Larry’s first trip to Denmark.
Apparently, when Ninna, my wife, announced to her family that she was going to Canada some said that she would go away and probably marry a Hottentot. Thus the reason for the title above. Hottentot is defined as a member of a nomadic pastoral people of SW Africa; the Khoisan language of this people.
Following our marriage we motored to Vancouver so I could resume my studies at U.B.C. I had decided to switch from Forestry to Commerce but I kept in touch with some of the Forestry students and faculty. After two years of study and near completion of the Commerce degree program and I decided to enroll in the final year of Forestry. That summer we headed off to Denmark on a charter flight in May or June of 1965 to visit Ninna’s family and friends and for my introduction to them and to the culture and country of her birth. I don’t think I was aware of the Hottentot designation – even if I were I doubt that I knew what they were talking about since my comprehension of the Danish language was limited to the few words Ninna had taught me.
Before we left, I had spoken to Dr. Philip Haddock, . a U.B.C. Forestry professor about our upcoming trip. When he heard we were going to Denmark he suggested that I try to contact a Danish forester by the name of Flemming Juncker.
Ninna’s mother Elly was bedridden with Multiple Sclerosis so for the most part we stayed close to the apartment in Randers where her folks lived along with her brother Per. Per was just graduating from High School but had managed to buy a 1949 Anglia “car”. He had it shined to a stunning state and he was very proud of his “Putta”. He spoke and understood English very well. Ninna had asked to borrow her father’s car but he was a salesman and he had a legitimate excuse for refusal. (I still think he thought that the ‘Hottentot’ wouldn’t be able to drive very well). So both of us asked Per if we could borrow “Putta”. I explained that I had driven cars, trucks, tractors and even taxis but in his mind there was no way I could drive his car.
A bit later during a casual conversation I asked Per if he knew a person by the name of Fleming Juncker. “Oh yes”, he replied excitedly leading me over to the east window of their top floor apartment and pointing at a building a block away he explained, “he has three Citroens and I see him regularly. Oh I know him well.” (Per had never met him but he knew him well because his cars were serviced in the neighbourhood.) Private telephones were not commonplace in Denmark at that time so I asked Per if Hr Juncker would have a telephone and if he did, would a call to him be long distance. I didn’t realize that all calls in Denmark were toll calls. However Per assured me that Hr Juncker had a telephone but when I picked up the receiver to call it was taken from me and replaced in the cradle because one shouldn’t “just call him”. You see at this point I had no idea of who Fleming Juncker really was nor did I really know that the family didn’t think I had the cultural upbringing to marry the Duchess – Ninna. Even had they told me I wouldn’t have known what a Hottentot was.
Anyway, Per went down stairs to work on his car, so I dialled the number for Juncker and he answered in person. I explained that I was a student of Dr. Haddock at UBC and was asked where I was located. As it turned out we were only about 20 miles away. He then asked whether we had transportation or did we want him to send in a car for us. Per happened into the room then, I covered the mouthpiece and asked again, if I could borrow his precious “Putta”. When he found out we were going to go to Junckers we were able to convince Per to lend us his car.
Neither Ninna nor I knew much about Fleming Juncker other than he was a Danish forester. So when we arrived at the address we had been given you can imagine our surprise to see a castle inside the gate
(This is what greeted us when we turned in the gate in 1965. Later pictures found on the internet are appended later in this article)
We were met by Hr Juncker and his chief forester Hr Peter Apollo. Mr. Juncker was very interested in both of us but Ninna, being a local girl caught his attention. We were unaware of how important a man we were conversing with. Hr Juncker is pictured below.
The history of Overgaard Estate goes back to the time of the Reformation. The main building dates back to 1547. In this main building, you have access to the oldest library in Denmark, which was furnished in approx. 1730 by the royal master joiner Mathias Ortmann. In the library, you will find a number of invaluable artefacts, including a copy of the Code of Jutland from 1548. You will also have access to the gallery where the owners of the Estate through the centuries are portrayed. The most well-known of these paintings is that of Christence Lykke, considered a principal work of 17th Century Danish art. The Estate is surrounded by a large park where for instance Hans Christian Andersen and Gustav Wied wrote some of their works in the charming little teahouse.
The Estate played an important part in the resistance movement during the 2nd World War. The owner of the time, Flemming Juncher, organised the resistance in Jutland against the Germans and helped convince Marius Fiil from Hvidsten Kro to found a resistance group. (copied from:http://www.visitranders.com/ln-int/east-jutland/hans-christian-andersen/overgaard-estate)
In addition Fleming Juncker perfected the manufacture and commercialization of parquet flooring made from beech wood
Hr Juncker and Hr Apollo explained during the tours of the estate that Mr. Juncker had turned to the old law books housed in the library of the castle and had read in the Code of Jutland of 1548 an old law. It stated, and I paraphrase from the explanations told us, that ‘where a flat bottomed boat could not float at low tide the land belonged to the adjacent land owner’. The property is located on the Marianger Fjord northeast of Randers. Armed with this information Fleming Juncker got into a very small dinghy at the peak of a low tide and rowed around. Every time his dinghy grounded he pulled in a flagged stake and planted it in the mud thus marking out the new boundary for his property. I’m not sure whether he hired a dragline or bought one and dug out the drainage canal with the dredged material forming the dyke. Apparently the land was drained and he planted wheat the first year. The resulting drainage ditch and dyke are pictured below as they appeared to us in 1965. This activity resulted in a 50% increase in land area for the estate.
Hr Juncker apparently repeated this program some time later thereby increasing his land by another 50% thus effectively doubling the arable land available to the estate at a cost significantly less than purchasing adjoining properties.
Ninna and I were invited back for “tea” shortly after our first visit and were escorted through the historical library mentioned above to the family library where we were introduced to another couple from England. One of them was a cousin of Fleming Juncker and apparently a titled member of British society. All were most cordial and down to earth with both of us. They were most interested in Canada and Hr Juncker was most interested in both the agricultural and forestry aspects of my life. He owned forest land in Oregon and had planted Douglas Fir on parts of his forest lands at Overgaard. He had developed a different thinning technique whereby he thinned (harvested) the dominant trees in a stand first rather than the previously accepted method of thinning the least viable of the trees which were usually scrapped incurring cost but no revenue. Thus he was able to get some revenue regularly and at the same time encouraging the lesser trees by removing the competition for light and nutrients, At the same time, just before the Christmas season he was pruning the lower branches which he used in the manufacture of Advent Wreaths providing regular revenue and employment for local people.
Hr Juncker asked me about my Dad’s farm in Barons, Alberta. I told him it was a dry land farm and we grew mostly wheat and rye and that it wasn’t very big – only about 320 acres (nearly 130 hectares but Dad and his brother Ralph together farmed about 2.5 sections or approximately 1500 acres (just over 607 hectares. He and the British guest both exclaimed “that is small?” When I explained the meagre yields achieved on this non-irrigated land they both seemed to understand a bit better. Fleming Juncker, always looking for more information then asked what size of tractors were used because he had attempted to buy a big articulated tractor from North America but the Danish import taxes were so exorbitant that he had to find another way. He bought two large Volvo tractors then he and Hr Apollo joined the two together and synchronized the two for a third the price of importation. They then wanted to know about the corn we grew and since I had indicated that Dad fed some beef cattle, what kind of silage activity did we do. I indicated that yes we grew corn but that was for the table. This was unheard of at that time so there ensued a long discussion of the type of corn Dad raised for human consumption. Dad grew a hybrid of an early ripening variety and an Indian corn which was just excellent. This was fascinating to Mr Juncker and he wondered where he could get some seed. I said that Dad kept a few ears for seed every year and I would ask him to save some which he did. He shelled a couple of ears and packaged the resulting seed and sent to Hr Juncker. We found out later that this importation was quite illegal but the Junckers grew and relished the corn according to the letters both Dad and we received later.
We have not been back to the estate since 1965. The estate is now in another’s name but we will never forget the hospitality afforded us by this very important Danish man and the reception that made us feel somewhat important. And this served to end the Hottentot designation amongst the Danish relatives because on our last trip there a couple of years ago some of them had to fill me in on what had become of ‘my friend’ Fleming Juncker.