The Strømmen Wharf at the Old Rissa Centre

From The Vikings by Johan Bojer:
«The days were grey and dark, and the roads leading to the general store were alive with the trampling of iron heeled feet. The store on this side of the strait filled up first, and they stood close together, work shirts aligned. And the humpbacked vendor behind the counter bustled here and there in the lamplight, finding the right shelves, unpacking and repacking, measuring and weighing, sweating with pure zeal. Occasionally he got a penny to throw down the cash box, but mostly it was all recorded in a long ledger using a pencil attached with a piece of string. It was all on credit. Flour sacks, tobacco and rye rolls, all stacked in brand new barrels. Kegs of syrup, coffee cans, leather and kerosene.»

Christmas was approaching, and it carried a special mood. It was something to look forward to. The Strømmen wharf was teeming with life. Goods were unpacked, set up and prepared for the Christmas trade. Shelves were stacked to the ceiling. Groceries, barrels of syrup and herring, oil for lighting, leather for shoes. On rare occasions oranges and grapes.

People came to Strømmen from surrounding villages to trade. Money was scarce, and not everyone could pay in cash, but there were always solutions. If you couldn’t pay, it was written up. Some brought small amounts of butter and eggs which they exchanged for margarine, sugar and some coffee. Men from the Skaug valley made wooden cups, boxes and barrels of various sizes, as well as herring crates. Some were traded for credit, although the barrels were not sold until spring. Whenever the valley men traded, they always paid a visit to the Strømmen kitchens for some coffee and food. The trip to the coast was nearly a full day’s travel, after all. They often had several other errands when visiting the village; either to the bank, the post office or the local treasurer.

Self-service was unheard of. Everything was weighed, measured and wrapped. There were no calculators or adding machines. Everything was written down and added up manually. Amongst the Eldorado of goods, people and lively chatter, a little girl stood clutching a pointed bag of candy. Toes stretched in snowy leather shoes, big expectant eyes peering over the counter. Maybe she would get a little Christmas gift, just like last year?