Note from Editor/Daughter: This story dates back to just after World War 2, from my dad’s journal of memories.
I met with Poul Kofod in Copenhagen and from there we took the Ferry to Malmo in Sweden. Some 300 years ago the three southern provinces of Sweden belonged to Denmark, Skaane, Bleking and one more, name unknown to me.
We were sent by the labour office to a nursery for tree planting but when we saw their poor accommodation we hit the road again.
We landed a sugar beet thinning job at Gaardstanga Nygaard, a large estate with better accommodation and living facilities. It was fully 1000 acres with 150 acres planted in sugar beets and needed a crew of 50 for thinning the beets.
I must mention my nickname ‘That Devil Dane’, it came about this way. As we were finishing the first round of thinning on the estate I noticed there was one lot of ten rows left. As I was neck to neck with a very fast Swede I worked the hardest ever to win that last lot. Leading by meters only, I started that last lot and now it was mine to finish, after which I went to the cookhouse for supper.
The Swede finished his lot and came in a bit later. The first thing he did coming in the door was to yell to his friends, “That Devil Dane got the last lot”.
The next day when thinning my body was hurting like the ‘devil’ and my only consolation was that I had won the race.
As is often the case small farmers treat their help as family and the greatest bonus was the home-baked bread from home-ground grain – any baker who could bake bread like that farmer’s wife would have a sure business.
After the final weeding, first on the estate and then on the small farm, Poul and I had a pretty good stake and decided to drive to Stockholm on Poul’s motorcycle and possibly even further north.
Stockholm was different than Danish cities, with wide streets, a really modern city. It had prepared for war by building huge underground shelters and to utilize them they were rented out to numerous businesses, so that stores and shops lined both sides of the tunnels.
We had driven into the city to see a motorcycle shop for a part for Poul’s bike. After Stockholm we drove north but soon lost heart as the natives flocked around the motorcycle in droves because of the foreign license plates. Some were quite aggressive and that bothered us so we soon headed back south to nicer people.
On this trip I felt a bit like that story about Nils Holgersen* who was changed into a goblin and rode over Sweden on the back of a goose. The goose told Nils all the history of the places they flew over and I recognized some of the places and the countryside as we ‘flew’ over the country on the motorcycle.
We decided to go back to Denmark, Paul to Bornholm and I to Fyn. I took a job with a farmer growing tobacco for cigars. The farmer also mined peat at a nearby bog and used an old German tank that was stripped of everything but the motor and a seat for the driver.
The tank hauled the peat out of the bog and dumped it in a big wooden form hauled to the drying field by a horse. He had a 1930 Ford and on Saturdays nights would take the whole family including me to the town.
After the tobacco harvest I was laid off but just before that I had bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle 1930 model. After some training on the farmer’s fields I passed the driving test and got my license.
Now it was back to Sweden to take up the sugar beets I had thinned earlier on. When I arrived this time I had to learn to drive on the left, as the worst scenario was taking a turn and ending up on the wrong side of the road facing the oncoming traffic.
*Selma Lagerlof, 1858 -1940, was a Swedish novelist and writer of short stories who received the 1909 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her many books included: Gosta Berling’s Saga, Invisible Links, Jerusalem, Liljecronas Home, The Outcasts, The Ring of the Lowenskolds, Trolls and Men, and the most famous, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils.