Posts tagged Minot

Odd Nansen’s Birthday (12/6/01)

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Odd Nansen

Today is the 117th anniversary of Odd Nansen’s birth on December 6, 1901.

Each year I try to commemorate his anniversary with a pithy statement or quote that encapsulates the kind of person Nansen was.  In previous years I have quoted noted Holocaust survivor and writer Primo Levi (here), and Holocaust survivor and historian H.G. Adler (here).

This year’s quote comes from Eric Sevareid.  Most members of my (baby boomer) generation know him from his days as a commentator on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  That’s how I came to know him, while still in elementary school, and I loved his trenchant, eloquent commentaries, even if the subject matter was sometimes well above my head.

What most people might not know is that Sevareid was from Norwegian stock.  As Sevareid writes in his autobiography, Not So Wild a Dream, “Christmas dinner was never right for [my father] without lutefisk and lefse, and Pastor Reishus always preached first in Norwegian, then in English.”  Sevareid was born in North Dakota, and lived for a while in my favorite ND city, Minot, before moving to Minneapolis.  Taking up journalism in college, he soon found himself as one of “Morrow’s Boys,” reporting on the war for CBS. In 1940 he was the first to report on the Fall of France.  As a broadcaster, Sevareid received numerous Peabody Awards and several Emmys, and was inducted in the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame.

 On August 2, 1943, Sevareid was investigating the Assam-Burma-China Ferry Command’s air supply of Chiang Kai-shek’s army over the Himalayas when his plane crashed.  Miraculously, 21 of the 22 passengers and crew aboard the stricken plane managed to parachute safely into the jungle. The Americans were ultimately rescued by the British administrator in the region, Philip Adams.  Here is how Sevareid describes Adams in his autobiography:

“For me, he takes a place among the few rare men I have known, of limitless courage, unfettered mind, and controlled compassion for others—the great, lonely men, some in the spotlight, others in obscurity, who are everywhere and always the same, devoted coworkers in the difficult and dangerous conspiracy of goodwill.”

I’m pretty sure that if Eric Sevareid had ever had the chance to meet Odd Nansen, he would have included Nansen in that select fraternity as well.

‘Just Wave’ in Minot, ND

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I’ve just returned from a Scandinavian festival in Minot, ND—Norsk Høstfest.  I was really looking forward to the trip.  I had gone last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  What is a bit unusual about my fond memories is that last year I caught a bad cold at the event (the convention center was like a refrigerator) and then threw my back out to boot.  So why such pleasant memories?

It’s not necessarily due to the location.  Minot is a rather plain, unprepossessing town/city of almost 50,000.  The weather is usually at least 25 degrees colder than Tryon (this year snow was forecast for the day I was leaving).  The economy in the area is geared toward farming; one customer at my booth admitted to me that the only time he gets to do any real reading these days is “during calving season.”  I nodded my head, unsure whether calving season occurs in the spring, summer or fall (or maybe winter?).   I certainly had never heard that explanation before.

So, what is it about Høstfest?  Within hours of landing, it struck me.  Almost everyone I met, from the shuttle bus driver, the fellow bus passengers, the vendors at the festival, the entertainers, the attendees, were simply among the friendliest, most courteous, most civil people I have ever met.  One can’t help but be in a good mood all the time.  And the courtesy is genuine—whether it is the woman selling Norwegian waffles, the man supplying Finnish beef stew, or the purveyor of Icelandic chocolate, everyone is upbeat, happy to be there, and committed to your enjoyment as well.  It’s a bit like being at a birthday party, or a wedding, with thousands of your best friends.

I think back to last year, when I was in so much pain on the final day that I was having difficulty even walking to the shuttle bus stop.  A couple—clearly more advanced in age than I—came along and asked if they could carry my bag.  That is why the Høstfest is so special to me.

And if that were not enough, I met some fascinating people as well.  One man, now living in Sun City Center, FL, told me that both his grandfather Sigurd and uncle Sverre were arrested the same day in 1943 and sent to Grini, the same camp where Odd Nansen spent almost 18 months as a prisoner.  Another man informed me that his grandfather’s uncle was Bernhard Nordahl, who accompanied Fridtjof Nansen on his historic quest for the North Pole.  Another woman explained how, as a 9 year-old, she watched the defeated German soldiers leave Norway in the summer of 1945 from the hill beside her house.

Perhaps the most fitting coda to the entire trip came when I reached the Minot International Airport on Sunday morning to fly home.  The airport was extra quiet when I arrived a full two hours before my flight—no one at the ticket counters, etc.  Finally, help arrived, I checked my bag, and headed for the gate.  Not a TSA person in sight.  Then I noticed this official looking sign:

Sign at Minot Airport

The picture quality is not that great, so I’ll recreate the text:

The TSA CHECKPOINT
typically opens
1-1/2 hours
(90 minutes)
before departures.
The Trestle Tap House will
serve customers on the
mezzanine. Just wave at the
staff or call in your order.
(701) 852-1210

Isn’t it comforting to know that even if the TSA is not on the job (which they ‘typically’ are), you can still get service at the Tap House—just wave at the staff.

This tells me more about Minot, ND, than any fancy travel brochure could.  I’m already looking forward to next year!

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  • February 10, 2019: Central United Methodist Church/S.T.A.R.
  • February 22, 2019: Providence Athenaeum, Providence, RI
  • March 10, 2019: York, PA Jewish Community Center, York, PA
  • May 2, 2019: Notre Dame High School, West Haven, CT
  • January 21, 2020: Alpha Delta Kappa, Raleigh, NC

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“Timothy Boyce’s presentation on “The Secret Concentration Camp Diary of Odd Nansen” combined an engaging speaking style, a knowledge of history, and a passion for his subject, resulting in a very enjoyable and informative morning for the more than 250 Senior Scholars at Queens University attendees. “

- Carolyn Kibler, President
Senior Scholars at Queens University

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Upcoming Events

Share

Book Signings

  • February 10, 2019: Central United Methodist Church/S.T.A.R.
  • February 22, 2019: Providence Athenaeum, Providence, RI
  • March 10, 2019: York, PA Jewish Community Center, York, PA
  • May 2, 2019: Notre Dame High School, West Haven, CT
  • January 21, 2020: Alpha Delta Kappa, Raleigh, NC
< 2018 >
December
SMTWHFS
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
Legend
  Previous/Upcoming Engagements
  This day in history