Saturday, March 19, 2016

Some stories about my great Great Grandfather

These are some stories about my great grandfather, William Andersen (1901-1999).

I wrote this article a few years back, but of some reason never published it. Until now.

Wife: Anna Andersen (1907-2004)
Children: Sonja (1929-), Torill (1947-)
Grandchildren: Jan Roger, Kari-Anna, Nils-Martin, Anette, Stian
Great grandchildren: Anders, Heidi, Christopher, Bård-Ivan, Joakim, Nils Christian, Nikolai, Anniken

When I was little I was a little afraid of my great grandfather. He was not mean, but he could be very direct when he opened his mouth. He could, for me as a child, seem a bit angry at times. Thinking back, I'm not sure if he really was. I never wanted to get in trouble with him and always respected him. If I felt that I needed protection I would always turn to my great grandmother. She could never be angry at me. My great grandmother liked to give me money when I came by, but my great grandfather never approved of this so she would sneak out of the room to take out some money from her purse and hide it until I was about to leave. She would then stick the money into my hand as she gave me a hug and she would kind of shoosh me so that he wouldn't know what was going on.

I often sensed a bit of attitude from him. I remember sitting in their living room a couple years before he died. My great grandmother was not too concerned with expiration dates on food and drinks and she would often serve stuff that had expired long time ago. This time she would serve us some apple juice. I immediately noticed that the juice was musty as the mold was floating on top of it. Right before he was going to take a zip I told him: "Hey, there's mold in it". He answered with a question: "Well, it's not DANGEROUS, is it?" (In Norwegian: "Erre farlig a??") ... I wasn't sure if it was a rhetorical question or not. He drank the juice anyway.

He would also give me good, but possibly a bit "old fashioned" advice. When I was 14 I was attacked by 3-4 drunk 17-18 year-old guys. I got some bruises and a black eye. The next day was the National Constitutional Day in Norway (17th of May) and it was family-time. My family members were very curious about what had happened so I told them the story. While most of my family members said I should have done more to avoid this situation, my great grandfather had a different advice: "In these situations, you should always punch first. Then they will fear you". I'm not sure if that would have worked against these guys, but I thought it as a cool thing to say by a man who's in his 90's.

My great grandfather got his driver's license when he was 62 years old. He drove his car even when he was in his 90's. However, at the end he seemed to prefer the roads with lower speed limits. Instead of driving on the main road in 60 km/h, he would drive a parallel inner road in 30 km/h. Safety first, I guess. Since he got his driver's license and got his first car he and my great grandmother started touring Europe. Almost every summer they would drive around Europe for weeks. Even in their 80's and 90's they'd drive from Norway to Spain for holidays. I was always so proud of them because of this. Other old people would just sit inside their house all day, while these guys were still exploring and spicing up their life. Unfortunately he never got the chance to fly. My great grandmother flied once while he was alive, but that was because she got injured in Spain and my great grandfather had to drive back to Norway without her. My grandmother stayed behind to help her while she was at the hospital. Since the car was on its way back to Norway, she and my grandmother had to fly back. I think they liked it. On their trips they would often drive together with my parents or my grandparents.

Local newspapers found their story interesting, so we would sometimes read about them in the newspaper. They would talk about their journeys over the past 20-30 years.

William had an interesting life and he had many good stories to share. I remember he was talking about a time during WW2 he went from Porsgrunn to Bø (in Telemark, Norway) on a bike to buy food on the black market. His daughter, Sonja, was going to have her confirmation and they needed food for the celebration. Today, you can drive this distance and it will take about 1 hour with a car. It's a bit unclear today whether he biked all the way or if he put his bicycle on a bus or on a boat. When he got to Bø he would cycle around between farms to get the things that he needed. Unfortunately, this was not allowed during the war as the food was rationed.  When he had bought what he needed he went on a bus to get back home (probably with his bike). But before the bus drove off, the police came to check the bus for any illegal food. It was well-known that people would come to Bø to buy food on the black market and bring it home. The police caught him with the illegal food and they were going to take him to the police station. He managed to punch a couple of the police men and run away into the woods. After a little run he managed to catch the bus down the street as the bus driver was waiting for him. He must have showed them some ID, because the next day the police in Porsgrunn - where he lived - came to arrest him. He was put in jail. Every day his family came to give him food. They would give him a bucket of milk and stick a letter under the bucket for him to read since he wouldn't get any other information about what was going on outside prison. About a month later he was released. He would then go back to Bø to get the food that he intended to buy the first time.

In the early 1990's, my great grand parents got really fascinated with a TV show. I wouldn't expect an old couple to be so fascinated by a show like that. I guess it was partly because it was a French show, since my great grandfather had spent so much time in France. The name of the show was "Hélène et les Garçons" (Norwegians might remember it as "Helene og gutta") and it was meant for young teenagers. William thought the actors were so good. He would tell me something like "Look at them! They don't even look at the camera when they're acting!". I shrugged.

I'm glad that I got to meet my great grandparents because I think they were awesome people. It's a good thing when people die in their 90's and you still think they died too young.

Did you know these people and have any good stories to share? Post it below!