JUNE 7, 1950
OSLO, Norway, Tuesday—Today has been busy but first let me tell you my impressions of Oslo as we drove through yesterday from the airport to Skaugum—the home of Crown Prince Olaf and Princess Martha.
Oslo is a large city, with a population of some 400,000. It is at the head of the Christiania Fjord and surrounded by mountains, lakes and forests. Sunday was a warm, sunny day. Many people, especially the young, had evidently decided to spend the day in the sun.
As we drove along I wondered at the skill of the bus and automobile drivers. The roads are winding and narrow, and since it was Sunday and such a beautiful day, they were so filled with bicycles you felt that at any minute you would be bound to run them down. They all carried a package of some kind—perhaps a picnic lunch. Many a bicycle had a neat little seat fastened on behind with a youngster strapped into it obviously enjoying the ride. At home the distances are so great that cars are necessary for most people to get out of a big city and enjoy a day in the country, but here bicycles seem to be a good substitute. I can now understand what getting out into the sun means to these people who have to live through the long dark months.
Although Norwegians always find time to go hunting and fishing when the seasons come around, and in the summer time the harbor is filled with little sailing boats, still their favorite sport is skiing. They will toil out on their skiis on the coldest winter days. Young and old alike. This is how they become such accomplished skiers and why they so successfully can compete with any of the great international skiers.
These people are living austerely in many ways but they still have time to enjoy themselves. They are working hard, they look strong and healthy, even the children look well and sturdy.
Norway has devoted its E.C.A. funds to buying essential machinery—nothing has gone into luxury consumer products. There is a solid advance being made on the economic front.
This morning we started from Skaugum after a delightful breakfast on the terrace. Prince Harold sailed in a race yesterday which he won. Both the Prince and his sister, Princess Ragnhild left for school early this morning before we were down. Princess Astrid, who is taking her final school examinations this week, was still at home and took my two grandchildren, Chandler and Elliott, Jr., sightseeing.
Our morning sightseeing with Elliott and Miss Thompson was largely devoted to housing. To me the apartments looked very similar to the new apartments being put up in the United States. I have not yet been able to get complete information on financing and average building costs. The government and banks are bearing a pretty heavy burden. The government is doing the greater part of building, though some private building is also going up. They have developments, some done by industries but chiefly done by the government for the old people who live on pensions. Everybody in Norway is entitled to a pension—some at sixty-five, some at sixty-eight, the majority at seventy.
The same problems exist here as those being encountered in our own country, and in many other countries, namely, we have learned to lengthen our span of life but we have not yet learned how to extend working years. The birth rate since the war has gone up in most countries, and so the burden on the intermediate group of people, during their earning years, is going to be increasingly heavy. The answer to this problem has yet to be solved. More of this tomorrow.