The birthday card, 1942.

A family treasure:  

Birthday card sent to my father in Sarpsborg, Norway, from my grandfather, Gunnar Thorsen, and fellow Norwegian soldiers (in German concentration camp) for my father’s 12th birthday Aug 8, 1942.



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  After graduation from school my Dad decided to join the army.  Thereafter he ended up in the Norwegian Air Force where he quickly climbed to lieutenant.  First he was stationed at Kjeller Airfield outside Oslo.

Not many knew that Gunnar was such a tough guy but there were many times he scared people by his authoritarian exterior.  But he was always good to his family.  He was my hero, even though sometimes he scared me too with his tough attitude.

– Roar Thorsen

Father, son, grandson Christmas 1958
Gunnar (dad’s dad), my mom with my brother, Ruth (dad’s mom), Stina (mom’s mom), Axel (mom’s dad)
Gunnar and his grandson 1958
Ruth and her grandson


Dealing with bullies, 1937 Norwegian style. My father recounts. #vintage #photography

Recall that I’m writing a book with Dad, about how he uses art to find purpose and meaning after his stroke.

I’ve pulled out old photographs and albums for him to peruse and the stories coming out are remarkable.

Me, on the left, my brother ,Anders, on the right, in Grums Sweden ca 1964.

I found Dad’s baby album.  Wow.

One recurring story that Dad has to tell me every time he is reminded of his childhood home (Sandesundsveien 43, Sarpsborg, Norway)…

… is the day when he was followed home by bullies from his class.

I always get reminded about the bullies when I think about that house.  I was about 7 years old.  Bullies followed me home after school.  I walked through my front gate and all of a sudden a rock landed beside me.  I saw red and ran after them and threw the rock and hit one of them in the back of the head.  When you get attacked you forget you are a nice little boy.  I was in a blind rage and it was a dramatic moment.  The kid had a huge wound on the back of his head and I recall that he was bleeding.  

I was called in to the school principal.  “What happened?” he asked.  I explained the whole incident and how I didn’t expect the rock to hit the kid bullseye in the back of the head.  The principal listened and understood.  I was not punished.  The bullying stopped after that.  

I found a class picture and Dad immediately pointed “them” out.

The tall one on the left was called “Big Red” and his little sidekick was a plump little shit whose name, I think, was Arne.

This photo was taken before the incident.  It’s like turning back the clock.  I remember that we were told to stand along the wall in the back of the school.  We were standing on blacktop.  

Dad, age 7

Life is like photography, we develop from the negatives.