JUNE 9, 1950
OSLO, Norway, Thursday—The crowd yesterday waiting for the King and the Royal Party to arrive for the ceremonies of unveiling the monument to Franklin D. Roosevelt was large and enthusiastic. As I stood listening to our National Anthem, I realized anew what a beautiful site has been chosen for this statue. It stands over the quayside looking down the Fjord. The speeches were fine and warm and I think there was a full realization by all the people present that this statue symbolizes their gratitude not to one man alone, but to the people of the United States of America, to President Truman and Congress. And to the ideals for which they stand—continuing to give cooperation and support to attain peace and justice which men in the United States military services fought for during the late war, side by side with their allies.
On Tuesday morning we did some sightseeing while Elliott and the children did a little shopping for me as well as for themselves, choosing some distinctive Norwegian handicraft work as souvenirs.
I have been sent a very beautiful book by Mr. Halfdan Arenberg on the Norwegian Folkcraft which I am delighted to have. Also a book on cooperatives in Norway by O.B. Grimley which I am sure will be a valuable background for understanding the economy of this nation.
The sightseeing was extremely interesting. We saw the old Viking ships which were found buried in clay and remarkably well preserved. One with beautifully carved bow and stern was evidently used by a Queen. In those days the custom was apparently to build a kind of house behind the mast and bury the dead King or Queen surrounded by their household possessions in the ship. When you look at these open ships and their oars you wonder how they ever reached Greenland and the coast of North America. You wonder in fact, how these men built such strong and beautiful ships with the few tools they had at that time.
We saw also a church which has recently been renovated after being closed for a year and a half. This is now the Cathedral. The carvings on the altar and the pulpit and around the organ are of the somewhat Baroque period but extremely interesting and beautiful. The modern frescoed ceiling, the modern glass, and the great bronze doors are very fine. There is an old stone embedded at the right side of the door which is very ancient carving, and much of the stone used in building the church came from the old church which dated back a great many hundreds of years.
This is the celebration of the 900th year since the founding of the city of Oslo, and so they have an exhibit of the shipping which has existed in the city from the earliest days. It is interesting to see the models of the Viking ships, the old sailing ships and the gradual change to the ships of today, with their modern machinery and equipment.
Half of the Norwegian Merchant Marine was destroyed in the last war, but they are back again in their place as the third largest Merchant Marine force in the world. Six thousand of their sailors died in the war. Today there is a lack of personnel in the service, so they are trying to encourage young people to enter the Navy. And indeed, it is a very worthwhile career. In many parts of the world they maintain homes for Norwegian Sailors.
The park in which their great sculptor, Gustave Vigeland, has erected a monumental fountain, is approached through an avenue of individual sculptured figures. It is astounding that one man could do so much creative work. Behind the fountain there is a flight of granite steps with granite carvings at the top, all depicting the struggle of life. The most charming spot was a little circle for a childrens' playground, surrounded by a wall with bronze babies sculptured in different positions, and set at intervals along the top. The community of Oslo built Vigeland a studio and much of his work is exhibited there. He died in 1943. At his death he gave all of his productive works of art to the city.
Another exhibit in an old building, which is a museum of the city of Oslo, interested me. An exhibition showing what Oslo had been in the past, how it has grown to its present situation, and just what the people are getting in every field of local government. This was a real explanation to the tax payer of the history and growth of his city and government and where his tax dollar is spent. It is shown in a most interesting and graphic manner.