Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Our Icelandic Adventure Continues - Sept. 7, 2016

Sept. 7, 2016 - Today, we visited Godafoss Falls, a spectacular waterfall in this land of almost endless waterfalls. Here is a photo of Linda and me in front of this magnificent natural feature.

Homer and Linda in front of Godafoss Waterfall, northern Iceland 

We next journeyed over hill and dale and through long tunnels until we reached Siglufjordour, a town that was once the center of Iceland's herring industry. In other words, it used to be Coalwood, Iceland, a company town! While there we toured the extensive museum the town has created of the old town as it was when thousands of men, women, and children were employed to catch, sort, cook, and pack herring. Everything was used, every scale and drop of oil from the massive number of fish that were caught.

We visited the Herring Museum which proved for me to be somewhat bittersweet. This town has kept its heritage intact and visitors and residents alike can see what it used to be like. I think I know what it was like. It was a place where everyone was dedicated to the industry that supported the town, where everyone felt a deep sense of worth, where families were raised and children educated, and where good people went to live. In that way, it was like the coal town where I was raised, Coalwood, West Virginia. Seeing this heritage was a little painful because I know there is this giant corporation who knows nothing about Coalwood and the way of life there and is twisting its story to suit its "product," a creation of stereotypes. It's why writers from the outside who try to tell my story never really "get" what Rocket Boys was about. It wasn't about boys trying to escape an awful town by building rockets. That's what lazy writers who know zero about the 1950's coalfields take from it. Rocket Boys was about the town itself, a great place to live that happened to be dying, and a people determined to get their children educated so they could survive in the outer world, and a father who wanted so much to hang onto what was good about Coalwood, he couldn't help but resist its death.  We boys building rockets was the "glue" that allowed me to tell that story and that's what it's really about. 

Anyway, here is a picture of the town as it was in its heyday as presented in the Herring Museum and also some of the tools and fixtures of the industry that also reminds me so much of Coalwood.

Siglufjordour, once capital of the Herring industry in Iceland
Some of the tools used in the Herring Packing Plants

One aspect of the Herring town that I found fascinating were the "Herring Girls." These were young women who came from all over to work in the town, mostly in the canneries  to sort, pack, and cook the fish. Since they were essentially transients, they were put up in factory housing (much like the company housing in early Coalwood) and there they lived. When the herring gave out and the industry collapsed, these young women simply left, leaving behind they clothes and cooking pots and pans and everything else. These photos show their bunks, kitchen, and clothing just as they left them.
Herring Girls Laundry

Herring Girls Beds
Herring Girls Room and Clothing

Linda, who is not a herring girl

We also visited with some of the beautiful Icelandic horses and sheep.
Icelandic Sheep
Icelandic Horses

At the end of the day, we were pretty tired but the view from our hotel is lovely as the sun was setting over the nearby fjord.

Our view from our hotel in northern Iceland

And with that, Linda, I, and Albert bid you a very good night.

Goodnight from Albert

Homer Hickam, Author of Carrying Albert Home (www.homerhickam.com) and other fine books.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! Love the info on the herring girls.