I was born in the spring of 1939 in Denmark when the world was still a pretty nice place. By the fall of that year, Hitler had marched into Poland and by the spring of 1940 his troops had also invaded and occupied Denmark. That April 9th the world changed for all Danes.
I was born on May 13th, 1939, at home, in a small apartment at Søren Møllersgade No. 4 and lived there the first two years of my life. My parents were both born and raised in the country in mid and northern Jutland. My Dad was working as warehouseman at a wood importing company, where he would stay for most of his working life eventually advancing to Sales Manager. My Mother left the work force before I was born. She had been working in a very fancy bakery/konditori. She would regale us with tales of being in the front of the store and everything was handled with tongs and tissue paper and out back in the bakery the bakers would dip their chewing tobacco in the butter vat . –
I grew up with a wealth of relations. In fact – almost too numerous to remember. – My father was one of 16 children and my mother was one of four, so whenever we had family gatherings it was with casts of thousands it seemed, especially on my Father’s side. – Most of our socializing was with the families. – My Mother’s parents lived on a small Farm of about 16 acres in a small village about 40 km away. They cultivated 21 acres of land and a part of the back garden was an old Viking grave that had been opened many years previously and there were no artifacts left. When we went there we spent a lot of time playing on the mound. It was probably 15 feet high and covered in grass and heather. We would run up and down the hill or roll down like a log and scream with laughter. The area around my home town of Randers were dotted with Viking graves. Most of them had been opened long ago. But a few are still left untouched. – The Viking would be placed on the ground and surrounded by huge boulders much like a mini Stonehenge and then the whole would be covered with dirt and eventually grass and heather. They are littering the landscape and there are hundreds of them.
This is a picture of my Grandparents’ farm in Vammen. It is typical of thousands of small farms all through Denmark at the time of my childhood. They had all at one point been tenants of the big farm or estate in the area. They were all built in much the same style with the main house, where the people lived and, in this case an L-shaped building which housed the animals in the bigger part of the L and the foot of the L was the hay barn as well as the place where the threshing machine was set up during harvest time. – The shed-type building had a wash house at one end and the wagons and other implements where stored in the rest of it. That was also where the outhouse was and the chicken house. Behind the stable is the open midden where the animal waste and dirty straw from the stable was stored before it was hauled out into the field as fertilizer. It was all very compact and efficient. The well was in the middle of the cobbled yard and when I first remember the farm, there was no electricity or water in the house. It came in the mid 50s just before my Grandfather retired and built a house in the village of Vammen.
My Grandparents, Bedstefar and Mormor, Kristian and Martine Flarup ran the farm by themselves – Mormor – my Mother’s Mother had come from a quite wealthy farm and, according to stories I was told, her family was not very happy to see her marry a poor carpenter. She was born Martine Mortensen. I only met my Great Grandfather once when I was about 5.
My Grandparents had 6 cows, a couple of calves generally as a cash crop and a few pigs and two horses. The 6 cows were milked by hand twice a day by my Mormor. During the spring and summer they were led on ropes down to the grass field and tethered. They would eat the grass within the circle of their tether and it prevented the field from getting eaten all up at once and give it a chance to regrow, I guess. There was also a pig pen with a bunch of pigs depending on the size of the litter of piglets. There was always a big sow who would produce around a dozen piglets every spring and they again were being fattened up to go to market before Christmas. The two horses were strictly for pulling either the hay wagon or the plow. The hay wagon was also the only transportation my Grandparents had if they were going to town. If they were just going in for a few things, they would go on their bikes or walk.
On their 21 acres of land they always had a field of sugar beets that they sold to the sugar mill and they also grew turnips and some grain, usually oats and barley, to feed the animals. They also sold most of their milk to the dairy that came by in a horse drawn wagon every other day, as I recall. – Further afield they had an allotment of meadowland where they would dig their own peat for the house for heat and cooking. They were almost totally self- sustaining. They bought very little. What few items they needed such as flour and sugar and yeast they would trade for eggs at the co-op store.
Their lives were like their ancestors for many generations. Neither of them had ever been more than 50 km away from where they were born. It wasn’t until their children started driving cars after the war, and then they did get a little further afield. – Oh – if they could see me now!