Friday, February 29, 2008

Protecting the Future For Families

While researching and writing about family history and the past, we should not ignore the future. Although it is not a pleasant thought, global warming and other potential disasters can severely affect generations to come. I was reading CNN online today, and came across an article about a large underground seed vault built inside a frozen mountain in Longyearbyen, Norway. It just took its first delivery of seeds--the start of a collection that will eventually contain every variety of most important food crops in the world.

Hmmm.... I guess you could say that Norway is helping to protect the future of family history in a big way.

"Dubbed the "Doomsday Vault," the seed bank on a remote island near the Arctic Ocean is considered the ultimate safety net for the world's seed collections, protecting them from a wide range of threats including war, natural disasters, lack of funding or simply poor agricultural management."

The idea for an Arctic seed bank began in the 1980s but became a possibility only after the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources came into force in 2004, which provided the necessary international framework.

The Norwegian government has paid about $9.4 million to build the seed vault: now that's putting your money where your mouth is.

It seems that much of the science-fiction I read about in my youth has already become reality.

I'm sure you'll want to read the original article at CNN

Image credit:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why Vikings Invaded the British Isles


Sweet Memories of St. Paul

When my mother left the Minnesota farm of her childhood in 1944, she worked at Trudeau Candies, Inc., in St. Paul. Doris moved in with a maternal aunt, Stella (Berge) Schuster, on Stryker Avenue. The very first job Doris had in the city was at a factory that made rugs out of felt. The factory was very dirty, and fuzz flew in the air everywhere, so she could not help but breathe it in. She worried about the safety of working there. It was wartime, and there were many jobs to be had. Aunt Stella, a nurse, went down to the factory to take a look at the conditions and agreed that Doris should not continue making rugs. Instead, Stella helped her niece find a job with the Trudeau Candy factory; it was a job Doris loved.

Trudeau's SevenUp Bar:  "Seven Delicious Varieties in One Bar"

Image: The Candy Wrapper Museum

"Contains crunchy whole Brazil nuts; rich milk caramele; luscious maple walnut delights; tempting chocolate pudding; delicious fig marmalade; triple vanilla creame; thickly coated with richly flavored vanilla chocolate"

In 1944, the owner of the candy company was the elderly Oscar G. Trudeau. There were other businesses in the same building, and in the next room a company made ration bars for the U. S. Army. Trudeau, whom Doris remembers as the "old Grandpa," was fond of her, and he even sent Doris a Christmas card after she moved to California.

The Seven Up bar had seven different sections, each containing a different filling, completely covered by a chocolate coating. At Trudeau's, Doris's main job was working upstairs on the crisp, which was a hard candy containing nuts that formed one of the seven sections of flavors in the bar. She stood at a small table and pounded the crisp into small pieces. Once in awhile, she had to work downstairs on the belt, where the seven-sectioned bars were smeared with chocolate by hand before being wrapped. She does not recall having to wear any special clothing: aprons, hats, or even hair nets while working.

Doris Johnson, a few years after her stint at Trudeau Candies.  West coast factories and canneries had more safety and cleanliness regulations than Doris had experienced in St. Paul.  The Heinz factory in Richmond, California required workers to wear this uniform with the "funny" hat/hairnet.

I asked my mother if she ever got to take home samples, and the answer was "No." But, no really expected it back then. Employees could buy candy bars at regular prices. It was wartime, and that may have had a lot to do with the lack of employee discounts on the popular chocolate merchandise.

Eddie, who was the candy maker at Trudeau's in 1944/45, often sought help from Doris with various tasks. She had to take his place one time and melt the chocolate all on her own, continually stuffing blocks of chocolate into the melting pan. Eddie liked to experiment with making different types of candy; he hoped to eventually open his own store. He even asked Doris to go into business with him, but she was too shy to take him up on it, and after only six months of working at Trudeau's, she left her "sweet" job to follow relatives to California.

Memories of the Seven Up bar attest to its popularity and nostalgic value: [1]

"It was like a box of chocolates in a bar" - Patrick

"Locals with sweet teeth often pine for Minnesota's great lost candy [the Seven Up bar]" - Denice

"It was my favorite candy memory" - Mark

"Finally someone remembers the 7 Up bar!" - James

"Like everyone else, I wish it would come back!" - td

"I got them at Bartells in downtown Seattle. . .I really want one." - Robert

"I would save my little change and would even look for pennies so I could get one every week." - Marie

In 1951, Pearson Candy, a Minneapolis-based company founded by P. Edward Pearson in 1909, purchased the Trudeau Candy Company of Saint Paul, known for its famed Seven-Up Bar. This acquisition also brought the Mint Pattie to the Pearson line.[2]

In spite of the Seven-Up bar's popularity, production eventually ceased:

"The [Seven Up] bar came out in the 1930s, before the 7-Up Bottling Company began production of its soft drink - so the Trudeau Candy Company owned the trademark rights to the name. Eventually the 7-Up Bottling Company bought the bar and retired it, so they had exclusive use of the name no matter how it was spelled - Seven Up or 7-Up." [3]

[1] I Can Remember When

[2] Pearson's

[3] Neatorama, "10 Candy Bars You'll Never Eat"

Friday, February 22, 2008

Next to My Husband, I Love My Scanner Best

Written for the 43rd Carnival of Genealogy:
What technology do you most rely on for your genealogy and family history research? Select one piece of hardware (besides your computer), one piece of software (besides your internet browser), and one web site/blog (besides your own) that are indispensable to you. . .

Most Relied Upon Hardware

"If it draws blood, it's hardware" - Anon

I cannot tell a lie... (Shhhh! Don't tell my husband!) I have been involved in a love affair with my scanner/printer: the Epson Stylus Photo RX500.

Well, perhaps the affair is a bit one-sided, but I can't help myself. At first, it was just fond bantering, and then I found myself relying on the relationship more and more. When I am not near my beloved scanner, I am anxious, even depressed. Oh, what joy it gives me! How else could I quickly and inexpensively share those old maps and treasured family photographs and insert them into documents? How else could I begin to take a tired, sepia 1886 photograph and turn it into a vibrant, purple, Warhol-style piece of art (sometimes by accident)? I will be forever enamored, even if I can't be completely faithful.

Most Relied Upon Software

"The softest thing cannot be snapped" - Bruce Lee

Outlook Express is my top choice. Where would I be in my research and genealogy/writing related activities if I couldn't keep in rapid contact with everyone via e-mail? I'll tell you where I'd be: ten years ago, in networking, learning, and researching.

Most Relied Upon Website/Blog

"The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom" - Jon Stewart

There are some excellent websites for Norwegian genealogical research, including online census records, but the one I keep returning to is: Norway Heritage: Hands Across the Sea. This site is a collaborative effort to accumulate information about early Norwegian passenger lists and emigrant ships, and it is in English! There is an exciting image gallery, and contributions are encouraged. There is also a forum where researchers can help one another.

Image of a bark-rigged sailing ship, just like the Norden--the ship my Johnson ancestors sailed on from Bergen to Quebec in 1866.

It was on this site that I found the 1866 Norden passenger list, including Baard and Thibertine Johnson and their children, and Gulbran Olsen Berge's sea voyage diary. Berge is also a g-g-grandparent, and the diary translation has been in my family for many years. So, when I discovered it had somehow gotten online, my first question was: how? I wrote to the web author, and he put me in contact with two "new" cousins. Oh, I love sites that offer connections, as well as information! Thank you, Norway Heritage.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Non-Fiction Meme

I've been tagged for a non-fiction meme by Lori Thornton at Smoky Mountain Family Historian.

Q: What issues/topic interests you most--non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels?

My books have been packed away for so long that I'm in danger of not remembering them, but as I recall, most of my personal library has been, and is, non-fiction dealing with the following subjects and more: writing; genealogy; pioneer history; Scandinavians; World War II history; history of China; astronomy; science-fiction in the media; English gardens and architecture; antiques and depression glass; travel.

If it is permissable to mention non-fiction books about fiction, then one of my earliest reference treasures is the Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to Great Britain. It's just the thing if you want to know where all of those old English poets and literary geniuses are buried. I use my writing and citation books the most, but I am also fond of books that send me into a creative haze, like the Laura Ashley Book of Home Decorating.

Q: Would you like to review books concerning those?

Once in awhile I am so inspired by a book, like Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America, by Linda Lawrence Hunt, that I type up a review and send it to friends, but that's about all I'd like to do.

Q: Would you like to be paid or do it as an interest or hobby?

No thanks... just when the mood strikes me. Once you are paid to do something, it loses a bit of its attraction.

Q: Would you recommend those to your friends and how?

Oh yes. I recommend books to my friends and family by pulling them off the shelf, or by taking them along to writing groups, for the most part. Then, there's always this blog, you know.

Q: If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.

If my own book doesn't count, then I guess there's nothing to link!

"Snoqualmie Pass" Reviewed

The local Valley View community newspaper has just published an article about my book, "Snoqualmie Pass," which was released through Arcadia Publishing in October 2007:

"'Snoqualmie Pass' Tells it Like it Was", Valley View, February 18, 2008 edition.

I was rather surprised to get a phone call last week at work from the editor, Lisa Allen, who requested an interview. This is one of several articles written in local papers over the last few months, and I don't think I'm quite used to it yet. I still feel rather like a wide-eyed child when it comes to the media.

Happily, "Snoqualmie Pass" is providing more and more folks a glimpse of the overall history of the area, which is something that Arcadia's Images of America series does quite well. As my editor likes to say: "Arcadia is the Starbucks of history publishers": quick, accessible, and tastes good, too!

I came into contact with the series during my first trip to Minnesota to meet cousins and do family history research. I had been looking for a photograph of an old building in 1890s Duluth, where an ancestor worked in an office as an attorney. I only had a few minutes in Duluth to have lunch and hunt for useful information. I quickly located a gift shop, and with cousins in tow, went inside and headed for the book rack. I spotted and picked up a copy of Arcadia's "Duluth," by Sheldon Aubut, and when I turned to the pages of downtown architecture, I struck gold. I told a cousin about the story behind the building in the photograph, he asked "How did you DO that?" I was tempted to tell him: "Trust in the force." But, after paying the cashier, I thanked my lucky stars and logged Arcadia Publishing into the back of my mind as a potential future resource, little suspecting I would add to their series within a few years.

If "Snoqualmie Pass" helps or inspires even just one person through a special archival photograph or descriptive historical tidbit, just like "Duluth" helped me in my research, then the book has accomplished its mission.

You can get a glimpse inside "Snoqualmie Pass," by John and Chery Kinnick at Google Books.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Not Without My Car

I wrote this blog article back in February after being socked by inspiration like a deer mesmerized by headlights. Happily, I find that the 45th Carnival of Genealogy topic fits the topic just like a whitewall tire on a shiny Chevy rim.

My Family History and the Automobile

"There's a Ford in your future," 1945 ad.

When I was very young, my mother recorded diligently in my baby book that among my first words, second to the ever-important Mama, came car, or ca, as I pronounced it.

My fascination with automobiles continued when, as a young girl, I found toy vehicles much more interesting to play with than dolls or games. A favorite activity was building cities with blocks and empty containers out on the lawn, using baby powder and baking powder cans, spools--whatever had been saved and recycled. I would then park and drive my little cars through the grass-filled streets and alleys. Among the toys that stand out in my memory were: a large green and yellow dump truck, and a turquoise and cream Edsel wagon--both given to me by my grandfather, Ernest Johnson, and a little red T-Bird convertible that came free from the Ford dealership when Dad bought a station wagon in 1957.

Even before peace was declared in 1945, politicians and industrialists had been laying plans for the postwar reconstruction of the economy; one cornerstone of those plans had been the assumption that there would be a seller's market for automobiles for quite some time. [1]

Then came the piece-de-resistance: when I was 11, there was no doubt that my favorite car in the whole world was the Jaguar XKE. What a surprise it was that Christmas when I found that Dad had spent many nights secretly piecing together a large, intricate model just for me. That XKE held center stage on my dresser for quite some time.

For those of use who drive, many of our personal and family memories are tied to car ownership, good or bad. The automobile has been an inextricable component of the Baby Boomer generation's experience; it transformed the world, especially America. Cars gave people freedom to explore their surroundings in ways they never had before, but at the same time, created a reliance that hasn't always been affordable, or even constructive.

The automobile and the mobility it brought to the individual was in large part responsible for the beginning of the breakdown of families. With the ease of travel, families began spreading out all over the map. Close relations who once lived together and depended upon one another began to find themselves increasing isolated, geographically, from other family members. The journey to Grandma's house was no longer just over the river and through the woods; instead, it was 250 miles distant.

. . . In the postwar years, as the American economy became increasingly dependent on the internal combustion engine, the price and the supply of fuel for that engine became increasingly dependent on the vagaries of international and domestic politics. [2]

Like many other women born before World War II, my mother chose not to learn to drive. She would ride in cars, but she was afraid of taking the wheel. Automobiles were not part of her early experience, since there wasn't a car on her grandfather's Minnesota farm until the 1930s. Even after Ole M. Johnson bought a 1932 Chevrolet, he never drove it himself. He got it for his sons so they could make faster trips into town. The family's usual means of transport into the 1930s was horse and buggy.

Ole M. Johnson taking some family members on an outing in his four-seater buggy.  Polk County, Minnesota, 1912.

Dad's '53 Ford sedan parked in front of our family home on Carlson Blvd., Richmond, California, about 1954.

When my parents married, Dad owned a navy blue 1953 Ford sedan. A few years later, he traded it in for a wagon. The '57 Ford Ranch Wagon came in handy for a family man. Almost anything could be tossed into the roomy back: furniture, a dead deer, lumber to build a new shed, the family beagle, trash headed for the dump, and even a kid or two. I remember many exciting trips to the dump in that wagon, watching as seagulls surfed the Bay breeze over a sea of fluttering, multi-colored trash, while my stomach suffered from a continual state of excitement as Dad navigated over and around bump after rolling bump.

During drives from the Bay Area to Oregon for summer vacations with relatives, Dad would throw a mattress in the back of the wagon for my sister and I. There were no seat belts or buckle-up laws back then. We slept as Dad drove all night, and Mom struggled to keep her eyes open to make sure he stayed awake. After arriving at Aunt Phyllis's house, Dad hit the sofa, snoring. The rest of us struggled through the day and looked forward to "hitting the hay" early that evening.

Our family's red and white '57 Ford Ranch wagon parked in front of my aunt's house in Salem, Oregon, 1965. In the yard are my cousin, Cheryl Rice, and my sister, Becky Wheeler.

A restored '57 Ford Ranch wagon, in living color.

Whether big or small, foreign or domestic, automobile ownership had become an economic necessity for most Americans by the 1960s.[3]

I learned how to drive in one of a fleet of nondescript white Dodge sedans, enrolled in El Cerrito High School driver's training class. It was full speed ahead on East Bay freeways: three lanes, side by side, inches to spare, and take no prisoners. My driving partners/classmates and I were all in the 10th grade, and I was the only girl. I was fairly petite in height, but the boys were all shorter than me. One of them could hardly see over the steering wheel, so the instructor made him use a cushion. Though I didn't have to resort to using a cushion, I did feel rather odd about being the only girl. But, I am proud to say there were never any "woman driver" remarks from the guys in the back when I was behind the wheel.

The photo from one of my earliest California driver's licenses. At the time, California took profile shots of anyone under the age of 25.

My early at-home driving practice time was spent in Dad's '57 Ranch Wagon: the red and white tank with a masterful-size steering wheel. When I was in possession of my new learner's permit--barely creased--Dad asked spontaneously one day if I wanted to drive him to the store. I was outside on the lawn and didn't have any shoes on, but thought he might change his mind if I took too long, so I got into the car as I was. Dad commented on my lack of shoes, but as a typical 15-year-old, I shrugged it off and started the car anyway.

My boyfriend in high school owned his own car, or rather, his parents did. They allowed David to drive it as long as he also transported his mother (who like my mother, did not drive), and six wriggling, younger siblings to medical and dental appointments, whenever necessary. It was pretty unusual for a high schooler in the suburbs to have a car then, but, oh how embarrassed he was that he had to drive a Rambler. Here was a tall, slender young man who wore a lettered jacket and fringed cutoff jeans on the basketball court--busily working on various stages of coolness--and he was stuck with a Rambler. Worse than that, it was a mauve Rambler. Well, time has a way of healing all things. We went on our first date in that car, to the Berkeley Theatre, and were later married. I swear I never held his driving a Rambler against him...

In the same years that Americans were starting to worry about whether they could safely drive their cars, they were also starting to worry about whether they could safely breathe their air.[4]

The first car I could call my own wasn't any better than a Rambler. It was inherited from my grandfather when I was 16: a squat, dull beige 1962 Chevy Corvair. Yes, THE car famous for its carbon monoxide scare. I think the only reason it came to me is because no one else in the family would have anything to do with it. One summer, my grandfather, who was nearly 80 at the time, drove my aunt and three cousins from Salem, Oregon to the Bay Area for a visit with my family. But, somewhere in northern California, Grampa Ernest swerved to avoid some road construction he had not seen in time because of his failing eyesight, and he overturned the car in a ditch. Thankfully, everyone came away from that experience in reasonable condition, but it left a lasting impression of the Corvair upon my cousins that was akin to a bad taste in the mouth.

Ernest Johnson's '62 Corvair parked in front of his trailer in Salem, Oregon, 1965.

I welcomed the Corvair into my life and drove along happily in my fake, belted Leopard-fur coat and black Italian leather lace-up boots. The question circulating around high school back then was: "Are you a surfer, a mod, or a rocker?" I may have been driving a Corvair instead of an XKE, but there was no doubt that I was a mod, and one who aspired to be like Jane Asher: long hair, white lipstick, mini-skirt, and all. Before raising an eyebrow, you should be made aware that for the average school girl around 1970, miniskirts were not incredibly short. The mini-minis were left to the super-skinny models in the magazines. We were just acquiring the right to wear jeans to school, let alone super-short hemlines.

I have to admit that I also did my share of escorting my mother on errands. But, I liked the Corvair well enough; it was small, like me, and easy to get in and out of. My first husband and I even took it on our honeymoon, to the Northern California coast. It ran just fine, as long as you pretended not to notice when it struggled up freeway hills at 40 mph, as semi-trucks and loggers honked and swerved menancingly into a passing lane.

Married life became a march of steady and predictable Fords. Dad owned the same Ford successfully for over 15 years, so why go against the grain? It was a virtual festival of Fords; Henry would have been proud:

Maverick--totaled by a drunk driver after 3 months of ownership
Pinto hatchback--something new on the scene
Pinto wagon--not bad after adding multi-colored, tie-dyed curtains
Mustang ('76, 2-dr)--just try and take two kids in and out of car seats in the back
Escort wagon--beige and boxy, but easier on the lumbar region
Tempo--typical, boring sedan that never turned a single head
Tempo, again--a wee bit more noticeable than the first one, with red trim
Probe--great car, but low & gray-matched the pavement and had to be driven with the lights on at all times

Since the 1980s, American policy makers, politicians, manufacturers, and consumers have all been behaving in roughly the same way--with roughly the same lack of success--trying to develop solutions to the problems without giving up the automobile. [5]

Then I met John, who came into my life along with his 1990 red Volvo wagon. I'd never been with anyone who had a European car before. On that first date, the wagon spoke to his commitment as family man and business owner. I must admit, it made a nice secure impression. The red color indicated to me (along with his fast and unpredictable driving habits) that here was a guy who liked to have fun... as long as the work got done first. Red Volvo and all, John captured my heart and we were married shortly after.

John waves goodbye as the two of us depart the scene of our wedding in his '90 Volvo.  Snoqualmie Pass, Washington. 1992.

After marrying John, life then became a succession of German cars: Audis, in particular. One main reason is that we moved to the mountains, and our long commutes demanded cars with all-wheel drive that could take on plenty of mileage with few pitfalls. But, even more importantly, they had comfy seats, and could be found used for less money than Volvos. And, I won't even mention the toy that currently sits in the garage right now. No, I won't mention the _ _ _ _ _ _ _, because we have no real excuse other than we wanted one. But, when I remember that my g-g-grandmother's second husband spent equivalent income to buy a steam launch in which to putter around the 1890s waterways of Duluth, then I don't feel quite so alone.

Technological systems, once they are in place, have enormous staying power. [6]

Please don't get me wrong. For me, car ownership is not about keeping up with the Joneses. If something works, I stick with it until it becomes unreliable, or impractical. But, the freedom and privacy of movement made possible by the automobile is something I would miss if I had to give it up completely, even though, as we speak, I am taking steps to be able to make far better use of public transportation.

My '91 Ford Probe, dwarfed by winter snow build-up.  Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, 1997.

I can't think of anything else to replace the feelings of freedom I had, when as a new and youthful driver, I cruised alone out a county highway for the first time. Though my destination was a public library, I told myself that the drive to a distant branch was okay because of its uniquely large science fiction collection. In reality, that long country drive was my initial flight from the nest. I had stepped off the edge, and I was learning to fly.

I have many fondly remembered driving experiences, including one of joyful, innocent abandon when my then 13-year-old daughter and I were stopped at the I-5 bridge bordering Washington and Oregon. It was a warm summer's evening on one of those long trips to Grandma's house. With the windows rolled all the way down to let in the coolness of the Columbia River, we waited for the draw bridge to come down as "Billie Jean" blared from the CD player in full bass, and smiles darted our way from inside neighboring vehicles.

There were also moments of revelation about human nature, involving automobiles, like the first and only time I remember seeing my grandfather angry. I was just a toddler playing on the lawn with my cousins in Campbell, California. We all watched in alarm as Grampa began running and yelling, brandishing a big stick after some boys who had been snooping and hanging inside the driver's window of his big and toothy early 1950s Buick: a car I always thought of as angry-looking itself.

A 1950 Buick sedan, similar to the one my grandfather owned.

No simple, single set of incantations will make ['automobility' and its problems] go away. [7]

Let's face it, automobile emissions are in large part responsible for the negative human impact on our planet. There are many strikes against our faithful servant, the car. But, it has been an undeniable part of my generation's social and family history. The very word is fixed on the lips of our newborn children. Depending upon the future needs for society and the ecosystem, the automobile, as we know, it may become a thing of the past.

I do not deny that change is in order. But, during the heydey of the automobile, and during my lifetime, it's been quite a ride.

To read further about automobiles and their cultural/social impact:

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. A Social History of American Technology
Flink, James J. The Automobile Age

Flink, James J. The Car Culture
Foster, Mark S. A Nation on Wheels: The Automobile Culture in America Since 1945
Lewis, David L. The Automobile and American Culture
McShane, Clay. Down the Asphalt Path
Mintz, Steven. Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life
Scharff, Virginia. Take the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age
Volti, Rudi. Cars and Culture: The Life Story of a Technology
Wollen, Peter. Autopia: Cars and Culture

[1-7]. Ruth Schwartz Cowan. A Social History of American Technology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 224-248.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine for You


Because of the light of the moon,
Silver is found on the moor;
And because of the light of the sun,
There is gold on the walls of the poor.
Because of the light of the stars,
Planets are found in the stream;
And because of the light of your eyes
There is love in the depths of my dream.

Francis Carlin

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentines in My Family

Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bring Ethnic Culture Home to the Table

One of the best ways to ensure the continuation of ethnic culture is to EAT IT!

Last Saturday, I attended a lecture at the Sons of Norway Lodge in Ballard, an area of Seattle known for its prominent Scandinavian community that dates back to the 1880s. I became a member of the Lodge last year, but visit somewhat infrequently because it isn't exactly close to home. During this visit, I remembered that a Scandinavian foods shop sat only a block away, on NW Market Street. I decided there was no better Valentines Day gift for my mother than a taste of her childhood.

Walking in the door, I was immediately taken by the warm, sugary smell of freshly baked krumkake--waffle cookies rolled into a cone and usually served stuffed with whipped cream. The owners, two sisters from the Stavanger area of Norway, make them fresh right in the store.

Members of the Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish communities in the Seattle area are often found at Olsen's Scandinavian Foods. They sell plenty of traditional foods, but also kitchen implements such as: lefse turners, krumkake irons, and decorative mugs with Scandinavian designs, to name a few hard-to-find items.

Award-winning selections of pickled herring, fishcakes, meatballs, cold smoked salmon, lutefisk, and other food selections sure to please those palate memories from the Old Country. In particular, I was drawn to the shelves containing the goat cheeses, chocolates, and jams. For my mother, I came away with a big box of Mor's flatbread, two packages of lefse, a block of sweet and creamy Gudbransdal goat cheese, some Gjende cookies, and a jar of lingonberry jam. Yum! Okay, so it's not just for Mom...

Up to this point, I have been buying my goat cheese at a local natural foods market. But, it occurred to me that without adequate support, neighborhood ethnic stores like Olsen's might quickly become a thing of the past, especially as the older generation diminishes. From now on, I plan to buy my goat cheese, lefse, plus many other traditional foods, from Olsen's. I hope my Norwegian-American ancestors will forgive me if I pass on the lutefisk, though.

Support your local ethnic stores and delis

Keep your family's ancestral culture on the table!

2007 in Review

It's time for the 42nd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene

Well now, doesn't this feel funny -
nominating my own blog entries for a prestigious

iGene Award

My little Norwegian g-g-grandmas will be turning in their graves, collectively thinking: "Where did we go wrong?" But, what the heck, it's time to make a run for it and hope that the Viking God of Humility can be forgiving, as well as humble.


Best Picture

Who's the Gal with the Legs? 12/31/2007

Pictured (l to r): Doris Johnson, Bennie Johnson, George Johnson, and Phyllis Johnson. Leonard, Clearwater CO, MN, ca. 1930.

Cousins in drag. Even farm kids have to find some comic relief now and then. This is one of my favorite pics in my mother's large collection. One summer day, my mother and aunt decided to trade clothes with their boy cousins. Someone grabbed the old Brownie and snapped a photo. I'll bet the boys were cringing a few years after this one!


Best Screen Play

Wish Books and Hardwood Floors 12/19/2007

Pictured: Downtown Richmond, CA, 1959.

Christmas shopping with the Wheeler family in the early 1960s: anticipation, Richmond rain, early Montgomery Wards, wet wool, figgety little sisters, and more rain.


Best Documentary

Woolly Dog Nights: Tale of a Prairie Blizzard 11/15/2007

Pictured: Saron Lutheran Church, Chippewa CO., MN, ca. 1900.

The January 1873 blizzard in the Midwest was of devastating proportions. Read about its effects on the charter members of the future Saron Lutheran Church of Chippewa County, Minnesota. What happened when 35 men were stuck at Ole Anderson's cabin for several days during the big storm?


Best Biography

Thanksgiving on the Other Side 10/29/2007

Pictured: Bill Wheeler & his turkey, El Cerrito, CA, ca. 1966.

Thanksgiving with the "other side" of my family: my dad's non-Norwegian side. Uncles, aunts, and cousins form a different sort of a grouping for one young girl.


Best Comedy

No Ode to Lutefisk 12/3/2007

Pictured (ugh): reconstituted cod.

Do not pass the lutefisk, please:
the history behind the custom of serving reconstituted cod at holiday meals, plus a family story or two.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Nolens Volens: Norwegian Emigrant Recreation

On April 12, 1868, the Norwegian emigrant ship, Hannah Parr, left Christiana (now present day Oslo). As the ship crossed the Atlantic, headed for Quebec, severe storm damage caused the Hannah Parr to make its way back to the Irish coast, where it docked for repairs in Limerick.

My great-great-grandfather, Gulbran Olsen Berge, from the Gudbrandsdalen Valley in Oppland, was aboard the Hannah Parr during its ill fated trip. He was making his way to America alone to prepare a life for his family, and had planned that his wife and children would follow him to Minnesota the next year.

The ship eventually continued on its way to Quebec, but due to the long stopover in Limerick, Irish newspapers published many accounts of the strange Norwegian travelers and their customs. One area of interest to the Irish people were the games that the Norwegians played as they awaited repairs. In spite of worry, discomfort, and food shortages, the Norwegian emigrants found ways to occupy themselves by continuing their normal activities as much as possible.

As reported by Maurice Lenihan in Limerick, Ireland, June 1868:

"On Sunday evening [the Hannah Parr passengers] passed the time in dancing on the quay at the dock..."

The Irish people recognized the dances as some of the same taught in Irish schools, such as the waltz, the polka, and others. The Norwegians, however, seemed to have no predispostion toward the Irish jig.

"Whilst each week evening on deck, they indulge in the national game of fox [called 'Rævkrok' in Norwegian] a rather dangerous one apparently; and requiring nerve and muscular power. It is played in this way:- two men lie supine on deck, head to head, with the right arm of one locked into the left arm of the other; each then raises a leg-one the right-the other the left and so continue until the heel of the one is caught in that of the other, when both pull as violently as possible-and pull, and pull, with legs thus locked until the weaker is thrown over, rendered altogether powerless."

An example of two men engaged in the competition called "Rævkrok," a game sometimes known to Americans as "Indian Wrestling."

Even young children played games requiring strength. One required that a soft cord or rope be tied at either end, and placed on the back part of the heads of two children. Then, on all fours, they would drag in different ways, and the weaker, "nolens volens" [whether or not one wishes it], goes after the stronger. There were also other games, and they all required strength challenges.

The Norwegians. although Lutherans, appeared to consider the Sabbath as a day of recreation as well as devotion.

"On Sunday, one family might be seen stretched upon the grass on the Docks singing the Psalms out of the prayer-book of Dr. Martin Luther, whose merry eyes and goodly double chin were admirably depicted in the frontispiece. The singing was a sort of plain chant of a very monotonous and unmusical character, and the version, as far as we could judge, rhythmical prose. Another set were playing cards-game unknown,-while on board, the boys and girls got up some kind of a round game, at which there was some laughing and much enjoyment, but nothing like what is witnessed among Frenchmen or Italians.”

The Irish Press indicated that the emigrants, many of whom were headed to Minnesota, were mostly of the small farmer class, but very well educated. Many of them spoke up to four languages or dialects. The Irish called their Norwegian visitors a "cheerful, gay and exceedingly amiable sort of people."

Source: (Hannah Parr articles and forums)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How I Earned My "Mountain Girl" Degree

Welcome to my (snowy) world.

This post is not related to ancestral family history, but it certainly is to my own personal family history. I can't refuse footnoteMaven anything, and she just asked about the current difficult conditions where I live, in the Cascade Mountains at Snoqualmie Pass, Washington. Since Maven and I haven't been able to hobknob in person recently, I'm going to tell all about it all here.

Well, there has been a lot of weather coverage about our area recently, and all of it is true. Blizzards? Avalanches? Road closures? Power outages? Record breaking snowfall? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. I'm sure our local ski resort owners are crying in their beer mugs, because in recent years there has been a shortage of snow. This year, there is plenty... but, who can get there to enjoy it?

Life at Snoqualmie Pass is beautiful, but unpredictable this time of year. We're used to snow, but not this much in a such a short period of time. Case in point: this image taken from an I-90 freeway cam just west of the summit. What's that? You can't see much? Exactly! Record snowfall this season has created a snow removal nightmare for WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation). You can see the rest of the conditions report on this website:
WSDOT Mountain Passes, Snoqualmie Pass, I-90

Pass Report for 1:41 pm, 2/5/2008:

Temperature: 29ºF / -2ºC

Restrictions Eastbound:Traffic Delayed for Avalanche Control

Restrictions Westbound:Traffic Delayed for Avalanche Control

Conditions & Weather:Avalanche control work is in progress. Eastbound traffic is stopped at milepost 47 near Denny Creek, westbound traffic is now stopped at milepost 71. // Overcast skies with light snow

Here's our chalet pictured a few years ago during a relatively tame winter. Photo courtesy of Billie Lawson.

My usual daily commute, 55 miles from the Pass into Seattle, begins with all of this. Now Maven, don't you worry; we're all safe and sound. But, I certainly hope there isn't much more snow, because our chalet is already bridged on three sides and is more like a cave than a house right now.

For more photos and news:

"I-90 still closed in Wash. by avalanche danger", USA Today, 1/29/08

"...governor declares state of emergency" The Seattle Times, 1/31/08

Snoqualmie Pass reopens,, 2/2/08

Heavy snow forces another brief closure",, 2/5/08

Avalanche control photos, WSDOT, Winter 2008.

Monday, February 04, 2008

For the Love of Twain

Mark Twain, American Humorist.
Illustration from Puck Magazine, 16 Dec 1885.

In 1895, Eric Larsen Winje, the second husband of my great-great-grandmother, Thibertine, was working as a municipal court judge in Duluth, Minnesota. Winje emigrated from Hemne, Soer-Troendelag, Norway at the age of 18. He loved to read, and during his early adulthood in Chippewa County he studied for the Minnesota bar exam while serving as County Clerk (1882-1886). He admitted that during non-work hours, he read as he sat at home and "rocked the babies" that the stork kept delivering to him and his wife.

After moving to Duluth on the shores of Lake Superior in 1887, Eric and his wife "Bertina" adapted to the city after their years as immigrant homesteaders. In the 1880s-1890s, city life proved to be just as challenging and unpredictable as rural life, but in different ways. The couple lost several children while living in Duluth: their two youngest, Hattie and Annie, were lost to diphtheria within several days of each other in 1888, and in 1893 their eldest son, Louis, drowned in a boating accident.

In the summer of 1895, the family was still recovering from their devastating losses when a welcome diversion came to town. The famous American author, Mark Twain (1835-1910), visited Duluth during a tour of multiple locations in the States. It is almost certain that Eric Winje bought himself a ticket and attended with his wife, or with a friend from the law profession.

Twain was scheduled to speak at the First Methodist Church on the evening of July 23rd. The Duluth lecture was part of a 12-month worldwide speaking tour that began a few days earlier, on July 14. The well-known humorist arrived in Duluth over an hour late. The deacon stood at the steamship dock and watched for the ship and the delinquent lecturer, as the audience waited back at the church. The church was overcrowded, and attendees struggled to keep their composure while seated together tightly on the hard pews. Gentlemen stole frequent glances at their pocket watches, while ladies fanned themselves with handkerchiefs in the growing heat.

When the ship finally arrived and Twain disembarked, a horse-drawn hack transported him to his speaking engagement as quickly as possible. He finally stepped on the stage at 9:10 p.m. and began entertaining the crowd with a slow drawl that gave everyone the idea that nothing on earth could make him talk any faster. Twain proceeded to expound on stories from his books: Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, and Roughing It. [1][2]

Many years later, in 1930, Eric and Bertina Winje's daughter, Lena Winje, wrote about a collection of Mark Twain books in her father’s possession at the time of his death. Since Eric Winje obviously enjoyed reading Twain, it would seem likely that he attended the writer’s lecture. Winje must have sat patiently waiting with hundreds of others on that July evening in Duluth, growing warmer and more uncomfortable by the minute in the over-crowded quarters.

Mark Twain went on tour in 1895 to earn money to pay off debts incurred by his publishing company, which failed in part because of the financial panic of 1893. He said, “I cannot hope to build up another fortune now ... . I am getting too old for that. I shall be more than satisfied if within the next five years I can pay off my creditors.” The tour was entirely successful, and Twain was able to pay off all of his debts by 1898.[3]

It is not surprising that Scandinavian-Americans, like Eric Winje, held Mark Twain in high esteem, since they delighted in his self-effacing humor. An example of that humor was Twain's attitude toward Halley's comet being visible at the time of his birth, which made his arrival an even more momentus occasion among his reading public. When discussing the auspicious timing, Twain said, "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it... The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'" [4]

[1] Twain’s visit to Duluth described in: “Mark Twain,” The Duluth Evening Herald, 23 July 1895, and “Mark an Hour Late,” The Duluth News Tribune, 23 July 1895.
[2] [3] Twain's 1895 tour specifics, speech and quotes: HistoryLink
[4] Twain quote:

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Library of Congress Needs YOU

Want to help the greatest library around? In the February 4, 2008 issue of Newsweek magazine, page 4, there is a little blurb about a Library of Congress pilot project. The Library has teamed up with Flickr Commons, featuring several thousand of the library's archival photographs. The hope is that people will help tag them in order to provide collective data. Collections include "1930s-40s in Color," and "News in the 1910s."

"These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which the Library is not the intellectual property owner. Flickr is working with the Library of Congress to provide an appropriate statement for these materials."