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Monday, January 19, 2015

Tales of Copenhagen District ~ Southwest Quarter of Mt. Pleasant


Written by Eli A. Day           



Joseph Page and Joseph Day taught one winter in the second ward schoolhouse. I went to their school. We called that part of the town Copenhagen because so many Danes lived there. There was some rivalry between the Danish boys and the English or Americans, so we had to wrestle and scuffle to see who was champions. Sometimes it was fights. I managed to throw down a very tough match, the champion of Copenhagen, a boy my own age and size, but got through the winter without any fights. In fact, I do not remember having a real fight at any school. When the end of the school was near, Joseph Page examined our class, (I was then in the third reader) and said I was the best in the class. He promoted several of the class to the fourth readers. We were not classed in grades, but in readers. Our books were primmer, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth readers. We had about three spelling classes. No other lessons [were] taught in classes.

One night, while playing in the streets of the old town, my crowd heard a racket down in "Copenhagen," so we went down to see and enjoy the fun, but it came near not being fun, for we found a crowd of boys abusing a few girls that were with them. We promptly demanded that they stop their abusive talk and actions. They wanted to know who we were, and we told them we would soon show them who we were if they did not let those girls alone. We nearly had a battle royal on our hands, but they concluded to behave themselves. This does not mean that the boys of that part of the town were any worse than those in other parts, for there were hoodlums in every quarter of Mt. Pleasant.

One night, while playing in the streets of the old town, my crowd heard a racket down in "Copenhagen," so we went down to see and enjoy the fun, but it came near not being fun, for we found a crowd of boys abusing a few girls that were with them. We promptly demanded that they stop their abusive talk and actions. They wanted to know who we were, and we told them we would soon show them who we were if they did not let those girls alone. We nearly had a battle royal on our hands, but they concluded to behave themselves. This does not mean that the boys of that part of the town were any worse than those in other parts, for there were hoodlums in every quarter of Mt. Pleasant.

Another time the crowd I was with heard an awful racket nearly in the same part of "Copenhagen." So down we went to enjoy the fun. We found a large gang of boys around a wagon with a hayrack on it in the street. There were boys there, I guess, from nearly all parts of the town and such a shouting as they were making. They had been in to Foutin's melon patch, but had found it bare. "Bring out your melons! Where have you hid your melons? Don't be so stingy." And even worse things were being shouted by the disappointed crowd of would-be pilferers.

I had been there only a few minutes when the house door opened and out came Mr. Foutin. Hoop! Skat! How that crowd scattered and ran. I soon found myself standing alone by the wagon and rack. Thomas Foutin came very quietly up to me and spoke very nicely to me. I told him I had heard the noise from up in town and had come down to see what was going on. He said the crowd had been there for about an hour, running through the garden and corrals and stables, shouting for melons, but he could not give them any for his melons were all gone. He made no threats, but wished the crowd would go away or keep quiet so that he could sleep.



THE DANES IN MT. PLEASANT (taken from Knudsen Chronicles page 59)

COPENHAGEN DISTRICT

The Knudsen family lived in the southwest quarter of town, called the "Copenhagen District" because so many Danes made their homes there. An interesting culture developed. Because there were so many Sorensens, Madsens, Olsens, Hansens, Rasmussens, Jensens, etc., nicknames based on former hometown, physical characteristics, or a humorous happening became common. For instance, James Christensen, who came from the town of Hobro, was commonly called James Christensen Harbro. Ole Sorensen, who said the word 'absolutely' often, was called Ole Absolutely. Examples of other amusing names were Olaf Coffee Pot, Chris Golddigger, Stinkbug Anderson, Fat Lars, Dirty Mart, Alphabet Hansen, Bert Fiddlesticks, Otto By-Yingo Anderson, Pete Woodenhead, Long Peter, Little Peter, Salt Peter, Shimmy Soren, and Shingle Pete.

The Word of Wisdom was not stressed so much at the time, so they followed the customs of their homeland and continued to drink coffee and homemade brew called Danish Beer. Symbols of hospitality were the coffee pot simmering at the back of the stove and freshly-made cinnamon buns or cookies covered with a colorful cloth waiting to be shared. If anyone chided them, they commonly replied with a smile, "Brother Joseph never meant the Word of Wisdom for the Danes."

One Dane explained, "Not all the goot tings should be left to the yentiles."

Preaching at a funeral of a friend, a Dane said, "He has gone to Heaven where there is no sorrow, or pain, or Word of Wisdom."

The Danes had a great ability to laugh at themselves: "The Danes of Mount Pleasant, it was said, had pretty wives, while the Swedes had homely wives. The reason: the Swedes were hard workers, while the Danes loafed around and picked out the pretty girls when they came to town."

At times, old prejudices from Europe caused problems, but laughing about it seemed to help defuse anger: "A Dane and a Swede were arguing about the virtues and vices of the two nations. As the argument reached its peak, the furious Swede demanded, 'What could be dirtier than a dirty Dane?' To which the Dane triumphantly responded, 'A clean Swede."'

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