Paul Møller Larsen and Johanne Thomsen -- 65 years

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Paul Møller Larsen and Johanne Thomsen -- 65 years.

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Paul M. Larsen first immigrated to the US in 1924, traveling by train to Council Bluffs, Iowa, from New York. He stayed a few days with a widowed aunt who introduced him to farmers in the Harlan-Cuppy’s Grove area. He worked for area farmers and attended the Danish Baptist Church in Harlan. Before leaving, Paul had promised his mother that he would return to visit her in five years, and he did so in the summer of 1929. While there, he met Johanne at an uncle’s 25th anniversary celebration. They saw each other off and on until Christmas, when things started becoming serious. Paul started talking about their getting married and going to America, but Johanne was dubious about leaving home and whether she knew him well enough to marry. They decided he should return to the US for a year and then come back to Denmark. During that time the couple became better acquainted through letters. In the fall of 1930, Johanne was milking a cow when Paul walked into the barn, having returned to Denmark a few weeks earlier than expected. Johanne’s mother said they should marry on a Friday in order to be happy, so they set their wedding date for Friday, February 6, 1931. That turned out to be the coldest day of the winter!. Everyone met at Johanne’s home for coffee and cookies before noon. The wedding was scheduled for 2pm and the church was six kilometers away. When they made their way there through the snowdrifts, there was no heat in the building. Both pastor and the young couple stood up in front, shivering; Johanne was only wearing a thin dress, but Paul’s aunt lent her a shawl to put over her shoulders. The wedding was followed by a dinner prepared by Johanne’s aunt, with speeches, coffee, kransekage, and other desserts. Then the newly-weds drove to Paul’s home, where they stayed until leaving for America. Johanne had to go to Copenhagen to get a physical before leaving home and was homesick by the time she got there. They next boarded a train for Germany and left Bremerhaven on the S/S Bremen, at the time the fastest ship afloat. From New York they took a train to Wellington, New Jersey, where they stayed with a relative and found jobs with a rich family, Paul as a chauffeur and Johanne as a cook. Then, at the last moment, the offer of employment was withdrawn due to potential language difficulties. ~~ The couple decided to head for Iowa instead. Paul bought an old Model T Ford for the trip. He converted the back seat for sleeping and cut a hole in the floor board on the right side in front of the front seat. With a kettle that fit through the hole and sat on the muffler, they were able to heat water for coffee and soup, and thus made their way west. It was the Depression, however, and there was no work to be found around Harlan. One of Paul’s friends offered them a job as farm-laborer and household help, but this was not fun for Johanne because his wife and daughters only spoke English. They soon found a similar position on another farm, one which came with an old house. The wind blew through it and everything froze in the kitchen in the winter, but Paul and Johanne were young and could stand such vicissitudes. In 1936 they purchased a 50-acre farm in Cuppy’s Grove. That was the first of several farm purchases, ending with the “Sunset View” farm where they lived until they retired. ~~ Poems such as the one here, written for the couple’s 25th anniversary, are traditional for such special occasions.

  • Photograph courtesy of Kenneth Larsen, Calistoga CA.

  • Photograph courtesy of Kenneth Larsen, Calistoga CA.