I have a wonderful article from the Danish Newspaper Sorø Amts-Tidende dated 12th of August 1946. It is an interview with my Grand-aunt Kirstine who was on a visit Home from New York.
|Name: Rasmine Petrine Kirstine Hansen|
|Birth: 7/3/1884 – Harrested, Sludstrup, Slagelse, Sorø|
|Marriage: Never married|
|Death: August 1973 – Flushing, Queens, New York, USA|
Kirstine was much loved by the whole family and answered to ‘Faster Kirstine‘, ‘Moster Dine‘ or ‘Tante‘ depending on where in the world she was when meeting with young family members. She was always welcome everywhere and she usually had presents to the kids. She gave me my first watch when I was about 9 years old. Faster Kirstine travelled backwards and forwards between New York and Denmark every few years and always by ship. Not that she didn’t like flying, she just enjoyed the week of cruising luxury crossing the Atlantic. She is sister to Niels Peter, who I wrote about in week 6.
I never knew exactly when she first went to USA, but in the article she says it was in 1915 when she would have been 31 year old. I have searched and found her on the passenger list for S/S Frederik VIII arriving in New York on the 27th of October 1915. What surprised me is that her 4 year younger sister, Laura, was her contact person in New York. I do not know if Kirstine had visited before but this time she obviously came to stay. The passenger records have listed her as: domestic, 5 foot 1 inch tall with fair hair and blue eyes.
Her special skill was cooking and over the next three decades she was the cook for well known American Millionaires such as William Rockefeller and Pierre Dupont. When the journalist, Drès, from Sorø Amts-Tidende heard this, Kirstine was approached for an interview.
Did you see the old John D. Rockefeller when you worked for his brother? Yes, I did. He was ofter there on holidays and was like all other wealthy Americans considerate and easy to get along with. That also applied to Pierre Dupont. We would live in New York during the winters and move to the country in summer – employers as well as employees.
How was the pay? It varied, of course, but currently there are no house-maids that receive less than $100 per month – and that is a good pay. I must add that living costs in the USA are quite high.
Did you hear and feel much about the war in America? Only near the end when we started to feel unemployment and shortage of supplies. Equally, it is now after the war that the black market is having an impact and where we must fight the great social difficulties.
How long were you with each employer? Two years with William Rockefeller, five years with Pierre Dupont and seven years with American Jew, Madame Guinzbuig. The last mentioned lived on Madison Avenue whereas Rockefeller and Dupont lived on Fifth Avenue. The staff at Dupont enjoyed fantastic living conditions. A large property was designed to house all staff and we paid only $4-5 per month to live there, a token really, as insurance would not cover if we lived in the house for free.
You were the cook – is there much difference between American and Danish food? Yes, a lot. They do not have as many rich sauces as the Danes do and they eat a lot more vegetables. They always have 3-4 different vegetables with every meat dish and a light soup as entre. Believe me, they are a lot healthier.
What do millionaires do with their day? They are very busy. Lots of people come and go, so most of their time is spent socialising and entertaining.
One of the big problems in America is that of race. Has the war caused any change with this issue? The negros now have a lot to say and I am afraid that they cannot cope with this. They start to swagger and think they are very important. There are no changes in the southern states where the negros still have their own trams.
Are you going to stay home and do you like being here after having been away for so long? Definitely, I like being home and this is my fifth visit home since 1915. Only, I think it is very cold here and it also rains a lot. I like the climate better over there. I haven’t yet decided what I will do, but for now I am here for about a year.
Do you feel alone in the big city of New York or do you have relatives there? My sister also lives in New York and she travelled home with me this time along with her daughter, who is 20 years old. In addition there is a lot of goodwill towards people from Scandinavia, so we don’t feel too homesick.
How was your journey here? We had a pleasant crossing on the ship Tunis which was used as a transport vessel during the war. Now we plan to go around and visit all the family and take my niece to Copenhagen to show her the sights.
Kirstine crossed the Atlantic many times after 1946. On one of these journeys in 1967, I was fortunate at the age of 15 to accompany her onboard Sagafjord from Copenhagen to New York.