A hundred years ago today, Robert Baden-Powell published his “Scouting for Boys,” starting the boy scout movement, and meanwhile in Parkveien 80, Kristiania, Oscar Mathisen was preparing for his long journey in a half-frantic mood, packing his skates, some clothes, a bit of food, and a couple of small gifts for luck. A federation official had come around with his and his brother's share of the travel money, giving strict instructions as to their usage—travel and boarding only. Friends and relatives came by to say goodbye and wish luck.
Of relatives he didn’t have so many. His parents had moved to town from the upland counties north of Kristiania. Both of his father’s sisters had moved, too. Marte Marie, however, the youngest of them, had married into a farm and moved back to Toten, but aunt Karen still lived nearby in Odins gate with uncle Ole Jakob, the famous police detective, whom the children loved to emulate in their games. Oscar’s aunt and uncle had been a great comfort and help after the tragic losses his family had suffered as his father died in 1903 and his mother (whose spitting image he was) in 1905, respectively one year before and one year after his brother Sigurd surprisingly found himself in possession of the world championship title after the disqualification of Peter Sinnerud.
Oscar was the youngest of 7 children, who now were orphaned. Thankfully his eldest brother had a secure job in the city's public transport, and his eldest sister Agnes worked at the till in the Handelsforeningen store, which employed Sigurd, the world champion as well, in the warehouse storage rooms. Oscar’s two other brothers had gone to sea and periodically sent money home, which helped supporting the family. Now of course Oscar had to contribute as well, and an apprentice post was found for him at Akers Mekaniske Værksted, the well-known ship builder and mechanical workshop, where he spent 4 years working two 5 hour shifts on weekdays with an hour’s lunch break in between, and one shift on Saturdays.
Naturally, his brother's achievements were a major inspiration for Oscar to take up skating. He skated his first timed race in 1905, which is not found among the results we have preserved, and already next year he impressed so much in the junior class that he was selected by Kristiania Skøiteklub to represent them for the annual match with Helsingfors SK, where he sensationally grabbed a 2nd place in the 5000 m. Pbs after this season was 50,2, 2.40,0 and 9.32,4.
Next year his career rocketed further. Already allowed into the senior class (today's rules wouldn't have allowed him until the 1909 season), he impressed in a series of races, particularly in the 5000 m of which he won several, and in which he set his first record, the rink record of Frogner at 8.59,0. And he was selected for his first trip abroad to skate for KSK at the return match in Helsingfors. Here he beat all the Norwegians for the first time, but four Finns were even better and the KSK team was humiliated. It was clear that something had to be done. Maybe it was up to him? At the national championship in Hamar next weekend he again outskated all the rest and won his first championship, however without winning any of the distances. PBs after the season: 48,2, 2.31,8, 8.59,0 and 19.23,0.
And now this. To Davos, Østlund’s and Gundersen’s record arena. What might befall him there?