I don’t have the answer. However, I feel that the cross of thought looms most when I know that the time leading up to death was characterized by what is often denoted by funeral letters in obituaries with the words: “Had to give up the fight after having fought both hard and for a long time.
The news about Rogaland’s Avi’s imminent death led me out on the paths of association and gratitude. Therefore, there is every reason to give thanks and praise. 1ste Mai was a newspaper that taught me to read as a five-year-old – and Rogaland’s Avis a magazine that I have been writing for since the 1960s.
Sandnesbuen Jonas Theopile Schanche Jonasen is largely to blame for me becoming a journalist. My father worked at Rogaland Felleskjøp and, in connection with the job, was also a commissioner for the Nationen newspaper and also a kind of contact person for the two farming magazines that Fellesen regularly supplied with economic fodder and life force, Dagbladet Rogaland and Bondevennen.
This paternal connection meant that during my primary school years I often met the editors of these bodies. In Bondevennen, the editor was a wonderful guy whom no one called by his real name, but referred to exclusively as “h.aa”. He reminded me of a wonderful human mixture of a hillbilly and a waterfowl when he wandered about in the countryside wearing his too long coat and his slightly too big hat. “h.aa” always looked as if he was on his way to a field or two – and he probably was most of the time.
The editor of Dagbladet Rogaland was quite a different fashionable appearance. With his bearded moustache, his chalk-white, always freshly ironed shirt and his very artistically tied bow, he looked anything but an editorial chief of a farmer’s newspaper with a cramped office in BUL’s old building in the upper of the holm streets in Stavanger.
The fact that he was also married to an opera singer made him even more exotic in my eyes. Admittedly, she had never been associated with the Metropolitan in New York, but she had a name, Soffi Schønning, which meant that she could have fitted perfectly into the poster. In return, she had been a soloist both at the Stockholm Opera, Covent Garden and Glyndenbourne Opera House. She was a big name in the world of singing, and had – and still was – an active midwife for several young singers.
Now, Jonas Schanche Jonassen was also no ordinary editor in a newspaper with a particular focus on Rogaland’s peasantry. Fair enough, he himself was descended from farmers and priests at Skeiane in Sandnes, while his workplace had for years been in the international arena where, in the 1930s, he interviewed both Hitler and Mussolini. He thanked him in the daily newspaper Rogaland when he turned 60 – about the time when I left primary school and no longer heard his regular admonition: “Write and read – read and write – and you’ll be fine”. He often teased my father with my styles from primary school.
It was also a style from primary school that got me my first newspaper column. It was my exam style from the primary school that teacher Barkved, in a sort of frenzy of excitement, sent to Aftenbladet as an example of what students at Kvaleberg could achieve. The style was entitled “my hobby” and I wrote about stamp collecting. When my mother saw the style in the newspaper, her first response was: “You’ve never collected a stamp then”, to which I replied that I had read a long series of books about stamps and stamp collecting. Her answer was: “Do you intend to do like Bjorn?” She referred to my brother’s good friend Bjørn Bjørnsen, who was then a journalist in RA, and who would later secure a solid place in the journalist and writer community.
In retrospect, my life’s trajectory has been guided by apparent coincidences. As a teenager, I joined the Stavanger Musikkorps where the conductor, flutist Hans Schøyen, after a short time asked if I wanted to make more of my flute playing. I could get free lessons from him every Saturday. Then he organized the Stavanger ensemble’s and the city orchestra’s sheet music archives in the old krinkastings building by the clinic.
Conductor Karsten Andersen also regularly appeared there, and decided that I should become leader of the City Orchestra in Kardemomme by which the children’s theater was to set up. Thorbjørn Egner was not entirely thrilled that his characters should be portrayed by children, and believed that it would be a plus that the flute-playing tram driver Andersen was interpreted by a teenager who could also handle the instrument.
That production led to me being engaged by theater director Bjørn Endreson to create and lead the orchestra for the next productions for the children’s theatre. As a consequence of my life in the theatre, I also regularly met Knut Joner and Harald Riis in RA. Those meetings resulted in me becoming RA’s cinema reviewer in the World Theatre. It taught me to write quickly – and eventually concisely – the review should be a maximum of “half a flake”, and must be delivered no later than a quarter to ten after the performance began at 7pm.
The reviews also meant that I had to regularly meet with cinema manager Tjøl Oftedal to get tickets – in addition, I was informed that he had not only been the long-term manager of RA’s office in Sandnes, but also the newspaper’s acting editor, while the sitting editor rather wandered the halls of the Storting than in the editorial premises at Fiskepiren. Oftedal also did not fail to go through my reviews, and gently warned me “against becoming too handsome and funny in style. “Stryg when you think you’re good”, were often the sensible words that followed me out of his office in the Film Theatre.
The sum of these coincidences was a subsequent holiday job in Rogalands Avis with a subsequent offer to continue as a journalist apprentice. My study plans abroad were thus exchanged for an almost 24-hour existence in the RA premises at Fiskepiren to absorb lessons from phenomenal journalists and typographers. It gave me access to a stimulating and creative environment where journalists such as Knut Joner, Magne Vestbø and night editor Charlie Jansson ensured that I also received social journalistic training and trimming.
A new coincidence led to another leap. At the daily morning prayer – where the day’s newspaper was planned to the best of his ability – the then editor Peder Næsheim asked one morning: Can I in a leader call the city council a “flock of chickens”?
Since none of the staff answered, he therefore put the question directly to the youngest man, little me. “Since you started here, how do you feel about it?” My answer was characterized by my training from the excellent teachers, so there was no misunderstanding: “I think they are good. Dorr, there are more males than hens in the city council”
Obviously, Næsheim liked the answer, because he appointed me as a permanent referent when he went around to debate meetings during his election campaign before the elections in 1965. It taught me to refer precisely – and acquired a strange and large network of contacts – in addition to the fact that I, as Trygve Bjarne Klingsheim regularly pointed out – “relieved the editors of the limelight it was to hang on to Peder’s speaking tour”.
Never forget Joranger in the coat
Of the many characters who pass by in the commemorative book from Fiskepiren, cartoonist Knut Joranger covers many pages. The tiny reception was on the second floor where the evening journalist had his workplace. The reception also contained the newspaper’s deplorable photo archive and an intermittently working tape recorder. High up on the wall hung an old radio that exclusively received broadcasts from the national network. In a nook, close to a stove that was rarely used for fire reasons, stood a worn old chair with a bad seat.
Joranger sat on that chair night after night, apparently finding a comfortable seat. He was like a kind of house cat in the evening newsroom. He lived just in the neighbourhood, but he spent the vast majority of the evening hours in his permanent editorial chair. Because he was probably the evening editor at home. It could often seem as if he was of the opinion that away was best.
I still remember a few evenings where the old actor Olafr Havrevold’s special voice streamed out from the radio, while he recited, indeed played, “En handelsreisende død”. Joranger sat on his chair, with his hat and coat on, and watched closely. He immersed himself in the action. He laughed and he cried. He took in every syllable that sounded from the radio’s speaker.
For a young evening journalist, it was like a party night. He had never seen any similar empathy. Olafr Havrevold had probably never had the kind of audience either. Joranger was enchanted by the story and the narrator. Only the gods must know where he felt at ease. At least he was not spiritually present in the editorial office. It was purely physical.
The fact that he had his hat and coat on while sitting in the evening editorial office had its natural explanation. If, against all odds, one of the editors should appear in the evening in some sort of disorder, Joranger was immediately prepared to leave the chair and the room. He had his respect for the authorities and wanted, as he said, “don’t be a bother to anyone”. Or as he also often said about the editors: “I think you know I’m sitting here.”
In that, too, he was probably quite right.