When power’s out, couple enjoys sounds of the past

Power outages are a tremendous nuisance, but with a bit of preparation, and a special activity, it can be a heartfelt time at the Andersen home on Camano Island.

The retired couple built a log home at the south end of the Island. Settling down marked the end of a vagabond life for Erna Andersen, 78, and her husband, Povl, 87, who enjoyed living here and there.

When Erna Andersen was 17, her family took a vacation at an inn on the coast of Denmark. Many families did those short trips, she said. The inn had a long table (so you met other diners), a big yard and beautiful countryside amenable for long walks.

She spied Povl, a fellow vacationer.

“I kind of eyed him,” Erna Anderson said.

“I was good looking,” her husband added.

Courting was formal, sweet and chaste. He held her hand. When he dared to kiss her, she slapped his face.

It all worked out — they married and headed across the Pacific Ocean in an old Polish ship.

They arrived in North America in 1950, just a couple of crazy Danish kids with $100 to their names. They lived in Canada for a decade and then came across the border. They worked on farms and at a school for disabled children, and he worked at a mill. They lived in Montana and in Edmonds, when he worked at the University of Washington.

“He wanted to travel,” she said. “We had a good time in our young life.”

The couple found their little slice of heaven at the south end of Camano in 1979. They took a class about how to build a log home. The Andersens built a sturdy showplace, an oasis — snowshoes hung on a beam above the living room seem a perfect fit.

They share a comfortable life, except when power goes out in a storm. Last year, when they were out of electricity for almost a week, totally cut off from communications, their daughter, Alice, who lives in Ballard, called 911.

A nice deputy found that the Andersens were managing, with goods delivered by friends and neighbors who supplied water, propane and dry wood.

This year, Erna Andersen says they are ready for the worst.

“I have water ready, wood, propane, canned food, matches, candles and batteries,” she said. “We can endure anything.”

They will hunker down during an outage, she said, until the hard-working PUD crews make it to the south end of Camano.

Sometimes, that trek is a challenge, said Neil Neroutsos, a utility spokesman.

“A lot of storm systems come into the area,” Neroutsos said. “When there are heavier winds, Camano and Whidbey Island are often one of the first parts of Western Washington that get hit.”

He said the PUD has done tree trimming around Camano in preparation for bad weather.

In case the couple loses electricity, they can eat fruit, potato mixes and Spam.

They like Spam.

The Andersens have a radio with batteries and something much more important. When the power goes out, they carry a tape recorder to the living room.

In the 1950s and ’60s, they sent reels of audio tapes back and forth to the old country to record daily family news.

“We have a cozy time and listen to the voices,” Erna Andersen said. “You can hear them so clearly.”

When the power snapped off a few weeks back, Erna and Povl Andersen turned on the machine, snuggled under blankets and were warmed with sounds of love from the old country.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451, oharran@heraldnet.com.

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