Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Danes

My Grandpa Chris emigrated from Denmark when he was just sixteen years old. I have talked about him before in this post. He came from a large family and several of his siblings had already immigrated to the United States before my grandpa came over. One of those siblings was Hans.

Hans had been trained as a cobbler while he still lived in Denmark, but when he came to America he abandoned shoemaking and pursued his dream of becoming a farmer. Several years later my grandpa, who shared the same dream, also became a farmer. Here they are together in their adopted country.

Great Uncle Hans is on the left, Grandpa Chris on the right
My mom showed me this picture when I was down visiting a few weeks ago and commented on how these two brothers never had a cross or unkind word spoken between them. Those smiles on their faces are quite genuine. They loved spending time with each other. I can remember as a little girl being fascinated as I listened to them talk and laugh together, their conversation an incomprehensible stream of Danish sprinkled with a few heavily accented English words.

Every person who ever met them held them in the highest regard. They were gentlemen. They were kind. They made you feel safe and loved. I have two memories of my Great Uncle Hans that stand out above the others. He loved to play the harmonica. I can still picture him smiling as he put the instrument up to his lips to play a tune. And he always had a roll of 5 Flavour Lifesavers he would pull out of his pocket and give to me when he came to our house for a visit.

When Jay and I were in Denmark back in 1980 we stayed in the small town my grandpa and Uncle Hans were from. Several of their siblings had opted to remain there, and the youngest was still alive. My Great Uncle Albert had followed in his dad's footsteps and had spent his life on the sea as a cargo ship captain. He told us a story about the time my Great Uncle Hans had gone back to the old country for a visit.

Hans went out on Albert's ship with him. A huge storm blew up on the North Sea. It was so bad that Albert couldn't leave the command in someone else's hands and go check up on his brother. He worried about him, knowing he would be scared and most likely very seasick. When he finally was able to steal away for a few minutes he hurried below decks to Hans's room and burst through the door, expecting the worst. What he didn't expect, what took him completely by surprise, was opening the door and being greeted by the sight of his brother, sitting on his bunk, playing his harmonica and looking like he was enjoying himself immensely.

This painting was done from an old photo of my grandpa harvesting wheat back in the 1920s. It is my grandpa, living out his dream.





19 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this part of your family. My Mom's side of the family was Dutch and German and had come to America with a vision. My Nan had 8 brothers and sisters..... I remember most of them. I LOVE looking through my old family photos..... two years ago my Mom and I spent a whole summer making sure she labeled who everyone was so we would know when she was gone. Then as a surprise she handed the photo ablums over to me. I treasure them.

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    1. What a neat thing for you and your mom to have done, and how great she gave the albums to you when you were finished! Maybe you can do a blog post about the vision your ancestors came to America with. I would love to read about them!

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  2. My Grandpa also came from Denmark - when he was 19. He worked in the GI Case factory all his life until he retired. He sang Danish songs to us and gave us a love of Danish kringle. I need to go to Racine, Wisconsin and get some from the Danish bakery. Oh. My. Goodness.

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    1. I didn't realize you were part Danish! We didn't have Danish Kringle. The big thing with all the Danes in our area (my grandpa and his brother weren't the only Danish immigrants to settle there) was aebleskivers. We always had them at Christmas time. I need to find a gluten-free version to make this year.

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  3. Your grandpa and great-uncle were great role models.

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    1. They were, and I am sorry my kids did not get a chance to know them.

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  4. Kristie,

    My first friend in the U.S. was a Danish foreign student from Copenhagen. Her name was Anne Marie Albretchsen. I did go there to meet her after my graduation. I loved old villages with small houses with tiny bed rooms and kitchen as well as beautiful Copenhagen. She lived near the mermaid.

    I'm amazed that because of their dream, a shoe maker or other skilled person can grow and harvest wheat in such a big field! How they learned? Plus how to take care of horses and everything else.

    By the way, I love Danish sounds.

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    1. What a great opportunity to have been able to go to see your friend in Denmark. It's a wonderful country, and I really want to go back again some day.

      My great uncle and grandpa had an older sister who was in America before them and she and her husband farmed. So they would have learned from them I suppose. But I have no idea who that sister and her husband would have learned from. It is a great question, but one I am not able to answer.

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  5. What a wonderful heritage! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome Lisa! I wish I had asked my grandpa more questions so I had more of the story to tell.

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  6. I enjoyed so much reading about your grandpa and great uncle. I recognised the name of AEro immediately. We spent a few holidays in Dennmark when I was a child and was based on the island on Thuro just off Svendbourg, it is a beautiful area. My great garandmother enigrated to Canada in 1907 and ended up in Vancover, I too have thought of her jorney across the sea and Canada.
    Who painted the picture of your grandpa farming, was it someone in the family? What a treasure to keep.
    Sarah x

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    1. Someone who has heard of Aero! Not many people here have heard of it. Your great grandma emigrated just five years before my grandpa. It would have taken a lot of courage, knowing you would probably never see your family again, to get on that ship and sail across the Atlantic.

      The picture was painted by someone my grandma knew, not anyone in the family. And it is definitely a treasure.

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  7. Hi Kristie,
    I have followed your Blog for quite some time and I so enjoy it, you are a very good writer!
    I too am from Denmark, my husband and I and our 3 kids then 3,7 and 9 years old immigrated to Canada, Vancouver in 1986.We love it here and never looked back. We now have a great son-in-law and 2 wonderful daughter-in-laws and also 3 grandchildren.
    My Mom was born on Aeroe in 1919, where my grandfather at that time was a family doctor.
    It is very nice to read about your grandfather and his siblings and how well they did in their new country.
    We still make Aebleskiver at this time of the year and everybody loves them.
    If you Google Glutenfri Aebleskiver quite a few recipes come up.
    Ann in Vancouver

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    1. Hi Ann! It's nice to have you here at my blog. Do you know what town on Aero your mom was from? My grandpa was from Marstal. There is a very good chance that your grandfather could have been the doctor for my grandpa's family that remained on the island. It is such a small place I can't imagine there would have been too many doctors there!

      Thanks for the idea to Google for a recipe. I did, and came up with several that sound promising. Maybe I will try making some this weekend. I am curious. How do you pronounce Aebleskiver? :-)

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    2. My Mom was born in Bregninge, it is such a small "town" mid island, hard to find on the map.
      It is hard to write down how to pronounce Aebleskiver, but try "ableskiever" , if you want to hear it in real life I can email you may phone # and I can speak to you in Danish!!
      Ann

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    3. That would be great if you could email me your phone number. My email is hsknitteratyahoodotca (of course, with the @ and . instead of the words). I'm looking forward to hearing the correct pronunciation!

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  8. Hi Kristie: Just wanted to let you know what a great article you posted on Chris and Hans. Aren't we blessed to have been a part of their lives. Larry and I are so happy to be spending our retirement years on the farm that his Dad built. The memories will never be forgotten and neither will Chris and Hans....come see us when you are here with your Mom. Bev and Larry

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    1. I am so glad you got a chance to read this post! And yes, we are definitely blessed to have known two such great men. I would love to come out for a visit next time I am down. Thanks for leaving the comment!

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  9. Great memory! I remember Uncle Hans soft skin and sailboat! And oh so right about kind soft hearted men. We were honored to have such a special grandpa!

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