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Greetings from Scandinavia!

Ten North Park Alumni and a Lavender Suitcase

One…. two…. three! The serenity of early morning quiet and stillness was suddenly shattered by the deep, almost mellow sounds of a 21-gun salute. Each resonant report echoed through the towering peaks of the steep mountainside, embracing the famed waterfront of Bergen—Norway’s second-largest city. Moments later, the rousing refrains of a marching band filled the air. It was the 17th of May, Constitution Day, and the celebration threshold beckoned above our jetlag.

Soon, the streets were overflowing with blonde-haired women and children in colorful, traditional dress and men mostly in dark clothing, some adorned with decorative embroidery and wearing wide-brimmed hats. Norwegian flags of every size commanded attention, and the passing parade seemed delightfully endless. National pride framed the oneness.

Five couples, all North Park graduates, joined the throngs of celebrating people that morning. Though it was by coincidence, the timing with Constitution Day could not have been better.

The idea of sharing a north-south voyage aboard Hurtigruten’s Norwegian coastal ship Richard With evolved over dinner in Florida. Wishes become reality, and Dick JC’56 and Donna (Eckstrom) Dahl JC’57, Ed JC’53 and Debby (Bengston) Dwyer JC’53, LeRoy JC’54 S’60 and Carole (Johansson) Johnson C’60, Paul JC’48 and Barbara (Ericson) Johnson JC’53, and Armour JC’52 and Bev (Eckstrom) Swanson JC’53 met in Bergen. The comfortable service vessel set off for 70 ports of call, and by journey’s end, many passengers admired the North Parkers’ bond of friendship.

Plying the remote waters far north of the Arctic Circle and beyond the North Cape to Kirkenes (second-most bombed city in World War II, due to mining of quality ore essential to the German war machine) evoked feelings of awe and kinship with the land, its history, and the hardy residents who routinely challenge an unforgiving sea. Numerous statues of a lone woman looking seaward told the rest of the story. Without mention, heart and mind filled with respect and appreciation for their strength of character and the grandeur of their homeland. The unending sea and backyards of massive, precipitous snow-capped peaks created beautiful—even intimidating—horizons. Occasional bits of greenery anchored isolated red or white houses and barns to sloping land above glacier-carved rocky shores. The passing panorama spoke of hardy, adaptive, and persevering inhabitants.

About the lavender suitcase…. that story began less than 30 minutes from a landing in Amsterdam, when the pilot announced that the plane was being diverted to Paris due to volcanic ash. Paul and Barbara Johnson were aboard. They arrived late in Bergen, minus their luggage. Paul’s bag arrived, but Barbara’s lavender bag remained missing. She boarded ship wearing her “Atlantic crossing” clothes, amid offers of loaned garments. Word of the dilemma spread quickly, and most conversations included a “Did it…?” question. Barbara gained unwanted notoriety as a fashion model, with new outfits purchased on the run during brief port stays. On the ninth day aboard, the quarterdeck was crowded with shore-bound passengers as the ship eased into the dock. A call to Barbara echoed in the passageway: “I think it’s on the dock!” A young man stood dockside, delivery order in hand and a lavender bag at his side! Two wonderful reunions had taken place along the Norwegian coast.