My father, Hans Pederson, invited his Danish biographer, Olaf Linck to his Seattle penthouse on Queen Anne Hill in 1929. Flipping through old photos of Denmark after they’d finished dinner, he stopped at one of a small well-maintained house on a country road. Potted plants lined the windowsills—my father’s 1866 birthplace in Stenstrup on the Isle of Fyn.
“My wooden shoes clattered against the strip of pavement outside the door whenever I went out to watch a new train fly by on the way to Odense Svendborg,” he told Linck. “I had never seen a railroad before. I remember a school tour where we climbed the Bregninge church tower.”
They could see a seventh of all Danish churches from the tower. From the ages of 7-14, my father studied reading and writing twice a week at a school for laborer’s children. In preparation for confirmation in the Lutheran Church at 14, much of the work was related to Bible studies and catechism. Girls sat on one side of the church, boys on the other; a seating pattern they continued as adults in church. Confirmation ended their formal schooling and prepared them for work as an adult.
Hans Pederson never forgot those trains.He became a U.S. immigrant at eighteen. He worked his way to Seattle on the Northern Pacific Railroad where he became one of the city’s largest early-20th-century contractors.