Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Me and The New York times

In 1938 when I arrived in America I was intrigued by the newspapers that were so inexpensive. At home in Sweden we subscribed to two papers, a morning one and an afternoon one. They were not expensive, but fewer pages. The first responsible task given to me before I was five years old was to go into the village to buy the evening post. A visitor who did not know that we subscribed to the paper was impatient and could not wait until it was delivered. Helsingborgs Posten was the name of this paper and according to my mother it was the conservative paper and this visitor probably had to check the stock market. He gave me a dime, or a tenoring. It was so small that I could not feel it in my tightly fisted hand and when I got halfway to the shop I had to open my fist to see if it was really there. My hand had become damp because of my responsibility, and when I spread my fingers the coin flew out of my hand. Had I dropped it I could have found it, but it flew out and since I was standing on a cobble stone road with grass growing between the stones, where could it be? I was on my hands and knees crying while looking for it. What could I tell everyone when I got home?

Around the corner came a well dressed man, obviously a summer resident. When he saw me he asked 'What's the matter?' I told him about my dime. No more than an instant later he found the coin. I never saw that man again, but if I had, I would have asked him if he found the dime in his pocket.

What has this memory to do with The New York Times. As a 'green horn' when I first saw an American paper I had found an inexpensive way to become a citizen five years later. Read the paper every day and become more American than an American. My job as a kitchen maid meant that I had to help the cook prepare food before each meal, clean up after each meal, and keep the kitchen clean. I had many hours a day and all night for myself and after asking the butler not to throw out the paper, I was all set. The first pay-day I bought a pocket version of a Dictionary. In the beginning it was slow going and there were slang words that I could not find.
I learned to ignore them but often missed the point of that line. And Jokes were impossible. In one newspaper I read a comic strip called: Them days is gone forever. Wow. I knew better grammar than that.

The New York Times impressed me in so many ways. The full page ads. The drawings illustrating the merchandize for sale. The book section. I had to be careful. I read a review of a book called CLIMATE AND CIVILIZATION written by a professor in Iceland. His name was Whiljalmar Steffanson. The book sounded so interesting I had to buy it. I think it cost $20 or more. I would read the reviews but bought very few of the books. Much later I learned about Library Cards.

Most of all the paper taught me about the political life in America. President Roosevelt intrigued me and I admired him almost as much as I admired Eleonore Roosevelt. Little did I know that I would meet and work with FDR in Warm Springs Georgia years later. But more about the New York Times next time.


Anonymous said...

Awesome - great way to learn a new country and language - a local piece of media regularly and a dictionary! Love you!


Tina @ heatherandtina.com said...

Wow... so nice of the well dressed stranger!

Anonymous said...

I love the story about the coin! What a lovely gentleman.

I didn't realize you had been to Georgia and worked with FDR, I grew up in Atlanta and we went to Warm Springs for a field trip once or twice. I hope you'll write about that sometime!

Ariel said...

You have such a way with words. It just draws me into the story. What a nice man. I can just imagine someone doing that for my little girl.

Judith van Praag said...

Tjéna! Svensto,

You're a wonderful story teller, I can just see you helping the cook and learning how to read. Your mentioning your pocket dictionary brought to my memory my mother's tiniest French and German pocket dictionaries. And the story about the visitor who wanted the paper early, made me think of myself. I'm Dutch and I used to read the morning, afternoon and evening paper, but never got a subscription to any of them, because I liked getting the paper as soon as it came from the printer.
Will be checking in again to read about your life story!
Perhaps redundant, but I'm a fan of your daughter Martha's alter ego The Plotwhisperer she's such a gregarious person, tell her hi from me, if you like.
Ha det så bra!