My story - Viggo ‘Kristian’ Nightbay
Published: December 3, 2017
By Viggo 'Kristian' Nightbay
I am so fortunate to have so many memories from the ten summers (1977-1986) I worked as a Skogfjorden staff member. I was glad to "gå for ti"! I was fortunate to work under three charismatic, and enthusiastic deans - Sonja, Kristin, and Tove. Each village session reflected their dynamic personalities, affecting a positive influence on the evolution of the Skogfjorden program over those years.
I was fortunate to get to see camp from the "other side", as I worked on the maintenance staff the month of May, when Concordia was done for the summer, but village sessions hadn’t started yet. My duties as a “maintenance man,” under the ever-watchful, curmudgeonly, yet caring eyes of maintenance chief, Loren Winch, made me really value the buildings at Skogfjorden. I recall helping to assemble the immigrant cabins and using varied measures to keep porcupines from gnawing away the roofs of those historic cabins. I haven’t forgotten standing on scaffolding, reaching up high to the ceiling of Utgard, putting a nice shade of brown on the metal connectors of the ceiling joist beams when finishing touches were needed prior to Utgard’s dedication ceremony.
I fondly recall Aksel (Kris Skjervold) and I swimming in the lake - with ice just a few feet off shore - on one of our maintenance “off-weekends”. Talk about a chilly Isbjørnklubben!
When village sessions began in June - who knew burlap had so many uses? Evening programs such as hvalfangst, vikinger, trolljakt and many more featured costumes and props made of the many ingenious uses of those lovely brown sacks. I don’t think the villagers realized how truly unbelievable many of the kveldsprogrammer were, for it was constantly amazing to see what we could imagine and do with our limited resources. Some programs were almost too elaborate, as we had a theatrical script for Viking Guder Dag, a multi-act play, with hundreds of lines for some staff actors to memorize. Uff da!
For the always popular danskveld, what equipment did we use? Did we have iPods and speaker decks to play our mp3 music files? Nei! The music was from that beloved little, yet oh so heavy, black amp that we’d plug boomboxes into, using our cassette tapes of Norsk dans mixes, made by recording the songs from the stacks of albums, not cds, of various Norwegian pop artists and rock groups such as The Kids, Jahn Teigen, DeLillos, the Four Jets, and the annual Norwegian song entries into the EuroVision Song Contest.
Dancing seemed to be such a big part of my life at Skogfjorden. I was so fortunate to have such fine dancing colleagues on staff as Siri, Solveig, Kjersti, and Trond to help lead folkedans på platform. An absolutely wonderful memory is dancing “Huckleberry Hound” in the parking lot, with Solveig leading the entire village.
Many of those fun programs in Gimle, such as Danskebåten and Karneval, required refreshments, so the brus refrigerator from Utgard needed to be in Gimle. Trond and I would carefully use the handtruck and gently nudge the refrigerator down the long hill to Gimle, trying to not shake up too severely the brus inside. (Hey, we didn’t want to make several trips up and down the hill, so we usually kept the brus inside it.) Of course, it was sometimes "godt humor" to see who got the extremely shaken-up brus cans! And then it was always so nice to push the refrigerator back up the hill to Utgard.
I was so fortunate to work at Skogfjorden, and do some things that I just don’t know if we’d be allowed to do today. Once a session, during my smågruppe for språktime, I would load the villagers into my 1979 Plymouth Fury, with the norsk flag painted on the hood, and drive around camp for our "tur av Norge", visiting other smågrupper and hytter. I really think the villagers in the blåstreng storgruppe for språktime were fortunate to have had so many talented language teachers who acted out those classic dialogues such as “Så pene øyne du har!” and “Jeg må ta en dusj i kveld”. “Har du sett innvandringshusene?” was turned into a little song and dance presentation set to the tune of “Per Sjuspring.” Can anyone who was there ever forget the pails of water descending from the balcony of either Utgard or Gimle, soaking storgruppe teachers, and some villagers, for “Å nei, det regner”?
I still have my copies of the Skogfjorden Avis newspaper, remembering well the painstaking, blue ink-stained work it took to mimeograph - not copy, not print - but crank the mimeograph machine's handle around and around, readjust the template, crank round and round, collate the copies, and get blue ink everywhere. Do I fondly recall MYGG Radio? I have probably heard those lovely notes of Grieg's for about 600 mornings! And, of course, it was always amusing to roust the sleepy-eyed villagers when "Wipe Out" by the Jets blasted through the cabin's speakers.
It was always a fun and necessary duty as a WSI/lifeguard to survey the beach each morning during Isbjørnklubben, looking for signs of egg-laying snapping turtle mothers. When the turtles were done, we would ‘nudge’ them back to the Swamp, and make a fine lesson about natur for the villagers, as we kept them away from the egg nests. On fotballbanen, I always tried to play the goalkeeper, for I was so fearful of a villager slamming into those awfully thick creosote-soaked wooden goalposts. Fortunate we all were to not have been injured by those post poles. We all were fortunate to have so many talented and wonderful colleagues on staff who wrote such nice things on that pink sheet of paper that was taped to my back during one of the last staff meetings for a session. Remember that, my colleagues, and do you still have yours? We wrote a comment on each other’s sheet, expressing our sentiments towards our colleague. I still have mine, and the comments make me smile whenever I read them. Takk, mine venner, for such nice thoughts.
I made the best friends of my life at Skogfjorden--Tora, Siv, Aina, Anders, Siri, Trond. I was so fortunate to meet Trine, the love of my life, at Skogfjorden ...
... and have reconnected with her after en liten pause!
Perhaps each of us was very fortunate to have spent a session, a summer, or ten summers on staff at Skogfjorden, and to have made so many lifelong friends and treasured memories.