Friday, January 29, 2010

The School House

The building was not safe. Either for a schoolroom or as a residence. The first time it rained, it was obvious that repairs had to be performed. Nils went to the Board and told them what occurred the first time it rained. There were buckets everywhere and depending on the strength of the storm some buckets had to be emptied during the night. The Schoolboard which consisted of old farmers who were of the opinion that this school was there to keep their sons from being available for help on the farm, gave Nils a sum that was rediculously small, and said, You fix the roof. Nils said 'I was hired to teach your children, not to become a roofer.

Nils called on a man he had seen repairing a roof on a farmhouse nearby. This man came and investigated the roof in question. Nils showed him the amount he had been given and asked how far this would go. The man laughed and said 'That's the amount I would charge for putting up a ladder. And so the family went along with pails pinging day and night with the raindrops, and the teacher suffered interruptions from his daily task of keeping the young ones attention during the school day.

In the residence another baby was born. Her name was Karin. When she was a toddler the roof fell down. Everything was sopping wet, the bedding, the clothes, the rugs. And something had to be arranged so the school could function and the family would be safe. It was horrible for the teacher and for the family. Karin had lifelong effects of the collapse and the world would suffer a loss for Karin had the voice of an angel and aspired to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. A scar would prohibit this.
Only a few people beside her family would ever hear this beautiful voice.

Nils thought 1900 was time to retire and then he moved his family to Viken, a coastal village bout an hours walk from Alrum. He lived until 1933 And often voiced his disgust with the fact that he has made more money for doing nothing than the years he had worked hard to educate those farmers children.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

life in Alrum

It was a difficult life for Botilda. I have never heard anything about how her family treated her after the marriage. She certainly married beneath her socially. She died ten years before I was born so all I have of her are photos and in every one she is seen knitting stockings for her brood. They were not socks the way our children's were, but things that went up over the knees. And did she have a yarn store to rely on? Or did she sheer wool from the sheep and spin it into yarn? I remember my older brother having to wear long socks like that when he was a child and the yarn was so itchy on his legs that he sat on the side of his bed crying in the morning because of the misery.

In my case, I had to wear stockings like that, but I must have had to wear hand-me-downs from my sister, and they were as smooth as silk. Probably a darn here and there. You should have seen the ugly garment we had to wear to hold these stockings up. A sleeveless thing that buttoned down in front. And then there were elastic bands hanging down from the sides, which buttoned on to the sides of the socks. As you can see, I don't know if I should call them socks or stockings. The item that held them up was called knappe-liv. Knapp means button. How is this getting to either Nils' or Botilda's story, much less Blendas'. I have a feeling there will many diversions like this in this story. Can't help it. By the way, the elastic bands I spoke of were bought in the store. They had buttonholes every other inch so they were buttoned first on that garment and then on the stockings.

Tomorrow I will try to tell you about the dwelling they lived in and about the horrible discomforts they all suffered.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blenda's Parents

Nils Olsson and Botilda Tengwall somehow met and fell in love. He was born in 1838 and Botilda was a couple of years younger. Nils' mother died in childbirth and I know nothing about his early childhood. When he was a young lad he was sold into serfdom.( I tried to find out from Google how this was done, but I am not smart enough to handle this wonderful invention, the computer) Serfdom is a polite term for slavery. A farmer needed help running his farm and because of his lack of male children, this was a way of solving his problem. I think it was called being 'indentured'. I am guessing about some of this, but also vaguely remembering some of what he told us when we were dropped off in his care while Blenda cycled to the store for some forgotten item. He had a stepmother who was kind to him and he suffered when he was forced to leave at ten or twelve. He lived far away from his family, had to sleep in the barn, was given poor food, and when he was sick with a high temperature, he got no food. This lasted a certain number of years, seven I think, and when he was set free he could somehow get an education. How he managed to get an education I don't know, but he became a teacher and a very well read person.

Botilda's life was as different as one can imagine. She was well educated. She grew up in the city of Helsingborg. She grew up with love and security. She was artistic and each of our four children have a watercolor hanging in their house, painted by Botilda. Every time I see one of them I am a little jealous, but I gave them to them. I am happy to see that they like them as much as I do.

Nils and Botilda were married soon after Nils found a teaching job in a small farming community about an hour North of Helsingborg. Teachers now are underpaid but his takehome pay was pityfull. He did get living quarters. The last time I was home I visited the building. Half of the building was the schoolhouse and the other half was the living quarters for what early on became a huge family. A month after they were married their first child was born. His name was Otto. He left for America when he was fifteen or sixteen. And who can blame him. By the time he left, there were eight children living in what was a small place. Poor Botilda, in those days women were expected to say yes when their husbands felt the urge. I never heard of anything they could do, to keep from getting pregnant.

Otto had a friend who had emigrated the year before. This friend worked in a grocery store in Walla Walla, Washington. He assured Otto that he too could get a job in this grocery store. From then on an Olsson child emigrated regularly from Allrum to the USA.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Birthaday

This is about a birthday that I will never forget. Shreve posted yesterday, on my blog, that it was my ninetieth birthday. And with that the whole world responded. There were birthday wishes from around the world. I am so overwhelmed! I appreciate the nearly one hundred people who took the time t wish me well. I will try to remain grounded, but I feel like flying. Thank you,Thank you.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about my Mother. So much time, in fact, that I am going to try to write her memoir. And in doing this I have become closer to her with sympathy for her fairly difficult life. Her story will begin with the birth of her Father in 1838. Her mother died in 1910 and I think it was a great loss for Mother. I will call her Blenda from now on. She had no middle name for she was either the youngest in the family, or next to the youngest, and they had run out of ideas for middle names for the last two.

I will have ideas for blogs for a long time to come. Any comments will be welcome. When I have said enough somewhere, and when you want to hear more, I will love hearing suggestions. I love comments. More later.

And again, Thank you.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Grandma!!!!!!!

Now we can't say you're "nearly ninety," because you are ninety!! And you're amazing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Carver continued

Joe commented on the previous blog. Said he would read some of his Carver books. And asked, had I read any of his books. I read all the ones I managed to buy. His next question was, how did I like his writing. He was a skillful artist. I why asked Ray why he wrote about such losers. My question hurt his feelings. He claimed they were not losers. After having read most of Sklenicka's 500 page book I understand why he was hurt. It seems he wrote about his own family and his own life.

What I admire most about him is his stubborn and difficult pursuit of education. He may not have reached his dream of degrees but he certainly was well educated.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ray Carver's Funeral

Sam and I were invited to the celebration of Rays life. It consisted of two dramatic happenings. Or actually three. The first part was at 11AM. We arrived in a timely fashion and were asked to be seated in the part of of their house which normally functioned as the dining room. Chairs were lined up in rows and after we sat down we glanced in the direction of the living room. There in front of the fireplace was a four poster bed with Ray sitting, leaning on pillows, in what looked like a comfortable posture. A young man was sitting next to the bed, holding Ray's hand, and conversing with him in an, to us, inaudible voice. It was an emotional scene.

Ray's friends, his fellow writers, all stood up and read a short poem or story that was authored by Ray or by the reader. Richard Ford, who was a professor in Ames Iowa, was especially remembered. He looked like one of the charachters in the comic strips in the New Yorker. I asked him if anyone in Ames Iowa had told him of this and he said 'I do not think people in Iowa read the New Yorker.'

Ray's first wife was there and spoke of hers and Ray's love affair as being the one that would go down in history as the one and only. The young man holding Ray's hand when we arrived was Ray's and Maryann's son.

We left as soon as it was comfortable and were told that we were expected at the graveyard at 2PM. And to come back to the house afterwards. Sam had been told that he was having walking pneumonia and chose not to go to the graveyard were the cold wind was blowing. I asked our daughter nr3 to come with me and the same people who had spoken at the house spoke again. The site was unforgettable. The drama heart wrenching. The wind from the Pacific Ocean was icy. We left early. Jane who is a librarian knew all the dignitaries there.

We dropped in on the get together at Tess' house but by this time Tess looked so exhausted that we felt the nicest thing we could do for her was leave early, hoping some of the other people there would leave early too.

We did say good-by to Ray. Some time later I asked Tess if the whole funeral was something Ray and she had designed before he died, she said 'Ray never spoke of his dying. He always felt he would make it.'

Friday, January 8, 2010


In the spring that year I had the opportunity to go to Russia with an art group from Seattle. It was the beginning of Glasnost. A person whose name was Walsh had organized the friendship games in Seattle and he and the Russian premier who had the birthmark on his forehead, worked out all the sticky details and in so doing became friends. And so he helped iron out all the difficulties that arose around our art tour.

We had an interpreter\docent who had to take us everywhere but we had more freedom than the time before we visited Russia. In a previous blog I told you about my difficulty when I wanted to go to the theatre that showed Eugene O'Neill's play 'Desire under the Elms'. I knew the play by heart and the language did not bother me. I enjoyed the emotions that were stimulated by the superb acting. We visited many painters in their studios and we even got to go down to see the art that was in storage at the museums. We visited Moscow, St Petersburg, and Tiblisi, Georga. And as a dividend we visited Chekov's home and a couple of other writer's houses. It was a wonderful trip.

This was all told you as a preview of what happened with Ray Carver. The same year when the 4th of July came about, we had a party on the beach and Tess and Ray were invited. Ray was not well. Ray asked about my trip to Russia. I told him that I felt that the trip had affected my painting. He said he would like to see in what way. I said that he could see it when they were on their way back home, for the walk back up to our house seemed like waisted energy on his part. He said No, I want to do it now. And so we struggled up to my studio and I showed him what I had accomplished since my return. He was very complimentary and agreed there was a new strength in my paintings. And then we went back down to the beach.

Next morning the phone rang and it was Ray. He wanted to know who arranged the trip to Russia. I gave him the details and also gave him the travel agent who had been in charge. Unfortunately, these bodies of business only worked with tours and did not work for just a couple. August second Ray died.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lois Sizoo

Lois and a few of her friends managed to make Eugene O'Neill's, Tao House, into a National Monument. It is located in Danville, Ca, and it is the place where he wrote five of his most famous plays. There may be four or five errors in the previous sentence. The spelling of Eugene's name might be one, calling the Tao House a national monument another. So take it with a dose of salts.
But Lois and her husband Wesley were coming for a visit. And I knew we would have fun.

I called Tess Gallagher and asked if she and Ray could come for dinner the following night and they were happy to come. Dinner conversation was mostly about the availability of finding Ray's books in the two bookstores in town. We had already searched, finding only one of his. We told him we would go to Canada the following morning to see what we could find there. I knew Lois would fall in love with Munro's Bookstore in Victoria. And then the conversation centered about Ray and Tess and the teaching jobs they both had during the school year.

Next day we visited the Butchart Gardens, the bookstores. and a wonderful place for a Japanese lunch. Tired but happy we returned on the afternoon Ferry. We had enough leftovers that we did not have to cook supper. Sam and Wes were pouring their drinks when the phone rang. It was Ray who wanted to know how our day had been. I told him that Lois had found three of is books. He said 'I would like to drive down the hill and sign the books for her. This generocity was typical of Ray. He was a lovely man.

There will be more about Raymond Carver later. One month before he died he come to our 4th of July party on the beach.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Raymond Carver

A friend from California sent me pages from the NY Times about this 'new writer' who lived in Port Angeles. This was a year or two after we moved there in 1983. It was exciting news. He was compared with great giants in literature. I thought, how smart he was, to see the benefits of living in this area of the world. As I was driving around town I wondered occasionally what part of town he had chosen to live in.

An old lumber train that ran between Port Angeles and Port Townsend came through our area about once a day. When we heard it coming around the bend, with wheels complaining that the curve was hard on it's aged under structure, we would gather up any grandchild visiting, making sure some one had a penny in a pocket. We would run up the hill and wait for the train. One child could put a penny on the rails. And then we waited. There were a couple of curves before the train arrived and the noise made the waiting into high drama. The locomotive looked old fashioned but the engineer leaning out his window was as welcome as Santa Claus at Christmas. His friendly smile as he waved to us, made us feel happy for the rest of the day. And then the lucky child whose penny had been squashed had a concrete memory of how much fun it was to visit Grandpa and Grandma.

Why should this little tid-bit of history come at this time. One time when we were waiting, a neighbor whose property edged the railroad property was waiting with his pre-school-aged son and we introduced ourselves and as we returned to our houses he informed us that in this house lived a famous writer. He was away teaching on the east coast at the moment, he said. I could see the house from our kitchen window and I would often look up to see if there were signs of life yet. And so began our friend ship with Ray Carver. More about this as I get into Carol Sklenicka's book.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A new year

I think my maternal grandmother died in 1910. If she did she was about 70 years old. All I know is that she died from Struma.
Anna and I both were operated on for the same kind of thing way back. Anna who used to sing in church, had a lovely voice before the operation. I lost nothing but aquired a lovely scar on my neck. Struma is the German word for Thyroid.

Happy New Year for all who may read this. And I hope your Holidays were happy too. Two granddaughters were here in Port Angeles and all of us had several happy get-togethers. And I received many beautiful, and many practical, and many tasty Christmas gifts. It was a wonderful season.

I have three new books to read. And if I read them now I will never have time to write blogs. I will try to use some control and only read at pre-ordained times. I cannot read in bed for I fall asleep after the first page.

One book is called February House by Sherill Tippins. It looks fascinating and is about theatre people and singers and free thinkers. Leafing thru I saw a man called Lee and I hope it might be about Canada Lee who was the star of Native Son on Broadway and in the movie Life Boat with Tulula Bankhead. He never got his just rewards for being a great actor. The second book is about Raymond Carver by Carol Sklenicka. It is a huge book and I am looking forward to reading that too.And then I borrowed City of Thieves by David Benioff. It deals with the Leningrad siege during WW11. If my blogs are shorter than usual remember I warned you.