By ALBERT KITTREDGE
We all hear about high school class reunions, but how about one which necessitates a 10,000 mile round-trip plane ride with dashes through foreign airports to meet connecting flights. Several members of the Walpole (N.H.) High School Class of 1958 recently did just that from Aug. 15 through 24. Here is how it came about:
In 1957 Froydis Krossoy, a.k.a. "Sunny" joined the Class of ‘58 as an exchange student from Norway for her senior year. Walpole at the time had its own high school which has since been consolidated with Fall Mountain Regional High School. She stayed in contact over the years and even came back for two earlier class reunions.
Five years ago she said "You know we are not getting any younger. I would like to repay the hospitality you showed me during my senior year and over the many years since by inviting you to my country and my home for our 55th class reunion."
The Class of 1958 was small and only numbered 20, several of whom have since passed away. Most of the regular attendees at class reunions who were not encumbered with health issues jumped at the opportunity. Those making the trip were Gerry (Hill) Chandler, Verne (Christian) Greene, Donald Macnaughtan and his wife Marlene, and Albert Kittredge and his wife Anita.
With a little planning and the good fortune of planes arriving on schedule we linked up at the Oslo airport and embarked on a four and one half hour rental car drive northward to the small village of Vagamo, Norway, where Froydis and her husband, Ivar Schjoelberg, live in retirement. Ivar recently retired as the headmaster of the local middle school and Froydis retired as guidance counselor for regional schools.
Froydis and Ivar planned a "program" of activities for the one week visit which could not have been duplicated by the most expensive of tourist packages. We can’t say enough good things about our fellow classmate and her wonderful husband who opened their home and made us feel so welcome.
With few exceptions most meals during our stay took place at their table. Froydis is a great cook and Ivar performed most of the clean up duty. Their diets are healthy. Our meals were very much Norwegian with a lot of boiled vegetables. We didn’t have any fried food the entire trip. Everything was delicious. Norwegians are a hardy people who enjoy the outdoor way of life. Hiking, skiing, ice skating, football (soccer) and the like. We remarked to our hosts that we did not observe a single obese person and were amazed that no one locked their doors. They responded "you will see more of that in the cities."
We observed lots of log homes with traditional sod roofs even in the populated areas. The inside of all the homes were spotless and most were covered with very light colored wood. Another lesson Americans could take from the Norwegians was the villages and countryside were devoid of trash -- not a piece of paper, litter, empty bottle, etc. They take pride in their surroundings.
One evening Fyodis and Ivar gathered their family to host us for a celebratory Norwegian meal, good talk and music at the ballroom of the nearby B&B where some of us were staying. They have two sons, three granddaughters and two grandsons. All spoke English and were a delight to talk with. Ivar is an accomplished violinist and has passed that on to his sons who in turn have passed it on to their sons. They are so good at making a violin sing that they have played in several countries including the United States. We were honored to be treated to our own special concert.
Central Norway is very mountainous with very little flat land except down in the valleys where a river or lake divides lush farming country. Lots of sheep, goats and a few cows. Most of the sheep and goats were up in the mountains with a "herder" for the summer. It was not unusual to come around a corner and find some crossing the road or in several cases bedded down right in the road -- signs inform drivers that livestock have the right of way.
Once you start up the side of a mountain you do not go far before you get above tree line. Lots of rocks and ledge. About half of the country is north of the Arctic Circle so temperatures remain cool year round. Norway is home to many glaciers but we were not in that area. We did see "snow patches" where thousands of years of snow has accumulated and never fully melts because it is on the reverse side of a mountain which receives a very limited amount of sunlight. These "snow patches" are slowly receding due to global warming and are now a treasure trove of archeological findings (objects do not disintegrate when frozen in ice -- but must be found quickly and preserved or they disappear forever).
We toured a receding "snow patch" where many objects from the past have recently been discovered. This is rapidly becoming a tourist attraction, however the day we went was, as our hosts said, "the worst weather day of the year" -- it was on our second full day so we did not know the difference, thinking it likely rained a lot in Norway. It was cold and the rain was coming down at a slant. We got soaked.
Thankfully the weather cleared after that. After a half mile walk to the "snow patch" the last hundred yards or so was pulling yourself hand over hand over the ice up a long rope. The local historical society has recently carved an ice cave deep inside the "ice patch." They have carbon dated the ice at the center as over 5,000 years old.
There is lots of water in the form of rivers and lakes in Norway. Many of the rivers carried a lot of silt which makes us think they are glacial fed. There are waterfalls galore. Most originate high in the mountains where they come out of an alpine lake or form as a trickle which grows larger and larger from melting snow.
We took a trip to the west coast of Norway to see one of the famous fjords which is a fancy name for a narrow inlet leading to the sea surrounded by very high cliffs. Many of these fjords are very deep. See WALPOLE, Page 15
They make great "safe harbors" for ocean going vessels such as cruise ships. They are also one of the reasons Germany invaded and occupied Norway during World War II. Getting from interior Norway to the western coast is a drive with spectacular views. First you go up, and up and up and then you go down, and down and down -- but not in a straight line. You can literally see into tomorrow. What a feat of road building.
Half way to the coast on our particular route there is a German fighter plane that was shot down and serves as a reminder of the past. As the story goes a British and German fighter pilot had a fierce dogfight in which both were shot down. Both pilots survived and made their way to a deserted mountain cabin where mortal enemies had to get along in order to make it through the winter. They became good friends and revisited the site many times over the years on the anniversary of their famous battle.
There ya have it -- Thank you Froydis and Ivar. What a great 55th class reunion. Thank you fellow classmates who made the journey with us. We had a wonderful time. We made some good memories. It was the trip of a lifetime.
A little about members of the Walpole High School Class of 1958 who made the trip: Gerry (Hill) Chandler is a professional massage therapist and health care worker who lives near the same family farm where she grew up in Walpole; Verne (Christian) Greene is a retired insurance company executive who lives near her grandchildren in Keene, N.H. For the past 20 years she has become a well known authority on Genealogical Research. She is currently helping the New Hampshire State Police Criminal Division in the Cold Case Unit.
Donald Macnaughtan retired as a Senior Scientist from Bayer Corporation where he was head of the Analytical Research and Process Safety Laboratories. Don received his doctorate in Analytical Chemistry from Purdue University after receiving his bachelor’s degree from The University of New Hampshire. At the University he met his Marlene who received her bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and later her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. They have three daughters, three sons-in-law and four grandchildren and two more on the way. They live in New Martinsville, WV.
Albert Kittredge (author of this article) is a retired Army officer who resides in Fayetteville, N.C. He is an adjunct professor for Webster University’s graduate level security management program. Most of his retired life now centers around outdoor endeavors. Kittredge was recently recognized by the N.C. Wildlife Federation as the Wildlife Volunteer of the Year as part of the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards program. He can be reached at email@example.com.