Copenhagen this, Copenhagen that: news stories don’t even need to add “Denmark” to their datelines. “Everyone” knows where Copenhagen is.
It’s where my sibs and I graduated from high school. It’s where our mail was sorted, dispatched and delivered. It’s how we identified ourselves, even though our farm was closer to Tylerville (our church, our grange, our many relatives) than Copenhagen. I’ve got a new cap from my 60th Copenhagen Central School reunion.
A village of some 500 persons contained Copenhagen Central School, where kids spent 13 formative years of their lives. When I see “Copenhagen” these days I reflexively think of Copenhagen in the Township of Denmark in the State of New York. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration provided a wonderful building and a plan to bring to the village the kids from one-room, or other tiny, schoolhouses in the North Country. And an arrangement with the Columbia University Graduate School of Education made sure quality instruction and administration were brought to a remote and small rural population.
My seventh-grade history teacher, George Woodruff, in the second semester dictated to the whole class the text of his history of Copenhagen. We wrote it all down and I still remember a heckuva lot of it.
First and foremost, why is a village in the Tug Hill Plateau, with so few roads that maps have a big hole there, named for a European capital? And why is the next upward level of government named Denmark?
Nathan Munger found a river, with impressive falls, there, and at that point established Munger’s Mills, in the first few years of the 19th century. People came. One of Napoleon Bonaparte’s siblings visited and he was very impressed with the falls (yeah, big deal, but this is northern Appalachia needing something to be proud of).
Soon afterward Europe’s constant warfaring produced a British navy attack on Copenhagen, Denmark. The locals where I grew up were decidedly not Tory sympathizers. Shocked at the idea of Brits sailing into a foreign harbor and shelling the heck out of it, somebody proposed a name change for the village, which led to the naming of the township (whenever that happened; I don’t think Mister Woodruff told us).
“No matter what happens to Copenhagen, Denmark, there can always be a Copenhagen here,” some leader said.
And so it happened. I’ve always thought the sentiment that established a new Copenhagen in a new land — that our founding spirit of independence still animated us — is worth remembering, celebrating, and perpetuating.
I feel, likewise, that our American election of a President who is personally and ideologically global and a maker of peace has helped make this round of global consideration of public health and the future of the world possible. The Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee recognized that — that “something” big already had happened under the leadership of Barack Obama.
I think of all that when I see all the headlines and datelines, “Copenhagen.” Bob Cramer.