Onca Ole and the $5 Bill by Walter Bjorkman

Onca Ole was a young farmer from Högbobruk, Sweden. One day in 1924 he jumped on a boat headed for America, where he landed in Brooklyn. Brooklyn sounded like it had a brook, perfect for farming. He got on the trolley and rode all the way to Coney Island, which he decided was not an island. There was no farmland anywhere. On the way back to the trolley, a loud man on a wooden sidewalk by the beach said he could guess Onca Ole’s weight within five. The carny guessed 200 and Onca Ole laughed all the way to the bank as he said “nay, jag ar 91 kilogram”, grabbed the man’s five dollars, put it in his shoe for safety, and went to Yellow Hook, were he took a room for 25c a night.

The only contact Onca Ole had was Ivar, a Norwegian who liked to drink and loved other people’s money. When he heard of the $5, he convinced Onca Ole to go out drinking at the soccer club. Ivar got so drunk he threw up all over the floor, and Onca Ole had to clean it up. The manager thought he did it so well, he hired him on as the club’s janitor.

Onca Ole retired in 1965 after forty years working in a 64 story office building in Manhattan, starting as a janitor, and working his way up to chief engineer, then building manager. Always keeps a $5 bill in his shoe.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Onca Ole and the $5 Bill by Walter Bjorkman

  1. I like Onca Ole’s expectation to find a brook in Brooklyn! A success story told in an interesting way. All the way through, I was expecting some sort of disaster, but no, he sailed through… well done!

  2. Now that is (the original version of) the American Dream. No handouts and no expectations, when “Land of the Free” meant freedom to work and attain your goals, make your own choices, rather than mere entitlement. Nicely done, Walter.

  3. I enjoyed this, Walter, the lens through Onca Ole’s life, and how he lived the immigrant’s American Dream. I like that he kept the 5 dollar bill in his shoe. Nicely crafted details.

  4. Love Ole and Ivar stories. You could write about these two all day long, but please relocate to Minnesota for even better context.

    • Michael,
      Welcome to 52|250, hope you enjoy as much as we do.

      Brooklyn was the 20th century destination for many. Sunset Park mostly – was largest concentration of Norwegians anywhere outside of Norway. Huge parade 17th May. Plenty of Swedes there too. Lots of fodder – fish out of water. That said there are always relatives in MN. Always. Glad you enjoyed.

      • guy

        Well my Uncle Ole went to Davenport, Iowa. The family all ended up in Wisconsin eventually. Not sure why. There are lots of Norwegians around here.

  5. Kim Hutchinson

    Wonderful story, an urban fable.

  6. Sort of an immigrant Cinderella story. And I liked his name a lot. Very cute!

  7. Kelly Grotke

    very nice, subtle character sketch. I’m glad he grabbed the $5 bill, matter-of-factly, especially since I’ve been known to tell people I had a 40 kilo cat back home, hehe.

  8. Love the fiver tucked in his show. Great story, Sir ;^) Peace…

  9. Al McDermid

    The accidental urban convert. Excellent tale of the ‘American Dream’.

  10. Pingback: Week # 30 – Urban convert | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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