The last Norwegian standing
As a kid born in a northern Minnesota" Duluth", was a terrible place to live. But what do kids know, we are taught, observe and forced sometimes to believe.
My Dad Floris Gilbertson was truly the last Norwegian standing when he could. My family grew up very poor but proud as many other families around the country at the time. Heritage was so much a part of your upbringing. The food we ate, what we drank and how we were talked to made a big difference in our lives.
My dad was the last speaking Norwegian in our little family and as usual the families weren't taught the old language. I'm not sure if this was by design or laziness. Our dad was the last to speak, not even our mother spoke the language.
Our grandmother on my dad's side Clara Nelsby was her given name and she didn't speak very much English. I only remember knowing her a short time when I was about 14 years old. It was funny to hear her talk, my dad thought it was funny also. At age 14 and trying to learn something new was hard. I was living in Fergus Falls, Minnesota then with my dad and step mom, who also spoke full Norwegian. There were words I'll never forget when my dad said the word" to, too or two, it all sounded the same listen tuooo. I can remember him knocking me in the head for not listening to my step mother, a little old fashen Norwegian discipline.
On weekends in small towns like Underwood township you could see the culture in the stores in the needlework, painting, rosemaling etc. The food sure was different, lots of potato dumplings made with bacon fat and bits of bacon then you would drizzle hot bacon fat over the top. This sure was good, you needed this for the long winters up there. There didn't seem to be a lot of imagination in the Norwegian food though. Growing up in this house was fun though not always understood. We would go out and shoot on weekends traveling the many dirt roads. Hunting was great in Minnesota then Pheasant was abundant, duck hunting was cold and wet and I know every other young man that was hunting went through the same stuff then.
Like every other kid I knew up there we all worked after school and all summer. Me and my dad worked on large trucks for Milkway's, inc. Bulk milk haulers from the local farms around northern Minnesota. I was fourteen then and driving trucks to and from the milk processing plant there in Fergus. My dad was the mechanic for the company and I was learning, I changed many a flat tire on those damm trucks and windshields. Hitting a full grown pheasant was hard on the trucks it seems like week or so we were replacing front glass on the trucks.
I guess the hardest thing I had to adjust to was school. The kids were different or I guess, now in retrospect maybe it was me that was the different one in the bunch. I was kinda of a punk from the streets of Tampa,Fa. I really didn't listen to well to older people nor did I really give a shit either. Life was pretty bad back in Tampa, the year before I had runaway heading north to Minnesota, I unloaded large chicken trucks in Cleveland just to get bus fair to Minnesota. I ended up on the streets of Chicago looking for a place to stay. That didn't work out so good for me either, I was sleeping in a door way of an apartment house when I heard shots fired from A gas station just twenty feet from where I was resting. I started running as fast as I could through streets and neighborhoods filled with people at one in the morning.
I ended up back at the Greyhound bus station and under arrest by the Chicago Police. Well that is another story but several weeks in a detention center somewhere in south Chicago was another learning experience for me. I guess Minnesota was out of the picture for me this time. After a couple months in lock up I ended up on a greyhound bus headed back to Tampa.
Life's hard for a young stubborn Norwegian kid living in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. One morning I decided to go back to Tampa around 15 then, so I put on my parka two pair of paints two shirts a pack of Winston's and a Hamm's beer in my pocket. I started the trip southbound hitchhiking through many small town in Minnesota. The first night I fell asleep in a laundromat in a small town somewhere close to Minneapolis,Mn. The town set about 1/2 mile off the main road . It was late and cold as hell its January in Minnesota, freezing cold to me. I was awakened by hi ya sure who are you. I got up and run as fast as I could toward the main hwy. After walking through the snow in my candy apple red Chubby Checker shoes I was cold wet and totally exhausted already and I was still in Minnesota. Well the trip back to Florida took me about 5 days hitchhiking but I made it in one piece.
I do regret that my life with my dad changed that very summer. I came to Duluth several times and made the trip back to Fergus as well. I guess leaving my dad's like I did changed everything for me and my dad. I guess my dad was the last stubborn Norwegian alive, besides myself. If I had the life to live over I guess I would have ask more questions about my dad. What I know is that he was a Master chief in the U. S. Navy and served in the far east. He served in Ewo Jima during wold war 2 and really didn't like Marines to well. My dad received a purple heard for an explosion aboardship that killed his hearing. My dad to me was the last real Norwegian in the world , a tough guy that had principle about everything I will miss you my friend.