My first job

Since we always had a young hired person to help, when we began to grow up but  were not yet old enough to take over, Father thought we could earn some money by getting  a summer job.( Remember in the Summer school was only two days per week for the older children). It was thought that the one who could best be spared was Åge my  younger brother by1½ years. The job was on the farm we had just left which was owned by an elderly man named Niels Jensen and his son Anker. There was also a housekeeper. But this was terribly quiet. Åge was homesick and came home every night and cried - it was not a lively place like ours with so many children about Eventually after two weeks I was asked to go instead so my first job was when I was just about 13 from May to November. I got 500 Kr for the summer plus board and lodging. It was a lonely job. On the two days I had to go to school I had to get up very early to do the milking first and to be at school for 7 am and get back from school as soon as possible. Anker was a strange person, deeply religious but very simple probably the reason for his not being married. His father on the other hand was a jolly old fellow. The following year I was back at home. It was the year of finishing school, and having to learn some verses by heart prior to attending the Confirmation ceremony. It was the year my youngest brother was born. Traditionally when there is something to celebrate in the family the Danish flag is flown so on the date of his birth father went out to put the flag up. We felt it was getting too many and one of the really bad things I did and which my Dad has told a hundred times was that I went out later and pulled the flag down to half mast!  Later I felt bad about it but since my youngest brother and I have been and still are very close, the flag incident did no lasting damage .

On November 1st 1948 I was hired out for a one-year job as second boy on Hans Rosbjerg’s farm in South Fjelstervang at a salary of 1800 Kr. Hans Rosbjerg was a very hard working farmer. He had come by the farm in a rather strange way, marrying the girl who was a favourite maid of the owner, an elderly childless widow. It was one of the best run farms in the area and day started at 6 in the morning, finishing at 7 in

the evening. They had no children but while I was there adopted a girl. Kristine, his wife was a big talker, but she was mean and would save on anything including food being quick to say if I had eaten too much. It was during the time of rationing and I was asked not to use sugar in my coffee -a habit  I have to this day. The first boy who was 20 fell out with Hans after 3 weeks and left, so for a couple of months I was both first and second boy. It was incredibly hard work for a 14 year old boy. Milking, cleaning of cows, calves, pigs, horses, every morning and then out to plough or harrow as soon as it was light in the morning with 2 or 3 big horses. From April he had another chap Gunnar Thomson as the first boy and this made a lot of difference but it was still very hard work and long days. I had no intention of staying for more than the one year. During the time I was there Hans Rosbjerg bought a car, probably the third in the village and Kristine was very proud of that. I think the car was an Opel Olympia.

The following year I hired myself out to work on a farm belonging to Neils Nielsen and his wife Dagmar and closer to Fjelstervang. They were a nice couple. Their son Gunnar was the first boy and I was second. It was a much more pleasant place to work than with Hans Rosbjerg. Old Neils had always had time to talk. He had some problems in walking and  could not do too much work himself apart from looking after the pigs. He was very hospitable, when a neighbour visited he would given him a large cigar but insist that he wanted to keep the ash. In other words, they had to stay until the cigar was smoked! In the autumn of that year my father had a horrible accident. The drum on the threshing machine exploded when he was threshing grain, maybe a stone came into it. A large splinter hit his face and he was taken to hospital almost immediately; nobody thought he would return. But return he did though it was at least a year before he could physically take part in much activity.

On November 1st, 1950 I came home to be the first boy with Åge as second but my father was so ill that I had to be manager as well. For the next two years I was there and had great ambitions to be a farmer. I wanted Østergård to be the best in the village and  I worked very hard, achieving a certain amount of success. Father was very sensitive due to his illness and lost him temper easily. The cattle had expanded to 16 cows and we installed a milking machine for the first time. We had 16 cows, about 16 followers, 4 sows and we fattened all the pigs from their litters. For relaxation I became interested in playing handball.

In the second year my friend Haakon and I went by motorbike to Norway, my first trip abroad. It was all very exciting, previous to that I had spent my holidays on a week’s bicycle trip to the island and on one occasion to the South of Jutland but now we were motorized. We got to Norway but there we were stopped from taking the motorbike into the country because Haakon had forgotten some papers of ownership. Consequently we had to hitch hike or go by train. We went to see a mountain called Rhukan and climbed a mountain called Gaustatoppen. I remember we stayed in a bed and breakfast place run by an old lady. Apart from giving us breakfast she also gave us sandwiches to take with us for the walk. Both of us were extremely worried that it was going to be very expensive and we did not have much money. When we left we shakingly asking her now much? We had such a lovely surprise, “You owe me nothing, if ever you are rich come back. You paid us during the war.” I remember this so clearly because it was such a nice gesture. I will never forget her.(I recall that during our school days we collected money for the Norwegian children who were worse off than we were.)

I suppose the travel bug had always been with me but dormant in my childhood due to the war situation. At the end of that year in November, I took the first step to leaving Fjelstervang, hiring myself as second boy on a farm “Øster Lind” in Gudum near Lemvig about 90 km. from home .I knew little about the area, except that it was within cycling distance to Nr. Nissum seminarium where my cousin Erik was studying. He was always my favourite cousin and I was pleased that he was not too far away.

The year 1952-53 at Øster Lind with Arthur Norby. He had a nickname “Nearly Norby” as he had a habit of using the word nearly or nearby in every sentence. I arrived at Øster Lind and knowing  nobody. The first boy was Ove Thuesgård. There were 10 year-old twin girls and an older and younger boy and also a daily helper, Jens Olsen.

Ove introduced me to the youth of the village as he was a local. He was ambitious and hardworking. Although the first boy he was only about half a year older than I. He wanted to set the pace and what a pace it was. I had not too much problem in following as I was used to being the pacesetter. We had many things to talk about and

became good friends but what a pace of working! Neither  of us was wanting to be outdone by the other. Poor Jens Olsen became redundant as after a while there was nothing for him to do. He liked to chew ash and was always keen to get the scrapings off our pipes. Arthur Norby had bought a new young herd of cows and I had to train them all for milking by machine. Arthur thought I was quite good at that, and I was ,I think, a good dairyman. (When many years later I became in charge of the dairy production at the Rowett Research Institute I visited the milking parlour. The dairy man asked with if I would like to try to put the milk cups on. I surprised him by saying yes, I rather would like to milk the whole herd, which I did. I was never challenged in this way again- indeed from time to time thereafter my advice was sought!) Back to the story. There was a strong tradition for handball and I took a very active part. In the summer the young people met at Traelborg dalen where I sometimes played the accordion and mandolin. I liked the year at Øster Lind very much. I went often to see Erik at the Seminarian and another old friend from Fjelstervang Villy Mathiesen came to work on a farm in Nissum the next village to Gudum. We also got together occasionally as I had the added incentive of being dotty about the daughter on the farm where he worked. All in all it was one of my happiest years in farming, hard work but with an excellent friend like Ove, a nice group of young people and a welcoming community. This was the first of many times in my life when I came in as stranger and had to make myself known.

As in Fjelstervang the youth was divided into the two religious factions, the puritanical and the more liberal one. The divisions were strong in Gudum but they were lively. No dancing but singing games which amounted to the same thing without music and took place in dark barns! I did not have any close girlfriends at Gudum but  I remember being keen on the farmers daughter from Villy’s  place in Nissum.

At the end of the period in Gudum I had some problems as to what next. I knew I was going to be one year in the army from November 1954. My father wanted me to come back home since neither Aage nor Verner were suited to be first boy, Aage was not the most enthusiastic or energetic of workers. Verner was too young. My wish was to have a period at Folk High School before going to the army. A compromise was arrived at. I was to go home for the first 3 weeks in November to get most of the autumn work done, harvesting and collecting turnips and fodder beet ,ploughing stubbles etc. then join Nr. Nissum Folk High School 3 weeks late for the 5 months course. During the winter the farm would be looked after by my younger brothers and my father whose health had improved. I was then to come back April 1st and stay as first boy on the farm at home until I had to join the army.

So from the last week in November 1953 to March 31st 1954 I was a pupil at Nr. Nissum Folk High School.

Life at the Folk high school was pleasant. Though I came late I soon managed to catch up . In fact I recall the arithmetic teacher asking me after a couple of weeks how I could be working on book 3 which was in front of the rest when I was supposed to be 2 behind. I had already done it all and did not even have to try very hard. There was room here for individual development. The teachers were excellent, in particular a teacher called Lindskov-Rasmussen, he could inspire and he could challenge philosophically. There were also opportunities for entertainment. I was probably a bit of a rebel as occasionally I had some problems in accepting the intensity of religion. As I have explained elsewhere there were no exams but I recall the headmaster in his final individual talk to me said that I was very intelligent which he felt sometimes made me question some of the philosophy of the school. I was quite complemented by that. I  had thought he was going to ask me about my religious experiences of being at the school.

What in retrospect did the Folk High School experience do for me? – Well it was another experience of being thrown into a group of strangers. It gave me a degree of self confidence that I did not have before. I knew that I could learn things quite rapidly and at Nr Nissum while we had no exams I really would not have had much competition to be top in most subjects. However I did not make close friends there and I have really had no contact with the school since.