Dem Swedes in the woodpile

Going through these old photos of my great grandparents makes very conscious of how much loss they went through just to have a family. Their first two sons died 2 days apart, Axel at 3 and two days later George died at age 1, the next child, Ella (Veldma) survived until she was 18. Then came Hattie (Hatta or Harriet), Della (Lilly), my grandfather Carl, William Blaine who died at less than a year, Elsie (Alla), Robert was the last one. So three sons and one daughter died as children and three girls and two sons lived. The ones who survived Hattie made it to 73 and the others were all over 80. Great Grandma died when I was 5 at 95 in 1959.

I’m thinking my mom advocated for us all having Scottish names after growing up with the Swedish ones. All the girl’s names were suspiciously like the names of the Borden cows in the commercials when I was little. The names in parentheses are the first names they were born with and the other name is the American name they went by after they moved to LA. They started out in Minnesota when it was a territory and then Hilda (Halda) moved them all to LA around 1900 because she swore she was not going to live someplace colder than Sweden. I found the citizenship docs for the kids but Minnesota became a state in 1858 so I have no idea why they needed them if they were born here even if Isaac and Hilda weren’t citizens.

It must have hurt to lose 4 children. I can’t find any death certificates that say what they died of but they were living in Duluth at the time so maybe there was an epidemic of some sort in 1890 when the first two boys died. What killed Ella/ Veldma in 1908 at the age of 18?

Hilda is listed as a Smeddotter on her emigration report in the church records in Sweden. (Why church’s had emigration records I have no clue) Smeddotter means blacksmith’s daughter. So I have smiths on the Swedish and Scottish sides, probably where I got the urge to whack metal with large hammers. Funny, how things you like to do can maybe travel along your genes as well as what you look like. Kind of cool.

I know they all spoke Swedish until Hilda made them join the Presbyterian Church because it was the only church that has services in English and she wanted the kids to learn English because now they were in a America. There was one problem with this. When she got very old when I was little she would slip back into Swedish. I can remember my Uncle Don trying to get her to say “Jam and Jelly” and she’d reply “Pass me the yam and yelly” which used to reduce me to giggles.
Hers was the first funeral I ever attended. For some reason I spent most of it with my grandmother in the car. That was fine with me because Grandma could tie a handkerchief into a rabbit and make it hop up and down her arm and she kept Livesavers Chocomints in the handbag. I wish they still made those.

The biggest change after she died was the unanimous refusal to ever serve lutefisk at a holiday meal every again. Everything else Swedish was fine but no lutefisk, ever!

I got so much from them. My love of photography, grandpa gave me my first Brownie camera so I could be like him with his Leicas. Most of the photos I have of us as kids are from him. Dad took slides and so far they resist copying because they are too colour saturated for my scanner.

I got my boobage from my Great Aunts. I’m built like them to my mother’s horror. She would look at me and say, I don’t know where you go those but I look just like her aunts so it wasn’t hard to figure out.

I got my love of milk and pastries at breakfast from them. And some of my baking talent comes from them.

And I got my nose and I think my enormous hands from them. I bet I have bigger hands than Donald Trump, I had to wear men’s gloves when I was a bell ringer. Women’s gloves were way too small. My piano teacher in college loved them. I could reach more than an octave. Dad called them farmer hands. My sister has these long graceful thin fingered hands but even when I was skinny my hands were not but it was great for doing gymnastics because I rarely missed if I could get my hands on the bars. And it tickled my ortho that even when I had horrible tendinitis I had a grip strength of 80lbs in my left uninjured hand. Most women have a grip strength of 30 lbs or less. The right was only 70 lbs injured. And more than a few men that tried to give one of those handshakes they think are going to crush a women’s hand to exert dominance regretted it immediately when all I did was grin and bear down back. LOL! So dem Swedes were good for a few things. I think it’s the blacksmith’s fault,

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