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The Immigration Story of Peder Rasmussen (Danish immigrant)

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The Immigration Story of Peder Rasmussen

I (Peder Rasmussen) was born in Gronnerup, in the township of Brahetrolleborg on the island of Fyn, Denmark on May 25th 1901. Our home was a little brick railroad house. My mother had to close and open the railroad gates when the train came and crossed the small farmer road. She also sold a few railroad tickets for the Farm community. Living in this house was her pay from the Railroad Company. There was really nothing in Gronnerup- a windmill that ground the Farmer’s grain for use as pig feed as well as for the horses and cows and chickens. There was also a blacksmith. My father worked on the railroad as a section workman.
My father was Frederik Christian Rasmussen. My mother was Ane Kirstine (Hansen). I had two older sisters, Anna and Dagny, and an older brother named Emil. Also 2 younger brothers, Carl and Christian.
In 1905 my father was promoted to be in charge of his own work crew and we had to move 30 km north to Ellested, a small township. Our Railroad house laid next to a big highway with more traffic. Our house also laid on land that used to belong to the big Estate of “Lykkesholm”, a big farm with about 1,100 acres of plow land and about 2,000 acres of lovely wood. The wood was our playground. It was not supposed to be, but the owner of the estate lived in Kobenhavn. So there was not much control. In Ellested we lived close to the Railroad Station and two grocery stores, a carpenter, a tailor, a blacksmith, a shoemaker and a Cabinet Maker. We also lived near the church and school. We attended school 3 days a week for 7 years. The other 3 days we were to work at home or on the farm. When I was 10 years old my brother, Rasmus, was born. When I was 12 years old I got a job in one of the grocery stores. It was up to me to see that the drawers in the store were filled up. Also up to me to take care of a very nice garden. From 12 to 14 years I worked in the grocery store, also did farm work and went to school.
At age 14. I was confirmed in the Church. We took 1 year of instruction to prepare for Confirmation. I walked 3 miles to the Lutheran Church in Gislev every week. My parents would go to church regularly. Our Pastor insisted on that before I could be confirmed. On Confirmation Day the church would be full with parents of the class. The girls would have to line up on one side and the boys on the other in the front of the church. Then we were asked questions about the Bible and the Lutheran Church. If you didn’t know the answers you weren’t confirmed. The church was packed that day just like Christmas and Easter Pentecost. The rest of the year there were not many in the church. I passed the test. Then I was man enough to be hired out to a farmer. I had to learn to milk the cows as well as feed them. Even had to clean up whatever came out in the tail end. Guess I must have been kind of slow as the farmer gave me a talk. He said, there is only room for one loafer, and if so, he, the farmer, was going to be the only one. The farmer and his wife were nice people. I stayed there 2 years. The pay was small. In 2 years I made $50. (figuring at 1983 exchange) Enough for my working clothes.
By 1918, when I was 17, I became Herdsman for a farmer in Hojby. There I made good money. Enough, too, that I could go to a 5 month school on the Gymnastik Hojshole in Ollerup. Niels Buek was the principal of the school! Guess he and his gymnasium are well known all over the world. I enjoyed these 5 months very much. I learned to mix with other people. Then back to farming again.
In 1922, I had to begin serving nine months in the Danish Army at 21 years of age. Then I had to work with the horses. I ended up as the Teamster and Coachman for his Excelince General Commander of the Danish Army. I drove him and his wife all around Kobenhavn( Copenhagen). I really enjoyed that job. Usually, my orders were to come in 20 minutes. In that short time I was expected not only to get the team ready, but also myself, all decked out in my tall, black silk hat (which miraculously stayed on my head in all kinds of weather, but it did not protect my ears from freezing). Then there was the fur lined cloak which went over the shoulders. In bad weather my passengers, the General and his wife, were protected from the weather. They sat in the enclosed passenger seats but I was not so fortunate.
One evening the order to come in twenty minutes was heard. The destination was a very luxurious hotel in Copenhagen, which is still there, the Angleterre Hotel. I was informed that the General and his wife would be attending a dinner and ball and would be ready to come home at 11 p.m. It was a bitter cold night so I fixed my tall, black silk hat firmly on my head after hitching up the horses and seeing that the carriage was bright and shining clean. I delivered the General and Her Grace (my name for the General’s wife), dressed in their evening clothes, to the hotel on time. I was told to return at 11 p.m. which I did promptly to find no General and her Grace waiting for me. I dare not leave and sat huddled against the cold. I am still marvelling why my hat did not blow off because the wind was strong. I drove around. It was 2 in the morning before the General and her Grace came down to the entrance. The General apologized, then gave another order. Tomorrow you can sleep all day.
Then there was the time Her Grace wanted to go shopping. She stuck her head out of the carriage window and called out, turn left on the next corner. I signalled the policeman at the corner with my whip, the policeman stopped traffic to allow me to make the turn when Her Grace changed her mind and yelled, no go straight. So I went straight. The policeman came hurrying after the carriage, scolding me for giving confusing signals. Then I explained to him that it was the General’s wife I was driving. Then I showed him I had my Army pants on. He cursed and walked away.
Then there was the time I was told to drive to the Harbor. The Czarina, Mother of the Russian Czar (who was a Danish Princess) was fleeing Russia to get away from the Revolution. A Danish ship was bringing her home to Kobenhavn. That was really Danish National History. She was Princess Dagmar, daughter of King Christian the IX, who was called the Grandfather of Royalty in Europe. He had 3 daughters all married to European royalty. I sat with the team of horses watching the Danish Royal Family and big business men greeting her. Believe me Her Grace, the General’s wife, could curtsey beautifully. On the way back my carriage wheels got stuck between the railroad tracks. Four policemen came and lifted the coach onto the road. Very embarrassing.
The saddest experience was when the order to come in twenty minutes came, but one horse could not get up from the stable floor, presumably worn out. The next day there was a new team in the stable. After nine months in the Danish Army (which I really enjoyed) I was a civilian again. Then it was back to the farm. I could see no future as a farmer. Farms cost money and I would never expect to save that much money.
I wanted to go the United States. I was told I would have to wait two years. I could get into Canada right away. So, I decided to go to Canada, then on to the United States. On May 15, 1924, I boarded a ship in Kobenhavn. The United States was the name of the ship. We sailed up to Oslo, Norway to pick up more passengers. It was emigration time - young people looking for a new life or future. It was the month of May. The North Sea was not even friendly and the Atlantic was rough, high wind and high waves. By the time we came near Newfoundland the ocean became calm but then we came into fog. One whole night we stopped as we could see nowhere. The sounding bells kept us awake all night. We made Halifax in ten days. There was plenty of food on the ship, but when you are seasick you don’t eat. I know I did not eat $50 worth of food.
In Halifax we boarded a Canadian National train for Montreal. Then we made a change to the Canadian Pacific. I believe it was May 27th when we arrived in Port Arthur. A friend of mine was there to meet me. He was out of work and that morning he had been up in the Government office and took up a homestead, 160 acres for $10.00. Beautiful wilderness, wood, and stone. Victor Didricsen wanted me to buy such a Homestead. I had the money. I could not see buying that beautiful rough and rugged country. I came to Canada with $85.00. Do you remember seeing that land called Pass Lake, while we were in Canada, and visited the Jorgensens in Port Arthur? There was a small church, grocery store, and a few homesteaders living