I can’t let Uncle Knud alone.
This is the character I introduced in my last post. Married to Aunt Josefine for five months in 1918–1919, lived in Brooklyn with his sister and brother-in-law for the next twenty-three years, until his death in 1942, and whose ashes were buried with Josefine at Evergreens Cemetery. A character no one in my family ever mentioned or apparently knew about, meaning especially my father, who was a bachelor in New York through almost all of those years Knud was living in the same neighbourhood.
The mysteries will never be solved. But I have come upon some new facts. Thin, but suggestive. Two surviving documents.
Beginning in 1845, the Copenhagen police conducted a semi-annual census, in May and November, of every resident of the city over the age of ten. On little cards, the data are preserved, and searchable online for the years 1890–1923. Knud’s card was begun in 1910. It records that his birthdate is May 26, 1892. His middle name is Valdemar. Knud Valdemar Hansen. He is a bagersvend, an assistant or delivery boy at a bakery in Frederikssund, a city some fifty kilometres from Copenhagen, and he is visiting his parents at Vasby Kro on Enghavevej.
Enghavevej was a thoroughfare on the South side of Copenhagen that ran from Vesterbro through some low sandy ground toward the southern port district. The neighbourhood got its name from the tavern Vasby Kro, long since swallowed up by urban sprawl, but in its day notorious. A contemporary visitor, Niels Ludvig Mariboe, who collected this photograph, said, with judicious understatement, that the place “did not have the best reputation, and was quite often at night the subject of police investigations.”
In 1920 the police think Knud is still visiting his parents. In Vasby Kro, one imagines, the police were sometimes lied to. In 1921 they have given up and stamped his card “withdrawn.” As well they might, since he had been in New York since 1911.
Another card from another file, also now available online.
On June 5, 1917, Knud registered for the draft, in Brooklyn, from the same address—360 53rd Street—he was to give on his marriage licence application the following year. He spells his name Knud Waldemar Hansen. He has applied for naturalisation (which he will obtain in 1923). He is a machinist-helper at Roy Engineering and Iron Works on Otsego Street in Red Hook. He is of medium height and build, and has black hair and brown eyes. Then the curious notation, “Cannot see out of right eye.”
I keep turning over the leaves of my father’s photograph album. Olav mugs with his mates at a Coney Island bathhouse. They pose for pictures on the roof of a tenement somewhere. On the benches in a park. On the Staten Island ferry. Later, when Olav found the Lord, the company is more sober, there are expeditions to the country, to a camp meeting. Here and there I recognise a face. I am looking for a somewhat older dark-haired man with a squint.