Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


The weather was dull with a drizzle of rain in the docks of Kristiania a hundred years ago today, the temperature +6° centigrade (43 Fahrenheit). It was quiet in the Norwegian capital like most Sunday mornings; most people stayed home in the dreary weather, but not all. At the quays a big liner lay steaming, DS “Kristianiafjord” from the Norwegian America Line, and a throng of people had assembled before it, several hundred under dripping umbrellas. A brass band had lined up, and under an umbrella held by a companion, Christen Seeberg, the chairman of the skating club, stood reading from a piece of paper. On deck, at the railing, Oscar Mathisen with his wife listened smilingly.

Everything was ready now. Several letters had passed between him and impresario A. E. Johnson, who managed the affairs of Alfred Næss, who had made a good income, not from speedskating, but from skating shows of a more artful kind, and of Harry Paulsen who was on his way to accomplish the same. Oscar had been engaged for 4 months, from Dec 1 till the end of March, and Johnson was to arrange meets with the best speedskating pros. He had resigned from his job at Hans Erichsen’s shop, deposited all of his silverware in a bank vault, and locked his apartment in Bogstadveien 37, where he had lived since 1913. This late autumn day was dreary like late autumn days were habitually, but with a promise of a new winter with new adventures for the skating enthusiast. For Oscar an all-new adventure was at hand. He had only vague notions of what lay ahead and what he could expect to gain from it. But he knew his strength, he had his experience and he knew that he would do his best, come what may.

Seeberg finished and Karl Norbeck, formerly a pro wrestler in the US, now circus director, took the word, leading the crowd in a series of jubilant hurrahs. Finally the ship started moving, and as she was leaving the quay, the orchestra played the national anthem. The adventure had started.

DS «Kristianiafjord», Anders Beer Wilse, fra Norsk Maritimt Museum