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4. Generation

29. marts 2020

I am waiting for Jørgen Schønnemann – son of Erna and Petrus Schønnemann. He is the 4th and last generation capable of telling the original story of this place from personal experience.

Johannes V. Jensen’s poem; At Lunch was first published in 1906 and ends as follows:

I am sitting here preparing myself for the best moment.
It is nice here. Hats passing by the window, people moving through the streets.
I have told myself that life and the solar system are working brilliantly.

The year is 2020 and I am sitting 4 steps down in the old pub Schønnemann with these three lines on my mind. I am sitting at a window table looking out on Hauser Plads. A lot has changed through several generations, but the need for companionship, community and intimacy has remained the same. I am waiting for Jørgen Schønnemann – son of Erna and Petrus Schønnemann. He is the 4th and last generation capable of telling the original story of this place from personal experience.

The memories are clearly reflected in Jørgen’s smiling eyes when I welcome him alongside his son Jesper Schønnemann. Jørgen was born on the ground floor right above Schønnemann in 1938 and was a regular in the pub during his first 17 years of living. The memories are plentiful, and we agree that we need a way to keep track of the details. We therefore choose to take point of departure in Jørgen’s parents Erna and Petrus Schønnemann and his memories of them.

Back in 1877 Erna’s grandmother, Maria Henriksen, started selling packed lunches to charcoal-burners on Kultorvet and gave birth to her son Peter Frederiksen. Peter Frederiksen was married to Augusta and they welcomed their daughter Erna to the world in 1900. The family expansion caused the family to move across Hauser Plads, to where Schønnemann is located today, in 1901.

Petrus Schønnemann was born in 1888 and grew up in the opposite end of town – on Wildersgade in Christianshavn. His father had a trucking company nearby. Petrus graduated as a chef and applied his skills at sea on The Royal Yacht Dannebrog among other places.

“The Åbenrå neighbourhood, where Hauser Plads is located, was a poor neighbourhood” Jørgen explains. A soup kitchen was opened on Hauser Plads during World War 1 where Petrus Schønnemann was hired as a chef. That is how Erna and Petrus crossed paths on Hauser Plads.

Erna lost her three brothers and Petrus his wife whom he had two children with during the Spanish Flu in 1918-19. “In 1922 at the age of 22 my mother is married to my 13 years older father. They take over Café Hauser Plads 16 from P. Frederiksen’s widow Augusta. They name the pub SCHÖNNEMANN. They then have my sister Lilian in 1927 and I come along 15 years later” Jørgen tells. As a straggler Jørgen has little memory of his siblings, but he remembers being a child on Hauser Plads.

He remembers the water reservoir that was used to extinguish fires during the 2nd World War and later became a beautiful fountain. The square was then developed into a green area with trees and bushes and later a small playing ground. He also remembers the ice trucks that brought in blocks of ice for the ice boxes, the coachmen that brought beer and how coke was brought to the attic only to be brought back down to the wood burning stove in the apartment and the stove in the cellar kitchen. “My father did however pick up food on his own. He bought vegetables at the vegetable market on Israels Plads, fish from the wives at Gl. Strand and meat from Rodberg in the meatpacking district” says Jørgen. He remembers how it was his job to pick up sand for the floors at Schønnemann from the depot around the corner. He also remembers how he took the ice cubes that dropped when ice blocks were chopped and licked them like popsicles on a summer day, and how he had to empty the kitchen ice box for melted water.

“There were many duties for a son of host-couple at the time, but we had a good life and were more privileged than most people in the neighbourhood” Jørgen recalls. “We had a car and my mother was well-dressed. I wore new clothes and my friends inherited my old clothes” Jørgen tells. They were good friends, and to the degree where a Sunday family trip was often times very inconvenient as he preferred spending time with them.

Jørgen also remembers the daily routines at Schønnemann. When his father was at the market his mother would take care of the greengrocers making their way home from Amager after a day’s work at the vegetable market. They would park their carts on the square and come down into the cosy rooms to get a cup of coffee with an open-faced cheese sandwich. The next to arrive were the coachmen from Carlsberg and Tuborg who would come in and sit by the round table left of the entrance. They ate their lunch in the cellar every day and would always bring in a new story from the neighbourhood. The coachmen were followed by the fine gentlemen from Gutenberghus advertising department who would come in for open-faced sandwiches. They were followed by the not so fine gentlemen from the protocol in Suhmsgade who would always play billiards. The billiard table was placed where the bar is today. Back then the bar was placed on the rear wall – behind the round table where the coachmen would always sit. There were many regulars. Jørgen particularly remembers the master baker from the neighbourhood. He would come in everyday to get a drink or two, and there was a rhyme that followed him when he, supported by the wall, had to find his way home again:

– Make the gate high
– Make the wall white
– I am going out tonight

When lunch was over and Jørgen’s parents had napped for 1.5 hour – Petrus in the armchair and Erna on the chaise lounge – they would continue to serve hot dishes until 19.00 where the pub would close down unless a festive atmosphere had developed itself. “My father Petrus was a lively man” Jørgen remembers. “My mother believed that 12 hot dishes on the evening menu was too much” Jørgen continues. She was often times right. When four guests would each order a different hot dish Petrus’ temper would show and the thin walls between the kitchen and the dining room could not hold back his swearwords. “He was a proud man that wanted to show his abilities in the hot kitchen. He was particularly renowned for his oxtail ragout with mashed potatoes” Jørgen remembers.

In the time of Jørgen’s upbringing there were more than 10 pubs in the Åbenrå neighbourhood, but Schønnemann set itself apart because Petrus, as a chef, could offer a good meal to go with the beers and aquavit. “The other pubs are long gone, and I like to think that it was my father Petrus’ skills in the kitchen that caused Schønnemann to stay around” Jørgen reflects. “My mother Erna was in charge of the cold dishes and my father was in charge of the hot dishes. The kitchen’s responsibilities were clearly divided like that” Jørgen recalls. They were assisted by a girl who took care of the dirty dishes and a waiter that served the guests, but other than that the family would take care of everything themselves.

Jørgen would go on to become an educated cellar man at K. Dorph Petersen Vinlager at Hauser Plads 32. His parents might have expected him to follow in their footsteps, but Jørgen chose a different path after his enlistment. He chose to complete a business degree and then enter
into wholesale of office machines. Jørgen could go on with great tales from his time in this industry, but we decided to end the conversation with a good lunch, beer and aquavit – of course.

… that life and the solar system are working brilliantly… is highlighted by Jørgen’s tale. His memories, that took me back to a bygone era for a short while, show how our need for companionship, community and intimacy has developed through several generations and has become part of our heritage.