Mrs. Harriman in Norway. As I listened to Robert St. John broadcasting from London New Year's eve, and heard him tell how the English were attacking the Lofoten islands, off the coast of Norway - to drive out the Nazis, my mind flew back to that morning of December 3rd, when the most charming of diplomats, Mrs. J. Borden Harriman, told of her trip up to the Lofoten islands. Let me tell you about it later. First of all you will want to know about Mrs. Harriman's presentation to the king of Norway. While in Paris under the tutelage of Ambassador Bullett, in world affairs, she did like every other woman - she went shopping for Parisian gowns; she selected the material and was fitted for that important gown - the court dress for her presentation to King Haakon. She arranged to have the dress shipped to Oslo. When she reached Oslo in late June, after a ten-day stay in London, she learned, to her dismay, that the king was leaving the next day for a holiday at a northern resort. (And Oslo is so delightfully cool - just like Bar Harbor, Maine, in summer. A garden party had been arranged for the Fourth of July - for American visitors, at which Mrs. Harriman was to receive these guests. She could not do so until she became a full-fledged minister - receiving that title at the hands of the king. That night her telephone rang; the king sent word that he just remembered about the American garden party - and that if Mrs. Harriman would pardon the informality, he would be glad to receive her early the next morning. Hastily she and her maid unpacked the trunk shipped from Paris. (Wouldn't you like to have had a look-in, ladies?) She, with true feminine precaution, tried on the presentation gown - and it didn't fit. It just wouldn't do. What to do? She remembered an old dress, that she had debated about bringing; but it had the requisites - long sleeves, etc. So, the next morning, she donned the old dress and an inexpensive Parisian hat, looking "decorous but unexciting," as she expressed it. A coach, drawn by four magnificent white horses, with two footmen in attendance, appeared at the door of the legation. Her heart began to palpitate. When she found two lines of soldiers outside the palace, standing at attention - facing each other, it must have been to her like "running the gauntlet." Inside the great doors of the palace was another guard of honor. Then her knees began to weaken - and she was stricken with an awful fear that she might say the wrong thing to the king. In fact, she couldn't think of anything to say. (Didn't I tell you she is like a sweet unspoiled child?) Then the great doors to the king's throne were opened - and the king, handsome in his military uniform, advanced, smiling, to meet her. This was a special concession to a woman minister - as all others must walk the whole (terrifying) length of the throne room, to be presented to the king. She found him to be cordial, utterly charming, the most democratic of all European rulers. He immediately asked many questions about America, thus putting her at ease at once. Which proves again that the truly great are the easiest people in the world to meet. Mrs. Harriman made up her mind at the beginning that she was going to be minister to all the people of Norway - not just the privileged few around the legation. She resolved to know Norway - from north to south; from coast to inland border. Her Sundays were spent in visiting the little villages, in the humble homes of the fishermen, in remote towns - far from the legation. She was amazed at the industry of the Norwegians. The chief industry is fishing; and hardy and courageous are the men who fight storm, rough seas, and bitter cold, to bring in the daily haul. The women are meticulous housekeepers. And they never waste a moment. Every spare moment from daily tasks is spent knitting - they even knit as they walk along the street.
Mrs. Harriman admired the scenic beauty of Norway - the snow-capped mountains, the fiords, where the rock-bound coast drops straight into the water; the winding roads among forests of evergreen. Someone told her that if she wanted to see real beauty she should go to Lofoten - the "land of the midnight sun." She mentioned this trip to the minister to Sweden. He had always wanted to make this trip. So they planned it together. The following March, a party of them headed for the north. On my map the Loton islands look to be about 300 miles north of the Arctic circle. It took them three days and nights to make the journey - to the coast of the mainland, opposite Lofoten. Early the next morning they set forth, each dressed in two or three pairs of breeches, warm boots, heavy coats and warm caps. The sea was very choppy; everyone took to their cabins except Mrs. Harriman and her granddaughter, each of whom must be an exceptionally good sailor. They played Russian Bank on deck - 'til a bolsterous wave upset their table and sent the cards flying. A heavy snowstorm came up, hiding every view. Just as they neared the main island of Lofoten, the snowstorm stopped, as if by magic, and revealed a breath-taking sight. Ahead of them was a sloping wall of rock - much like the Palisades of the Hudson - with its coat of snow and frost, sparkling in the brilliant sun. At its base were five thousand fishing boats, each bearing its own colorful flag. Every color imaginable. It was an unforgettable sight, Mrs. Harriman says that when she is troubled, or harassed, she closes her eyes and thinks of Lofoten.
Word of their coming had preceded their arrival. The fishermen eyed them curiously. Finally a spokesman said, "Where is the woman minister?" (She should have worn an Eskimo tunic). They dropped anchor, and then began to fish. The minister to Sweden caught the first fish (which satisfied his ego). Mrs. Harriman caught a bigger one, and the granddaughter caught four. (Hooray for our side). Do you wonder that the people of Norway love her? With the deepest feeling she spoke of these brave, industrious people, who are reduced to want by the cruel Nazis. The invaders have taken away their warm clothing and blankets, their oil, needed for their fishing boats, and much of their fuel. I wish I had more space to tell you of the Spartan courage of the Norwegians, as demonstrated by three bus drivers. Some other time I will tell you. And now, good-night,
Florence B. Taylor.
P.S. What do you suppose I got for Christmas? A rare kiss, and a garbage can. The first, bestowed by Estelle, is like the brush of a butterfly's wing, and sent me into the seventh heaven of ecstasy. The second one - an extra gift - besides my snazzy typewriter stand - was presented to me with due ceremony up in my bedroom Christmas morning - by our boys. "This is an extra present from us, Mom. We knew you needed it." Do you wonder I'm a bit daffy about those boys?
Next -1/15/42 - Portrait of a Surgeon