Friday, April 13, 2012

Not the Titanic

I realize most people probably have Titanic fatigue by now, but not me. I have always found the story riveting. However, it isn't just the individual story of the Titanic that I enjoy. I am fascinated by that time period in general (which explains why I am such a fan of Downton Abbey). Right now I am watching the four part series out of Britain about the Titanic, very unimaginatively called Titanic, written by the same person who wrote Downton Abbey. The show is much better than the title, and all I have left to watch is the final episode. It's not like I don't know how it is going to end, but there are still the details of who gets lifeboats and who doesn't to be sorted out.

There is another reason I am so interested in the story of the Titanic. Just one and a half months before the Titanic,  March 1, 1912 to be precise, my grandpa boarded a ship and sailed to America to start a new life. He was just sixteen years old. It is hard to imagine by today's standards - a sixteen year old boy making that kind of life changing decision, and his parents allowing it to happen. But life in 1912 was different than life in the year 2012. At sixteen my grandpa was considered to be a man, not a boy. This was my grandpa's house in Denmark. (This picture was taken many years after my grandpa lived there, thus the bike in front of the house.)


My grandpa was from the small Danish island of Aero. His family was quite large, which was more common than not at the turn of the last century. Three of his siblings had already immigrated to the United States, and my grandpa desperately wanted to join them. It was decided that his oldest sister Christine, the one discussed in this post, would loan him the money he needed for his fare, and he would pay the fare off by working on her farm.

When I think about the Titanic, and those who went down with her in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, I think of all the stories that ended in that moment. More than 1500 people died, and of those more than 1000 were immigrants just like my grandpa. There were people from at least 28 countries on board that ship. We tend to think of the passengers as being Americans, Irish and British. While these were definitely the majority of the passengers, there were also people from countries as diverse as China, Mexico, Turkey and Spain. Out of the ten Danes on board only one survived. There were just fourteen survivors out of the thirty-four Canadians. The only country with a 100% survival rate was Japan - the lone Japanese passenger having somehow managed to make it off the ship before it went down.

This is the ship my grandpa sailed on.

The Oscar 2


My grandpa made it to America. The dreams he had as a sixteen year old boy came true. He eventually had his own farm. I have talked about that farm several times on my blog. This is a picture painted from an old black and white photo of my grandpa harvesting wheat.


He got married and raised two children. The boy in the photos is my dad.



Their two sons grew up, and they each had three children. Those six children have gone on to have eleven children. I am sad to say that none of these eleven ever had the privilege of meeting their great grandfather. He was a kind and generous man, and his story is an inextricable part of each of their stories.

The immigrants on The Oscar 2 all had a chance to live out their dreams. Their stories continued. An obscure ship sailing across the cold Atlantic just six weeks before the doomed Titanic. Both ships heading to New York. One sailing into port, the other sinking off the coast of Newfoundland. One famous, the other I am quite sure you had never heard of before this blog post. Quiet success has a way of staying out of the history books.

19 comments:

  1. Kristie, I just finished listening to this bit on the bandleader of the Titanic before turning to reading blogs.
    http://www.npr.org/2012/04/13/150514628/remembering-the-titanics-intrepid-bandleader

    I'm all for quiet success.

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    1. Thanks for that link Sarah. I will definitely have to listen to it. And yes, quiet success is good. :-)

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  2. Way cool! And I'm a big Downton Abbey fan too.

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    1. I am already anxiously awaiting season 3!

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    1. Thanks Jaz - I just wish I had asked my grandpa more questions when I had the chance.

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  4. I love that painting. Your grandpa must have worked very hard to build a life in the US.

    Seeing the Oscar 2 makes me think there's something to be said about going with the tried and true instead of the hot new thing. But, I guess you never know for sure what's going to happen either way.

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    1. My grandpa did work hard but he loved every minute of it. He loved his new country and never looked back, although he did stay in contact with his family in Denmark.

      You are right. You never know for sure what is going to happen, but tried and true sure seems the safer way to go most of the time.

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  5. I just watched the first episode of Titanic last night, I am really enjoying it. I too am fascinated with that time period. I love your short history of your Grandfather, and I'm very pleased he was on a different ship!

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    1. It is a great series! I was a little confused at the beginning of the second episode because they went back to the beginning again, but I ended up liking how they dealt with the story.

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  6. My grandmother immigrated alone from Ireland when she was 16, as well. She was the oldest of ten. When I visited her house in Ireland it was hard to imagine a teenaged girl walking down that road to who knows what. I have the trunk she brought with her. It's quite small. Thanks for the story.

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    1. That is great that you have your grandmother's trunk. What a treasure! It must have been even more daunting for a 16 year old girl to immigrate at that time than for a 16 year old boy.

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    2. I remember your fun loving, ruddy complected Grandpa! Grandpa Chris' pockets were always full of candy bars. Of course, these were every child's delight. If I remember correctly, we had to give him a kiss to receive one! He gladly received mine, and I gladly recieved the sweets!

      Your mini bike reckon cousin!

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    3. To my mini bike wrecking cousin:

      I had totally forgotten about those candy bars!

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  7. Haha, yes, she did realize the source of her good mood that evening. I think she used what she learned that day to help get through 4 of her kids getting married over the next 3.5 years. =)

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  8. I have been watching the Titanic movies and documentaries. I've always been fascinated with the Titanic. Great post about your grandfather.

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    1. Thanks! I have been enjoying all of the Titanic stories too. Now I just need to watch the last episode of the series.

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  9. wonderful post there, I really enjoyed reading it, incidentally, I was very surprised to read that over 120 Swedes dies on the Titanic, (my husband is Swedish).
    I thought the cottage was Irish first, it looks very similar to the Irish style of cottage!
    Thanks for visiting my blog so often and leaving kind comments, your visit and comments make me update the blog so you and all my other readers don't visit my blog in vain!
    hugs
    liz

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    1. I was surprised by the mix of nationalities on board the ship too. Interesting the cottage looked Irish. I guess they must have had access to the same kinds of building materials.

      I love your blog! I know you are very busy, so appreciate the times you pop in and give us updates on your life in Ireland! :-)

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