only four classrooms.
Our vacations were often spent on my uncle Peter’s Island Siø, where us three kids spent time with our cousins playing the good guys and the bad guys or Police and Bandits.
At home we also played war games with wooden swords made from packing crates, bows from hazelnut branches and arrows from the first year growth of elderberry bushes.
My brother and I spent a lot of time with the imaginative boys from the general store, the place with a hundred exotic smells. A lot of food came in barrels of smoked and pickled meat and fish, and some kinds of pickled fruits, and when the barrels were opened the aroma went all over.
We built motorboats run by alarm clocks and sailing ships as well. I also learned to build model air planes; this was taught to me by a creamery hand who cut slivers of wood from packing crates with a pocket knife, and tied and glued the wood together to form the skeleton of the plane. He covered the wings with pergament* paper and made the motor for the propeller out of rubber bands wound up as a rope. When finished the planes could fly about 150 feet.
*a type of parchment paper used for crafts
I do not remember any paved roads at that time; it was gravel roads with potholes big enough to sail our boats in after a good rain. I remember my dad coming along and picking me up when walking to my school two and a half miles away. I had stopped to sail wooden sticks in an enticing pothole and forgotten all about school.
I must not forget about Rasmus and Mathilda, who lived just a little ways from us in a small 300-year-old farmhouse. There was a red brick floor that was swept every morning and strewn again with white beach sand. The couple ran a small acreage with a horse and a few cows. They had an adopted son, Frede, who was apprenticed to become a blacksmith.
The old couple (well to me a kid they appeared old, but could have been no more than fifty) had a treasure trove of books in the loft where I spent a lot of time reading the classics, such as the Count of Monte Cristo, Ben Hur, Robin Hood, Tarzan, Mowgli, Jules Verne and many others.