Sven Nielsen's Memoirs Part 2

We have gas installed

We had gas installed in the house in 1925. The installer asked my mother, if she wanted to pay by monthly bill or have a coin box, where every time she put a quarter in, the gas would run for a certain time. She chose the coin box, and one day when the gas stopped running, my brother Erhard figured a way he could empty the box and use the quarters all over again. That worked very well, until one Christmas month where we had hardly used any gas, an inspector came out to check, but we told him that we had been away, so he accepted that, and subsequently we made sure we had used a reasonable amount of gas each month. Also we had partly free water and electricity, Erhard knew how to bypass the meters.

With so many people living together there wasn't much privacy. One day when I put a speaker on the telephone, so everybody could hear what was said, there were a lot of complaints, so I had to remove it. Another time I installed the horn from the old Ford on the front door, so when anybody rang the bell they would get a blast right in their face. It was lots of fun, but my father disagreed after a visitor got frightened and fell of the steps, so I had to dismantle it.

My father

The windmill in the garden

In 1915 my father built a windmill in the garden. He made a generator from scratch, made a wood model for the magnet and had it cast in iron, made an armature, the mill would turn to produce electricity, which in turn would charge a lead acid battery and supply light in the house, 10 years before the town got hydro.

He was extremely good at shooting, was number one in a local riffle shooting club, when there was a carnival in town, he would go to the shooting gallery and shoot. The first shot he would see how much the gun was off target, then compensate and consistently hit bulls eye, collect all the first prizes with lots of applause from the crowd around, until he was refused to enter.

In 1921 he built radios to order, that was before they were available in stores. He would make most of the parts himself and put it together in a fancy mahogany case, he would make in his cabinet shop.

The cottage by the North Sea

The cottage in Blokhus by the North Sea

My father wanted to have a cottage. He got a piece of land from a farmer at the North Sea, it was not of any value as farmland, so he acquired it for next to nothing, it was before summer cottages became popular. He then collected sand from the beach, and in some spots gravel was available for free, loaded up his old Ford T, then mixed the sand and gravel with a little cement for the foundation. The doors and windows would be made up in his shop so it hardly cost him anything.

The cottage was finished in 1922, and became very popular with the family; they would come all the way from Copenhagen, so at times it would be crowded to say the least. I remember one night the 3 smallest of us would sleep in a dresser, one in each drawer pulled out slightly so we could breathe. Some were put up in the attic and others in a tent outside, but we had fun. Every morning we would go for a long trip along the beach looking for things the wind would blow in, like pieces of amber or coloured glass balls from fishing nets. We had 2 months vacation every year from school, but we always took an additional month off enjoying the summer. It was a very healthy life to go around barefooted in the sand, and indeed we never did get sick.


Towards the end of my school year at age 13 I was invited to a home party with one of my classmates. The whole class was there, first we had hot chocolate with cake then each boy had to go into another room with a girl. The room was totally dark, I asked the girl, when it was my turn, what are we supposed to do? She answered, you have to kiss me you dummy, and I said why? She said that is the rule, so I kissed her, but it didn't do much for me, it was a new experience though. There was another girl "Irma", she was a younger sister to the one holding the party, and we got along fine. We started to date on a regular basis, until she ran away from home and joined a traveling circus.

Me and a girl Me and a girl

I finish school and start working

When I got out of school at age 13, I had to start working for my father in his workshop. My salary was 7 cents a week, from that I had to clothe my self, no money for movies or any luxury whatsoever. The first thing I bought was one of those toy trains with a spring you wind up, which would make it run for about a minute on a track in a circle. I had wanted that for years, and now I finally got it. After putting it together, and watched it run a short while, I realized it was too late, I had grown too old, brought it back to the store and got a refund, but it taught me a valuable lesson: don't wait too long when you want to do something, do it now!

I had to work 48 hours a week, mostly delivering furniture on a heavy push cart. It was slow pushing and not very popular with the cars that had to slow down to 4 km an hour. One day when it was really cold, Harry and I pushed the cart out on the frozen salt water fjord and all the way out under the bridge. It was absolute crazy of us, we could have lost the cart, not to mention drowned, but we were young, and it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time.

Push cart

In the shop it was very dusty, I was allergic to mahogany dust, it bothered me a lot. I disliked the work, my interest was in electronics, but I had no way to escape. Once I was to deliver 2 antique chairs to a customer, I had them on my shoulder riding a bike, when I lost my balance and they hit the pavement scattering to pieces. I was afraid my father would kill me, so I took the chairs to a furniture shop and asked them to fix them, but the manager said no and told me to take them back. When I got back my father didn't say a word, apparently the manager had phoned him and told him off, that they were too heavy for me to deliver on a bike.

I become a boy scout

Member of the Danish Skiing Association

I joined a boy scouts group at age 14, it was new to me, I wasn't used to socialize with anybody. The first trip was to a town a 100 km away, we went by train, about 20 boys, and we assembled on the town square. Here we stood in a line, and local parents would come to look at us discussing loudly what they thought. If they saw one they liked they would take him home for the weekend. After half an hour we were only 3 left, with sour faces for having been rejected. Fortunately they had arranged a solution for that, the minister of a church bailed us out and took us to his residence, next to the church, with a hot fireplace going. We were served a delicious turkey dinner, played games and enjoyed the weekend

Free time activities

On Sundays we would go fishing, get up at 4 am and bike 40 km then fish for hours. We would usually get a few pounds of pike, which we would sell to a local delicacy store for a few pennies. My brother Villy had a special talent for catching salmons, he would walk into the river and catch them with his bare hands by gently tickling them on the belly, slowly moving his hands towards the gills and then grasp them. The butcher shops at that time had sawdust on the floor to prevent the customers from falling, but that was outlawed in 1930 by the health department.

We all made our own skies and bindings. To bend the wood we steamed it and put it in a press, until it cooled off. Harry also made a sled with the steering wheel from the old ford, 50 years later some thing similar came on the market. Carl Henry made a motor scooter on a wooden board with an old Harley Davidson motor. Another hobby we had was to make model airplanes; they always caught a lot of attention. Once we were flying them a few cars had parked to watch and my plane flew into the front side window of one and smashed it. Another time when everybody was watching except one person who was looking the other way, my plane hit him in the back of his head. He stumbled around in a daze, not knowing what hit him.