A few of our readers got to meet Jorgen Petersen from Norway either the past two weeks, while he was waiting for a 35-foot motor home to be built at Tiffin Motorhomes here, or a few years ago, when he came and bought the first one.
Petersen, who makes friends quickly at home or abroad, is a safety instructor and film maker with a collection of 300 films on everything from safety for young people to life in Norway, has taken his show on the road in an Allegro Motorhome.
He’s crossed the Atlantic a dozen times or so with the vehicle he bought here a few years ago and felt that he’s outgrown the medium-sized one and came back to the local plant a couple of weeks ago to exchange it for a 35-footer.
Petersen travels by motor home six months of each year in this country, sharing his films of Norway with schools and clubs, and returns to Norway to instruct safety classes at Norway’s seaman school for the other six months.
In America he mainly is interested in offering a home away from home to young Norwegian seamen visiting American seaports.
Both times he has visited the Red Bay plant he has brought a young seaman companion with him. This year’s guest was Sverre Pettersen, whose name is pronounced the same as his, but spelled differently.
In Norway there are refuges established for seamen, called churches. They offer the young men transportation on land, sightseeing services, food, reading materials and lodging.
“A boy in Norway can become a seaman as early as 16 years old,” Petersen explained. “At that age, they need someone to look after them when they are in unfamiliar harbors.
Some seamen churches have been established in the northeastern part of America, Pettersen said, but so far there are none in the southeast. That’s why Petersen decided to form a church-on-wheels a few years ago. He now goes from port to port during the winter and offers a friendly face and a native tongue on land to the young men away from home, some for the first time.
During his visit here this year, Petersen reports having visited 230 Norwegian ships and met more than 3,000 seamen from them. He made stops at Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Port Everglades, Tampa, Pensacola, Mobile, Savannah and Charleston.
Petersen’s films are used in seaman schools, where last year he introduced water safety films. He also showed them to as many Norwegian youngsters as he could reach. He added safety in boating, cycling and fire safety later.
He has held classes in parks and recreational facilities all over Norway, where a government report showed that more children died from drowning than any other cause.
The amiable Scandinavian used his own funds to present the safety films. He also makes motor home trips in this country at his own expense. His yearly trips to this country are mostly financed by Norwegian companies, however.
Petersen showed some films at the local school the pervious visit and may have done so again this trip. If not, it’s too late now, for he and his young friend returned to the coast Tuesday and we’re not likely to see them again for a few more years. Perhaps by then Tiffin will be manufacturing a 40-footer.
Bon voyage, seafaring men.